Saturday, August 20, 2011

Another link from NewAPPS : a review by Graham Harman.
Just as the arts advance more through a punctuated series of epoch-making figures than through the collective piecework of progress-in-detail (à la Kuhnian "normal science"),...
I could barely get beyond that point. There's never been any evidence for "progress" in the arts; claims otherwise are based in fantasy and science fiction. Again: the desire for progress is not progress.

Art and the natural sciences are opposed because the natural sciences reduce experience to physics and chemistry. Humanist empiricism on the other hand is the description of the specifics of -always subjective and perspectival- experience and its coloring of our use of reason. It's not worth talking to someone who says he knows what his values are. If he claims confidence in good intentions the odds are he's lying, to you or both of you, and if he's not lying he's a simpleton. If he claims bad intentions he may be telling to truth, but honest barbarians are rare.

repeats. start there.

Jan van Eyck (and Assistant), The Crucifixion; The Last Judgment, (detail) ca. 1430 Oil on canvas,
transferred from wood, The Metropolitan Museum, NY

Those who claim to know politics because they know physics and chemistry will tend to side with authority if only their own, against the majority, and authority is habit-forming which is why our society is based on the rule of law and not the rule of 'best intentioned' rulers. Those people most worth talking to will tell you that they know what they think their values should be, not what they are. Art, both as a chosen field and as something ubiquitous in life, concerns the distance between desires, ideals and action. Liberal idealists, now as neo-liberals, try to will away that distance. They fail.

The moral logic behind the doctrine of the rule of law is conservative and pessimistic, and the arts manifest the same conservatism. Artworks do not express they describe expression. "Expressionist" art succeeds when it does, only when the audience responds to artists' tricks. Those tricks may be deployed to communicate the private emotions of an artist, but we never see the emotions; we see only the description.

An audience responds to stimuli crafted to match its language and its tastes, but in a culture of rapid change artists are often the first to articulate the language of the present. The history of the "avant-garde" is one of honest observation, not discovery. Honesty is hard. The later self-styled avant-garde of art and philosophy as science, is based on fantasy. Art describes the most intimate details of present experience, and any art that does not do that, fails. Art that claims to say something about the future speaks only to the hopes of the present, sometimes complexly. Futurism however always ages badly, but since futurists don't care about the past they never notice.

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