Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Joachim Fest's Hitler  

The boy who fled the disciplines of school and then fell prey to the delusive promises of the big city found his idol in the Master of Bayreuth. Many young men of his generation followed the same course, and with similarly exalted expectations. It was a way with great appeal to gifted “outsiders” who otherwise would have no choice but to sink into mediocrity. It may surprise us to find that this unprepossessing son of a Linz customs official represents so typical a phenomenon. With the turn of the century legions of these sons of the nineteenth—century middle class made . their appearance. In 1906 Hermann Hesse, in Under the Wheel, vividly described the sufferings of one such youth under contemporary conditions and gave a dismal forecast of his future. Robert Musil, in Young Törless, and Frank Wedekind, in The Awakening of Spring, were among the many writers who dealt with the same theme. Whether these heroes sought escape from the toils of the world or went down to destruction, all of them opposed to the bourgeois world a wild enthusiasm for the arts. They despised their fathers’ mean accomplishments and felt only contempt for their values. By contrast, an artist’s existence was noble, precisely because it was socially unfruitful. Everything that stood for order, duty, endurance, they dismissed as “bourgeois.” The bourgeois mentality, they maintained, promoted efficiency but did not tolerate the extraordinary. The tremendous intensifications of true culture, on the other hand, the glories of the “spirit,”could be achieved only in isolation, in extreme human and social aloofmess. The artist, the genius, the complex personality in general, was bound to be utterly out of place in the bourgeois world. His true locale was far outon the fringes of society, where the morgue for suicides and the pantheon for immortals were both situated—as Henri Murger, the first analyst of this type bathetically observed. Though the lodginghouses to which Hitler betook himself were squalid, though his notion of being an artist was ridiculously highflown; though no one so far had acknowledged his talent; though his actual life in the home for men was marked by deceit, parasitism, and asociality—wall this could be secretly justified in terms of the prevailing concept of genius. And Richard “Wagner was the supreme example of the validity of that concept.  
Hitler himself, in fact, later declared that with the exception of Richard Wagner he had “no forerunners,” and by Wagner he meant not only the compoSer, but Wagner the personality, “the greatest prophetic figure the German people ”has had.” One of his favorite ideas, to which he returned frequently, concerned Wagner’s towering importance “for the development of German man.” He admired the courage and energy with which Wagner exerted political influence “without really wishing to be political,” and on one occasion admitted that a “literally hysterical excitement” overcame him when he recognized his own psychological kinship with this great man. 
The parallels are, in fact, not at all hard to detect. The points of contact between the two temperaments—all the more marked because the young postcard painter consciously modeled himself after his hero—produce a curious sense of family resemblance, which Thomas Mann first pointed out in his disturbing essay Brother Hitler. In 1938, when Hitler was at the height of his peacetime triumphs, Mann wrote: 

Must we not, even against our will, recognize in this phenomenon an aspect of the artist’s character? We are ashamed to admit it, but the whole pattern is there: the recalcitrance, sluggishness and miserable indefiniteness of his youth; the dimness of purpose, the what-do-you-really-want-to-be, the vegetating like a semi-idiot in the lowest social and psychological bohemianism, the arrogant rejection of any sensible and honorable occupation because of the basic feeling that he is too good for that sort of thing. On what is this feeling based? On a vague sense of being reserved for something entirely indefinable. To name it, if it could be named, would make people burst out laughing. Along with that, the uneasy conscience, the sense of guilt, the rage at the world, the revolutionary instinct, the subconscious storing up of explosive cravings for compensation, the churning determination to justify oneself, to prove oneself. . . . It is a thoroughly embarrassing kinship. Still and all, I would not want to close my eyes to it.

I don't know what else to do but repeat myself.

The vulgarity in Wagner and incipient in Beethoven—hence the need in Rosen’s terms for ‘tact’—is not the vulgarity of subject but of the composer’s assumptions about and attitude towards language.  Beethoven is in a line of gradation with Wagner, Gerome and Helmut Newton, in the sense that Wagner indulges a bombast that Beethoven at his best merely passionately describes.  Wagner’s music is written for Wagnerians in the same sense that Newton’s photographs are made for voyeurs, yet identification—as pseudo-community—is encouraged but not yet a requirement.  All communities are communities of selves and others.  Collective identity, as imaginary collective unity, is either a false—unrealizable—ideal, from fascism to The Singularity, or mere collective reflex: the community of tech geeks, fetishists and junkies. 

 

The experience of the sex act is social, formal, communicative, and if the world is seen as the social realm, world-creating.  The moment of orgasm as reflex is aformal, asocial (isolate), ecstatic and if the world is seen as social, world destructive.  Sex as performance is a form of communication; orgasm is artless.  The pretense of an ‘art’ of orgasm is vulgar.  The popular understanding of Pollock’s work is as an ‘act’ of ‘expression,’ as orgasm not structure.  Mondrian saw structure. The what and how of communication for Pollock’s work are complex; as complex in their way as the question of orgasm in Beethoven.  

 

What Rosen is debating with Brendel is the increasing presence of instrumentalism in form: the growing tendency to craft to reflex that reaches its apogee in the illustration and the false community of the fetish: of pure instrument.  Wagner is preaching to the choir (and Pollock is in there somewhere); Gerome is a soft-care pornographer playing to an audience, Newton and his audience are almost interchangeable, his form of communication identification with the masturbator, which is to say barely communication at all, one step away from the final shift, the final descent from interpersonal communication to masturbation in public.  

If communication is a circuit, reflex is a short.  The fantasy of the premature ejaculator is a state of eternal orgasm. It’s also the logic of the perfect economic man.  The mania for progress becomes no more than simply the desire to go faster.  If knowledge is measured in conclusions not in processes then the shortest distance between two points, the short circuit, is the obvious choice. Pornography and technical illustration are the model of art in a technocracy: immediate gratification. This is the crux of the struggle over the human imagination that begins in the 18th century, with the rise of idealist anti-humanism.   

Earlier

Manet, Self-Portrait with Palette, 1878
The shock of Manet was the shock of shame and recognition.  For Cezanne it was less publicly sexual and political but the same rule of recognition applies.  His work continues the move away from representation and mimesis by limiting even further the reproduction of psychology, of the full personhood of his sitters.  He reproduces shapes not character, at least not in comparison with those who came before him.  There’s a lot to be said about Cezanne and representation.  And what made his work bad when it was is almost as important in its way as what made it great when it was.  Because he failed at something, and that failure was consistent, making works that were both obscene and absurd.  In a very real sense Cezanne began with kitsch, with grand intent—often violent—and overreach.  But he turned to articulating what he could learn to articulate well: the space between ourselves and the objects around us.  But again its down to specifics, since what he articulated was the space around himself and the objects around him and what we sense is his sense of the world through his use of the rhetoric of pigment on canvas.  And again, against the logic of philosophic art and of intent it’s not a question of whether Cezanne was right or not.  If he was right then about what?  The basis of our interest in both Manet and Cezanne is that they describe their sensibilities, rather than merely indulging them.  The most complex pleasure to be found in their paintings is not the pleasure of liking them—is not Roberta Smith’s pleasure of enthusiasm, of a simplified sense of identification—but the pleasure of asking: “Why?” The pleasure is in engaging something foreign brought close by something universal: technique in common form

Cezanne, Abduction, 1867
On the lousy Manet, in 2010

Saturday, October 17, 2020

The answer is no

The idiot Tushnet 

Yesterday I was contacted by a reporter with PolitiFact, with a question based on this statement by Joe Biden: “The only court packing is going on right now. It’s going on with the Republicans packing the Court now. It’s not constitutional what they're doing.” The question to me was in connection with a “fact check,” and asked, “Is what's happening right now -- the Republican push to install Amy Coney Barrett as the ninth Supreme Court justice -- in any way unconstitutional?” 

I now realize that I should have answered that the question was badly posed as a “fact check” one because treating a claim about the Constitution as implicating a fact – rather than an opinion, or a prediction, or an assessment of whether there are reasonable arguments one way, the other way, or both ways – is just a mistake. But I didn’t, and the result, I think, was a decrease in civic knowledge (if anyone pays attention to PolitiFact).

Here’s my initial response: “As usual with this sort of thing, the answer’s complicated because ‘unconstitutional’ can and does mean many things. (1) If ‘unconstitutional’ means that a court would find what the Republicans are doing to be inconsistent with the Constitution, the answer is no, no court would make such a holding. (2) If ‘unconstitutional’ means that what they are doing is inconsistent with what some people reasonably view as fundamental principles underlying the constitutional order, then yes, what they are doing is unconstitutional. The political uses of the word ‘unconstitutional’ are different from the purely legal uses, but both (or all) kinds of uses are well within the bounds of the way we -- ordinary people, politicians, and lawyers -- talk about the Constitution. I know that this isn’t the way you do things, but I personally wouldn’t award any Pinocchios to the statement.”

I responded to a follow-up question about my second point by identifying as a relevant “fundamental principle” that “the political system should operate over time to ensure that overall all of our institutions are roughly in line with what the American people want.”

PolitiFact’s editors awarded a “False” to the Biden statement. The reason, supported by statements they got from Sai Prakash, Ilya Shapiro, and Robert Levy, appears to be that the word “unconstitutional” can be applied only to practices that are addressed by some express terms in the Constitution, supplemented with the proposition that everything not so addressed is to be determined by politics, understood to include sheer political power but not to include fundamental principles underlying the constitutional order. That reason and proposition are coherent and defensible (though wrong, in my view), but so are alternatives, and the labels “true” and “false” just aren’t apposite. (The formulation of the question to me – “in any way” – ought to have caused the PolitiFact editors to reflect a bit more upon their choice.)

So bored of this shit (a link to the old Balkin, not the new one).

I've said it a dozen times. In the past the ACLU took no position on the Second Amendment. It was the only principled response to questions that could only be resolved politically. 

If the labels "true" and "false", "constitutional" and "unconstitutional", aren't apposite, neither are the labels "sheer political power",  and "fundamental principles".

(The formulation of the question to me – “in any way” – ought to have caused the PolitiFact editors to reflect a bit more upon their choice.)

Shorter Tushnet: "It's their fault I can't explain things simply."

No trial lawyer would make Tushnet's mistake. A smarter politician wouldn't have made Biden's.

Academics don't take politics seriously. They're theologians defending their own ratiocinations as truths. Most law professors forget, if they ever knew, what it means to be a lawyer. They identify with judges. 

The university belongs, like the church and the military, to the social institutions that are situated at a considerable distance from democracy and adhere to premodern power structures. 

Complain all you want about the Senate and the electoral college; the lack of a federal secondary education system is a bigger problem. It's a country of 50 states, and Americans as a collective are the most powerful, uneducated, inarticulate, narcissistic people on the planet.

the political system should operate over time to ensure that overall all of our institutions are roughly in line with what the American people want.

I want to say Tushnet would do more good teaching high school or at a community college, or night school but he'd fuck that up too.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Major Directions in Populism Studies: Is There Room for Culture?
Paris Aslanidis, Yale University

SE
The more interesting question is the relation of political science to democracy, of technocratic to popular discourse, and to older elite discourse. Political science is a very specific form of culture, indulging all the pretenses of positivism, in direct opposition to the popular. It's not political history. Ironic self-reflection is anathema. It's the same old fear of the peasants, since 1525, the same old elite German authoritarianism with Science replacing God. 
Why do you think American historians have never been caught up in anti-populist phobia? Martin Luther King was a populist. Right? 
Aslandis: I don't disagree :)

Looking around I find this.

Ironic self-reflection is anathema. They can't recognize their own conservatism, so they can't tell art from kitsch. Vegas is not Versailles. Rachmaninoff and his Hollywood descendants are not Mozart. David Brooks is not Edmund Burke.

Jan-Werner Mueller (published by Yascha Mounk)
Laclau has drawn fire from fellow leftists who charge that populism always relies on the creation of enemies and is even “proto-fascist.” Laclau, however, argued that all politics is about the creation of popular identities through conflict; his point was to overcome conventional, pejorative meanings of populism and make the Left understand that “constructing a people is the main task of radical politics.” (According to this logic, Martin Luther King, Jr. and the civil rights movement are also populist.) This is an original theory, but one that (consciously and purposefully) expands the meaning of populism to such an extent that the term loses all analytical value in understanding the “populist” phenomena that, for better or for worse, many observers feel are not simply explained by the nature of political struggle in general.

"(According to this logic...) This is an original theory,..." 

Why should a German political philosopher, born in 1970, a professor at Princeton University, bother to read Martin Luther King?  

King, after the march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, 1965.

Toward the end of the Reconstruction era, something very significant happened. (Listen to him) That is what was known as the Populist Movement. (Speak, sir) The leaders of this movement began awakening the poor white masses (Yes, sir) and the former Negro slaves to the fact that they were being fleeced by the emerging Bourbon interests. Not only that, but they began uniting the Negro and white masses (Yeah) into a voting bloc that threatened to drive the Bourbon interests from the command posts of political power in the South.

To meet this threat, the southern aristocracy began immediately to engineer this development of a segregated society. (Right) I want you to follow me through here because this is very important to see the roots of racism and the denial of the right to vote. Through their control of mass media, they revised the doctrine of white supremacy. They saturated the thinking of the poor white masses with it, (Yes) thus clouding their minds to the real issue involved in the Populist Movement. They then directed the placement on the books of the South of laws that made it a crime for Negroes and whites to come together as equals at any level. (Yes, sir) And that did it. That crippled and eventually destroyed the Populist Movement of the nineteenth century.

I sent Aslandis a link to my manuscript. He should read it but he won't.

When Roger Conover at MIT said he couldn't touch it, he gave me a list of people to try. He said I could use his name with the editor from a self-described radical publisher in London. The editor, ex Verso, replied that it was "too political".

Editors generally haven't been the problem, and Conover more than others was honestly sympathetic. The problem is peer review. 

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Liberal Fascism etc.

see previous et al.

repeats:

Harry Brighouse
-I would say, in fact, that the first amendment tradition has a terribly distorting effect on American public discussions of free speech. 
-I think there is a very strong case that hateful epithets can be distinguished and treated differently from propositional content, and do not merit protection under “the right to speak what one sees as the truth”.
Chris Bertram
The right frame, in my view, is to think of the state as “we, the people” and to ask what conditions need to be in place for the people, and for each citizen, to play their role in effective self-government. Once you look at things like that then various speech restrictions naturally suggest themselves. 
Henry Farrell
I’ve suggested that academic freedom is a good thing on pragmatic grounds, but also made clear that it fundamentally depends on public willingness to delegate some degree of self-governance to the academy. If the public decides that academic freedom isn’t working out in terms of the goods it provides, then too bad for academic freedom. 
Mark Tushnet
Is the loss of meaning from paraphrase or restatement or statement (in the case of nonrepresentational art) small enough to make nonrepresentational art sufficiently similar to expository writing that it should be covered in the same way that such writing is?
Brian Leiter
Much, perhaps most, speech, in fact, has little or no positive value all things considered, so the idea that its free expression is prima facie a good thing should be rejected. And since the only good reasons in favor of a legal regime of generally free expression pertain to the epistemic reliability of regulators of speech, we should focus on how to increase their reliabilty, rather than assume, as so much of popular and even some philosophical discourse does, that unfettered speech has inherent value.
Rick Hasen
The Supreme Court’s libertarian First Amendment doctrine did not cause the democracy problems associated with the rise of cheap [sic] speech, but it may stand in the way of needed reforms.
Tim Wu
-The First Amendment first came to life in the early twentieth century, when the main threat to the nation’s political speech environment was state suppression of dissidents. The jurisprudence of the First Amendment was shaped by that era. It presupposes an information-poor world, and it focuses exclusively on the protection of speakers from government, as if they were rare and delicate butterflies threatened by one terrible monster. 
But today, speakers are more like moths—their supply is apparently endless.... The low costs of speaking have, paradoxically, made it easier to weaponize speech as a tool of speech control. The unfortunate truth is that cheap speech may be used to attack, harass, and silence as much as it is used to illuminate or debate 
-What is more important: freedom
of speech, or freedom from propaganda?
Jeremy Waldron
The Harm in Hate Speech
Genevieve Lakier
It is widely accepted today that the First Amendment does not apply, or applies only weakly, to what are often referred to as “low-value” categories of speech. It is also widely accepted that the existence of these categories extends back to the ratification of the First Amendment: that low-value speech is speech the punishment of which has, since 1791, never been thought to raise any constitutional concern.

Mark Graber
I do not think I have a First Amendment right to post on a public website either “I fantasize about beating the world chess champion” or “I fantasize about murdering the world chess champion.” Doing so may be highly therapeutic, but with apologies to a significant percentage of my family, the Constitution provides no special protection to therapy. The First Amendment protects discourse about public affairs, defined broadly but not capaciously. A very high percentage of what takes place on the internet is not discourse and has little or nothing to do with public affairs.
all the above, here, with more of the same.
Sometimes twitter made it easier:
 

On breaking up Facebook and Google, this is the second of two posts, from August and April. It's all pretty obvious. And this too, Since Ryan Cooper is now ranting against SCOTUS and arguing against free speech, on the same day.

As'ad AbuKhalil was thrown off Facebook for a week
I am told that I have been violating “community standards” and I don’t even know what they mean by that, unless by community standards they mean Zionism, which I violate daily in my life. 

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Branko the Conformist

1-I received lots of pushback (including some pretty nasty comments) on my tweets re. the most recent “Nobel Prize” in economics.

2-I believe that most comments reflect two entirely different views of economics: what it is and what its objectives are.
 
Rather than engaging in the methodological debate let me help you understand my views by giving examples of what are the big economic issues today--

3--which a big prize should acknowledge. 

Not so much to give these people money (they are rich anyway) but as a signaling device so that young economists should study topics that matter to people’s wellbeing in the entire world, and not minor issues.

4-Minor issues already matter to the rich and those who study them will be well rewarded anyway.

How did the economists get rich? What are the incentives?

I would avoid mentioning topics that I most care about, and when I mention some people by name they would not be the ones with whom I agree 100%.

5-Ok, let’s start with a huge topic that stares us in face. We have 40 years of the most extraordinary increase in income for the largest number of people ever. Do we know what propelled China’s growth? Perhaps not fully, but there are people who have been writing about it.

6-They might disagree among themselves, but let’s hear from them. Did, for example, any Chinese *ever* write anything to explain this extraordinary development?

7-For when we ignore this biggest issue of all, we are --as indeed we seem to be-- in the world of Nobel in literature. At the time when Tolstoy, Joyce and Proust were publishing, the Nobel prize went to… Sully Prudhomme. Yes, Sully Prudhomme (check it out). 

8-Lets go further. Who are the economists who highlighted how privatization might lead to crony capitalism & oligarchy in Russia? Should not they be singled out—as they spoke against the current, and against the popular wisdom at the time and were proven right.
9-I will mention here Stiglitz (who already got his Nobel, so that's not another nomination) but who was the only person whom I have heard explicitly warning against what happened afterwards. And I know there were others too.

10-Or people who made us understand how a whole socio-economic system works? The understanding of socialist economics was never the same after Janos Kornai’s works. Isn’t this  a big topic: how a system under which 1/3  of mankind lived and worked functions? Not worth highlighting?

11-The origins of the Industrial Revolution. You might say, who cares? But that’s wrong: if we do not understand how England took off, can we understand how growth that lifts millions of people out of poverty occurs?
12-There is a fierce debate raging among economic historians on the issue. It is important to bring up the participants. Let us hear them.

It goes to 20.

The Barbican. 

Before the film, leading scholar on income equality Professor Branko Milanovic (Centennial Professor at LSE and faculty member at City University of New York) explores the way the film’s story illuminates how we often unquestioningly accept the social values of the societies we live in, and why the wrongness of that choice is revealed only when a society starts to crumble. 

"Being alone is both our preference and a response to a world of competitiveness, commodification and higher incomes. The new world that we can glean will not be dystopian. It will be a Utopia, with a twist."

Milanovic defends history while ignoring his own. The idiot now has a tag

Replying to my deleted account.

Thursday, October 08, 2020

Facebook Bans QAnon

Facebook is using its vast legal muscle to silence one of its most prominent critics. 
The Real Facebook Oversight Board, a group established last month in response to the tech giant’s failure to get its actual Oversight Board up and running before the presidential election, was forced offline on Wednesday night after Facebook wrote to the internet service provider demanding the group’s website — realfacebookoversight.org — be taken offline. 
The group is made up of dozens of prominent academics, activists, lawyers, and journalists whose goal is to hold Facebook accountable in the run-up to the election next month. Facebook’s own Oversight Board, which was announced 13 months ago, will not meet for the first time until later this month, and won’t consider any issues related to the election.

Wednesday, October 07, 2020

"A Warning From Michigan: The state previews how far Republican judges will go to obstruct Democrats in office."
Last week, in a 4–3 party-line vote, Republican judges on the Michigan Supreme Court invalidated a law that had empowered a historically popular Democratic chief executive to take emergency actions to combat COVID-19. The basis for the decision was an antiquated doctrine that conservatives on the United States Supreme Court have signaled they want to revive. 
That brazen ruling in Michigan previews where the U.S. Supreme Court might take the country, especially with the breathing room that a 6–3 conservative supermajority would create. Although the news media have mostly focused on what a Justice Amy Coney Barrett would mean for abortion and gun rights, her confirmation may pose a more fundamental threat to good governance. The United States Supreme Court, like the Michigan Supreme Court, may become an even more stridently partisan instrument than it already is, one that by design will frustrate Democratic efforts to govern. 
Like other governors around the country, Michigan’s Gretchen Whitmer declared a state of emergency in March and enacted aggressive emergency measures to fight COVID-19. Those efforts found support in two separate laws, one of which—the Emergency Powers of Governor Act—was adopted in 1945. 
By mid-June, statewide cases had dropped to fewer than 200 a day from a peak of more than 1,600. A study out of Imperial College London and the University of Oxford suggested that Whitmer’s efforts saved as many as 74,000 lives. (Full disclosure: I served as special counsel to Whitmer on her COVID-19 response and aided in drafting many of her executive orders.) Ronald J. Krotoszynski, Jr.: States are using the pandemic to roll back Americans’ rights. 
As in other states, lawsuits challenging the governor’s executive orders came fast. Republican judges proved receptive, even when the legal arguments were appallingly thin. Three months into the pandemic, for example, a federal judge in Grand Rapids declared that the governor’s statewide closure of gyms was so irrational as to be unconstitutional: “At this point, the bare assertion that gyms are dangerous is not enough to demonstrate a ‘real or substantial’ connection to public health, nor is it a set of facts establishing rational basis to justify their continued closure.” The judge’s decision was so far out of line that it earned him a swift, unanimous rebuke from an appeals court. 
Another example was a 13-page concurring opinion from a Republican judge excoriating Whitmer for her COVID-19 emergency orders—in a case that had nothing to do with the pandemic (at issue was an emergency rule prohibiting the sale of flavored nicotine pods for e-cigarettes). “Totalitarianism,” the judge intoned, “has no place in America.” 
The judge’s rhetoric was so extreme, it bordered on parody: “Will we live under the thumb of autocrats in the hope that they will keep us safe? The world of our children and grandchildren hangs in the balance.” But the paranoid suspicion of government should be recognizable to anyone familiar with the conservative legal movement. As Chief Justice John Roberts has warned darkly, “The danger posed by the grow­ing power of the administrative state cannot be dismissed.”
Whatever happened to the Unitary Executive

Democrats are in favor of executive command decisions if the executive is popular with Democrats. 
pendulums again.

We need an educated populace. We don't have one. 

Tuesday, October 06, 2020

Yet marriage equality lawyers often recoiled from the sex discrimination argument. Consider the half-hearted arguments from the briefs in Obergefell. The Obergefell/Henri brief, which was signed by prominent lawyers from Lambda Legal and the ACLU, devoted 11 pages to arguing that marriage bans are a form of unconstitutional sexual orientation discrimination, and just three paragraphs—less than two pages—to argue that such laws constitute sex discrimination. A second brief authored by ACLU lawyers, among others (Bourke v. Beshear), spent 13 pages articulating different iterations of a sexual orientation-based equality argument, and just one page on sex. The petitioners’ brief in DeBoer v. Snyder, which was signed by Mary L. Bonauto of Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, completely disregarded sex discrimination. It spent five pages on sexual orientation discrimination and three pages on discrimination against children deemed “illegitimate.” The exception was a brief joined by Shannon P. Minter, for National Center for Lesbian Rights, which tends to be more intersectional and lesbian-centric in its advocacy than other marriage equality lawyers. Minter’s brief gave nearly equal time to the sex discrimination argument.

Monday, October 05, 2020


The man shouting wants to believe what he's saying but he doesn't. He needs to believe; he needs the people around him to believe, but he's lying, to himself and then to everyone else.

Friday, October 02, 2020

The Audacity of Hope.

Philip Guston, Scared Stiff, 1970
Guston, The Studio, 1969
According to Bob Storr the problem was with Drawing for Conspirators, from 1930. He was 17.

"So when the 1960s came along, I was feeling split, schizophrenic; the war, what was happening to America, the brutality of the world. What kind of a man am I, sitting at home, reading magazines, going into a frustrated fury about everything – and then going home to adjust a red to a blue?"

The paintings are self-portraits, and finger in Scared Stiff, is the finger of Clement Greenberg. The show at Marlborough caused a scandal, but I'm not sure anyone arguing about this now is ready to explain why Guston's move from abstraction to cartoonish figuration warrants a comparison. 

In 2017, Hauser and Wirth, representing Guston's estate, sold Scared Stiff  at Art Basel, for $15 million

R. Crumb
I didn’t see Guston's work until later. The similarity between us is coincidental. He discovered the same level of collective consciousness I did, but he came from abstract expressionism. I came from popular culture. I didn’t go to art school. And there was no place to learn cartooning. You looked at others’ work and you copied it, that’s how you learned in the old days. All fine art produced since the Second World War is not of interest to me. I’m a little interested in the pop surrealism of LA—Todd Schorr, Robert Williams. I like Dalí. I like Otto Dix, George Grosz, Christian Schad. And American social realists, like Reginald Marsh and Edward Hopper. But abstract expressionism is totally uninteresting to me. Willem de Kooning and Jackson Pollock, all those people, to me it doesn’t add up to two cents.

Crumb is now represented by David Zwirner, who is planning a new subsidiary gallery in NY, with an all black staff to show black artists.

I'm not interested in snobbery or reverse snobbery. Art and politics is just like art and money.  Modalities of communication change as cultures change. Philip Guston will be remembered. Dana Schutz will not. And Hannah Black is still confused: "rlly appreciate Larne Abse Gogarty’s thoughts on the very weird cancellation of the Philip Guston show" 

She posted the grabs below. My transcription (with an app) may have mistakes.

The cancellation of the Guston show is so hilariously stupid. Plenty of other ppl have pointed out the devaluing of an audience’s intelligence which seems to have guided the decision. This is true, and goes hand in hand with the way the museums who took the decision have postponed the show to 2024, which they say will enable them to figure out how to present Guston’s extraordinary body of work in ways that won’t “upset” this mythic public they are imagining. We know how these museums function. The idea that they could possible figure anything out in ways which genuinely make the experience of viewing artworks inside their walls less marked by gatekeeping, and more accessible and meaningful would involve fundamentally transforming the way they are structured. It would involve these people who took this decision, along with many others, losing their jobs. It would involve them changing their funding and governance structures. It would involve them selling some mediocre Donald Judd sculpture to save jobs. To just take the Tate as exemplary of how these institutions function, currently many staff remain on strike in protest at the way in which 313 staff who have lost their jobs have been treated. Or let’s talk about how an ACTUALLY horrendously racist mural, described as “amusing” has sat in the Rex Whistler cafe for years, and when requests to remove it were issued, the museum replied with mealy mouthed qualifications of its presence. The postponement of the show is at best a liberal fantasy that things will “calm down” by 2024 (looool) and at worst, a calculated choice to remove the work of an artist who demanded white ppl examine their own racism.

Also worth mentioning that this isn’t the first time Guston’s work has been attacked/compromised in its capacity for ppl to see it, and referencing that history helps clarify the political stakes of the current situation. In 1932, Guston and his fellow Jewish, communist leaning painters, Reuben Kadish and Harold Lehmen (all in their late teens/early 20s) had been working on a series of portable murals made in solidarity with the scotsboro boys, which also included an anti lynching panel, and anti KKK imagery. These paintings were being stored in the Los Angeles John Reed Club (the John Reed Clubs were cultural centres organised by the communist party USA). One morning the JRC was raided by a group, with eyewitnesses saying this raid was led by the Red Squad, carried out by local police. They destroyed the murals - shooting our the eyes and the genitals of the figures in the paintings. These are the people who don’t want Guston’s work on view.  With this in mind, I rly feel like the postponement is a perfect expression of how the centre/liberals who are happy to work with the right, will adopt the tactics of protest, and campaigns for social justice or whatever u wanna call it for the most cynical ends, dressing up their avoidance of conflict - their avoidance of choosing sides between their racist, capitalist pig (lol sorry, but rly) donors/patrons and progressive audiences - in a “caring” exterior which is nothing other than fence-sitting. Looking closely at Guston’s painting and thinking through his motivations and what these works do in and of themselves, will tell us more about our present than anything any of the ppl who took this decision ever could. 

Larne Abse Gogarty
Larne Abse Gogarty is Lecturer in History and Theory of Art at the Slade School of Fine Art. Larne’s primary research interests lie in modern and contemporary art, as well as theories relating to Marxism, race and gender. Previously, she was the Terra Foundation for American Art Postdoctoral Fellow at the Institut für Kunst- und Bildgeschichte at the Humboldt University, Berlin (20016-2018). She has also taught in the History of Art Department, UCL, Chelsea College of Fine Art and Goldsmiths College. Larne completed her PhD in the History of Art department at University College London in 2015, which was a comparative history of social practice art during the 1990s, and cultural work produced within the proletarian avant-garde during the 1930s in the United States. 

What's the relationship of public art to art as luxury commodity?  What's the relation of the civic –bourgeois democracy–  to the vanguard? What's the relation of Guston in 1932 to Guston in 1970, and of state sanctioned educational licensing bureaucracies to political radicalism?

Guston's self-portraits as an old man in a hood are better than his murals. His abstractions are too. But artists are never radical. Art is either conservative or it's reactionary. I forget when I said that for the first time but it seemed obvious.

Thursday, October 01, 2020

Not a simple thing.