Art Without Teeth

One of the biggest problems art is facing today is the definition of art in people’s minds. Too many people have been misled into believing that truly good art must consist of ambiguous abstractions that are somehow “timeless” – that art must be exclusively introspective, lacking context, and dedicated solely to celebrating the inability to come to any kind of conclusion. Good films are those that “apolitical” (i.e. lacking courage), whereas any film that attempts to find or portray truth is “message-heavy” and more propaganda than art.

Truth, after all, has been declared to be relative, at least when it’s convenient, and not the business of the artist. Good art, we are told, pretends that people exist in a vacuum and the world doesn’t change; or if the world changes, it does so in ways that are beyond our ability to comprehend. (Perhaps we should leave it to our leaders? They may do bad things, but really they’re just people with daddy issues, and a government of the people by the people for the people will be the same as a plutocracy, because all people are the same, driven by Human Nature. Right?)

That’s the going definition of art: self-important, intentionally myopic bullshit pumped out by cowards and apologizers who justify their lack of vision as belief in “the small things” and their lack of courage as “not wanting to preach.” But it’s not a coincidence that theatre evolved from religious rites; art is about the truth, and always has been: about seeking it, about finding it, about questioning it. It’s about humanity, about God, about the nature of the universe and the nature of society. It’s about justice, and truth, and love; fuck that, it’s about Justice and Truth and Love.

Art is about the fire, not about rearranging the motherfucking matches.

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10 Comments

  1. Sarah

     /  July 1, 2010

    It comes mainly down to cowardice, Jonas… it really does. Some people don’t have the balls to interact with ‘message-heavy’ art, much less create it themselves.
    Truth – we have precious little of it around us every day.

    On another note only somewhat related, have you seen the movie “House of Flying Daggers”? Can’t remember if I’ve asked you this…

  2. No, because the idiot company that released the German DVD didn’t include subtitles with the Extended Cut, and I’m not watching the movie dubbed. I really wanted to see it, though, and a friend of mine recently acquired a non-German copy, so that might work.

  3. Yes it is!

  4. I like being vague when I write, but when I’m vague I’m usually just using synonyms or referencing common phrases.

    I believe that art can be anything as long as someone can have something of an emotional response to it. I also believe, though, that art that doesn’t explore any form of conflict is pointless, or at least a lot more pointless than art that does explore any form of conflict.

    Regarding the cowards who “don’t want to preach”, one artist who I think definitely got it right is Tay Zonday (yes, “The Chocolate Rain Guy”). When asked what inspired him to sing, he replied that it’s not unusual, that everyone sings (in the car or in the shower for example), and that the better question is “what inspires people to be silent?”.

  5. The only part where I disagree with you is that you imply this is just an issue with art. Academia is totally doing this too these days.

  6. We are not in disagreement there! This blog is full of similar charges against the academic world, where vague wankery is also considered the highest of the high.

  7. This is why I like Peter Hammill. He writes things like this; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yodiaDfbOdQ
    And it was in the 80s. I guess the state of art hasn’t changed that much since then.

  8. Sarah

     /  July 3, 2010

    Jonas – take the trouble to see that movie. I’m very curious to know what you’d think of it.

  9. @Jonas I was literally at an academic conference today and a senior lecturer managed to give a paper, which, having lost my copy of the program, I could not work out what it was about. What could an “ontological burlesque” possibly be? And how could a dialectic be more or less linear (with regards to your idea of how large the circumference of the Earth is)?

    There is no real point to this story. I just needed to get it off my chest.

  10. @PAK: Feel free to use this website as an academic silliness venting place. Hmm… maybe there should be a special site dedicated to that, to preserve the sanity of people like us. But it would probably only turn into an anti-intellectual thing after a while.