Re: so I'm confused

luke jaeger (
Fri, 20 Jun 1997 11:15:14 -0400

Well, maybe what I should have said was "we're all members of an elite
on this mailing list." That seems to me a simple fact - not in the
economic sense necessarily, but we are (I think) mostly educated
Americans with internet accounts. That puts us in a pretty small room
right there. To say that "we're all elitist" means that we've made a
judgement that this is good or right . . . a statement which is
definitely controversial and probably wrong.

Yes, it's true that people without a lot of art education or any kind of
education can understand the core issues we're talking about. And
certainly no constructive conversation can ensue when someone is being
made to feel like they're too stupid to understand what's being
discussed. But people who have only been exposed to schlock are not
going to have the frame of reference necessary to discuss the "art vs.
schlock" issue. In other words, they are ignorant - which is NOT the
same as stupid. (At least not always.)

Questions like "is Michael Jackson creative" and "are Hummel figurines
art" are excellent ways to approach the subject . . . but I think that
the answers you get won't be terribly interesting unless you're talking
to someone who is already inclined to "question authority", especially
the authority of the dollar bill and of mass culture. To the everlasting
sadness of commie intellectuals like myself, the inclination to ask that
kind of question is almost exclusively the province of the very well
educated - or to use a loaded term, the "elite".

[Not to say there aren't plenty of interesting questions which have yet
to be asked about Michael Jackson - though few if any of them relate to
music. After all he is the world's most prominent practitioner of
masochistic performance art - eat your heart out Bob Flanagan!]

Education isn't just teaching people what words like "contrapuntal" and
"serialism" means . . . it is teaching people to question what they're
handed, and giving them the means to evaluate for themselves the
"official story" and the received idea. Not just about art or music, but
about everything. I was fortunate enough to have been raised in a home
(and to have attended a school) where this attitude prevailed so it
comes easily to me. I know lots of people who weren't exposed to
counter-cultural ideas until high school or college, and for them things
were a lot harder. And for people who never had even those
opportunities, there is little left but a world of schlock.

Hey, I managed to work the LEFT in there after all!

> >We're all elitist on this mailing list. If you can read and write,
> you
> >are ipso facto a member of an elite. Besides we're talking about some
> >pretty arcane stuff here - "post-serialism" and "the post-1945
> European
> >schools" is greek to me, overeducated as I am (OK, so I went to art
> >school not music school). but the point is that these topics are only
> >going to be of interest to a very small number of people, and I'm
> sure
> >that was just as true in the glory days of public arts funding.
> >(whenever that was)
> Implying that these topics are only of interest to a very small number
> of
> people is the most elitist statement of all. Most people will have an
> opinion on the core issues that are discussed in forums like this as
> long
> as they are not made to think that they are too stupid to know what
> they
> are talking about. If you go up to the average person on the street
> and
> ask them whether they agree that Schonberg's first String Quartet is a
> radcal liberation of a purely contrapuntal polyphony, they will
> certainly
> have no interest in the discussion. You are using terminology and
> references to music that they are probably unfamiliar with. But it is
> easy
> to engage the average person in discussions of many of the issues
> discussed
> on this list: creativity, the definition of art and artist, whether it
> is
> all relative or if there is some absolute. Ask them whether they think
> Michael Jackson is creative, even though he uses the same musical
> forms and
> chord progressions used by many other people. Ask them what they think
> makes something creative while something else is not. Ask them whether
> a
> stump that is encountered naturally in the forest can be art if one
> person
> relates to it as such. Ask them if they think the Hummel figurines on
> their mantel are art. Ask them what makes it art. Ask them who their
> favorite artist is. Ask them why. My mother, a woman with an eighth
> grade
> education and who believes in creationism, can be engaged in extended
> discussions about art if you approach it with language and examples
> she can
> relate to. It is not that most people are not interested in discussing
> issues of art, so much as that they are made to feel that it is not
> part of
> their lives. People are taught that the issues in art are something
> that
> don't affect their lives, when really they face them daily, everytime
> they
> read a book, listen to music, watch T.V., go to the movies. Art (by
> someone's definition) faces them constantly.
> * Next message: Aliyah Baruchin: "Re: so I'm confused"
> * Previous message: Dick Higgins: "Re: so I'm confused"
> * Maybe in reply to: "so I'm
> confused"
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