High Art, Good Art, & Bad Ideas

Context, if you want it: a recent article in The Stone, the NYT’s philosophy blog that Brian Leiter likes to mock. The position, if you want it: some forms of art/music/etc. are superior to others, with classical music, for instance, being superior to pop music.

My views, if you want them: sure, there’s good art and bad art. There’s also a whole lot of complications that philosophers of art, especially those who think you can make simple divisions between high culture (the kind academics like and participate in) and low culture (the kind they look down on, or study in “studies” departments) with impunity. Continue reading

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Ai Weiwei Is a Bad, Bad Man

If anyone from the Chinese censorship office is reading this: 草泥马.  The title of this post is meant ironically, and there’s a special place reserved for the likes of you.  Forgive the unprofessional language, but you can go straight to Hell.  What you do is evil, and the civilized peoples of the world, including most of your fellow citizens, will never forgive you for it.  I know one Anglophone philosopher on the Internet means nothing to you, seeing as you have no scruples about silencing thousands of other voices, but there you have it: the truth, and nothing but.

For the rest of you, whom I have no doubt I like much more,* it’s time for radical philosophy, art, and odd curatorial decisions.** Continue reading

Yves Klein and Interpretation III: Much Ado About Nothings

I know I’ve talked about Klein’s Zones of Immaterial Pictorial Sensibility before, but, wouldn’t you know it, it’s hard to leave a good nothing alone.  As I’ve hinted once or twice before (what blog title?) I’m a fan of Eco’s rather Augustinian school of interpretation that allows for multiple overlapping interpretations of a single work—so let’s have another go at interpreting the Zones, shall we? Continue reading

Intentio Lectoris: The State and Art

Google Penance time.*  The Search Engine Juggernaut has been referring more than a couple people looking for information on Umberto Eco’s essay to Ye Olde Humble Blogge, so I guess I should probably give those people a hand.

First, at least part of the essay is on Google Books.  Have a looksee there—Eco’s a good writer, and, in this case, the horse’s mouth is as good a place to hear things from as any.

You’ve read Eco now?  Yes?  Good.  No?  Do it later, you won’t regret it.

Interpretive theories—especially those relating to “constructive” interpretation**—have many applications, most notably in aesthetic criticism and, thanks to Ronald Dworkin, jurisprudence.  Now, while I think Dworkin overstates how far you can take interpretation in law, language, and aesthetics (I may explain why later, for the three people who would ever be interested in hearing why), I do think he raises an important point: the kind of interpretation one does in legal practice is very similar, formally speaking, to the kind one does in aesthetic criticism.  Thus, before I start ranting about Hart, Kripkenstein, and rule-guided behavior, let’s have some art. Continue reading

Yves Klein and Interpretation, Part 2: The Strange Hell of Beauty

I left off last time with the idea that Klein’s works seek to create a void, to instantiate a nothingness.  Why, exactly, is this such a horrifying idea?

Short answer: anyone can play God; Klein’s trying to become Anti-God.

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.  And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.

Creating the Immaterial Zone—annihilating gold in the Seine

Now, the idea of creation ex nihilo is something that drives philosophers batty; to make a very long story short, it’s something only God can get away with.  Of course, creation has a flip side in annihilation; anything that now is, can just as easily not be.

This is the key message of Yves Klein.  To return to the original primal void requires more than simple destruction, but rather an act of God, a true annihilation of being.  Klein, time and again, attempts to create this utter nothing, to sell “zones of immaterial pictorial sensibility” to those willing to embrace annihilation and negation: Continue reading