Thursday, January 24, 2002

MORE HIGHBROW LOWBROW: Ken links to this American Enterprise article about cutting-edge shock art which, from the descriptions offered, does not sound all that different from your average Italian splatter picture. I am forming the following theory in my head in conjunction with this article, the lowbrow one below and the recent Lileks anti-modern art screed, all linked to by Ken: highbrow art is beloved by academics because it is nearly totally theoretical --art is supposed to be subversive, and the simplest way to do that is to put the Pope in compromising positions and things like that. So highbrow art's lack of appeal is a result of the more general retreat of the academies from everyday life. Meanwhile people "want to look at pictures of people doing stuff" so the lowbrow stuff is what really is popular. Highbrow art is art for theorists, lowbrow art is what people want to see. There you go. There's also an interesting debate in The American Enterprise about the status of movies as art. The comments down the bottom by Terry Teachout are the ones I tend to agree with:

Film, like a canvas or a piece of paper, is only as good or bad as what a living, breathing human being puts on it. I saw a lot of perfectly awful movies in 2001, but even while I was squirming in my seat it never occurred to me to conclude that movies aren’t art. The poor ones are just bad art.

It's all art, some of it is just bad. If you think this way, you avoid getting bogged down in any lengthy and probably unanswerable "but is it art?" discussions. Of course you can get bogged down in discussions of good versus bad too, but at least then you aren't delegitimizing anything, or putting anything too far up on a pedestal. Saying "it's a piece of crap" is better than saying "it's not art."

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