Jun 21 2010

Did I say Monday? I meant Tuesday.

South Jefferson Ave, St Louis MO, 1957
Portrait of the artist as a young wanker. St. Louis, MO, 1957. Photographer unknown.

In fact, it might actually be Wednesday before I’ll be able to clear the SpinstaCalenda for Art Week.* Unforeseen circs, etc. In the meantime, I suggest that interested parties take this opportunity to consider the definitions of some of the terms likely to be bandied during the discussion, and some of the questions, and post’em here.

Take “art,” for example. What the hell does it mean? Or “pomo asshole”? Or “the intersection of art and commerce”? How does one interpret Simone de Beauvoir’s remark “art is the attempt to integrate evil”? Also, does modern art by women have to contain human blood in order to be taken seriously? And if a painting falls in the forest, and there’s no critic lurking nearby to curl a lip at it, is it art? Also, is self-expression really necessary? Also, just how classist is this discussion in the first place?


Have fun.
*Just joining us? Art Week is gonna be one of those


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  1. humanbein

    That photo does look like 1957! When we were fetuses.

  2. Antoinette Niebieszczanski

    Who is this Art and why is everyone saying all those terrible things about him?

  3. hero

    Toe #1, dipped cautiously into the waters of Art’n’Truth’n’Beauty perameter-setting, definition-considering hoo-haha:

    Art (capitalized) to refer to what the megatheocorporacademocracy means when referring to stuff found in Art Museums. Mostly patriarchal, largely incestuous in its insistent self-reference.

    art (not capitalized) to refer to the products of human endeavor to make things pleasant, or to make pleasant things. So, I would include the domestic crafts in “art” and thus include the ubiquitous works of Anonymous and her sisters.

    Both have to do with arti-fice, that fic coming from Latin “make,” so we wrangle the idea of “made” as opposed to “discovered,” maybe? But are the discoveries intuitive or scientific? (I KID!) As Jill points out, since we are on planet earth, our endeavors, whether consciously so or un-, are “Natural,” so I think we may want to jettison the false dichotomy of art being that which humans create v. what can happen on its own. Humans can and do happen things all the time. So let’s first artifice the word “happen” into a transitive verb! Hells yeah.

  4. Earnest O'Nest

    As far as I know Art is the half-brother of Science – both have a different father (who can be blamed for their worst character traits) but share a mother: Imagination.

  5. Notorious Ph.D.

    If Red Jacket is grabbing your butt, I hope the next frame shows you whacking him.

  6. Ron Sullivan

    Pants v. good. Tartan vest: Run away screaming. 1957? Can’t fool me.

    I sincerely hope no photographs of me from the 1970s still exist.

  7. Paula

    I think you look badass in that picture!

  8. Jane Q Public

    “And if a painting falls in the forest, and there’s no critic lurking nearby to curl a lip at it, is it art?”

    No. It ceases to be art if some pompous asshole doesn’t spew a few words about its deeper meaning. The problem with art in general is that it must be a representation of something else. It has to say something. It can never just be a picture or a painting or a sculpture. Which of course it is.

    Simone de Beauvoir’s remark about art is about what people project onto it. This is where the pompous assholes come in.

  9. yttik

    Ha! I simply love that photo.

    Speaking of young wankers, I met one for lunch who had just exited the Kurt Cobain exhibit. I mistakingly thought a nice relaxing day at the art museum would produce a good lunch buddy, but alas no, she was in a state of rage so profound we were forced to eat take out at the park with the other raging members of society. It’s my fault, I just can’t sit in a public dining room when the only adjective being used starts with the letter F. I guess I’m a prude that way.

    Anyway, the gist of the conversation was about how they are F- idolizing a suicidal, F- cocaine addict, not because of his F- music or what he contributed, but because he has a F- wanker. This is classist F- bovine excrement. And he sure as F- didn’t invent grunge, we’ve been dressing in F- raggy thrift store layers for generations to keep the F- rain out because it’s so F- damp and gray around here. So when the F- is the sun going to come out anyway??

    I’m somewhat clueless about this art thing. My experience over the years consists of peeking over at it, looking away in horror, and just wandering off to do something else. My response to this conversation was rather pitiful, “But I thought you liked Nirvana?” The answer was of course, “F- Nirvana!!” Which, when I think about it, might make a good bumper sticker.

    I look forward to Twisty and the other blamers womansplaining this whole mess to me.

  10. Carpenter

    Damn, shades at night not sure how anyone is cool enough to hang out with y’all.

    Anyway here goes, art seems just as much an attempt to figure stuff out as science is. I don’t mean that only as a physical statement about construction, though I mean it that way also. The process for many is about reacting to stuff as you make it and change it as much as it is about having a fully formed idea and expressing it. Some of my personal experiences making art have been about having the kernel of an idea stuck my head head and figuring out how I feel about it as I proceed.

    I’m sure 99.9999999% of humans don’t give a crap about my art. In that sense my self expression doesn’t benefit anyone but me, unless you count the art suppliers I bought pencils from. In fact of the micro percent of people that look at my art even less people will like it. However noone benefits when I do lots of things -take shower, do pushups,eat sandwhich, watch TV- so I don’t worry about wanking in this way any more than in any other way. I should worry if making art, and all the other things are actively messing shit up (say I take an extra long water wasting coal fueled shower and use the scrubby soap with un-biodegradable plastic pellets in it).

  11. nails

    Anyone who has made something functional/fixed something creatively knows the satisfaction that comes along with creation.

    I think art taps into that, it is about making something without conventional functionality, like to say something or to release emotions. I think it exists mostly for the fun of the person making it and the enjoyment of others.

    The need to create also has a lot to do with the urge to have children as well. There is something human about needing to make things. Our current economy makes it unlikely as a career path though, which is crap.

  12. Sylvie

    Tartan and animal print – you spoil us

  13. Jodie

    Those pants — those are art!

    I think most people, especially when young, are driven to self expression. Some people keep that drive for a lifetime as either a constant, or an on-again, off-again thing. Maybe some people get too tired to continue (although I am sure there are other reasons).

  14. sargassosea

    “I think it exists mostly for the fun of the person making it and the enjoyment of others.”

    Each and every one of my finest creative moments sometimes (oddly enough) pleased others but mostly they just pleased me. Which totally rocks. Personal Art rocks.

    Jill – the shoes! But they are so square in the toe!

  15. norbizness

    I remember that night; the town was rocked inside out and thousands died.

  16. otoc

    Also, is self-expression really necessary?

    Hell no.

  17. K.A.

    Ha! Sylvie said it best. It’s as if the Mighty Mighty Bosstones (remember the clashing plaid?!) met Prince and got dipped in a bit o’Bubby. I don’t know what instrument Jill plays, but it’s like she is playing all chords at once. Which is exactly what the 90s needed.

    (I mean this in the best possible way.)

  18. Carpenter

    I got no problem with self expression provided it isn’t driven my egomania and forced into my face. It is one of the ways to enjoy one’s self as a human. Like everything else it needs to come in moderation so the world isn’t filled with juvenile egomaniacs who won’t shut the fuck up already.

    My big problem with self expression is that a whole bunch of what people want to express about themselves is actually someone else’s stupid idea. See Camille Paglia’s entire opus. Or better yet see the Cat and Girl becuase it says it better than I can

  19. SelinaK

    You were in The Happy Mondays? Coolness.
    Or is that Better Than Ezra?

  20. otoc

    Slightly less flip:

    I don’t know why people think the things they are expressing in art are “themselves” or of the self. As if the concepts don’t exist outside of them.

    Simone de Beauvoir is saying that art can be a way to process traumatic shit without being physically violent, IMO. A lot of the best art on this planet comes from transcending something shitty. It’s probably a socially adaptive trait.

  21. Comrade Svilova

    I agree that there’s a worth to “self-expression” (although it isn’t truly expressing “the self,” because what is that anyway?) for the individual and for the community if others are interested in the products and/or process of self-expression.

    Personal art and noncommercial art is the way for me. Art as commodity or status symbol? Not so much.

  22. Hedgepig

    norbiz, could you post us that link to the “Look At This Fucking Hipster” site again? I think I’ve found a new specimen for his collection.

  23. mearl

    These days, all an aspiring artiste needs to do is build an installation out of garbage, semen, takeout containers, pubic hair, menstrual blood, string, dead birds, razors, poo, bits of placenta, the oily fingernails of Bangladeshi workers who scrape oil out of the hulls of U.S. transport ships, Justin Bieber’s last cigarette butt, roll it all together, bake it in a 350 degree oven for 45 minutes & name it “The Prophet Muhammad” and there you have it, folks. Art. One stipulation: they’ll only accept it if you’re a trust-fund baby or the child of a political expat/ someone famous.

    Actually I kind of like art. But I’m still staying in my room until the revolution begins.

  24. Heresy Girl

    As a hopelessly behind the times music person (like hopelessly), what awesome band is pictured here???

  25. Ginjoint

    Who are your fellow wankers?

  26. AileenWuornos

    Those are THE coolest pants. And self-expression isn’t necessary to anyone except the person doing the expressing. Also known as – it would be boring if everyone didn’t project their own meaning onto it.

  27. thebewilderness

    I adorable you.
    They swiped their grandmas(my)gardening togs and called it a look, the grunge look. Sillies.

  28. minervaK

    I do not see any evidence of wankage in this picture. However, I think I was married, briefly, to the guy in the red jacket in the 80’s.

  29. allhellsloose

    I have in my possession a sweet tapestry with the words ‘We cannot all do great things for the world but we can do small things with great love.’ No idea who wrote that, nor do I care, as it was a present from a very dear friend in an attempt to cheer me up, so holds value in many ways for me – they are her words to me. I feel a sister tapestry to this is needed with the words ‘Art is an attempt to integrate evil’. Can’t say my sewing skills are much but it will certainly fill the twilight summer evenings with something to do.

    @ otoc: Quite right. We can’t ignore the shit; neutralise, render and understand.

  30. allhellsloose

    Love the juxtaposition of tartan and animal print Twisty.

  31. Amananta

    Once I saw a statement positing that when women create an object of mainly aesthetic value it is labeled a “craft”, and therefore cute but essentially valueless, but when men do the same it is “art” and therefore highly valued. Or worse, when women make something “cute” which also has some functional value, it is somehow less valuable than male-created high art which has no value apart from the aesthetic. I find this observation a valuable tool in assessing reactions to things such as knitting, Etsy, the Mona Lisa, and the like.

  32. rj

    The devaluing of craft is something that really grates my cheese. My nigel is a curator and he always turns his nose up at the craft exhibitions and floral art shows that he has to ‘accommodate’ each year. The works seem to require just as much technical skill and creativity as painting or sculpture, yet he sees it as lowering the tone of the gallery. IBTP and art snobbery.

  33. Sarah

    I would like to print this photo out on heavy, semi-gloss cardstock with a coffee-with-cream colored border, print a single line down the middle of the back, and send it as a postcard to all the pomo assholes of the world. They wouldn’t know I was making fun of them, and I could even document it as *gasp* some kind of performance/postal service art.

  34. Narya

    I’m with Ron. However, in contradistinction to that fervent hope, an old boyfriend just this weekend sent me scans of some photos he found of me from the late ’70s. Rather than exhibiting the exquisite hip emanating from the St. Louis Wankers, I managed to exhibit severe dorkulation with a side of geek. Oh well; some things don’t change. But if I remember rightly (and there’s no telling whether I do), a great deal of fun was had, and a whole bunch by me. Hope the same is true for the St. Louis crew.

  35. Mare_Island

    My favorite comment about art comes from Frank Zappa. “The most important thing in art is The Frame. For painting: literally; for other arts: figuratively– because, without this humble appliance, you can’t know where The Art stops and The Real World begins. You have to put a ‘box’ around it because otherwise, what is that shit on the wall?”

  36. Carpenter

    “art is the attempt to integrate evil”

    Given her existentialist roots I would guess she is making a general statement about engaging in art as a meaningful activity in the face of an otherwise meaningless existence. I’d guess the evil is something about living in an indifferent and unfair universe. I’m not really in love with this quote. Probably any sentence that starts with the words “art is ” is wrong, and if she is making something other than a very general statement about the search for meaning then I completely disagree that this is what all art is.

  37. polly

    I think Simone de Beauvoir was right. As the existentialist abusive arse hole she hung about with illustrates. Would we admire Sartre if he was a dustman?

    Also Mr Polanski.

  38. niki

    Oh man I was frivolous and young in another horrible fashion age, known as the 80’s. My mother occasionally likes to send me the pictures with the bleached-unto-death jean jacket, the rather exuberant hair, the horrid half-mast pants.

    Animal print fun will never be passe. If I had a bunch of stuff, it’d all be decked out in animal prints (faux, naturally). Imagine the piano!

  39. Narya

    Love the Zappa quote.

  40. nails

    That zappa quote is weird to me because I spent a good 2 years of my high school days plastering the walls of an unfinished basement with paintings and collages. I wish I could have preserved what I made via photograph. I still miss it.

  41. rubysecret

    Having survived art school, I can say that you are spot on – ART is hooey if it’s defined in terms of what “important people” think. However, art as pure expression of joy such as playing the kazoo, or making one’s grocery list into haiku, or mother’s day cards made of macaroni, is truly priceless. Forget what the museum curators or auctioneers or Thomas Kincaide say, if I need a sofa sized painting Ima make it myself.

  42. Meg

    As a student of art history in university, this is a question which occupies my mind quite a bit. The question usually comes down to what those with authority consider “acceptable” or “good” art. And, of course, it’s the rich-ass, white european (native or descendent) dudes of yore (and today i.e. Dave Hickey) whose definitions of successful/desirable art have dominated philosophical understandings and discussions about art. I’m currently trying to read all of the resisting literature I can find on the matter. Most currently Art on My Mind by bell hooks and Michele Wallace’s Dark Designs and Visual Culture are providing good ammunition to hurl on some mansplainers.

    p.s. @rubysecret holla! Ima paint me a sofa size painting this weekend.

  43. Jezebella

    Meg, AMEN to the icky dudeliness of Dave Hickey.

  44. Tigs

    “Would we admire Sartre if he was a dustman?”

    Did the dustman write ‘Anti-Semite and Jew’ and ‘Nausea’? Because if so, then the answer is totally yes.
    If we threw away everything that everyone who was ever an asshole said, we’d be in some dire straights.

    Separate the wheat from the chaff, yo.

  45. veganramapge

    Kurt Cobain never labeled anything “grunge.” He never proclaimed to invent anything. He did write great songs,sing the hell out of them, and actively support women in the rock n’ roll boys club.
    He wrote “everyone is gay” to piss off all the homophobic faux fans of Nirvana that he hated. He did a bunch of other terrific shit too;not bad for a kid that never graduated high school,came from a lower income family and was labeled a loser and a freak by every adult in his short life.
    If you are going to pick a rock star to hate, why not start with Axl Rose or that scum from Kiss? There are a plethora of douches to pick from.
    I love Kurt. I love the band Hole too. I also love opera.
    So there. Nah.

    (Greetings Hedgepig! Always look for your pithy comments.)

  46. Ashley

    It’s the pants and tartan vest together that give it that je ne sai quoi punk rock effect. Awesome!

  47. Ron Sullivan

    Hey, I totally respect dustpersons. Also plumbers.

    Narya, you’ve scared me with that story. Lately, though, I’ve given up on my photographophobia and even took a shot of myself* and plunked it on Farcebook. I used to go into the Ecology Center scrapbook and cut my face out of pix I’d warned people not to take.

    Don’t misunderstand about the vest; it’s mostly that after all those years in Catholic school I’m allergic to plaid.

    I’ve never quite been able to parse the phrase “express yourself” to my own satisfaction. Make stuff, say stuff, whatever, OK, but that phrase sounds too much like squeezing zits.

    *Sodium egorecursivine USP

  48. polly

    Well you answered my question then Tigs. Sartre/Polanski are to be excused stuff dustmen/women would not get away with because they’re artists/intellectuals (I think it’s fair to call Sartre an *artist* since he wrote fiction).

    Personally I think arsehole is as arsehole does. And it’s fair to add in this context that De Beauvoir added and abetted Sartre in his abusive behaviour towards students.


    Ron Sullivan *we* in this context means people in general. Not just people reading this blog.

  49. Comrade Svilova

    Did the dustman write ‘Anti-Semite and Jew’ and ‘Nausea’? Because if so, then the answer is totally yes.

    But if the dustman had written both books, would they ever have seen the light of day? That’s where I think class does come into it — not in ability to create / creativity / intelligence but in access (to education, but also to publishers, audiences, etc.).

    Maybe in this conversation about art we can also address that problem of the artist who creates a great work but is himself or herself deeply flawed. It’s hard for me to ever turn my back on Beauvoir; for everything that she did that was wrong, I admire her work too much. And I know the situation in which she was placed. I have a harder time admiring Sartre’s work, although some of it I definitely find amazing. Polanski has made some great films — but I don’t want to watch them and I’m sick of hearing him admired.

    Walter Benjamin writes about the “aura” that Great Art has. And maybe that’s the problem — the aura and the connection to the Artist, to authenticity, originality, value, etc. Art that is valued just because of its aura is perhaps valued for the wrong reasons?

  50. Earnest O'Nest

    It is wednesday already.

    What do you gals mean with ‘Tuesday’?

    OK, sorry. Please consider myself blamed.

  51. Solniger

    All art is ultimately a reflection of society, even the stuff that is supposed to be counter-culture. Its like a mirror. If society sucks, art will suck. Although part of me wants to believe that there are moments when individuals and what they make can accidently transcend that.

    I can’t believe I missed science week due to exams and stuff.

    That outfit is so rock and roll. I am going to vote up for plaid + animal print and wait patiently for the spinster aunt garage sale.

  52. rootlesscosmo

    that problem of the artist who creates a great work but is himself or herself deeply flawed.

    Yup. Speaking of Wagner, a friend asked how the evil (and there was plenty) got into the music. It’s a good question; hearing it for the first time, without knowing anything about the composer, would you know he was a world class shit? But the thing is, I do know; the evil may not be perceptible in the music, but how can I erase it from my awareness while the music is going on?

  53. Comrade PhysioProf

    I got no problem with self expression provided it isn’t driven my [sic] egomania and forced into my face.

    It’s totally fucking hilarious to read this sentence in a comment on a blog. I lolzed!

  54. Comrade Svilova

    the evil may not be perceptible in the music, but how can I erase it from my awareness while the music is going on?

    Exactly. Perhaps the problem is that if we see art as self-expression, then we simply don’t want to see certain selves expressed.

    Perhaps Roland Barthes’ maxim — “Death of the author, birth of the reader” — gives a hint of the direction one could look instead? That the art is constituted as such by the spectator/reader/receiver and is what ze sees in it? Of course, I’m still going to see “Knife in the Water” as the POV of a child rapist. So perhaps that is no solution after all.

  55. mearl

    I like old Diaghilev: “… art is meant to excite, entertainment pacifies. Art represents the heart, mind, and spirit of the people. Entertainment represents greed, materialism, facades, and the wallet.”

    But you can’t make a living playing piano in the closet.

  56. Jezebella

    Polly, no one is *excusing* bad behavior due to a creator’s having created something excellent. Read more carefully before making accusations, eh?

    What has happened is basically pointing out that a bad man can make good art. The badness of the man does not negate the goodness of the art. Practically speaking, I won’t go see Polanski movies because I don’t want to give him even a penny of my money, but in the case of, say, Wagner, the man himself does not accrue any benefit from the performance of his works.

    Just as Science is not the same thing as Scientists, so Art is not the same thing as Artists.

  57. yttik

    “no one is *excusing* bad behavior due to a creator’s having created something excellent”

    Maybe not here in this thread, but certainly out in the culture at large. Not only is bad behavior in artists excused, it’s practically demanded of them.

    If the badness of the man doesn’t negate the “goodness” of the art, perhaps it should. I don’t plan to view Hitler’s paintings any time soon.

    There’s a myth that claims genius, artistic ability, and insanity are closely linked. I propose this is false, bizarre people with cultural privilege are simply labeled artistic and their antics are celebrated as great cultural contributions. Perhaps they shouldn’t be.

  58. Jezebella

    Yttik, you are correct: out in the world, people make excuses for bad male behavior all the time, but that happens whether they’re good artists or not. Polly accused Tigs, specifically, of excusing bad men for doing good art. Which Tigs *did not do*.

    Hitler’s paintings are TERRIBLE. If a bad man can make good art, it is also true that a good person can make terrible art. And, furthermore, a terrible man can make terrible art. See how that works? Art is not the Artist. Science is not the Scientist.

  59. yttik

    Okay Jezebella, but I still don’t understand why people think Polanski or Woody Allen are such geniuses? I think they’re crappy story tellers and have a perverted outlook on the world. I mean, I would rather watch Twisty’s swirling science commentary then sit through a Woody Allen movie. I can think of a half dozen independent films that were much better “art.”

    Obviously I either have no taste or the culture at large has settled on this mutual hallucination about what constitutes genius. What is it that makes these two dickwads so special that they are admired as great film makers?

  60. Jezebella

    I confess: I saw the Pianist via Netflix a couple of years ago without realizing it was by Polanski, and you know what? It’s a good movie and it tells an important story about WWII that a lot of people never heard before (who knew anything about what happened to Warsaw during the war? Not me!). Adrian Brody’s performance was astonishingly good. I wouldn’t use the word genius, but then, I never do. I would gladly trade the entire existence of that film, however good, for a past in which Polanski never raped anybody, and I will never intentionally see another Polanski film, but none of this – NONE OF IT – negates the quality of the film. So there you go.

    I don’t see the point of quibbling about Woody Allen and how you’re one of the cool kids who only likes indie flicks, as though indie filmmakers are any less patriarchal douches than mainstream ones are. I noticed during Science Week that you refuse to separate Science from Scientists, and I sense that this trend will continue during Art Week.

  61. Azundris

    Not only is bad behavior in artists excused, it’s practically demanded of them. There’s a myth that claims genius, artistic ability, and insanity are closely linked.

    Whereas in female movie characters, insanity and “hotness” seem to be closely linked; usually as an excuse for later “bad girl” punishing. Probably to offset the empowerfulness-through-hotness, or whatnot.

    I do not know whether you need to be insane to create art, but maybe you do have to be blue to sing the blues?

    Unrelatedly, I too tend to find Woody Allen’s and Roman Polanski’s films rather unremarkable. “Fearless Vampire Hunters” amused me when I was a kid, and that’s as far as I’ll go.

  62. Carpenter

    to yttik: A lot of what gets attention from all media is selling people back the dominant paradigm packaged in a slightly rude manner. The slight edge makes it sellable as ‘transgressive’ when it is really the same old crap. The technical skill covers up for the lack of depth. Some examples: Woody Allen is forking over the same old crap about nice guys TM with some really funny one liners in it. Collette was a notorious sellout/feminist basher/collaborator who had a real talent for florid turns of phrase.
    I don’t think this phenomenon is localized to art at all, the same is true in philosophy (take objectivism), and science (see social Darwinism).

  63. joy

    veganrampage, uh … I totally agree with that little listy. And I am an “artist”, who is picky and hates men as a general rule.

    I don’t like to see old Kurt deified by (the kinds of people that I, as an idealist and elitist who believes in art for art’s sake and not for white guys’ blah blah blah-ification’s, fame’s, or money’s sake, call) the “wrong kinds of people.”

    Bros, assholes, anyone who uses the word “messiah.” Dude, give us back our Cobain. And while you’re at it, stop hating on Courtney. (She’s sometimes a patriarchy colluder in her older age — what is with the anorexia pride, ffs?!, but at least that’s a pressure that’s pretty hard to shake.)

    The Cobain quibble that I have is with his collaborative effort with Bill Burroughs, that notorious misogynist, wife-killer, and child molester. Perhaps Kurt was trying to make some kind of statement about Art vs Artists, but still. He played guitar for a dude who raped little boys and shot his wife. It would be like, well, Emma Thompson signing the petition for Roman Polanski.

    Done. Sorry. Flame and blame.

  64. Alexa

    Isn’t self expression about those with the loudest voices getting heard again, much like free speech? Self expression is just noise from privileged people usually.

  65. Jezebella

    Well, Alexa, no, not at all. I can express myself in the privacy of my own home by playing guitar, making a quilt, or painting, and it’s still self expression. Doesn’t matter if anyone else hears or sees it.

  66. Comrade Svilova

    I think Alexa has a point that the art that is most respected is often that which fits into a particular social structure “acceptably.” How many works of art that we now admire were once banned? They became classics once their perspective matched that of society’s at large. Of course there is art that is truly radical; but a lot of the art that is revered by media and society is material that doesn’t necessarily subvert the dominant paradigm. (To say it lightly.)

  67. Jezebella

    Well, that’s not what she said at all, though. She said “self expression” not “art”. If she meant “art,” she should’ve said “art”.

  68. Chelsey

    As if my crush on you were not already of massive proportions, I find out that you were once a glam rocker. My eyes have become little hearts. ?__? like so

  69. Janna

    veganrampage, Kurt Cobain wrote okay enough music (though it was only “amazing”, “mind-blowing” or, god forbid, “revolutionary” or in any way “unique” to those whose only contact with music was MTV and missed 80s “alternative” music completely). Also, he most certainly DID NOT support women in the music industry. He wasn’t as much of a rampant misogynist as many other musicians (mainstream or underground) are, but he wasn’t the sensitive feminist hero so many female fans want to believe he was. He, like his band, was just not that special.

    As just one example, he turned on the feminist riot grrrl movement (which, yes, wasn’t perfect and had its flaws, but was most def. a much-needed breath of fresh air on the very male underground music scene of the time), which he associated with at the beginning of his career, not because he came to disagree with them intelectually or anything, but because one of the women involved dumped him, which, of course, soured him on all the women in the movement (and beyond), and the movement itself, no matter all the things it stood for. Kurt cobain never stood for much of anything, he wanted affirmation and fame (though I’m sure his idea of fame was at first on a much more underground level), and said and did a lot of things he didn’t really stand for to get them. He dabbled in hipster-feminism, but he definitely didn’t find his male privilege all that bothersome. Not to mention that he idolized Camille Paglia.

    Sorry if this comes off as a rant, but the degree of non-critical idolization Cobain gets, especially for being so “progressive”, drives me up the wall (not saying you do this, talking about people from RL, lots of them friends of mine). It doesn’t frustrate me much to see the mainstream feminists being enthusiastic about him, but it does make me a bit sad to see such praise for the guy in the comments of a rad-fem blog.

    (Also, there’s the whole story of him coming close to sexually abusing a mentally-challenged girl in his youth, but I have no idea how much, if any, truth there is to it, I’ve just heard it from several disappointed fans who read it in one or two of the myriad biographies of his.)

  70. Comrade Svilova

    Ah, I see where the confusion is. I read her comment about self-expression as referring to socially sanctioned, accepted, and honored “self-expression” which is often termed “art.” But it’s certainly true that most people can (and do?) express themselves, whether or not society rewards or respects their efforts, media, results. Sorry for the confusion.

    I’m thinking here especially of what someone pointed out upthread about knitting and other “crafts.” Such things are “not art” yet many of the people (often women) who engage in them see them as a means of self-expression. And create amazing things!

  71. Alexa

    I meant art really, the term self- expression made me think of the privileged whining that’s typical with art. Basically what comrade s said! But I think more oppressed groups of people are less able to self- express through art – it’s less valued, and they’re made to feel they don’t have the voice people want to listen to.

    An oppressed person writing a poem that depicts perfectly their oppression would be so beautiful. By contrast, those with privilege tend to do it for them. Just because they’re emotionally invested in an ego doesn’t make them that bit much more worthy of having a voice. Art to me is just having a voice, noise, and pretentiousness. I prefer science. Art is overrated and necessary as a medium for patriarchy. Thus I compared it to free speech, how that’s only given to the loudest privileged voices – deemed necessary but a load of bollocks.

  72. speedbudget

    I love making Stampin Up cards. I never considered making them art until I read this thread.

    You guys are awesome.

  73. Jezebella

    Even in the hallowed halls of museums and academia, the vast majority of Artocrats recognize the so-called crafts/decorative arts/utilitarian arts as “art” these days. The line dividing dude-made High Art and women-made Crafty Stuff is really fading quickly and has been since the 1960s. At this point it’s still there in the popular imagination but it’s by no means tattooed on our foreheads during PhD ceremonies.

    I would also like to note that all art is not “self-expression”. To use a P-infested example, Michelangelo did not paint the Sistine Chapel because his muse inspired him to do so. Nope. The Pope called him up out of his sculpture studio and told him to paint the damn ceiling. M. didn’t wanna, but you don’t tell the Pope no when you live in Rome. Subject matter, color scheme, size, and even sometimes the amount of certain pigments in a painting was determined by contract with patrons during the 15th-17th centuries in Europe. We like today to see sneaky bits of self-expression in a Michelangelo, but for him, the Sistine was mostly just another bothersome commission from that annoying Pope guy. Point being: a lot of artists, historically, were professionals using their technical skills to give patrons what they wanted, so as to make a living. Pretty much what graphic designers are doing today.

  74. Alexa

    Hehe that’s really interesting. Besides, you as one of my fave radfems dedicate your life passionately to art – so can’t be all that bad!

  75. Carpenter

    “But I think more oppressed groups of people are less able to self- express through art – it’s less valued, and they’re made to feel they don’t have the voice people want to listen to.”

    I don’t think this is true at all. Forms of art and self expression flourish every where on earth. Many forms have been integral in keeping oppressed peoples together, keeping a cohesive identity, communicating the desire to keep up the struggle and also to express grief and pain. These forms of art might not be recognized by the establishment as ‘Art’, or they might be co-opted and exploited. This is what happened to almost every form of African American folk music in America, first it was denied status as actual art, then it was co-opted by white people but it was always art and much of it was art about struggle.

  76. Carpenter

    Wait, I meant to write I disagree with the notion people are less *able* to self express. I don’t disagree with the notion that they are made to feel that people don’t want to listen to them. I absolutely agree with that part. But I think self expression has an important function to oppressed groups and individuals.

  77. Kelsey

    Being an art historian and an artist, some of the comments here make me sad. There is a growing faction of leftist + radical feminist art historians and social historians who are “spewing a few words about the deeper meaning”…

  78. joy

    Janna, ouch, what a douchebag after all. These are things I for one did not know. But it doesn’t at all surprise me, because men are men are men.

    The fact that some of them aren’t egregious rapists does not mean that any of them are … (purposeful ellipsis used as a stylistic device indicating a trailing-off of thought) any good, frankly.

    I had another comment regarding the utter myth of the necessity of either art schools or art professors, but it got eaten in moderation. Possibly because it used a list and possibly because it was just dumb. Blaming while drinking real margaritas is not always recommended.

  79. Jezebella

    Joy, no one *needs* to go to art school, but if an artist doesn’t, she will waste a lot of time re-inventing the wheel. It’s a lot easier to learn printmaking in a studio with an experienced printmaker than from a book or any number of youtube videos. Quilting, weaving, glassblowing, ceramics, really anything with highly technical components is going to be learned more quickly in a classroom or tutorial situation. Hence, art professors, and art schools.

    I can spot the difference between a Sunday painter and a committed artist in a split-second. Nothing wrong with being a Sunday painter, if that’s your desire, but a person who wants to exhibit, sell, and make a living as an artist? Training helps. A LOT. There are exceptions, but for every one, there are a gazillion Sunday painters churning out landscapes and still lives and sweetie-pie portraits of their friends’ children. It’s all Art, though. Some bad, some good. (and I second the comment about Koons’ production being bad art. Just because it’s bad doesn’t mean it’s not art. If it’s not art, then what the hell is it (with the exception of his pornographic output, which ain’t art: it’s pornography.)?)

    Does anybody “need” to be an artist or make art? Hell no. Making a living as an artist is a possibility only in a culture where there are abundant extra resources. If a person wishes to do so, and is fortunate enough to live somewhere where people can afford to buy stuff, she needs some training. Just like computer programmers, doctors, and, ahem, museum curators. In a place like, say, Haiti, there’s no room for artists right now. There was before the earthquake, and maybe there will be again, but survival comes first. I am willing to bet, however, that when they get past survival, people will build homes and buy furniture and plates and glasses and paint their walls in a way that pleases their eyeballs. We make what art we can, where we can, us humans.

  80. joy

    Jezebella, you are talking to an artist.

    I dunno, perhaps I feel that my experiences are more universal than they are, but personally I’ve known how to paint since I was a kid. Yeah, a few art classes in high school (I went to an arty high school) helped expose me to new mediums (never woulda found oil paints on my own), but dude. Getting lectured about so-and-so dead white dudes and having to abandon my own technique in favor of a homogenized standard of bullshit was demeaning.
    (You shoulda seen what I used to do with perspective. It was wicked cool.)

    Perhaps we are talking about Art versus art. I’m nobody’s “Sunday artist,” I have a novel written. But what I do, either in print or in paint, will never be considered “Art” because I don’t have a dick and didn’t have ten million dollars to shell out for an art school (where more white dudes would have just made me feel shitty for being a brown girl).

    This is why I hate talking about art.

  81. polly

    If anyone wants a prime example of how being an ‘artist’ gets you excused stuff other people wouldn’t be, I give you Mr Chris Langham. Langham is an actor beloved by the middle classes, who was done for downloading (the most serious and nasty type you can get) child porn. He came out with the predictable ‘but I was abused myself and just trying to come to terms with it argument’.

    Far from being ostracised the way less ‘respectable’ figures are for the same thing (or even less respectable artists, not very high art 70’s pop star Gary Glitter was subject to cries to hang him when he was done for downloading child porn)the posh newspapers still LOVE Langham. And lots of his arty media mates think he should be rehabilitated because, hey he just made a bit of a mistake.


  82. polly

    But yeah, it’s a class thing as well. Posh people love art.

  83. polly

    And absolutely everyone in blighty seems to have forgotten Pete Townshend of the Who was done for downloading child porn (and before anyone starts on an argument I’ve had elsewhere on the internetz he did have a criminal record, he accepted a caution and was on the sex offenders register for five years).

    Fortunately they’re a bit more savvy in Florida it seems.


  84. Jezebella

    Polly, merely being a *dude* gets most offenders excused for doing horrible things. Being a rich white dude, regardless of profession, gets an offender even more leeway. I really think it has more to do with money and race than it has to do with a dude’s profession.

  85. Jill

    I outed that tool Pete Townshend last February!

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