Sir Barken Hyena writes:
Hola amigos, sorry it’s been so long since I’ve rapped at ya, but I’ve been quite the traveler lately, ever on the trail for potential new Lady Barkens. Most recently, this sweetly-scented trail has brought me to our most prominent and cultured cities, New York and Los Angeles, back to back within weeks of each other.
Now, due to my fame it’s best to travel a bit incognito, Peter the Great style, so that I can observe the true state of our nation without being deceived by sycophants and inconvenienced by the constant genuflecting of the masses. Also, my companion in New York, Princess Lady Bacon-Love of Batavia, is wanted by the FBI and several foreign governments, so we kept a low profile.
And as for the state of that nation — and culture — one good barometer is the kind of art that’s being made today. The view from New York is one of contempt. Do I mean I find the art contemptible? Yes, I certainly do, but more than that I feel that contempt is the only emotion conveyed by this art, the only emotion felt by its creators, and indeed the full intent and compass of the works.
And when you look at it that way, they are doing a fine job.
My experience at The Drawing Center in SoHo sums it up. There was precious little of anything you could call “drawing” there, but I suppose breaking boundaries is a given these days. Mostly on show were textiles ranging from unimpressive to insipid to downright silly. What art there was could be found on the placards explaining the works. One choice example:
Well, I didn’t see any “dialog”, though I’m not sure how I would have recognized it. The work itself looked like a melted stack of black Glad bags over a dog-chewed rag rug, no need to show it here, there’s nothing in it.
Nothing but contempt that is. Remember, this was in One Percent Central, an august zone of stratospheric wealth. This is the art that serves the global elite, as much as the Sistine ceiling served the Pope. They fund the galleries and foundations that make this possible, and perhaps even buy these works from time to time to display on their own walls. I have to assume that they find it expressive of their thoughts and feelings, though of course the primary purpose is to show their wealth by its profligate waste (I can get them a version of Worry Rug I for $14.95, though I can’t promise it’ll have the flair of the original).
The elites of the past used art as propaganda to display their superiority and cement their rule. The pharaohs overawed the simple with pyramids and monoliths, while medieval cathedrals offered them a vision of heaven. Louis XIV had his Versailles, even communists found it necessary to create Socialist Realism. But how does Worry Rug I serve this goal? These poor sad one percenters of today are joined at the hip to an ideology of liberal equality, for some reason, which really must be deeply galling to those conscious of their superior merit. How to show it? Contempt! Contempt for you and me, contempt for the eye, and the sensual, which can never be bought but only felt.
And just down the street from The Drawing Center, an unnamed gallery offers the pièce de résistance, the ultimate in contempt:
Social criticism has long been a part of art, since the Romantics at least, but it’s been with a view to improving society, to curing its ills and bettering mankind. In other words, to further the promise of the Enlightenment and liberalism generally. I don’t think the above explosive critique of society has any such noble sentiment, because it’s quite clear to me that nobody really believes in this vision any more, and the ultimate failure of this multi-century program can only be due to the masses’ failure to step up to the challenge. So fuck off losers! The elites deserve their rule not because of their superiority but because the rest of us are losers. Thanks, thanks for that.
In my next post I’ll talk about Los Angeles and the art of delight.