Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Contra-Wintergreen

"...not every work of art is Politically* motivated, i.e. they do not all have an intentional Political stance..."

"It is all very well to have a surprising and amusing line such as ‘I can detonate Nuns with the force of my mind’, but I find that it is weakened in juxtaposition with the all too explicit ‘Counterculture’s coming to get you’."


Some remarks about the visibility of bias in Art. To assert that it is a work of, at times, unsubtle and quasi-absurd polemic is indeed a valid assessment of my album Goblin Logic. However, this is because of the position which the work is attempting to present (disregarding arguments about character, voice, narrative intention and what makes a good line for the moment). If I, in a piece of Art, claim that the nuclear family is a tool for the oppression of women, and queer people, and state so as a strong theme, I am "unsubtle" and "polemical". However, if I make a piece of Art that constantly reaffirms traditional family structures and uses this as a strong theme I am... what?

I am invisible.

You see my polemic becase it is contrary. It is obvious I have an agenda, because I don't share an agenda with the State or the Majority of people, and so I, and it, tend to stand out. However, the State, or Society, or, if you prefer, They, also have an agenda, which is too big to see. What you think is neutrality, what you think is a level playing field, is a system of discussion skewed towards a very specific ideology.

It is invisible.

On subtle political meaning and subversion: there is Art and there is Politics. Apparently. "It is difficult to completely separate politics from art* as any work focussing on human relationships and/or social constructs is political".

One: why would you want to?

Two: why construct a dichotomous frame of reference here? The reason you can't separate Art from Politics (or indeed vice versa) is that they are parts of a whole. All art is political - that is to say, all possible personal stances have vital and immediate political resonance, and Politics is an art. It is a dangerous reactionary lie to claim that there is such a thing as an objectivity, and it is by this means that ideology of State becomes invisible and therefore normal. You do not need me to tell you that this is a Bad Thing. There is a place in the field of Good Art (whatever that may be) for subtle hints at a specifically political stance - that is to say, one with relevance to the current political arena - and also for Art that screams its allegiance from the rooftops and writes its messages in blood and spunk on the doors of the mighty. In my mind, one of these is a better tool in the hands of the artist for social change than the other. I'll give you three guesses.

Devastating though Woolf's criticism of Anti-Parnellite feeling might be, it does not, and never will, carry equal political weight to a work that says something that will be condemmned by the State. It's a question of scale. Although whispering "Fuck the Queen" in front of Buckingham Palace may be very pretty and artistic, it does not carry equal political weight to writing the same sentiment across the sky in letters of fire.

Finally, where Mr. Wintergreen asserts that the place for subtlety is in works of Art, and the place for the explicit is in activism (in my case, at least), I would disagree entirely. Art can be activism and activism can be Art, because they're all politics.

4 Comments:

At 12:28 pm, Blogger Sable X. Veins said...

Also, cleverness and crypticism (this word sounds silly) are all very well when one is dealing with semiologists and poets, but it is Narcissistic, élitist, and a form of intellectual bullying, to expect everyone to correctly analyse one's referential ramblings.

This is the flipside of my "preaching to the converted argument": i.e. that hidden polemic is a fine tool for subversion 1. in societies where subversion causes exponents to Disappear, 2. in an intellectual and mentally active group, 3. as a first step toward, or a support of, overt polemic.

 
At 10:26 am, Blogger kedazzle said...

Part of the whorish magic of all art is that it invites criticism on its own terms.
Wilde was not entirely right. Art can be political. But perhaps it is most effective when its exponents privilege perhaps the more vacuous purpose of art - the aesthetic - over the polemic. In this way I'm on Mr Wintergreen's side.
To be unsubtle in polemic art is sometimes a necessity, and when subtlety undermines passion and energy it is never to be advocated, not when the artist is under fifty. But art can be most cutting in its political objectives when it is most aethetically orientated; I'm thinking of the artist in Mexico City who scales walls to rip holes into the billboards and hoardings, into the garish advertisments, in the shape of the faces of impoverished neighborhood children with eyes huge with want, a hundred feet high.
If Mr Wintergreen is trying to argue that to undercut with bullish polemic the first aesthetic principle of art - the essential meaninglessness of beauty that seperates us fro unthinking, unfeeling beings - is to lessen even the most politically urgent of works, then I concur wholeheartedly.

However -

The brilliance, but also the danger of art is that it invites criticsm on its own terms.

It cannot but be a heinous waste of resources to spend precious intellectual energy in aesthetically taking apart the polemic of someone essentially shooting from the same tree.

The dangers of such an approach, whilst intellectually laudable, are very real: this sort of self-referential, subtly self-undermining polemic is precisely what caused the feminist movement to implode under the weight of its own self-criticism.

Not that as intellects and politicals we don't have a right - even a duty - to keep one another on our toes, to streamline one another's arguments - but to do more than this is to privilege stubborn, Aristotelian intellectual quibbling over mutual support for the sublime aesthetic-polemic which, surely, is the POINT of sites like this.

 
At 3:41 pm, Blogger Sable X. Veins said...

Yes, I agree with you, but I feel this line of argument is (as you seem to have concluded anyway) moot for projects such as The Rhexis.

Also, do get on and respond to my counterargument on your Religion post.

 
At 4:42 pm, Blogger kedazzle said...

keep your hair on. have just done so. ;)

 

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