Friday, March 24, 2006

A Lighter Shade of Black… and not quite as bright as kedazzle

I will try to deal with each of your replies in turn.

I must take issue with Mr Black’s language. His idiolect is too polarised to do justice to more subtle political writings (for examples see my previous article).

‘However, if I make a piece of Art that constantly reaffirms traditional family structures and uses this as a strong theme I am... invisible

Does every work of art which does not ‘claim that the nuclear family is a tool for the oppression of women, and queer people, and state so as a strong theme’ necessarily ‘constantly reaffirm traditional family structures’? Mr Black seems to fail to see that these more subtle works still carry their message, all be it less visibly (note: not invisibly) than his own. Furthermore, by aligning himself as ‘contrary’ does he not imply that these ‘invisible’ works and indeed myself (‘Contra-Wintergreen’) have (in contrast) aligned ourselves with tradition/state/etc.? It is inaccuracy to define his own works as other to those that are essentially arguing the same point. If kedazzle (and feminism) has taught us anything it is that this kind of ‘self-criticism’ can only weaken our stance. (I know that I appear to be just as guilty here and so I shall respond to kedazzle in time.)

If indeed his polarising tone was only adopted for strength of argument then I am sure that he will agree the ‘visibility’ of a work is more determinate on his skill as a writer and his audience’s skill as ‘readers’. Nonetheless, he still seems to be intent on underestimating his audience. Surely they are capable of more than just being force-fed his message? When his audience grows to include people incapable of little more than force-feeding then he will have some justification for cramming his message down their throats. Currently, however, his audience is comprised of critically minded individuals with similar opinions to his own.

I am particularly interested in Mr Veins’s identification of strong polemic to a like-minded audience as a ‘war-cry’. This is perhaps justified in times of political unrest, for example, in contrast to Blair’s own war-cry. I am personally more in favour of subversion. If a message appears to be subtle, but is subtextually blatant and powerful, I would have thought it more effective to sneak it into a reader’s mind without them knowing. Then they will think that their change of opinions arose out of their own minds. I always find that things that I learn for myself are always better remembered than things I have been taught by others. The problem I find with art which is too blatantly political is that people often raise their defences and don’t allow it to influence them. I see this as a problem with overtly political art. It is alright to lead people with a war-cry, but not everyone wants to be led. I am not convinced that fighting these people is the best option either. This is where subconscious conversion comes in.

Response to Kedazzle:

‘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.’

The idea of purely aesthetic art was running through my mind whilst writing the original post. I am convinced that Mr Black could write considerably better music without limiting himself to polemic. Part of my reason for writing the article was to encourage him to elucidate his reasons for moving away from the idea of pure art. However, I do not believe that he is much interested in creating art for purely aesthetic reasons anyway, which is quite understandable. I disagree with Mr Black in his assertion that ‘The reason you can't separate Art from Politics [note: big P] (or indeed vice versa) is that they are parts of a whole.’ A large proportion of music that is written has no Political motivation. In the canon of Western Classical music, the only works that immediately come to mind which have a direct Political link are religious works of music, Beethoven’s ‘Eroica’ (originally his ‘Napoleon Symphony’) and several works by Shostakovich (Symphony no. 5 and Lady Macbeth of Mzensk to name but two). Therefore, that leaves a lot of Art which has no Political motivation. They are of course grounded in the politics of the cultures which produced them but this is very different from saying that they support these cultures, as Mr Black asserts.

‘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.’

My criticism is not intended to completely tear apart the work of polemicists like Mr Black, rather to encourage its evolution. In addressing problems such as the communication of Political ideas on sites like the Rhexis among others, I hope that polemicists will be encouraged to improve their approaches. As to purpose of the Rhexis, I think Mr Veins has already hinted at it.


At 6:22 pm, Blogger Talyn said...

I agree that you can plant the original bulb of an idea into someone's mind but I personally cannot see how said bulb would ever take root. The problem is that making people do or think things is very difficult to do with subterfuge.
Subliminal advertising, for example, has proved that very minor things, such as an itch, can be forced upon people with incredible ease, but getting people to do/think things that they would not usually do/think is almost impossible.
I think that in order to get people to 'perform', so to speak, they would need the metaphorical bulb planted and then it would need to be carefully nurtured through reinforced subtexts (assuming that the audience isn't analysing the work of Art in the first place).
With Riotpop, as it has been dubbed (excuse the spelling), I do not think that the idea is for the audience to analyse the music in great detail.
The only way, possibly, to nurture this rather insistent bulb is over the course of an album. Even then I don't know if that would be enough for someone to have picked up the subtext to an extent that enables them to form the final idea.
With novels the case for subtextually planting ideas is different as subtext tends to run through the entirety of the book and, while it only takes a few minutes to listen to a song, it takes hours/days/weeks to read a novel.

In my opinion, subtlety in music is used more for the benefit of those looking for it. In music you need to be overt to get your messages across.

At 8:31 pm, Blogger Sable X. Veins said...

"In music you need to be overt to get your messages across." Thank you, Talyn. See my prior comment on subtlety in rock music.

I had previously stated that there is a certain value in discreet polemic inveigling its way into consciousness - but, as has Talyn points out, "getting people to do/think things that they would not usually do/think is almost impossible". There is an argument which states that audiences don't get their worldview from art, they take their worldview to art. The argument becomes: is it more effective to make a message clear so that an opposing worldview cannot help but recognise it, or to make its artistic vessel attractive in such a way that the art achieves a memetic success allowing it to reach more fertile eyes and ears?

All of this, of course, rules out the simple fact of persuasion that is ignored by the "audiences don't get their worldview from art" argument.

I think the point is not to concern ourselves unduly about how cleverly concealed an agenda is, but rather how attractive the art which carries it is. Mr. Black's R!0tp*p is visceral, catchy, and danceable. Ergo, it will spread more or less regardless of message. The way to challenge perspective through art is to make attractive art, not to concern oneself about which level the message operates on. See An Inspector Calls. Could you imagine a more blatant fictionalised socialist manifesto? But it has all the hallmarks of good theatre: complex characters, a gravitationally addictive plot, a hint of the supernatural. It is an enduring success, in spite of a flagrant polemic message.

Oh, and art for the sake of art is all well and good, and, I agree, necessary to keep us human and happy, but that doesn't mean we all have to make it.

Also, Garth, might I draw your attention to:

"Therefore, that leaves a lot of Art which has no Political motivation. They are of course grounded in the politics of the cultures which produced them but this is very different from saying that they support these cultures..."


"It is difficult to completely separate politics from art* as any work focussing on human relationships and/or social constructs is political*. However, not every work of art is Politically* motivated, i.e. they do not all have an intentional Political stance" ?

Has your argument changed, or are you just confused?

At 8:39 pm, Blogger Garth Wintergreen said...

Perhaps my argument has evolved, but I would draw your attention to the use of capital letters. See note in first article. This might explain your confusion.

At 8:42 pm, Blogger Garth Wintergreen said...

Also, I find that 'An Inspector Calls' suffers because of its overt politicism. The denouement only just escapes being ridiculous - 'flagrant' probably is the word for it. On its being an 'enduring success', I refer you to my comment on intended audience.

At 8:51 pm, Blogger Sable X. Veins said...

"...I would draw your attention to the use of capital letters... This might explain your confusion."

Aha, yes. My apologies.

"Also, I find that 'An Inspector Calls' suffers because of its overt politicism."

An uncommon opinion, and therefore contextually dismissable.

"On its being an 'enduring success', I refer you to my comment on intended audience."

It is an enduring success across demographical board. Young and old, left and right.

At 10:31 pm, Blogger Withiel said...

Garth, I think you're going to have to explain how a clear political message makes a work of art less effective. Preferably with reference to George Orwell.

At 12:35 pm, Blogger Talyn said...

Err, Veins...I can't find the comment you be talking aboote. Could you give me more precise directions as by the sounds of it I haven't read it so maybe I'll take back the statement...

At 5:20 pm, Blogger Sable X. Veins said...

No, don't take it back, I was agreeing with you. It's my first comment on Garth's Political vs. Poetical article. I said, amongst other things, "Rock and roll is an art form rarely noted for, or improved by, its subtlety."

At 11:01 pm, Blogger Talyn said...

Ah, sorry. I read the "thank you" as sarcasm. I have read the comment in that case.


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