Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Art theory by amateurs...

I have to give Joe Carter credit for attempting to talk about such things as art theory.

Like most things, though, I have to strenuously disagree with him, although, I must credit him for at least making the attempt to think about such things. Carter writes:

...the visual arts are in the toilet.

But this depressing state of affairs offers a unique opportunity for Christians. As Daniel Henniger of The Wall Street Journal recently lamented, the cultural values of the 20th century included “discordance, challenge, collision, violation, confusion.” “This is wholly out of sync with what people want or need in the current age,” adds Henniger, who argues that what we need in this age of global terrorism is “respite.”

If this is truly what is needed then it should be Christians who take the lead. After all, who is better equipped to offer the world a glimpse of true respite than those who can say with Augustine, “for thou hast made us for thyself and restless is our heart until it comes to rest in thee”?

It's interesting that Carter's frame of reference on this is are Tom Wolfe and Francis frames of reference would include John Berger and John Daido Loori.

From all of the above, I can glean the following:

  • Carter wants to re-establish a "centering notion" in culture, and in art in particular. However, our own experience, as well as that of Shanti Deva, Nagarjuna, and others, tells us that this centering notion is ultimately illusory. We cannot expel the demons of unease with certainty for eternity. Post-modernism and modernism are really expressions in a Western paradigm of that which was known in other cultures for millenia before the "civilized" folks' notions of the center was blown apart by the World Wars, by the rise of fundamentalisms, by revolution, and by turmoil and pestillence. You may crave respite, but there is no respite.

  • Still, Carter and his minions have sort of a point: too much of modern art has been something that rich people (the confusion of "rich" with "middle class" gives me a chuckle) buy to show "they got culture." But, as a reviewer of Wolfe's book pointed out, there really are those trained in modern art, and non-realist techniques that have more talent in their excretions than the critics such as Wolfe, Hilton Kramer, et al. can muster against their movements in general.

  • The visual arts actually aren't in the toilet. Folks such as Carter and that guy from the WSJ just aren't looking in the right places. Culture ultimately is something we, ourselves make and appreciate.

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