In which we glimpse the world through the eyes of our self-imagined betters.
The year began with news that living in Glasgow is now to be considered a work of art, according to Ellie Harrison, a taxpayer-funded artist who, coincidentally, lives in Glasgow. We also witnessed the talents of Sandrine Schaeffer, who teaches the subtleties of performance art to those less gifted than herself, and who unveiled “a series of research based actions in public spaces” – i.e., walking repeatedly past automatic doors. Gorged on art, our attention then turned to academic matters and the ruminations of Dr Riyad A Shahjahan, an exponent of “social justice theory” and “pedagogies of dissent.” Dr Shahjahan wished to impress on us that “the norms of neoliberal higher education” – specifically, expectations of punctuality and academic competence – are both racist and oppressive.
In March, we beheld the artistic work of Sandrine Schaeffer’s students - feats that included drooling, doomed horticulture and masochistic thigh-scarring. And feminist “creative” Katherine Garcia attempted to justify her sub-optimal life choices. Ms Garcia, who describes herself as a “multi-dimensional creature” doing “enlightening work,” was shocked to discover that getting heavily into debt to pursue a grad school degree in Women and Gender Studies isn’t a sure-fire path to status and prosperity.
April was enlivened by the highly-wound students at Edinburgh University, whose meetings forbid expressions and gestures that “denote disagreement,” and where even quietly shaking one’s head is a scandalous transgression. In the pages of Everyday Feminism, Ms Kai Cheng Tom bemoaned the fact that “disorders like violent psychopathy” are “generally considered unlikeable,” and that “compassion for psychopaths, pathological liars, or narcissists” – people such as herself – is hard to come by. And over at the Guardian, Grayson Perry, a part-time transvestite and maker of unattractive pottery, disdained masculinity as “useless” and “counter-productive,” a mere “hangover” from more primitive, less Guardian-friendly times.
In May, the “social justice” juggernaut Hari Ziyad railed against conformism and idle stereotypes, while denouncing the “white supremacist cisheteropatriarchal capitalistic gaze,” and exhorting us to spend more time fretting about “gender non-conforming Indigenous people with disabilities.” And the no less non-conformist Laurie Penny announced that she “leans towards anarcho-communism,” which, rather conveniently, means that your money actually belongs to her.
The white walls of the space are copiously hung, salon style, with a mélange of disquieting drawings and small, black, figurative sculptures.
Oh dear. Never go full mélange.
[T]he artist really delivered the feminist mayhem she is known for, presenting a series of fresh and topical works that may just as well have come from the mind and hand of an artist half her (73) years.
Or even, as we’ll see, some fraction smaller than that. Readers curious as to what form this “feminist mayhem” takes will be thrilled to hear that Ms Messager has “created an eccentric menagerie of mythologies suggestive of the complexity of the female body, therein exploring concepts of the feminine.” Specifically,
Messager takes as subject free-flowing breasts, uteruses, and menstruation, pushing her ongoing artistic probe of the female body from outside and within... Perhaps the strongest works here are the loosely-drawn, menstruation-based pieces. “Mon Ketchup” (“My Ketchup”) focuses on the red menstrual flow of a seated woman with her panties around her ankles.
This, then, is the high point of the exhibition. Or put another way, it’s all downhill from here. And so we arrive at an artistic feat titled “Mon utérus à mon désir” (“My Uterus to My Desire”) and which, we’re told, “depicts an anthropomorphised, left-handed uterus, flipping the bird.”
The reviewer, an artist and author named Joseph Nechvatal, is rendered breathless by this endeavour. For him, it “sums up the intensity of the show… female flesh enacting insolence.” Well, the disdain is hard to miss. Though, given the hackneyed themes and general incompetence, which we’re expected to find both sufficient and compelling, perhaps while rubbing our chins, I can’t help wondering at whom said disdain is actually being aimed.
The question raised by Sex Object, if read with a critical eye, is whether Jessica Valenti has ever been a victim of anything except her own bad judgment… What kind of fool would major in Women’s Studies? The kind of fool who loses her virginity at 14, goes off to Tulane, sleeps with her ex-boyfriend’s roommate, flunks out and then transfers to SUNY-Albany, that’s who. The only career possible for a Women’s Studies major is as a professional feminist, and there are only so many full-time gigs at non-profit “pro-choice” organisations to go around. However, the Feminist-Industrial Complex — the departments of Women’s Studies on some 700 college and university campuses across the United States — has a rent-seeking interest in promoting the metastatic growth of feminism, so the fact that many of their alumnae are quite nearly unemployable isn’t mentioned in the course catalogue.
The Globe Theatre’s new director, Emma Rice, detests the original Shakespeare. The Bard’s plays, she says, are “tedious” and “inaccessible.” Perhaps, with such a dim view of the source material and its creator, she should have taken a different job, but instead she chose to make Shakespeare more “relevant.” For instance, [in A Midsummer Night’s Dream] “Away, you Ethiope,” was changed to, “Get away from me, you ugly bitch.” Rice knew that plenty of Shakespeare purists would find her coarse edits appalling, so she had an actor walk on stage in a spacesuit and say, “Why this obsession with text?” She also placed identity politics front and centre. She mandated, for instance, that 50 percent of the cast be female regardless of the gender of the characters. “It’s the next step for feminism,” she said, “and it’s the next stage for society to smash down the last pillars that are against us.”
And David Kukoff on an alternative educational model of the 1970s that wasn’t altogether successful:
Following a meeting with progressive-minded parents, [educator and drug counsellor Caldwell Williams] teamed up with English teacher Fred Holtby to create a curriculum that would channel the pop-psych teachings of the time. They wanted students to guide their own learning, focus on their feelings, and engage in raw dialogue about sex, drugs, and all the other topics that animated their lives. The teachings incorporated principles of the popular self-help movement known as est, then shifted to those of Scientology.
Shockingly, it turns out that hugging lessons, watching porn and choosing your own grades has its limitations.
Feel free to share your own links and snippets, on any subject, in the comments.
Mr Philip Fryer is, it says here, a Boston-based artist who “explores concepts of mortality, chaos and order, the body as a circuit, and the omnipresence of sound,” and whose work “draws connections between mortality, queer identity, chronic illness and memory decay.” Well, indeed. Obviously. In the all-too-brief video below, filmed at Boston’s Proof Gallery in September 2011, Mr Fryer performs a thrilling and ambitious piece titled Wall Melody, in which he “explores” the theme of commitment by holding down one note on a child’s musical toy, while accompanied by an unspecified power tool, operated elsewhere by persons unknown, for reasons unclear. Apparently, the work “mimics the drone of our blood flow, and gives us the opportunity to meditate on our own audio output.”
Sadly, I was unable to find video of the full one-hour performance. What follows is merely an appetiser, a highlight:
Patriarchy — that impregnable citadel of male privilege and the object of so much feminist anger and hatred — turned out to be a paper tiger, after all. Feminists discovered that in liberal democracies, radical activism can quickly become a casualty of its own success. Those for whom the attainment of political goals is less important than the romance of resistance itself, perversely require an immovable antagonist against which to hurl themselves. “Perhaps to their own disappointment,” Ahmari observes, “the identitarians today find that the liberal order has given in to most of their demands.”
Vijay Jojo Chokal-Ingam [a son of Indian immigrants] wanted to become a doctor like his mother. But upon realising how hard it was, he tried another route. He saw that a friend of his from a similar ethnic and educational background did not get into a single medical school. So he decided to pretend he was African-American. Despite mediocre grades and board scores, he was interviewed by 11 of the 14 elite medical schools he applied to and was admitted to one. Though he made no claim to be disadvantaged — admissions committees were aware that his parents were well-off professionals, that he went to expensive schools and that he needed no financial aid — he was treated like someone who needed a leg up in life merely because he was ‘black’.
One of the most recent efforts of the left is the spread of laws and policies that forbid employers from asking job applicants whether they have been arrested or imprisoned. This is said to be to help ex-cons get a job after they have served their time, and ex-cons are often either poor or black, or both. First of all, many of the left’s policies to help black people are disproportionately aimed at helping those blacks who have done the wrong thing - and whose victims are disproportionately those blacks who have been trying to do the right thing. In the case of this ban on asking job applicants whether they have criminal backgrounds, the only criterion seems to be whether it sounds good or makes the left feel good about themselves.
An empirical study some years ago examined the hiring practices of companies that did a background check on all the employees they hired. It found that such companies hired more black people than companies which did not. Why? Many employers, aware of higher rates of imprisonment among blacks, are less likely to hire blacks whose individual backgrounds are unknown to them. But those employers who investigate everyone’s background before hiring them do not have to rely on such generalisations. The fact that these latter kinds of employers hired more black people suggests that racial animosity is not the key factor, since blacks are still blacks, whether they have a criminal past or not. But the political left is so heavily invested in blaming racism that mere facts are unlikely to change their minds.
If the political goal is to alleviate feelings of discrimination, no end point can ever be reached so long as a disproportionate number of black people end up in prison. And a disproportionate number of black people end up in prison not because of discrimination in the criminal-justice system, but because a disproportionate number of black people commit crimes… Crediting the unjustified feeling that there is pervasive bias in the criminal-justice system means making evidence secondary to perceptions. In the Michael Brown case in Ferguson, Mo., a large majority of black Americans felt that Officer Darren Wilson was guilty of murder in August 2015. They were wrong. But according to our political leaders, such feelings ought to be granted the patina of legitimacy. This isn’t leadership. It’s moral cowardice.
To the race hustlers, black lives don’t really matter nearly as much as their chance to get publicity, power, money, votes or whatever else serves their own interests. The mainstream media play a large, and largely irresponsible, role in the creation and maintenance of a poisonous racial atmosphere that has claimed the lives of policemen around the country. That same poisoned atmosphere has claimed the lives of even more blacks, who have been victims of violence by thugs and criminals who have had fewer restrictions as the police have pulled back, or have been pulled back, under political pressure. The media provide the publicity on which career race hustlers thrive. It is a symbiotic relationship, in which turmoil in the streets gives the media something exciting to attract viewers. In return, the media give those behind this turmoil millions of dollars’ worth of free publicity to spread their poison.
Part 2 here. Heather Mac Donald’s book The War On Cops, which is recommended by Sowell, can be purchased here (Amazon UK) and here (Amazon US).
Baseball hasn’t spent a hundred years smashing its own conventions. Baseball players don’t endeavour to turn hitting into a critique of late capitalism. Baseball doesn’t call upon fans to comprehend discussion full of coinages by PhD students trying to impress their dissertation committees, or implicitly punish them for having bourgeois values. Audiences instinctively and rightly hate this kind of pretentiousness.
Feel free to share your own links and snippets, on any subject, in the comments.
Living in Glasgow for a year is art, says taxpayer-funded artist who lives in Glasgow.
Writing in the Guardian, Liam Hainey rushes to defend Ms Harrison’s low-effort art project, denouncing “budget butchers” and asking his readers to “look at the bigger picture.” All while carefully ignoring anything that might trouble the assumptions of the freeloading arts community. Mr Hainey, a former Green councillor, dismisses the widespread mockery of Ms Harrison’s hustle as “predictable.” But he doesn’t seem to grasp that much of the mockery occurs because hustles of this type are themselves so predictable – that what we’re seeing, yet again, is a display of arrogant presumption, one that’s routine among a socially and politically narrow subsidy-seeking caste. And so Mr Hainey tells us, triumphantly, that the money isn’t in fact being wasted because it was already earmarked for art that would probably be unpopular and which nobody asked for.
Feminist “creative” Katherine Garcia attempts to justify her sub-optimal life choices. Things go badly wrong.
In financial terms, the lifetime return on an arts degree is very often negative and there’s something to be said for practicality, especially if your background is a modest one. Social mobility presupposes a certain realism, a pragmatism, and making choices accordingly – say, with regard to the costs and benefits of tertiary education, which is for most an expensive one-time opportunity. I’m inclined to suggest that getting into further debt for a grad school degree in Women and Gender Studies, as Ms Garcia did, is possibly not an ideal way to help one’s family economically, or indeed oneself.
Riyad A Shahjahan says we must “disrupt Eurocentric notions of time.” Because punctuality is racist and oppressive.
As the exact nature of Dr Shahjahan’s problem has been buried under rhetorical rubble, I’ll translate as best I can. You see, being expected to keep up with the pace of lessons and deliver course work on time can induce feelings of discomfort and inferiority in those less able and conscientious, thereby resulting in “exclusionary effects,” which, it turns out, are oppressive and unjust. However, armed with postcolonial theorising, and by stressing the mystical exoticness of people with browner skin, we shall set the people free from the “dominant culture of disembodiment” and the “temporal colonisation of our bodies” – i.e., expectations of punctuality, attentiveness and general competence. Yes, we must “contest the insertion of the body into the market.”
There’s more to poke at in the updated greatest hits. And tickling the tip jar makes my phone go ping. Which is nice.
I bring you art. Twelve minutes of it. In which Ms Eames Armstrong and Matthew Ryan Rossetti thrill onlookers at the 2015 MIX NYC Queer Experimental Film Festival with a terribly radical rendition of music from Les Misérables. As readers will no doubt be aware, the MIX NYC Queer Experimental Film Festival is where gathered artistic juggernauts “create queer experimental media through an ever-changing constellation of means.” The participants, we’re told, “make art for ourselves and our community, not for markets or museums.” Consequently, the festival is a “decisive launching pad for emerging talents.”
No skipping ahead to the good bits.
The festival, including the soul-engorging splendour of the piece featured above, was sponsored by both the New York State Council on the Arts and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs. An earlier performance by Ms Armstrong and Mr Rossetti, in which Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is, um, enhanced and made transgressive, can be found here. You lucky, lucky people.