David Thompson


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May 02, 2007



I think The Problem with "The Arts" is they are the Social(ist) Arts i.e. the opposite of Art.

All the great Art works are being done in the real world, not the artistic bubble of self congratulation.

Think of all the great films, computer games and music that is being produced right now through the power of meeting customer needs, and compare to the crap (sometimes literally) that is largely funded via taxpayer extortion.


Well, the UK’s extensive public subsidy of art doesn’t appear to have produced an avalanche of great and memorable work. It has, however, multiplied the number of pretentious little tossers who sneer at the capitalist society on which they depend - and at the terrible “bourgeois” people whose taxes support them.

Chris Allen

"if we knew only the contemporary art world we would never get a glimmer of the excitement in evolutionary psychology, Big Bang cosmology, genetic engineering, the beauty of fractal mathematics"

I rather suspect that this is because many "artists" are not by nature the explorers of the world we suppose them to be.

In my experience, they become "artists" because the path to becoming an "artist" is via art school courses that match the "artists" own left wing prejudices.

Think of "art" as a sort of political occupational therapy and you are close to the mark. Being an "artist" allows individuals to remain as rebellious teenagers - never having to take responsibilty for supporting themselves.

Most "artists" these days are simply those who call themselves "artists" as a way of legitimising a lifetime on state benefits. They possibly have some artistic talent, but not the faculties and drive and determination required to actually market and sell their work. Such marketing is invariably viewed as "selling out" or some such drivel.

The polymath who produces art would be shunned by the PC and PoMo art establishment as dangerously under the thrall of the maleocracy of science and western imperialist thinking, because the expertise required to truly innovate is based in rational thought - an anathema to these idiots.

Art colleges which since the sixties have thought of themselves as "radical", are now as ossified and reactionary as any government department. I'm sorry my dear, but getting stoned and producing "ironic" works may have been rebellious in '64 - now its' just masturbation.

Stop ALL public funding of art and artists now and let art regain its dignity by becoming subject to the selective forces that forge innovation and success in everyother sphere of life.

Arts Council, Arts Council, Arts Council, OUT! OUT! OUT!


Two excellent posts on the Arts Council gravy train and its political leanings:




Incidentally Anhedonia is one of the major symptoms of depressive illness.

You wouldn't be having a sly way of saying that "Arts" funding (from extorted taxpayers) is a form of care in the "community" for these types?


Is the art anhedonic or anti-hedonic? the latter _inducing_ anhedonia, and thence passivity, as well as the associated resentment toward those who maintain the capacity to experience guiltless pleasure....



The work mentioned above, by Hans Haacke, seems more than just a failure to register a dramatic political improvement. Equating Mercedes-Benz with, say, the Stasi requires extraordinary perversity and belongs in much the same category of moral vacuity as “AmeriKKKa” or “Bush=Hitler” T-shirts.

And I’m a firm believer in guiltless pleasure. I tend to distrust anyone who isn’t. The whole puritan thing just seems… well, creepy.


It's so odd to think that a little over a decade ago I was trying to believe all that crap. No wonder I was so confused. God bless this one professor--a sardonic old guy who taught a Wallace Stevens/Robert Frost seminar. Great voice for reading poetry aloud. No patience for literary theory. He loved Wittgenstein, was always ragging on Derrida et al. I later took a class with him contrasting the lit theory and language philosophy. I'm going to check out this Hicks book.


btw, I believe in guiltless pleasure, but I'm not sure I've ever experienced it.



“It's so odd to think that a little over a decade ago I was trying to believe all that crap.”

Well, I think the extent to which students feel obliged to “believe” is related to the politicised nature of much art theory. The more politicised art theory is, the more tendentious and implausible it tends to become, and the more “belief” is required to sustain the illusion of its veracity and importance.

“I believe in guiltless pleasure, but I'm not sure I've ever experienced it.”

Try harder.


The Hicks essay is worth reading all the way through but I find it problematic. Beauty and originality were very much on the mind of the earlier modernists - postwar American abstract painters hardly thought about anything else. This is telling:

"If we put all of the above reductionist strategies together, the course of modern painting has been to eliminate the third dimension, composition, color, perceptual content, and the sense of the art object as something special."

All of those reductionist strategies ought not be put together. Louis's decision to move his colors to the edges and Johns's reinterpreting the American flag are wholly different kinds of reduction, most notably because Louis made some lovely paintings and Johns didn't. Hicks makes a viable point that modernism and pomo share a common trajectory. But to conclude therefore that Duchamp epitomizes modernism conflates too many contradictory impulses, and pardon me, but did anyone notice a baby in that bathwater?

Pomo needs to be kicked until it coughs blood, and I do my part. But I think that one has to recognize that pomo consists mostly of verbigeration, and you can only pin so much woe on it. It provides a safe haven for irrationality, entitlement, dishonesty, and ugliness, but it hardly invented them. Meanwhile, however we label the moment, people here and there are making decent art.

I wonder why Hicks spent the majority of his essay providing concrete examples for his points, but stopped doing so in his conclusion about the future of art. In fact, the conclusion is downright platitudinous. "At the heart of every revolution is an artist who achieves originality." Well, okay. But you'd figure that some specific work is at least on the right track. Not citing any avoids the pitfall of futurism in general - the opportunity to be completely wrong. It is easier to make a case against what you oppose than one in favor of what you support, but the latter matters more in the end. He may do so somewhere else, but not in this essay, and it suffers for it.

ps - I didn't mind the fellatio X-rays; a couple of them were evocative. The utter lameness of the tattooed pigs doesn't diminish that.



I guess you’d have to take that up with Stephen Hicks. He does, I see, like Michael Newberry's work. I’m not a great fan, though I do like the light in some of them:


My interest in contemporary ‘fine’ art is now vanishingly slim and this disinterest is the result of routine disappointment. I don’t doubt some excellent work is being made, somewhere, but I no longer have the enthusiasm to search it out. On the other hand, commercial culture is something I can, and do, get excited about. Ditto design, advertising, engineering, technology…

I’m not sure whether this makes me a philistine or says something about the obsolescence of ‘fine’ art as a cultural institution. Possibly a little of both.


He said harder... heh-heh...

Interesting comments Franklin. I liked the clarity that Hicks provided, but that clarity also made me suspicious by virtue of its own, uh, reduction. Your remark about postwar American abstract artists certainly struck a chord--while reading Hicks, I wondered how his analysis could be reconciled with the quiet Rothko calendar in my cubicle.


“He said harder... heh-heh...”

Don’t make me close the free bar.


Free bar? Why didn't you say so?! Pass me a shirley temple please, and don't forget the cherry.


Booze will only encourage more quips about turgidity. And this is a classy joint.


I know what you mean about routine disappointment. For me, staving it off has meant regular trips to good old-fashioned museums. I hardly have patience for contemporary attempts at art-making otherwise. Comics and design, at least, aren't coming out of the tradition that produced, say, Rembrandt, with commensurate implied or actual claims to import - they just are. I doubt it implies philistinism on your part - sensible people will only put up with so much failed return on investment before spending their time on another pursuit.

Newberry's work is decent enough, but the future of art? That's the kind of pick that could have discounted Hicks's whole thesis had he included it. I guess we'll never know.


Well, if I want cleverness and allusions, I can find that in good advertising, or in comics, or cartoons. If I want visual ingenuity and raw spectacle, I can find that at the cinema or on DVD. With commercial culture producing so much - and so much that’s so good – ‘fine’ art has to raise its game or provide something unavailable elsewhere. And, at the moment, I’m not convinced it does.


The article linked below, written for Eye magazine, produced some interesting replies on the subject:



In a letter (not online), Rian Hughes of Devicefonts wrote:

“Love is not an adjective many would use to describe their relationship with contemporary art… Maybe it’s just that fine art has stopped being interested in the visual and went off to explore something else. That’s its prerogative. Those other concerns – colour, composition, ideas, beauty, craftsmanship, clarity, communication and technical excellence – are now the purview of commercial artists…”

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