All Kinds Of Art, All Kinds Of Challenge
May 26, 2006
The Anchoress has written a rather thoughtful post, Madonna And DVC And Why I don't Care. It is a thoughtful, wry and piquant, if you read between the lines.
We will present some selected quotes later, but for now, let's just say The Anchoress is bored with it all. The 'in your face' antics and shock shtick have become predicatble. Like the fate of the walleye or bass in the Saturday fishing show, or what will come to pass when the pool boy rings the doorbell in a porn flick, we are boring of the inevitable and same outcome.
There's a reason Madonna goes by the name Madonna and there's a reason she uses religious imagery in her show. Like a McDonald's quarter pounder, we know what we will get- predicatbility. It isn't fine dining, for sure, any more than Madonna is 'art.' As had been said for years, Madonna, like McDonald's, is about extraordinary- and successful, marketing. Instead of burgers and fries, she's pitching S&M and religious symbols as expressions of phallic pathologies.
It's just business, of course. After all, when she isn't on tour, articles about Madonna extol her new found religious and moral sensibilities and her devotion to home and hearth.
In fact, The Anchoress is a ahead of the curve here, when it comes to social commentary:
Why haven’t I written more? Well, to be honest, I just don’t care about either of these over-hyped, over-exposed things.
In truth, Madonna could be fun to write about, were she not so obviously needful of our writing about her.
In fact, Madonna is repeating herself. She has nothing new to offer- and she knows it. The truth is, she doesn't have to offer anything new. As long as silly critics and even less sophiticated music consumers rehash and redefine the same quarter pounder as fine dining, why should she redefine herself and her art?
The Anchoress is bored with what passes for art and even more impoortantly, she is bored with a culture that celebrates mediocrity that passes for art. What she doesn't say (because she is too nice) is that we have devolved into a culture that can't even recognize real art.
We live in an culture that places emphasis on an artist's politics before the art. The Dixie Chicks are elevated in status because, in their collective wisdom, opine on politics. Notwithstanding the truth that 'people who need people are lucky people,' Barbra Striesand would not be lionized without her rather incoherent public political opinions. Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins are no exception. Their status as artists are elevated because of their public politics- and make no mistake about it, their politics are carefully crafted by their publicists.
As for the Da Vinci Code, Anchoress again, is ahead of the curve.
And thirty years from now there will be another book, another play, another photograph of a Holy Thing dunked in urine. And everyone will gasp again and controversy will fly…and it still won’t matter.
There is art that challenges and there is pseudo-art. We suspect The Anchoress has no issue with real art. Salvador Dali, for example, did his version of the Last Supper and Christ of St John of the Cross are especially powerful (the crucifixtion image places the mortal viewer with God's view, and all that implies. It is an extraordinary image). Those images challenge how established history and religion are viewed. There are a host of other artists that do the same- some religious, some not.
This is an important distinction. Art exists to make people think and evaluate their ideas, themselves and their lives. Art is not about the artist. We wrote,
What is great art? That question has been around almost as long as there has been charcoal with which to draw.
Great art really is easily definable. Great art passes the test of time. Great art is timeless. In the end, great art is never ends up in the back of the closet or the attic, no matter how deeply it is buried. Great art, like the truth and reality sufaces, sooner or later.
Conversely, some art is deemed important because it suits the need of agendized beliefs and values. Despite the art's irrelevance and insignificance, the art and artist are held up and celebrated, simply because the art supported an agenda. This was most evident, in recent times, with Soviet era art. Images of happy peasants, working in the fields, or fit men and women working in a glorious 'people's factory', defined a half century of art in Russia. Works depicting the desecration of religious figures or icons were hailed as 'breakthrough art' for a couple of decades in this country.
In the end of course, great art stands on it's own, without an agenda. Bad art falls to the wayside, with it's agenda.
There are actors who believe they and they alone, define the character of the roles they play. If that were true, we'd never know the name Shakespeare. It is his name that endures and not the selfish and petulant actors that mouthed the words he wrote. The actor/icons of today of will be forgotten. The efforts of the art they were priviledged to be a small part of, will endure.
Dr Sanity has an excellent post on art, here. It's a worthy read. She notes,
If you wonder why our nation seems so divided and why there is so much animosity and emotional hysteria directed against traditional values and ideas upon which this country was founded, you need look no further than the pervasise and unrelenting trickle down of postmodern theories and thinking in education, art, politics and all the social areas of life. Even science has not been immune from the nihilism and anti-reason and anti-reality agenda of the postmodernists.
These truths are a part of what The Anchoress addresses in her post. In the end however, she points out that those who profess faith will not be swayed by what passes for art and the agenda that kind of art often promulgates.
…I am not worried about Madonna or Tom Hanks or DVC or anything. Some say the dispersal and easy-acceptance of heresy and re-written history portends tough times for the church – ridicule, hatred, suppression, discrimination, even (paranoia alert) outlawing. I am not worried. If fifty years from now Catholics are once again hiding priests and holding Holy Mass underground, if Christians are using signals to direct others to worship, it will not surprise me. The church is always at its most fervent and alive when it is under siege…
Art that challenges faith and beliefs has a long and storied past. From Da Vinci and Michaelangelo, from Rembrandt to Dali, Picssso and Chagall, art has challenged and provoked believers- as it should.
The various pseudo arts and artists that propagates agendas of hate, either overt or subtle, will be as relevant as Nazi era 'art.'