Monday, February 09, 2009

Seeing, Hearing, Reading Writings

Why do I get so much more of a charge (that is, an impulse to make more music) these days from reading visual artists write about their work than musicians writing about music?  Duchamp, naturally, Robert Irwin, necessarily (the new edition of Weschler's amazing book, Seeing is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees), Klee's Pedagogical Sketchbook, with continued pleasure, Ad Reinhardt's Art as Art...  Although I see poorly and have no talents for producing objects which one might look at, these ideas shock and provoke my acoustical imagination.  They make me want to make noises both gentle and rough, to challenge the nature and limits of my hearing.  

Reading  Ad Reinhardt, for example, is not a matter of simple agreement but is just as often a matter of productive disagreement.   The consequent development of his work and ideas is a model, his ethical stance is admirable, and I agree with his insistance that artwork is not political (other than the fact of its existence in a polity which would rather not have it, or worse, ignore it) but that artists should be politically engaged simply because, as people living in societies, politics is a practical necessity in order to make lives better. But I disagree profoundly with Reinhardt's insistance on painting as THE Art as Art.  Music can do that just as well. Or rather, listening more critically to my most recent work, music should be able to do that just as well.   

2 comments:

sfmike said...

Music does it even better.

Samuel Vriezen said...

"and I agree with his insistance that artwork is not political (other than the fact of its existence in a polity which would rather not have it, or worse, ignore it)"

You might also say that you can hardly get more political than what you write in your parentheses.

The sheer fact that we make something that people in power find no use for is exactly what makes them hate art and what makes art political. We are wasting their precious time.

The rest of the sentence then becomes a direct result of this insight:

"but that artists should be politically engaged simply because, as people living in societies, politics is a practical necessity in order to make lives better."

See also that amendment that the Senate passed the other day to the stimulus, which I'm quoting from Salon:

"None of the amounts appropriated or otherwise made available by this Act may be used for any casino or other gambling establishment, aquarium, zoo, golf course, swimming pool, stadium, community park, museum, theater, art center, and highway beautification project."

Art, and a number of other desirable cultural things, are grouped with gambling as something to be excluded from serious politics. Spending taxpayer money on Wall Street and on infrastructural projects is OK; spending it on Broadway (not to mention Off & Off-off) or cultural infrastructure is out. Those are very political decisions.