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1000 Black Lines

:: digital coffee stains on the paper of the blogosphere ::

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Rock Star

I'm not a big fan of Alice Cooper, but I thought his lively comments in regards to the "Vote for Change Tour" rather entertaining:
"If you're listening to a rock star in order to get your information on who to vote for, you're a bigger moron than they are. Why are we rock stars? Because we're morons. We sleep all day, we play music at night and very rarely do we sit around reading the Washington Journal." (The Edmonton Sun, Friday August 20, 2004)

On another blog, The Neanderthal, I commented that "Rock stars have not traditionally been known for their aptitude for politics nor policy. I can only think of a couple exceptions--Bono, of U2, being one." After letting my thoughts distill for several days, I wondered about the authenticity of art (and for that matter rock and roll). In high art, one can view the art object without the baggage of the art maker's politics. But is that good? Should the artist be separated from his/her creations? Picasso's 1937 Guernica was evidence that art does not have to be beautiful to be potent. The impact of that painting was colossal. I may be wrong about this, but I understand that Guernica was painted as a reaction to the atrocities of war and not a conceived political statement. Why is it that young artists, poets and musicians seem to latch onto a political movement to validate their art? "To thine ownself be true" may be a bit idealistic. However, artists and advocacy groups seemed to be married at the hip. Maybe it is the advocacy groups who have attaching themselves to artists in hope of validating their cause. Maybe it is politicians that need the arts to communicate their platform or agenda. If that's the case, Alice Cooper may have made more than a rock star's observation. He may have made a very astute point about American politics.

  1. Blogger joy | supersiblings.com | 11:47 AM, September 02, 2004 |  

    "In high art, one can view the art object without the baggage of the art maker's politics. But is that good? Should the artist be separated from his/her creations?"I'm not following...why the initial premise.
    So I'm also not following the questions you pose.
    Are the distinctions between high art and pop culture such as would necessitate that we divorce our knowledge of the artists' worldviews from their art in any case in the first place? Or are the distinctions between high art and pop culture something other -- something completely beside the facts about the artists' political or religious positions?
    I'm not trying to blur the lines. Just trying to see the source of the initial assumption that we can dichotomize in the first place.

  2. Blogger 1000 black lines | 1:39 PM, September 02, 2004 |  

    Good question (or rather questions) and thanks for commenting. I'm afraid in my rush to be relevant I may have forgotten sound reasoning. Let me start again and begin by stating that I'm not sure I know the correct answers. The initial premise, as clumsy as it was, may be better stated as a question. Can one view art without the art maker's politics or religion? I'll get to the high art versus pop culture in a bit.

    Here are some observations that I have noticed in the art/literary community. Let's say, for instance that I invite you to an art show and you view an abstract painting that reminds you of a busy street corner. The artist of that painting has succeeded to touch your soul if only for a few seconds. Now, let's say I told you in advance that a radical feminist lesbian (or a conservative Catholic) did the painting. Would that change your reaction to the painting? Would you still see a busy street corner or would you see the baggage a feminist lesbian (or a conservative Catholic) brings to the painting? These questions are based on my observations from within the creative community.

    High art and pop culture are distinctly different. Pop culture status will fade by next autumn. Madonna is old news now, but when I was a kid everyone had to look like the Material Girl. The public will forget what was popular this year and have to purchase the latest onslaught the following year. Currently Miss Spears dominates the pop culture radar, but only for a season. She too will fade. But high art tends to have a longer shelf life. Consider a painting or sculpture. It will hang on a wall or rest in a corner for years. And each time you pass it you remember what it is that drew you to that art object. For example, a coworker across the hall from me has an Andrew Wyeth print in his office. I asked him about it and he said it reminded him of something (of what I forgot). He no longer wears fluorescent orange t-shirts nor "pegs" his jeans like he did when he was a high school student in the late 80s. High art has longevity but also embodies goodness, truth and beauty. Not all three need to be in a single painting. But all three need to be represented collectively in high art.

    That's kind of a departure from the "Vote for Change Tour" genesis. However, I have noticed in the art community a passionate desperation. Artists desire acceptance and demand individuality. In their search to fulfil those two elements they adhere themselves to any political movement or advocacy group that will shelter them. I guess that was the trigger for my initial posting. I'm not sure I know the correct answers. I'm still asking a lot of them myself.

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