Great art is impersonal art. – Joan Acocella, I think
A few years ago, I went to the
Another display was of artificial turf surrounded by barbed wire. The dangers of gridiron football? An easy-to-clean yard for chickens? No, it was about environmentalism, as explained to us by the artist in, oh, about 250 words.
A lot of contemporary art is really bad. An artist who needs to explain to the audience what he/she is doing should not be doing it. (And I do not include artists like R. Wagner here - those who want to explain to the audience because of their own egocentrism.) If you can’t communicate through your chosen medium, you’ve failed as an artist and should find another line of work, or non-work.
The quote above does NOT mean that art is not personal to the artist, but that: 1) the artist should not manipulate, explain, or pander to the audience, for such is the realm of popular entertainment, 2) art is communal and therefore does not need to be personalized.
[An aside: I’m really asking for it re how I define art, how I define popular entertainment, and when the two successfully mix and mingle and when they don’t, but I won’t post about that today.]
I’ll post excerpts from Arlene Croce’s essay Discussing the Undiscussable soon.
On a somewhat-related subject, I’ve realized what it is that I really don’t like about Taymor’s The Magic Flute, besides the cutting of crucial arias (to read my comments, go here). It’s the multiculturalism. Taymor has added, more or less undiluted, pieces of Japanese, Indonesian, Jewish mystical, and who knows what other cultures to a work that is completely in the Western tradition, both in music (Western classical) and plotline (Western philosophy). I’m totally opposed to multiculturalism in art, and I can’t recall a work I’ve encountered that I’ve enjoyed (as art, not as popular entertainment.) Taymor’s The Lion King is successful at incorporating some African themes because the material is so weak to begin with (Elton John and Bernard Taupin to a Disney story? Easy pickings). But Die Zauberflote isn’t.
The consequence of multicultural art (and I’m looking right at your “collaborators,” Ravi Shankar! Yep, you know how you are!) is inevitably dilution of all the cultural art forms. The fact is: no multicultural world culture exists. Art is particular to the culture from which it arises. Art is organic: you can’t graft the best from here and there on to each other and expect it to be communicative. It has impact, yes. But in the end, it’s lazy. And it's arrogant and insulting - it suggests that the artistic traditions as they have organically developed are an insufficient means of expression. It also ignores the spiritual nature of art - great art is ritualistic, and ritual is native to a particular culture.
But AG, isn’t jazz multicultural? Actually, much of jazz is solidly in the Western musical tradition. What makes much of it unique is how elements of Western music were adopted and shaped by those whose roots were non-Western, but this was a process that occurred over decades.