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Thoughts Online Magazine
Collected Articles on Culture & Politics
Modern Art: You Hate It 
1st-May-2007 10:21 am
That's the theme running through this article and this one, by "Spengler" in the Asia Times. Of the two, the second is by far the most direct, so I will begin with the first.

Spengler notes that abstract "non-figurative" art was one of the innovations of Modernism, along with atonal music: and he points out that music, where everyone really does have a sense of taste, has condemned the works of poseurs like Arnold Schoenberg to being played only in front of captive audiences. (Doubtless, it would be a war crime to play such pieces in Guantanamo).

Why is it that the audience for modern art is quite happy to take in the ideological message of modernism while strolling through an art gallery, but loath to hear the same message in the concert hall? It is rather like communism, which once was fashionable among Western intellectuals. They were happy to admire communism from a distance, but reluctant to live under communism.

When you view an abstract expressionist canvas, time is in your control. You may spend as much or as little time as you like, click your tongue, attempt to say something sensible and, if you are sufficiently pretentious, quote something from the Wikipedia write-up on the artist that you consulted before arriving at the gallery. When you listen to atonal music, for example Schoenberg, you are stuck in your seat for a quarter of an hour that feels like many hours in a dentist's chair. You cannot escape. You do not admire the abstraction from a distance. You are actually living inside it. You are in the position of the fashionably left-wing intellectual of the 1930s who made the mistake of actually moving to Moscow, rather than admiring it at a safe distance.

The second article, however, goes on to respond to those who said "I do, too, like Modern Art!"

You pretend to like modern art because you want to be creative. In fact, you are not creative, not in the least. In all of human history we know of only a few hundred truly creative men and women. It saddens me to break the news, but you aren't one of them. By insisting that you are not creative, you think I am saying that you are not important. I do not mean that, but will have to return to the topic later.

You have your heart set on being creative because you want to worship yourself, your children, or some pretentious impostor, rather than the god of the Bible. Absence of faith has not made you more rational. On the contrary, it has made you ridiculous in your adoration of clownish little deities, of whom the silliest is yourself.

While not likely a way to win new friends and influence people, still a useful reminder.
1st-May-2007 09:38 pm (UTC)
I wish I could express the depths of my disagreement with this kind of sterile dogmatism. And anyone who imagines that Schoenberg or his followers are banned from the ordinary concert hall must have restricted their experience of classical music to Three Tenors concerts.
1st-May-2007 10:21 pm (UTC)
Hardly. UCLA, which has many of Schoenberg's fans, still notes his works are not often performed. While I have heard little of his work, what I have heard gave me no incentive to seek out more. The academic works on Schoenberg add to the wish to avoid him.

Sterile? I would put it that the sterility is all on the other side.
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