January 18, 2003

Ecce Homo

Culture War! Guest poster Michael L. at 2Blowhards, in a post about the non-artist public's perceptions of the Artist as an ideal conforming to a certain stereotype, made the mistake of using the "D-word" (democracy). This set off the alarm in the underground lair of A.C. Douglas, where humanity's last few remaining works of Art are guarded in a hermetically-sealed, oxygen-free chamber, safe from the polluting eyes of the dreaded Common Man. (Yup -- that Mona Lisa in the Louvre is a cheap reproduction, purchased at Wal-Mart -- the French smuggled the real painting to ACD via submarine and secret railway; now it is safe from the barbarian hordes and their plastic laser swords and collector's cards.) Our intrepid Curator of the Museum of Man lost no time in beaming over to the comments section where he put his mad ninja skilz to work, leaving no hairs unsplit and no sentence unparsed to the very vowels and consonants. Michael attempted to gain points by confessing to "annoyance" at the Common Man's "drug-like" attachment to the Idea of the Artist as a Certain Stereotype, but ACD is having none of it -- he knows a quisling to the Cause when he sees it and he takes no prisoners. Still, the battle rages on. Will the Blowhards succeed in their attempts to let the Common Man eat at the sit-down lunch counter with the Artists? Will ACD ever stop acting like an outtake from Zoolander? Who knows! Stay tuned.

Update: Main Michael at 2Blowhards has put the smack down (see the last comment). Now that's some kung-fu.

Posted by Andrea Harris at January 18, 2003 07:19 PM

By gum, that's the funniest post I've read in weeks! I think you've nailed our fave elitist...

Posted by: Scott at January 18, 2003 at 07:43 PM

The really annoying thing about ACD is that I am actually an elitist myself. I want people to embrace the good, and reject the bad. I just don't see why they should trust the self-appointed elite to determine it for them. Most of the time, as far as I can tell, the "elite" is fixed on the shocking---after all, it isn't Art if the Common People can understand it.

I also don't see any harm in enjoying things that are not pure, deathless Art. I guess that makes me a bad elitist.

Posted by: Angie Schultz at January 18, 2003 at 08:49 PM

You have betrayed the Elitist Cause! Twenty lashes with a wet tagliarine! (Noodles are so lower class.)

Posted by: Andrea Harris at January 18, 2003 at 11:01 PM

I'm a moron, and ACD's intellect makes my head hurt. So, perhaps that is why I don't understand at all why he is seemingly convinced that civilization is rapidly going to hell in a handbasket because of "pop culture". He seems to imply in all that he writes (that I have read, anyway), that all art, literature, music, and culture in general; are objective in nature and can somehow be quantified through some equation that only he, and all intellectual elite, understands. And any "art" that doesn't produce a certain minimum in their equation, is deemed "pop", and therefore is to be abhorred as contributing to the ruination of mankind.

I, on the other hand, have always viewed the concept of art, and literature, as purely subjective in both their conception and appreciation. There is no "standard" other than what is generally accepted (democratically) by makers and observers of the work. If I say that Michealangelo's David is the greatest work of art ever achieved by man (it is), it is purely by subjective means that I arrive at that conclusion. And if ACD has a rational, objective formula for determining the "worth" of a work of art, I wish he would share it with the rest of us so we can all work to eliminate that which is ruining the "elite"!

Posted by: rinardman at January 18, 2003 at 11:24 PM

I would put it to ACD that one of the greatest artists of the 20th century was Chuck Jones.

Art doesn't have to be inaccessible in order to be profound, and Jones' art was so readily accessible and his artistry so facile that he made what he did look easy, and thus trivial. It's only when you look at how few others were able to consistently achieve a similar quality of work that you begin to appreciate his genius. Great art also doesn't have to be in-your-face, and one of the marks of a truly great artist is restraint and a sense of proportion.

ACD won't ever be able to formulate what makes art "great" in part because there is no consensus, none whatever, as to what the word "art" actually means. For example, Scott McCloud says that art is every human activity which isn't directly associated with survival and reproduction; that is, obviously, extremely broad and means that a virtuoso performance by a back hoe operator actually is art. (And in fact, it can be in my opinion.)

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at January 19, 2003 at 12:41 AM

acd is the Waldo Lydecker of the internet.

Posted by: Jack at January 19, 2003 at 06:14 AM

ACD should be locked in a padded room with Michael Moore. That would, I think, count as the highest form of torture for both of them.

Posted by: David Jaroslav at January 19, 2003 at 12:45 PM

Speaking as something of a professional artist, I first would vehemently denounce the claim that "noone can tell what art is."

There are certain properties, in varying proportions, that all real art posesses. These properties are Beauty, craft, style, comprehensibility, culture, tradition, heirarchy, and transcendence. It's the difference between a profound and stirring speech and mindless,dementia-induced babbling.

Second I would take the blame for the loss of this perspective and lay it not at the feet of the common man but at the feet of the artists themselves. They, and their pseudointellectual apologists, are responsible for the advent of "art" that is literally distinguishable from land-fill rubbish solely by the virtue of being on display in a gallery or museum. It wasn't the lowbrow Joe Sixpack who insisted that Jackson Pollock was a High Artist, rather than a Con Artist. It was the so-called Intelligencia that insisted that "Art" could exist without any beauty, craft, or comprehensibility.
If the common people can't tell the difference between a "real artist" and an ordinary schlub who just happens to be in a room at the museum, it's the artist's own damn fault for shuck-and-jiving the average joe for so long.

Posted by: RHJunior at January 19, 2003 at 12:59 PM

ACD has a number of problems. First of all he apparently believes that only Fine Art is art at all. Any asshole can make art.
Second, he thinks that only he and a handful of intellectuals carefully select by ACD himself should decide what art is.
And third, he, the great and infallable ACD must never be questioned as to what qualities determine which of man's creations are true art.

Now, in the discussion over at 2Blowhards, he is saying that artists themselves are not "merely" very talented humans; they are somehow inherently above the rest of us.

I guess you could say that I'm an "elitist." I do believe that some things are better than others, but GEEZ! ACD gives elitism a bad name.

Posted by: Lynn at January 19, 2003 at 02:54 PM

If artists are all such stellar human beings, why are so many of them jerks? Just about every biography of every artist I have ever read has had account after account of the lousy way they treat their nearest and dearest, never mind their admirers. Then again, I am assuming that non-jerk behavior is a criterion for the Overman -- I don't know why; a main characteristic of people who think they are better than every one else has always been a marked tendency to treat the rest of the "inferior" human race like garbage. I have noticed, though, that many artists give lip service to some being they call "the People" -- while treating actual persons like refuse.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at January 19, 2003 at 06:10 PM

ACD is the true artist. Talk about hook line and sinker. :)

ACD, you are truely a master. :)

Posted by: JustPassingThrough at January 20, 2003 at 12:31 PM

The fuck are you talking about?

Posted by: Andrea Harris at January 20, 2003 at 01:36 PM

Dear Andrea,
I had some related thoughts, though of course more connected to medieval literature, here.
But I don't think you'll ever have a satisfactory argument with ACD: petitio principii (begging the question) is too much a part of his rhetorical arsenal.

Posted by: Mike Drout at January 20, 2003 at 10:47 PM

Oh I know. It's just fun to tweak. Great post, by the way -- but you forgot to close one of your italics tags in the blog. Good luck with the tenure thing!

Posted by: Andrea Harris at January 21, 2003 at 01:50 AM

I'm amazed that my simple story has generated such traffic. As I told Michael over at Blowhards, I don't believe any of the people were judging my work. They were in love with the idea of artist and wanted to encourage creativity where ever they found it. It was the activity they were applauding and not the outcome.

But through the discussion I've found another blog to read, so that's a good thing. And of course, I got to meet ADC.......

Posted by: Michael L at January 21, 2003 at 11:17 AM

Huzzah! Or something...

So what was the underground lair like? Were there minions and girls in tight jumpsuits? It's not a proper lair without girls in tight jumpsuits. Especially if they can mix a martini and take out attackers with judo gymnastics. I have the feeling that ACD would settle for no less.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at January 21, 2003 at 03:17 PM