Thursday, February 3, 2011

Sh*t Happens

I swear this wasn't a setup. But you know, I had to come across something to cap the post the other day about art and museums and breaking down walls. I'd heard about this video called "Exit Through the Gift Shop" and I knew it was about street art. I guess it might be a hoax. It oughta be a hoax, but it doesn't really matter. It's about art, and not-art, and the guerrilla artists becoming all proprietary and snotty about what counts and what doesn't.

It's fun to watch. You should watch it! I'd thought I was going to have to pay to rent it, online or via DVD, but I found it free for the price of a few Geico commercials on hulu. What a world!!

Meanwhile, I downloaded the first chapter of this new book I learned about on the Colbert Report called All Things Shining written by the chair of philosophy at Harvard. I don't know. Maybe that was a hoax too. The guy didn't seem all that sharp, and when I downloaded his first chapter on my Kindle (someday I'll get up the nerve to find the pirate edition on bitTorrent, but I'm still way too boxed up for that) I thought Oh, so is that all you have to do? You stretch out a thought which might merit a sentence into a page or more, and you allow the reader to skim the entire chapter without ever really reading it in maybe 5 minutes or less. I mean why would I want to buy such a book. It's just a sluice for things I've already thought, and without footnotes fer Chrissakes!

After a while on the Colbert show though, he started to make some sense. Colbert was plenty funny, especially when the guy said that the trouble with our fallen age is that we've banished all the gods. He explained that the sacred is what you wouldn't laugh at, which you've got to admit made a pretty good setup line for Colbert.

But you know there's the thing. Art verges on the sacred, but it's always ironic these days. You don't exactly laugh at it, but you're never sure if you're being had. And if you're an art collector you'd better be a tastemaker too, or you could really be made a fool of. I mean, you never really know, do you? Maybe this guy will lose his chair at Harvard for pandering to the hoi polloi the way that the guy who wrote Love Story did way back when they used to let dogs into Yale.

I didn't really get the sense he'd be recruiting a lot of serious undergrads to the school, unless they were wanting to join the Hasty Pudding crowd, but anyhow none of this is what I really want to write about today. I already write until I'm blue in the face about this stuff, and sure, you know, I love David Foster Wallace and I love that the world of highbrow art is ending and that there's nothing cool to be a part of anymore without risking being an uber-dweeb. Except maybe saving little children in Africa.

Like, I mean Kevin Costner's a dweeb no matter what he does and so when he wants to sell the world an oil-spill eating machine we all just figure it's a hoot and what's he doing pretending to be an expert? All he wants to do is to make lots of money from the money he's already made.Who has the time to fact check it all? Google's mostly mum, reflecting only the echo chamber of too much data to parse the real from the just plain silly.

What I really want to talk about is the Grand Hoax. The Jesus Hoax and the Confucius Hoax and the oh my God it all takes so long to load now that you have to wait for Google to catalog your ads and stats and the multimedia flashy stuff to load and it's almost not worth it to even try to fact check.

But you know, Jesus was a man who came along at about that time when thought was turning into literature and solidified that whole thing about human agency. Alphas and Omegas and ultimately the very idea of an ultimate God who was the Inception of be-all and end-all but very definitely the embodiment of agency. Or the disembodiment of agency, take your pick.

But you know, Confucius, who I like in some ways better, was doing the same thing but not going all ultimate about agency. In fact you might say he was more about conformance to natural law and the whole idea that this could be done society-wide, and not just individually like the Taoists were all about. Not being mono-Gods Confucius and LaoZi never did have to duke it out about who is ultimately right.

So I want to make of the two opposing dudes some kind of yin-yang. A global humanity yin-yang where on the one hand you're all worried about agency and origins and endings and on the other you're more worried about the social conscience and how to conform to it, and they both find their chicken/egg origins at about the same historical time of coming to actual consciousness when words were written and what we call thought now first started to happen.

We stopped just murdering and killing and disembodying excellence the way that that Harvard philosopher seems to want to go back to (at least he's not all philosophizing about language and nevermind the meaning). We started to worry about the proper and moral and decent way to live and invented all these hoax-like orthodoxies about it which got written down and codified and mostly became big excuses for killing on a vaster scale, but at least we weren't going to laugh about it. Or gloat in it.

Maybe it's time for another great transformation. Maybe we really can get serious again and find something all shining that isn't art with its tongue in its cheeky cheek. Maybe we get that grand titration yin/yang thing spinning so fast that we stop worrying about truth and illusion and right and wrong and who's on first and they both kind of come together in a man-as-god-ha-ha-only-kidding kind of way that doesn't involve so very much inhumanity to man.

Well you know, I'm just another Mr. Brainwash. My cup looks like a giant version of those miniature goblets you use for eyewash, from which maybe you drink a runneth over Mory's cup and be merry. I don't know how to stretch out a decent thought that might be worth a sentence into a whole page. But I can work it out.

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