THE ART ACADEMY GAME

Academies once cultivated talent discovered in the few for the good of society—apprentices, born in poverty or not—started with talent.

Today, academies serve the opposite purpose—anyone willing to go into debt defines the art school: cultivating talent into genius (or genius into talent) is not the purpose at all; today’s academy instead is a sandbox that collects money; the child who hates science, math, people, and literature, a mere slob, but who fancies “art,” goes to “art” school.

This venture is loved by the Left, because it is democratic and gives every slob a chance, and loved by the Right because it makes money.

Thus today’s academy is fully supported politically despite being the most loathsome venture on earth.

Common sense no longer applies, for institutions and systems are administered on “agreement” between Leftist benevolence on one hand, and Rightist monetary gain, on the other.

What is good for society at large has no say: all that counts is that the exaggerated principles of the two parties see eye to eye: 1) Does it give every slob a chance? 2) Does it rob them, as well?

Liberal arts, writing, and art education is vanity—we “go to college” to impress family and friends with the phrase, “I am studying,” and great amounts of debt purchase this vanity.

Once there was one Hogarth in a million.  Now everyone is an Andy Warhol.

KENNETH GOLDSMITH IS NOT A CONCEPTUALIST!

Kenneth Goldsmith: Not one concept in his head.

If you are really curious about beer, the expert will tell you there are only two kinds: ale and lager.

Likewise, there’s only two kinds of wine: red and white.

I can glance out my window right now and see the sunlight increasing as the clouds disperse, and then notice the artificial light over my desk steadily burning.

Neither the outside light nor the inside light are considered “art,” but what visual art does not take account of it?

We understand terms like the “art of beer” or the “art of wine,” even as we might say to ourselves, “Well, that’s not really art—maybe science…”

But the moment we tackle the “art of art,” we come up against that sort of learned confusion which may befuddle in a pleasant manner those seasoned and learned enough to enjoy such a thing, but which ultimately derails all true understanding.

The confusion is due largely to the great blurring between art and reality mentioned above: if the artificial light above my desk behaved more like the sun on a partly cloudy day, we might even call the constantly changing light emitted by the light bulb above my desk, “art,” just because of  the way the man-fashioned bulb above my desk cunningly copies nature’s changeable light.

This year’s Conceptualism hullabaloo, which happens to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the Armory Show which brought modern art to America, is a debate forcing us to acknowledge what is nothing less than art’s most important idea since art began: imitation.

Both John Keats and Kenneth Goldsmith must confront this reality: Art is a pale representation of nature.

Goldsmith’s avant-garde solution is to focus entirely on “representation.”

Conceptualism, in Goldsmith’s case, or in the case of Warhol/Duchamp’s found objects, is a terrible misnomer.

Goldsmith and his Found Poetry takes Nature, or Reality and “finds” it as Poetry, and “find,” here, means purely represent.

We are free to ignore the actual work of Goldsmith’s, as many have pointed out, but this is not due to Conceptualism; it is because of its opposite: Representation.

Reality is art’s flesh, and until art lives, it is not art, but reality.  (How art lives is something we’ll get to in a moment.)

We err whenever we do not understand art as reality first, and art, second.

Plato offended (certain easily offended) artists with this practice: he saw art as reality first—what does art do within reality? was the most important question for Plato.

Found Poetry is an ineffective challenge to Plato, seeking to reverse Plato’s ‘look-at-art-as-reality’ admonition; superficially, Found Poetry is looking at reality as art, but the moment we look at reality as art, we look at art as reality-Plato’s strategy!

To look, as Plato does, at “art as reality,” is to see reality “showing through the art,” as it were; this “look” is the “harsh look of the cynical Critic,” who refuses to see the art on the artist’s terms.

This “look” is, in artistic terms, the methodical “look” which offends aesthetic passivity with its real-life action.

The “raw fact” of art, no matter how intricate, is not allowed to lie there passively; the active Platonist Critic places art in a context of reality—and does not allow it to remove itself into a pure, amoral, state where reality is walled off from the representation (the art).  Once “this wall” is allowed to go up, art is free to make rules for itself that have no connection to reality and to proclaim itself purely valid apart from reality, which, on a grand scale is similar to a person withdrawing from reality into a dream, or a wealthy person cutting themselves off from the everyday needs of others.

Art has moved in this direction, away from Plato, away from art as reality, and towards art as pure art, for over a hundred years, now.  This very movement is defined as Modernism by John Crowe Ransom, in his brilliant essay, “Poets Without Laurels.”   Impressionism in painting, Imagism in poetry, Abstract Painting, a poem like “Sea Surface Full of Clouds” by Wallace Stevens, these are all attempts, along with Found Poetry, to escape Plato and his Conceptualism and to enter into a world of attenuated representation, the sensuality of partial imitation, that is sensual imitation without mind, reason, or morals.  Modernism, for Ransom, not only moves in the direction of “pure art,” or “art for art’s sake,” but it is also a movement of science dividing itself into finer and finer partitions.

The beginner learns about the science of beer or wine, starting with ‘ale or lager,’ ‘white or red,’ but this beginner’s lesson contains all that the expert knows—when it comes to science.  As science gets down to the details of its field, the broader truths must be constantly kept in view, and this should be true of art, as well.

Visual art is concerned with these two: Color or line.

Writing?  Prose or poetry.

These divisions involve the science of art, which is much easier to understand than the art of art.

Plato can be scientific about art, even while morally condemning it, and one could argue it is the scientist in him that morally condemns it, while at the same time, examining it on a purely material level—which Plato did, even though Aristotle took it a little further; Aristotle broke most famously with Plato with his “catharsis” theory, telling the lie that we can “purge” our emotions by bathing in what triggers them.

Even Tom Wolfe got it wrong, then, with his withering critique of Modern Art when he called avant-garde painting the “painted word.” This, again, errs, in the way we have just illustrated: Modern art is not conceptualist; it is merely crudely (purely) representational.   Like Poe’s “Purloined Letter,” it is so obvious, everyone has missed it.   What we call “Conceptualist” is just crudely imitative.

How could so many have been so wrong regarding Conceptualism?

We can easily blame it on two things:

First, Modernism, a movement which is all about “moving ahead, about being self-consciously “modern” while forgetting the past.

And secondly, confusing art and science.

Science tells us there are but two kinds of beer: lager and ale.

Science, too, could also sound wiser by saying: beer as beer is more essential than the distinction between larger and ale.

Science, like criticism, can say anything, can be everywhere at once.

The poor artist, however, needs to imitate and make a certain kind of imitative sense to be effective, even if it is laying on pure color as an abstract artist.

Critics are the unacknowledged legislators of the world, not poets.   Unless we call Plato a poet (which he was, according to Shelley).

One of the results of the movement known as Modernism has been the elevation of prose poetry over its cousin, verse.

Verse, in Modernism’s eyes, is crudely denotative, rather than suggestive—the key to poetic prose.

Just as every discriminating artist is concerned with both line and color, every writer should create art that both denotes and suggests.

If we look at the matter scientifically, we will find that metrics can aid both denotation and suggestion, and the same goes with prose meaning.

Modernism, with its crippling -isms, needs to be done away with at last.

Drink all kinds of beer.

Don’t call Kenneth Goldsmith a “Conceptualist” ever again.

AN INTERVIEW WITH JOHN ASHBERY

Scarriet:  Hi, John.  I’ve always wanted to interview you.  What do your poems mean, anyway?

Ashbery:  I don’t know.

S:  OK, let’s move on…let’s talk about your ballclub, the Brooklyn Ashberys.

A:  Sure.

S:  Three weeks ago, your team was 8-20, in last place in the Scarriet  American League, 11 games out.   Since then, you’ve moved to within 2 games of .500, winning 15 of 20, and now you trail the first-place Longfellows by just 6 games, with a little over two-thirds of the season to go.  What happened?

A:  We’ve been doing better…

S:  Why?  Was it the addition of Al [Albert Camus] and Sal [Salvador Dali]? Look at their numbers since they’ve been in your lineup: Dali, 12 homers in May, Camus, 26 RBIs.  And what about [Andy] Warhol’s turn-around?  He made that crucial throwing error to go 0-6, but since then he’s 4-0.

A:  Andy has turned it around…

S:  You swept the first place Lowells.  How did that feel?

A:  It felt pretty good…

S:  You knocked them right out of first, capping a 16-4 run last week…Andrew Marvell threw a shutout in that series, and 2 games later, recent acquisition Rae Armantrout picked up a win in relief while getting the winning hit in extra innings in a 7-6 thriller!

A:  It was thrilling, yes.

S:  And this weekend you came into Philadelphia and split a 4 game series with the Poe—Wittgenstein blanking the Poe in game one.  That must have made you feel great!

A:  It did.

S:  This has to be so amazing for you, watching Lord Bacon pitch…seeing Marvell out-duel Shelley as your team wins 2-1…What do you think of all this?

A:  Frank needs to get on base more…

S:  O’Hara!  I was going to ask you about him.  He’s not doing much at the top of your lineup so far this season…James Tate has picked it up, though…

A:  Yes.

S:  O’Hara seems a little impatient at the plate…

A:  We need him to score…(starting to cry)

S:  Are you OK, John?

A:  I’m fine, I’m fine.

S:  Well, congratulations on a fine season so far…it’s a lot of pressure…poetry and…I know you want to win…OK…thanks, John!

A:  Thank you.

Now here’s the Standings with Top Performers so far…

NL

1. Camb Longfellows  29-19  GB -    Top hitters: A. Manzoni, Dante, W. Irving,  Pitching Leaders:  Horace 7-3, G.W. Greene 6-2, Ticknor 5-3

2. Bos Lowells        28-20  GB 1  Hitters: R. Browning, Chaucer, J. Pierpont,  Pitchers: Henry Adams 6-1, O.W. Holmes 4-2

3. Phil Poe              27-21  GB 2   Dostoevsky, Alfred Hitchcock, Fanny Osgood, Pitchers: Pope 6-4, Lord Bacon 6-1

4. NY Bryants        26-22 GB 3   Thomas Cole, James Fenimore Cooper, Pitchers: Abe Lincoln 5-4, Alexander Hamilton 5-4

5. Concord Emersons    25-23  GB 4   Swedenborg, Carlyle, Thoreau, Pitchers: William James 5-4, W.E. Channing 5-2

6. Maine Millays         24-24  GB  5   George Dillon, Shakespeare, Euclid, Pitchers: Philip Sidney 6-2, Sophocles 4-3

7. Brklyn Ashberys     23-25  GB 6   W.H.Auden, Dali, Camus, Sartre, Pitchers: Wittgenstein 5-3, Andrew Marvell 5-4

8. Hartford  Whittiers      21-27  GB 8   Dickens, Alice Walker, Pitchers: William Lloyd Garrison 6-5, Richard Wright 2-1

9. Tenn Ransom       20-28  GB 9   Andrew Nelson Lytle, L. Trilling, Pitchers: Randall Jarrell 6-2, I.A. Richards 4-3

10. NJ Ginsbergs    17-31 GB 12  Bob Dylan, Pitcher: Mark Van Doren 6-4

AL

1. London Eliots           30-18  GB -   Top Hitters: Donne, Aldous Huxley, Top Pitchers: B. Russell 8-2, Churchill 5-1, Corbiere 6-2

2. Amherst Emily          29-19  GB 1    Plath, Keats, Austin Dickinson, Pitchers: Higginson 5-4, Virgil 6-3, Sam Bowles 5-1

3. Hartford Stevens      26-22 GB 4   Mallarme, Hollander, Pitchers: Santayana 5-3, Vendler 6-2, Debussy 3-1

4. NE Frost           26-22 GB 4   Larkin, Wordsworth, Donald Hall, Pitchers: Carl Sandburg 6-4, Bobby Burns 6-2

5. Rapallo Pound         25-23 GB 5   Ford M. Ford, W. Lewis, Villon, Pitchers: R. Wagner 4-0, Olga Rudge 4-1, Sade 2-0

6. Iowa City Grahams     24-24 GB 6   Robert Pinsky, Donald Justice, Pitchers: Ramke 6-4, Winters 5-4, Sontag 3-1

7. NJ Williams      22-26  GB 8   Gary Snyder, R. Duncan, Pitchers: P. Whalen 6-3, R. Silliman 4-2, Stravinksy 3-0

8. Brklyn Whitmans    21-27  GB: 9   William Rossetti, Ferlinghetti, Pitchers: Oscar Wilde 7-4, Swinburne 6-3

9. Camb Cummings   20-28 GB 10   A. MacLeish, J. Dos Passos, Pitcher: Sigmund Freud 4-0

10. NY Moores        17-31 GB 13   Lincoln Kirstein, Pitcher: Stevie Smith 2-0

The Brooklyn Ashberys have been on fire since adding Dali, Camus Sartre, and Ionesco.

The Cambridge Cummings have been lifted by the addition of Freud.  

The Rapallo Pound adding Sade, H.G. Wells, and Blavatsky to their pitching staff has paid off handsomely so far.

The Concord Emersons continue to win despite poor performances from Marx and Nietzsche.

The Tennessee Ransom has struggled recently despite Aristotle in the middle of the lineup.

The London Eliots are a monster since the addition of Churchill and Huxley.

The Cambridge Longfellows have quietly moved into first, getting good contributions from foreign writers and splitting 8 tough games with the Philadelphia Poe.

The Boston Lowells remain hot, despite getting swept by the surging Ashberys.

 Poe has taken 7 of 8 from Emerson.   Jingle that.

PIG

Why is contemporary poetry such a vexation?

Poetry, one of our favorite writers once said, should be a passion, not a study.

But why shouldn’t poetry be a study?  What’s wrong with poetry and study?

Poetry and study are oil and water.

Study’s observational rigor demands factual results, not happy ones.

Poetry, contra study, seeks happy results, not factual ones.

Modern poetry, however, has turned the truism upside down.  Seduced by the apostles of modernism, William James, William Carlos Williams, T.S. Eliot, and John Dewey, among others, our poets don’t care for poems which are happy results so much as poems whose results are in the broadest sense, true—which ought to be an improvement, and in some ways, is an improvement.

On the other hand, poetry lost its public when it began to use study rather than passion as its guide.

The public demands poetry full of whimsy, passion, froth, delight.   The public will pardon the poet when he calls a chicken a pig, as long as the poet does not appear to be great and wise while doing so, or mumble into his sleeve while doing so, or pretend to be some priest of the yellow-skinned moon while doing so; the poet must not do so while counting every feather on the chicken.

The public does not like a lot of mumbo jumbo.  A line or two of folly is fine, but pretentious stretches of more than that will not be tolerated, never mind entire landscapes of bombast like “The Four Quartets” or Canto Number One. Forced to read the entire Cantos, out will come the pitchforks and torches.  Oh, and deriding the public of pitchforks and torches will only sever relations between poet and public further.  ‘Torches and pitchforks’ is a metaphor.  The public is smarter than that—or not.   It is those who blame the public rather than the poet who are most far gone.

The public will not put up with too much fooling around; the public prefers the poem of the happy, or finished, or beautiful result.

Poets fell out of public favor when they began to engage the world for the world’s sake and lost sight of poetry as a certain instrument with certain uses for happy results.

No one consciously made poetry into a study; they merely embraced Dewey’s idea of experience as the key to aesthetics.

As far as the public goes, how could experience leave poetry so bereft?   One would think experience is the one thing the public qua public understands.  The public may not know its Sacred Wood, but the wood of experience it knows.

Dewey said two crucial things re: the public, art, and experience.  He said 1) experience was crucial and 2) the public did not associate art with experience.  (Yes, like all modern poetry theorists, he blamed the public.  Bad move.)  It’s right here in the very first paragraph of Art As Experience, first published as a book in 1934:

“In common perception, [that's the public, by the way] the work of art is often identified with the building, book, painting or statue in its existence apart from human experience.”

Dewey’s whole strategy, his whole philosophy of art,  is laid out in that single sentence.

Dewey’s intelligence was such that he could discuss painting and poetry at the same time, but he rode painting’s wave; the “New York School” of poetry followed in Dewey’s wake, but ironically, poetry, like a great sea, dissolved Dewey’s ideas—his wordy formulations triumphed alongside paint and clay but crashed and burned in the theoretical sky of that wordy art, poetry.

The brainy theorists of modernism pushed poetry ahead too quickly for public taste.  The fine arts are erected in the public square; museums force public taste to follow its lead, but taste in poetry dwells more privately and cannot be shaped by cultural fiat.   A Ginsberg is no match for a Warhol, a Pound is no match for a Guggenheim, in forming public taste.

Despite all its braininess, scientists pay no attention to modern poetry, just as they pay no attention to Dewey’s “experience;” after all, our experience on earth is that the sun, not the earth, is moving; science has proved the opposite; a poem describing an experience of the sun moving across the sky would not be modern, per se.   Poets can experience a poem as they write a poem—the very writing of a poem is an experience, and the reader shares in this experience, but this is not unique to moderns, nor does it signify the poem in question will be good.

The experience of language which reader and poet share is facile.  The free-association style of Ashbery, for instance, produces an experience on many levels, a complex experience which is open-ended and arbitrary, and due to the remarkable nature of language, is an experience which is actual in every sense, even if ol’ Ashbery is half-asleep and absent-mindedly laying on linguistic paint as randomly as he can.  If we grant this experience—reading stream-of-consciousness writing in a trance—is a genuine experience—and I don’t see how it is not a genuine experience—then Dewey’s “experience” becomes less than advertised.  If the act of reading meets the experience test, any experience within the reading experience (if such a thing does exist) will not actually be able to distinguish itself from its surroundings.

If the experience of poetry is the experience of reading, if mechanically these two are the same, if the reading experience is what greets all readers of poetry and no poetry would be experienced without the reading experience, it is safe to say that poetry’s unique qualities (whatever we dare say they are) cannot possibly belong to experience, per se.  Poetry cannot distinguish itself as poetry from the experience of reading, or any experience at all without having qualities which somehow set poetry apart from the experience of reading, and thus all other experience.

The more expansive poetry’s subject matter and formal properites become, the more poetry disappears into the reading experience, for it is the reading experience which is actually expanding, not poetry.

As poetry is currently defined, reading

Pig

is a reading experience precisely the same as reading poetry.

Reading Pig is fraught with ambiguity: why pig?  What does not only the word, but the fact that someone wrote pig mean?  Pig contains an infinite number of associations—once associations begin to flow, there is no end to that meandering river, and so in this sense Pig contains as much associative knowledge as a play by Shakespeare and thus generates as much experience, for associations, potentially infinite, are the key to any reading experience.

Experience has nothing to do with the happy result of a poem.  The term, as used by Dewey and the modernists, is empty.

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