Thursday, March 6, 2014

Artistic narcissism

A friend of mine brought this up. He was talking about a movie that I missed in the theatres and that is coming out on iTunes in just a few days. I'm really looking forward to seeing it. So much so that I'm not mentioning the title of the movie just so that no one who has seen it can spoil it for me.

My friend thinks that one of the themes of the movie is artistic narcissism and that has me looking forward to it even more.

Anyway, the thing that makes artistic narcissism so interesting is that it has spread to the rest of society. I'd go so far as to say that the high cultural value we place on art goes a long, long way to explaining why we live in such a narcissistic culture and that we'd all be better off if we stopped caring so much about art and artists.

Here is an example of what I mean. Last year, there was some graffiti, competent but not exciting work, on the wall of a commercial building about ten minutes walk from my house. After it had been there about three weeks, the owner of the building painted it over. The very next day some very angry graffiti, by a different person as this second contribution showed no skill whatsoever, appeared on the same spot that said,"This was art."

As the days went by, our second graffiti artists added some more lines expressing his (and you have to know it was a he) feeling that some act of barbarity had been committed in the painting over of this art.

Most art is worthless and even most of the stuff that is any good is of so little good that no one need feel bad about its disappearance. Even the greatest masterpieces, while it would be a shame to lose them, are not indispensable. Pretending otherwise makes it appear as if the people who make art and, this is the real trick, the people who appreciate art appear like important figures; it makes them into the star of their own show.

Graffiti artists aren't actually particularly important to anyone beyond their mothers but they don't want to know that. So they buy spray paint or sharpies and put ugly art on other people's property.

Once upon a time the guy who painted the painting had no more social status than the guy who painted the wall it hung on. It wouldn't hurt to go back to that.

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