Showing posts with label Satire. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Satire. Show all posts

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Art and Social Conscience


This is a bit of a pipe dream:


When the world is convulsed by a financial disaster, it seems only right that the arts should engage with it. Just to continue with its own concerns, shut away in its little world of galleries and concert halls would seem indecent, while millions are being thrown out of work or onto the street.

History offers an inspiring example of how art can help heal the social wounds brought on by a financial crisis. After the Wall Street Crash of 1929 and the Great Depression that followed, the arts in America took on a new tone, epitomised in the career of Aaron Copland. He foreswore the nose-thumbing modernism of his youth and set about creating a ruggedly populist language, epitomised in such works as the Fanfare for the Common Man (later incorporated into the 3rd Symphony) and those wonderful ballets such as Billy the Kid.

Like the Depression-era artists such as Ben Shahn and playwrights such as Clifford Odets, Copland knew that to be politically effective, art has to speak in terms its audience will understand. In the Thirties, artists themselves often suffered from the same poverty as the Okie farmers and unemployed factory workers depicted in their art. That's why it has such a stirring sense of conviction; it was born out of social solidarity.




You would think that because our ability to exchange information has improved dramatically since the 1930s that the art of today would be more relevant in terms of commentary. It isn't, precisely because the technology and the context is too easy to ignore and misunderstand.

I think thinks were more straightforward in previous eras. There is always subtext, and sly humor, and satire has been ever-present, but the impact of Depression-era art is greater because you could hit people over the head with scenes of pathos and desperation and not be readily accused of manipulation and dishonesty.

What you see above is a distressed piece of euro currency. So, the artist doesn't like money or the design of the money? This is supposed to be a unique and biting piece of social commentary? Really? He colored on and chopped up a large denomination bill. Hey, that's original.

Snark, in other words, has undermined everything in the art world. These images of pathos you're displaying--are you for real or are you being ironic or are you juxtaposing things in order to make people laugh? That's why the impact is greatly reduced.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Kurt Vonnegut Couldn't Have Said it Better




When I read things like this, I can't help but wonder how much fun Kurt Vonnegut would have had with the idea that troops invading someone else's territory should be given a peace prize and that they cannot be criticized for anything at all.

Here's what he thought of indiscriminately bombing and killing people:

Every day we walked into the city and dug into basements and shelters to get the corpses out, as a sanitary measure. When we went into them, a typical shelter, an ordinary basement usually, looked like a streetcar full of people who’d simultaneously had heart failure. Just people sitting there in their chairs, all dead. A fire storm is an amazing thing. It doesn’t occur in nature. It’s fed by the tornadoes that occur in the midst of it and there isn’t a damned thing to breathe. We brought the dead out. They were loaded on wagons and taken to parks, large open areas in the city which weren’t filled with rubble. The Germans got funeral pyres going, burning the bodies to keep them from stinking and from spreading disease. 130,000 corpses were hidden underground. It was a terribly elaborate Easter egg hunt. We went to work through cordons of German soldiers. Civilians didn’t get to see what we were up to. After a few days the city began to smell, and a new technique was invented. Necessity is the mother of invention. We would bust into the shelter, gather up valuables from people’s laps without attempting identification, and turn the valuables over to guards. Then soldiers would come with a flame thrower and stand in the door and cremate the people inside. Get the gold and jewelry out and then burn everybody inside.

Clearly, humanity has jumped the shark and we're left with the crumbs at a table that hasn't been pleasantly set for a long time. Humanity is starved for substance and truth in the age of instant communication and smart phones, and a symptom of the insanity that affects us all is when far too many people accept without questioning the kind of logic displayed above. War is always a horrible, horrible last result that rarely accomplishes anything other than killing people who no one would reasonably conclude should have been killed to begin with. We're clawing at the idea of being able to believe someone about something, but the sad fact is, the only thing that sells anymore are lies.

The fellow in the suit above is one hell of a salesman for lies. He has a counterpart in a similar suit somewhere, and I wonder how ridiculous that fellow is when he talks about killing for peace.