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Lesson Plans

Re: is anyone out there?Bill's still here.

[ Thread ][ Subject ][ Author ][ Date ]
taylorh (taylorh)
Thu, 11 Jun 1998 08:51:45 -0700 (MST)

On Wed, 10 Jun 1998, elwood p dowd wrote:

> DWG my ass...history stands on its own merits..too bad you feel insulted
> but my WAG (white artist guys) are superior to anything else on the
> planet. It is only when we lower our standards , when we begin to accept
> other ethnic groups into the fold. Sorry to spring this reality trip on
> you, but it is 1998 my friend.

Sounds more like 1939, if you ask me. (which you didn't elwood, I know)
Just to remind you, however, a number of your artists (the moderns), as
recently as the early 40's were considered "degenerate" by the white
national socialist guys who wrote the book on white superiority. Of course
they had the paintings shipped back anyway from all over Europe to fill
their private collections... something still shaking out in national
galleries around the world by the way.

This notion of a superior (obviously Nietschzean) white "Uber-artist"
would be scary if it had any wide popularity. But, as you say, it's almost
the next millennium and that kind of thinking is history.

OK, look, I won't deny that the notion of "progress" is attractive or that
technological, military, and economic successes have put the west (mostly
"white" guys from your POV) in the ascendant (at tragic cost I might
add). But being the "Big-Dog" on the block has never much of meant
anything in art. "My Tatlin can beat your Okeefe" is pretty meaningless

Having the bucks, the military successes and the technology to allow it
HAS let the West write the history books and the art history books. It
USED to be that we believed that "the best" of whatever it was that we
were most familiar with was allowably "the best" over all. We would poke
more beans into a "white" skull, compare "apples to oranges" in terms of
forms of perspective and assume that because the pigment came out of a
lead tube instead of, most immediately, the ground, it was somehow
"better". NO Longer.

Boaz showed pretty conclusively, to the scientific community at least,
that ethnicity was meaningless as a qualitative characterization. Since
then science has also taught us a great deal about relative meaning,
indeterminacy, and incompleteness and, as a result, most of our 19th
century assumptions have been called to question. We might not yet
understand a lot about other culture's values in the arts or for tht
matter our own values from our earliest history, but we are beginning to.
We are finding that we, in the urban technological west, are not 'the
cat's pajamas" and that everyone has something to learn from everyone
else. (And that doesn't mean we have to "wanna be" THEM - whoever THEY
are - either.)

If science doesn't cut it for you you might consider what I wrote in my
earlier post. Your "WAG" artists represent a drop in the bucket of the art
produced on this planet. Other technologies (complex or simple) other
"genders" and other ethnicities have all contributed and the historically
popular consensus outside the techno-urbs remains with the ethnic-elder
art. (not that it means anything about what we as artists should be doing
or where we should be going those are individual choices we get to decide
for ourselves)

I tend to think it's all contextual. WAG artists have their superiority in
a very limited context, but not a global or planetary one. Purity can be
specified for an element like copper or gold and we can say the the
purest and therefore best gold comes from some specific place. But things
like art are endlessly arguable...that's the fun part... and so the purest
or the best are only fantasys... and problematic ones when we start
throwing babies and bath water out the window.

Just as when a plant with medicinal value is lost when part of the
rainforest is destroyed so are human possibilities diminished when other
cultures are lost or subsumed. A good part of art is about ideas... good
ideas are hard to come by and it doesn't matter the slightest where they
come from. Ideas are ways of thinking really not the thoughts
themselves... the thoughts may or may not be relevantly "transplanted" but
ways of thinking about things can be. Ways of thinking about things
are what artists excel at wherever or whenever they come from.

Superior technique is nice and so is (culturally) significant form but
they are fairly limited in their utility or value.. provincial qualities
in the best sense of the word--narrow of context.

Do you see things differently elwood? Probably. I think I disagree with
your way of thinking---but I'd still not burn it off the face of the
planet... for one I don't know all of its implications and for two, people
have the right to make their own decisions at any place in history and
whether I agree or not I won't interfere other than to record an opposing

As Joseph would say:
"best wishes"