Friday, 30 November 2012
Posted by emmetocuana at 05:07
VICE magazine's Sean Craig wrote an interview feature with Camille Paglia the other day that's raised a few eyebrows. It is certainly worth a read, as the writer/social critic outlines much of the thinking behind her new book Glittering Images, including her desire to raise the engagement of schoolchildren with modern art. As causes go it is an intriguing one, although I am reminded of advice Dr Lilian Alweiss once gave me after a particularly naieve rant I gave on the importance of culture - 'You're never going to have people down the pub shouting about Hölderlin'.
As it happens, the article does not focus on the high arts, so much as Paglia's claim that Star Wars Revenge of the Sith is the greatest work of recent years.
Within the context of her argument, as presented in the interview, this is seen to be the case because the concluding chapter of the Star Wars prequels has more 'global impact'. Of course that frames art as something which is seen by many, engaged with by many and ultimately causes an emotional response on a mass scale.
Viewed in those terms, well then yes - Star Wars: Episode III- Revenge of the Sith could be considered the 'greatest'. This was the last of three phenomenally successful films - in terms of box office at least. They dominated - still do in fact, consider the amount of news coverage given to the Disney sale - conversation in popular media. Lucas was even accused of trying to undermine the presidency with his depiction of a emotionally vulnerable leader being manipulated into committing terrible acts by a treacherous despot. Amusingly writer Matthew Woodring Stover took the opportunity to complain in Star Wars On Trial that he was sick of being asked questions as to whether Bush was parodied in Sith. Obviously this film did make an impact on a large number of people, and not just tragic Star Wars fans. The People Versus George Lucas rather convincingly portrayed just how many folks have been profoundly changed by Star Wars.
So is Paglia correct then to insist that modern art is rubbish and Sith the closest thing to a genuine artistic moment? Well it strikes me as an unusually limited definition of merit. Many famous works continue to be admired because of a consensus view, and of course, popularity is a factor in that.
Except of course this notion of what is high art comes from centuries of valuation, as well as theoretical appreciation. Shakespeare is not just Shakespeare because of his wonderful language, but because of how much money he still makes. Van Gogh is relevant enough to become a character in Doctor Who - complete with weepy Coldplay music and an emotive performance by Bill Nighy explaining why we should all like him. Yes Paglia makes the point that pop culture is not sustainable as the dominant form of artistic engagement - but of course this ignores that pop culture is just the most commercialised variant of art available. We're still not chanting Hölderlin in the pub, but art itself has become incredibly diffuse thanks to online facilities available globally to writers, musicians, film-makers and others. Video games are mentioned in the interview, tacitly bracketed as outside consideration, although grudgingly admired for their dominance of the market. This again is a limited perspective, not allowing for the technical advancements and inspiration yielded by the medium.
Really what Paglia is bemoaning here is the disappearance of the artistic patron, the taste-setters and monied elites who attended galleries and salons more to be seen than to contribute themselves. If she wants to depict George Lucas as a modern-day Medici she may be on to a good thing there - but it is a role of fading importance. Modern art is not rubbish - it's just that the artistic establishment has been deconstructed by routers and bandwidth.
Labels: art theory, Camille Paglia, Film, Friedrich Holderlin, Star Wars, Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith, VICE |