Wednesday, February 22, 2006

A poem, a rant, a conclusion.

A slight detour from formal discussion on aesthetics and the like, but when Emily came in and showed us slides on Monday, there was one that featured part of a Henry Dumas poem that shook me up for the rest of class. Not usually affected by poetry, but for some reason this one haunted me a bit, so I felt it appropriate to share the whole thing, of which we were only given the second through fifth lines:

Ulwaca ulooooooo!
Oh these cold white hands
they broke us like limbs from trees
and carved Europe upon our African masks and made puppets
Bring out the Pygmy juju
Let us, like little black spears, bore our way.

Damn. Now that that's out of the way...I definitely took to heart the other day's discussion of art that only becomes art when politicized, or of how politics change art's meaning (this was Jason, I think?). I gush about Camus all the time, but I distinctly remember the first time I fell in love with The Fall, because I read his pessimistic words on human selfishness and loved how well he grasped the human mind. I didn't feel any more hopeful about humanity or myself after reading that book, but I loved that he acknowledged ideas I'd kept to myself for years and thought true. It really felt relieving to know that someone else felt so strongly about how people think and gave me a reason to consider his reasoning as solid understanding. One of the things he/his main character had discussed was that humans pretend to condemn selfishness although we all understand in our minds that selfishness allows us to bring ourselves pleasure and happiness, and I appreciated his acknowledgement of that hypocrisy between action and thought. But then! It was brought to my attention that Camus was a Libertarian (this, of course, came after an unrelated incident where a Republican acquaintance tried convincing me that all people were selfish but that liberals hypocritically masked it by prioritizing others while in the spotlight). Once I considered the author behind the writing, and the possibility of politics playing more of a role in The Fall than psychology or emotion...the book was slightly ruined for me. Not because I'm firmly against Libertarian ideas, but because I'd grown attached to the book for the emotional connection that I (or anyone, regardless of affiliation) could make with it, and politicizing the work narrowed the audience that was meant to appreciate it.

I have no idea if any of that specifically applies to what you said in class, Jason. I don't care, I just had to get that out. But the point is that I hate the combination of art and politics as much as I hate analyzing music for its lyrics. Form is highly underappreciated these days.


Blogger Sarah E. Smith said...

I agree; I think that a political agenda takes a lot away from the art. Does anyone else think that this has something to do with Kant's observation that the beautiful cannot have an end in mind? But the reason I like Kara Walker's art so much is that it has strong political implications without inhibiting the form or glee in creation, as we called it in class. It is incredibly successful because of that, for me.

4:20 PM  
Blogger China said...

Personally, I think whether politics in art is acceptable has a lot to do with how you're first introduced to the art. With Kara Walker, I imagine you see a controversial piece and immediately expect it to have a political agenda behind it. But what deromanticizes art for me is seeing it for what it is, or at least what I want it to be, then viewing it a second time from a political standpoint so that I can no longer appreciate it for what made it special to me as an individual.

7:54 PM  

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