22 March 2007

Objects in the Mirror Are Closer Than They Seem

Just a few miscellaneous notes while I'm awaiting a return call —

  • A lot of people claim that modern art is garbage. Some should definitely know better, like people entrusted with the art itself. Sometimes they don't, to their detriment. If only it was so easy to get rid of Grisham, Steele, and Brown "originals"...
  • On the other hand, some people think the Smithsonian isn't doing much better itself. Here, I have to disagree, because the purported mission statement is completely unrealistic. So long as museums are run by human beings, with relatively limited budgets and relatively limited display capability, someone is going to have to make choices. One can always argue over whether those are the "right" choices... but the visual arts are distinct from the other artistic activities in that copies are not considered adequate exemplars. In the best of all possible worlds, all museums of the visual arts would have exquisite, high-quality reproductions of some of the seminal works in Western art, such as "Guernica," Van Gogh's "Self-Portrait" (1889), and "The Garden of Earthly Delights." Libraries (and, for that matter, bookstores) do that sort of thing routinely. But as long as "the original" is the only acceptable objet d'art for display, all museums are going to be grievously flawed.
  • The "n word" just can't stay out of the news. Some day, though, these moronic activists are actually going to read Huckleberry Finn first. I don't expect them to understand that the very casualness of "nigger" in that book is the point, just like I don't expect to personally picket the local high school to have The Merchant of Venice removed from the curriculum. (Or, for that matter, all those books that unfairly portray mad scientists as evil.) The irony that refusing to confront the problems of the past ensures that they'll continue in the future seems lost in the present.
  • And then there's the world of music. As usual, it ranges from the ridiculous — in this instance, a prospective rock musical — to, well, the ridiculous — another attempt to equate sales with influence or value. Although LeBrecht is all too correct about the underlying dishonesty in the industry's sale statistics, and about the industry's self-destructive tendency to continue living in the past — as an example, that 1962 Karajan recording of Beethoven's Ninth he mentions has a truly annoying feedback in the scherzo — equating sales (even long-term sales) with either impact or value is, to say the least, just a little bit disingenuous... and inconsistent with LeBrecht's normal stance.