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Ed Driscoll

Whither the Arts?

October 8th, 2012 - 12:17 am

Back in January, I remember watching a marathon session of the first season of Prohibition-era Boardwalk Empire series on Blu-Ray as a crash-course to prep for my review of the series at the PJ Lifestyle blog. Blearily wandering out of the den at about 2:30 in the morning, I was thrilled to be back in the 21st century. Then I wandered into the living room and stared at the furniture I had collected over the years, and realized I had never left the 1920s! Almost all of the furniture in the room — the Corbusier sofas, the Mies lounge chairs, the Eileen Gray and Marcel Breuer tables — were from that decade. When you realize that everybody sitting in an apartment or office cubicle in a steel and glass Mies van der Rohe-inspired building is inside of a box also first envisioned almost a century ago, you realize how fixed in place much of what we increasingly ironically call “modernism” has become. In a 1980s-era BBC “Design Classics” segment on Mies’s Barcelona Chair from 1929, one of the critics noted in the episode that with their clean and simple lines and lack of applied decoration, the Bauhaus banished the past. Unwittingly, they somehow banished the future as well.

Couple that with the 21st century left’s ongoing Cargo Cult of the FDR New Deal of the following decade (itself basically Woodrow Wilson’s wartime mindset from WWI applied to the economy of the 1930s), and the now almost century old mindset passed down from Marcel Duchamp that drives transgressive “art” such as Andres Serrano’s “Piss Christ,” and you realize how frozen in time — and domesticated — much of “progressivism” has become.

Or to borrow from one of the leitmotifs of Tom Wolfe’s classic From Bauhaus to Our House – how very bourgeoisie.

Modernism and pop culture can inject new life into hidebound arts and society in general, when they offer a choice between the new forms and the old. But when such countercultural forms are the only game in town, culture as a whole tends to stagnate. Or as Carter notes, technology provides with continuously growing methods of reading, viewing art, watching movies, and listening to the music. Is the content we’re currently pouring into these devices up to the task?

Or to put it another way, where do we go these days for the apples?

Related: Kyle Smith of the New York Post on “The Last picture show: How iPhones destroyed going to the movies — in more ways than one.” Read the whole thing.

(Thumbnail image on PJM homepage by Shutterstock.com.)

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