bad taste can cost lives, eadweard muybridge self portrait, sontag’s journals

If one tries to live by values defined by others and fails they at least can claim those values were not worth living up to. While no one’s values are defined in a vacuum, it is another matter altogether when one defines their own values and lives a life detached from them. As though they were an intrusive appendage, an elephant trunk where an arm should be. Thomas Kinkade, the George W. Bush of art

Kundera defined kitsch as “the absolute denial of shit,” meaning it offers an airbrushed, sterilized, sentimentalized view of the world. From that, it doesn’t necessarily follow that art wallows in shit, but art doesn’t exist for the primary purpose of denying it, either. Kitsch is, first and foremost, a lie; its very existence is founded on bad faith.

Kinkade, like Bush, peddled a falsely simplified image of the world — one without mildew or flooded basements, for one thing — which, no surprise, turned out to be plastered over a whole lot of stinky stuff. The true believers, the ones who bought into these men the most during the 2000s, ended up paying some of the highest prices, from the Kinkade acolytes who invested in his gallery Ponzi scheme to the working-class red-staters who sent off their kids to die in a pointless war. Bad taste, harmless as it may seem, can end up costing you a lot.

A not too shabby argument for standards in art.

crossing the bridge in senegal. hanging off the back of the bus, a ten-year old’s dream come true. surpassed only by hanging on while riding your skate broad. though that would be tricky on a wooden bride with those spaces between planks.

Today Google has a tribute to photographer Eadweard Muybridge  incorporated into its icon. This is from a self-portrait made in or around 1880. He is not nude. he’s wearing a pair of flesh-colored shorts.

Eadweard Muybridge self portrait, ca. 1880. The U.S. Deaprtment of Defence created a video tribute to Muybridge here – This documentary from the U.S. Department of Defense tells the story of scientific photography, tracing it back to the work of Eadweard Muybridge in the 1870s. For those unfamiliar with Eadweard, he was the first photographer to use photographs to carefully study motion.He also invented the first motion-picture-like projector the Zoopraxiscope.

The Passion of Susan Sontag

These similarities between the public and the private figures aside, what we discover in her notebooks is, if not the person behind the persona, at least a very different persona. The most striking difference is one of tone: the timbre of authority that rings through her criticism—that makes Sontag Sontag—is largely absent from the journals. Here we see her insecure, unhappy in love, fretting over her sexual abilities, admonishing herself to smile less, obsess more, read less, write more. The journals span many love affairs, which vary widely in their prevalence on the page. The women in her life occupied her more than the men. She writes about Jasper Johns frequently as an artist, sometimes as a friend, and in a single, glancing remark as her lover: “Jasper is good for me. (But only for a while.)” The women she loved, though, undid her. In a typical reminder to preserve herself in her affairs, she writes, “What I have to get over: the idea that the value of love rises as the self dwindles.” Her descriptions of these affairs paint her as practically retiring—and no doubt she behaved very differently with her lovers and loved ones than in public, as most of us do. Of the Duchess Carlotta del Pezzo, the lover who occasions the most distress (or at least the most-documented distress) in Consciousness, she writes, “Remember what she said the other day about finding me so different from the way I appeared at first (autonomous, ‘cool’)?” Sontag then urges herself to maintain the façade of cool autonomy that inevitably crumbled in her relationships.

Despite her pleas to give ourselves up to “sensual capacity” in judging art, Sontag was a very harsh critic. To the point of being cold, with inscrutable standards. So its interesting to see the person, as neurotic as most people, revealed in her journals. That is not meant as gotcha. I think humanizing Sontag – warts and all, may help save her reputation her as one of the first waves of what we now call public intellectuals.

Dave Brubeck – Take Five – 1966

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