First Article

Whether, besides artistic works of enduring value, kitsch is necessary

We proceed thus to the first article:--

Objection 1. It seems that, besides high art, no further art is necessary. For it is silly to seek what does not endure, namely kitsch. For man should not seek to enjoy that which has no social value: "The excellency of every art is its intensity, capable of making all disagreeables evaporate, from their being in close relationship with beauty and truth" (Keats, Letters, 1817). But whatever has intensity is already sufficiently manifest in artistic works of enduring value, such as are found in the best art galleries and museums, and university libraries and curricula. Therefore any other art besides great art is superfluous (if in fact we can speak of "art besides...").

Objection 2. Further, nothing can be intense without being beautiful and true. Since great art contains within itself the very dialectic between aesthetics and ontology, and thus attains intensity through its incorporation of beauty and truth, which are one, there can be no art worthy of consideration outside of great art, perhaps even no "art" at all having an ontological status as "art." Art must be spoken of as art, thought of as art, acted upon as art-- or, plainly, it cannot be art..

On the contrary, it is written: "Sufism is not thinking about existence, it is being existence. It is not thinking, it is not doing something about existence. It is neither thought nor action. It is being. . . . Sufis sing, they don't give sermons, because life is more like a song and less like a sermon. And they dance, and they don't talk about dogma, because a dance is more alive, more like existence, more like the birds" (Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, Journey Towards the Heart).

Objection 3. Yeah, and what do you call that? Sounds like a sermon to me.

We answer that you're not supposed to be interrupting our replies to your objections. You've had your turn. It's ours now (did Tommy Aquinas do dialog?).

Pissant (no, he didn't, and would frown highly on how you guys play fast and loose with his forms).

Reply to objection 1. Intensity comes in all shapes and sizes. Is not the sound of the cricket intense, when one is trying to sleep? Is not the sound of a jet engine flying overhead intense? If I walked up and screamed in your ear, "Eat shit!"--would that not be intense? "If trees could scream, would we be so cavalier about cutting them down? We might, if they screamed all the time, for no good reason" (Jack Handey, Deep Thoughts). Posit two human subjects at a Mötley Crüe concert, both having the "same" high-decibel experience, yet their experiences, while intense, differ: Richard Wagner, magically teleported to the show from nineteenth-century Bayreuth, and an American teenager who waited all night to get tickets to said concert. Whose experience will be more intense, whose experience will be of beauty and truth?

Yeah, but what you're forgetting is that Wagner's experience will be of intense pain. Can pain be true and beautiful?

I said butt out.

Answer the question.

Your original objection said nothing about pain and pleasure. You're breaking the fucking rules.

Answer the question, damn you.

You answer it. Why shouldn't Wagner's pain at a Mötley Crüe concert count as intensity, and thus their music count as art?

Remember Keats, baby: "capable of making all disagreeables evaporate, from their being in close relationship with beauty and truth." Show me how Mötley Crüe makes all disagreeables evaporate (let alone stands in close relationship with beauty and truth) and I'll butt out.

So Keats lied.

Oh come on. You can do better than that. Is there a special kind of pain that's beautiful? And that makes it art?

Reply to objection 2. Is there a zero point where--

Wait a second, you're not done with objection 1 yet!

Gimme a break. You make the objections, we reply to them.

Oh, sure. Pull rank.

Okay, but wait. Is there a zero point where pain and pleasure, beauty and ugliness, truth and lies merge? Remember Bhagwan, baby: "they dance, and they don't talk about dogma, because a dance is more alive, more like existence, more like the birds." What is true or false about a dance? What is beautiful or ugly about a bird's song? What is--

You're confusing art and nature. Birds do not create art; they have no reason for singing; they sing out of pure instinct. It is only when there is motive that one can speak of beauty and truth, ugliness and lies. "I put confidence in the American people, in their ability to sort through what is fair and what is unfair, what is ugly and what is unugly" (George Bush, 11/7/89).

Do you need motive to feel pain or pleasure? And is the motive of the dancer always identical with the motive of the viewer? "My dance is beautiful." "Yecchh, I hate it, it's ugly." "Well, but I intended for it to be beautiful." "It gives me a pain in the side; it's ugly and stupid."

Still, the dancer was true to his/her intention.

So art is only for artists? It makes no difference to your ontological categories how art is received by an audience?

And what about kitsch? Is kitsch necessary?

And what about art? Is art necessary? "Art is not necessary at all. All that is necessary to make this world a better place to live in is to love" (Isadora Duncan). Or to kitsch--to kitsch as kitsch can.

So what are you saying: kitsch is love?

No: love ain't art, and kitsch ain't art.

But then we can't talk about any of them. You haven't replied to objection 3 yet, and already you've moved into the second article.

Back to Articles screen.

Copyright 1993 Bill n Doug