Friday, December 11, 2015

"The Elitist Art World Is A Cargo Cult"

For an interesting discussion of cargo cults in a different context we have a bongo drummer/raconteur after the jump.

Has anyone else teased with  the bongo drummer/raconteur combo today?
See why it pays to visit?

From the Remodern Review:
The art world is run like a banana republic. It’s structured into highly stratified classes. On top, a few plutocratic overlords, catered to by bureaucracies of remora-like functionaries and lackeys, holding sway over struggling supplicant masses of creative hopefuls, all theoretically revolving around the production and presentation of the product Art.

The focus of the rulers is not on the art itself. Their purpose is assimilate status, influence and power. Art is just a vehicle for their self-importance. To gain the favor of their masters, opportunistic followers are made to understand to advance anywhere within this system, certain rules must be obeyed, or certain criteria met.

Artistic quality isn’t an issue. Under the permissiveness of relativism, anything goes-as long it falls under the approved formulas of the establishment. Any aesthetic concerns are irrelevant compared to adherence to the agenda.

Scorn must be directed at the appropriate targets: God, organized religion, patriotism, free expression, Western civilization in general. Claiming grievance confers virtue and enables claims for retribution. Hostility must be displayed towards anyone who does not accept the priorities of the elitists, or rejects the march towards collectivism.

The culture industries are just part of the larger problem. Our establishment is enforcing a tyranny of oikophobia, the disdain of our heritage and traditions. From their strongholds in the media, academia, administration and the arts, they are applying their unified efforts to clear the slate of society for the Great Leap Forward: a jump right back into feudalism, where the new aristocracy of the well-connected will be secure in their unaccountable power.

But since the language of morality is used to disguise their authoritarian ambitions, it creates some confusing contradictions. Today’s establishment is a sorry display of hypocrisy. They are bigots for Tolerance, Anarchists for Big Government. They are so open minded they demand any dissenting viewpoints must be censored out of existence. The perpetrators acknowledge no paradox though, as the self-regard gained by espousing and conforming to the correct views overwhelms self-awareness.
Being reduced to a tool for subversion has been very damaging to the relevance and achievements of the contemporary art world. With all this non-art related dogma assuming primacy in the culture industries, contemporary art is bereft of inspiration. Cut off from eternal sources of creativity by ideology, to compensate the art world has veered into a surprising dead end.

Much of establishment contemporary art has become an inverted cargo cult.

The phenomenon of the cargo cult originally was observed when the primitive tribal societies of the South Pacific encountered the advanced cultures of the West. It reached a pitch of religious fervor after World War II.

The industrial manufactured items of the newcomers amazed the remote villagers of islands like New Guinea and Tanna. The strangers from over the sea brought with them riches in the form of machines and goods-airplanes, tools, medicines, canned food, radios and the like-made from materials incomprehensible to what were practically Stone Age people. The tribes decided surely such wonderful items must be made by the gods.

As battles raged in the Pacific, the indigenous populations observed the soldiers at work: marching around in uniforms, clearing runways, talking on radios. In response the planes arrived, seemingly from heaven, bringing to the islands the massive quantities of materials needed for the war effort. To the natives who got to share some of the magical items, this treasure-the technological output of developed nations-came to be referred to collectively by the pidgin word cargo.

But when the war ended, the soldiers left. The flow of magic cargo ceased. The tribesmen had lost access to the gifts from the gods.

The abandoned natives developed a plan to get back into divine favor. Having no frame of reference for the ways of the modern world, they interpreted the activities of construction and communications the visitors performed as forms of ritual. The tribesmen would reenact the rites they had seen the foreigners perform, recreate their ceremonial objects. This would please the gods, who would start delivering the cargo again-but this time, to the natives.

The islanders designed outfits based on military uniforms. They drilled in cadence, carrying rifles of bamboo. They built wooden aerials, constructed mock radios, clearing landing strips in the jungle, placed decoy planes of straw on them. And waited.
Some are apparently waiting still for the gifts to start descending from the heavens. Educated by missionaries, the natives explain if the Christians can wait two thousand years for Jesus to return, the natives are willing to give the cargo gods a few decades to respond.

The natives of the South Pacific were practicing a type of sympathetic magic. This concept of sympathetic magic was explained in Sir James George Frazer’s The Golden Bough: “From the first of these principles, namely the Law of Similarity, the magician infers that he can produce any effect he desires merely by imitating it.”By going through the same motions witnessed in the people who received the cargo, the tribes believed they could summon the same effect: the bestowal of divine treasure.

To our rational minds this is preposterous. We understand the uselessness of evoking the facade of a machine without the necessary functionalities being incorporated into it. What matters is the inner workings, not the appearance.

And yet, a form of this magical thinking has infected contemporary art. The subservience of art to political issues derails the purpose of the artist. The prevalent dogma interferes with the discovery of a personal artistic vision. So contemporary artists attempt to imitate their way into a valid artistic experience.

In a stunning reversal, in our advanced technological society, artists uncomprehendingly recreate inferior approximations, parodying  the objects and gestures of the past and the primitive, trying in vain to summon the sense of awe and wholeness present in the art of bygone ages. By mimicking and mocking the outer forms of the originators, the artists hope the gods will arrive bearing their eternal gifts-that these snotty knock offs will also rise to the level of art.
david  koons-e1417559299973
The contemporary art world says both of these are works of art
The contemporary art world is a liar
The art market had been degraded to flim-flaming hucksters who hire teams of technicians to create overwrought and overpriced versions of cheap gags. This is still art, the so-called experts assure us. But who the hell are they? Just some more cult members, in on the take. They have destroyed their own credibility.

By embracing methods of pastiche, a tone of irony, and a poorly concealed lust for power, today’s establishment artist can have no more success in creating a legitimate art for this time than the Pacific Islander can succeed in summoning a fleet of airplanes using his hand carved radio....

From 2013's "Thinking About Science":

For guidance I often seek out a bongo drummer-slash-raconteur.
We post this once a year, usually around Nobel Prize time.
Here's the musician riffing on science:
During the Middle Ages there were all kinds of crazy ideas, such as that a piece of of rhinoceros horn would increase potency. Then a method was discovered for separating the ideas--which was to try one to see if it worked, and if it didn't work, to eliminate it. This method became organized, of course, into science. And it developed very well, so that we are now in the scientific age. It is such a scientific age, in fact, that we have difficulty in understanding how witch doctors could ever have existed, when nothing that they proposed ever really worked--or very little of it did.

But even today I meet lots of people who sooner or later get me into a conversation about UFO's, or astrology, or some form of mysticism, expanded consciousness, new types of awareness, ESP, and so forth. And I've concluded that it's not a scientific world.

Most people believe so many wonderful things that I decided to investigate why they did. And what has been referred to as my curiosity for investigation has landed me in a difficulty where I found so much junk that I'm overwhelmed. First I started out by investigating various ideas of mysticism and mystic experiences. I went into isolation tanks and got many hours of hallucinations, so I know something about that. Then I went to Esalen, which is a hotbed of this kind of thought (it's a wonderful place; you should go visit there). Then I became overwhelmed. I didn't realize how MUCH there was.

At Esalen there are some large baths fed by hot springs situated on a ledge about thirty feet above the ocean. One of my most pleasurable experiences has been to sit in one of those baths and watch the waves crashing onto the rocky slope below, to gaze into the clear blue sky above, and to study a beautiful nude as she quietly appears and settles into the bath with me.

One time I sat down in a bath where there was a beautiful girl sitting with a guy who didn't seem to know her. Right away I began thinking, "Gee! How am I gonna get started talking to this beautiful nude woman?"
I'm trying to figure out what to say, when the guy says to her, "I'm, uh, studying massage. Could I practice on you?" "Sure," she says. They get out of the bath and she lies down on a massage table nearby. I think to myself, "What a nifty line! I can never think of anything like that!" He starts to rub her big toe. "I think I feel it," he says. "I feel a kind of dent--is that the pituitary?" I blurt out, "You're a helluva long way from the pituitary, man!" They looked at me, horrified--I had blown my cover--and said, "It's reflexology!" I quickly closed my eyes and appeared to be meditating....MUCH MORE 
Long time readers will recognize the words of the bongo drummer as amateur magician and author, Richard Feynman.

He was also a safecracker and lockpick.
He invented the word nanotechnology.
In 1965 he was awarded the Nobel prize in physics for his work in quantum eletrodynamics.
The above snip is from his 1974 Cal Tech commencement address "Cargo Cult Science".

Although Feynman loved to tell jokes the number of jokes about Feynman is rather small.

Here's one he would have liked:...