I wish so much that I had been able to buy Miriam Elia’s book, We Go to the Art Gallery before it was stomped on by Penguin books. I do love a bit of mothering and nihilism in art galleries, you know.
Thanks to Penelope D. for the link.
You have to love art that is this big with this many breasts.
And maternity and breastfeeding can still alarm. From the artist, Patricia Piccinini: “I didn’t think people would react against her as much as they have, but I think that’s interesting about us. We’re suspicious of difference, and that’s interesting in itself.
I think that she’s got a very beautiful and benign presence. She’s very nurturing. She’s a maternal creature and I think that they’re qualities that are missing in the mainstream and representations in the mainstream”.
.. to enjoy more difficult art again. Ben Marcus with “Why experimental fiction threatens to destroy publishing, Jonathan Franzen, and life as we know it”.
What interests me about this kind of writing is its desire to discover meaning where we might not think to find it, as if it’s burning entirely new synaptical pathways, and this is a very different pleasure than the kind I might get from narrative realism. It’s a poetic aim that believes in the possibilities of language to create ghostly frames of sense, or to prove to me that rational sense might be equally unstable, and I can get a literally visceral thrill when I read it, because I happen to actually enjoy language.
Although Stein’s individual sentences do not require excessive deciphering, the connections she attempts between them are far more challenging, mysterious, and wide-ranging than the transitions Franzen uses in his narrative realist mode, which generally builds linearly on what has gone before, subscribes to cinematic verisimilitude, and, when it’s not narrating, slaps mortar onto an already stable fictional world. I find a terrific amount of complexity to be possible in Franzen’s approach, and it frequently comes in the form of characterization. Characters are built to be intense webs of plausible contradiction, and their often conflicting desires, which can be emotionally self-destructive, war within them to produce dramatic tension. When it’s done well, this can be immensely satisfying to read. But the notion that this is the premier paradigm for art made with language is like suggesting that painting should have ceased after Impressionism.
As much as I enjoy Stein’s more slippery work, I understand why Tender Buttons is not popular, but that doesn’t discredit it artistically, nor does it make me believe that Stein wrote to create a cloud of difficulty that would intimidate readers into thinking her work was important.
(My resolution this year is to live on a budget. From big thoughts little thoughts grew).
Much conservative ink has been spilled boiling the problems of black America down to its absent daddies, but no one in the black community needs pundits to lecture him on family values. Deadbeat dads rank about one step below the Klan in popularity among African Americans. Hiphop may be grossly misogynistic, but you will be hard pressed to find a cultural movement that more reveres mothers and reviles fathers. (Indeed, rap’s only mother-hater of note is a white guy, Eminem.) The anti-paternal sentiment in rap expresses a larger fatigue among African Americans for “tired-ass” black men who doom kids to fatherless lives. So when Jay-Z says “Momma loves me, Pop I miss you/God help me forgive ‘em, I got some issues,” he isn’t simply having a cathartic moment, he is speaking for 70 percent of African-American children. He is also speaking for my partner and me.
From Ta-Nehisi Coates with “Confessions of a Black Mr Mom” in The Washington Monthly.
This is truly enjoyable analysis. There’s a lot of Marxism in it, probably a bit too much for me. And in my opinion it is too blunt in its assessment of pop culture but that aside, this is a great argument..
(And hold someone close as you read this because you’re fine with hating Swept Away but he’s going to slaughter a few sacred cows too, starting with Firefly).
What [shows like Firefly] do perform regularly is liberal multiculturalism, which no doubt reinforces a sense that the show’s gestural anti-statism is at least consonant with an egalitarian politics. And that is a quality that makes multiculturalist egalitarianism, or identitarianism, and its various strategic programs — anti-racism, anti-sexism, anti-heteronormativity, etc. — neoliberalism’s loyal opposition. Their focus is on making neoliberalism more just and, often enough, more truly efficient.
On The Help:
In both films the bogus happy endings are possible only because they characterize their respective regimes of racial hierarchy in the superficial terms of interpersonal transactions. In The Help segregationism’s evil was small-minded bigotry and lack of sensitivity; it was more like bad manners than oppression… The Help trivializes Jim Crow by reducing it to its most superficial features and irrational extremes. The master-servant nexus was, and is, a labor relation. And the problem of labor relations particular to the segregationist regime wasn’t employers’ bigoted lack of respect or failure to hear the voices of the domestic servants, or even benighted refusal to recognize their equal humanity. It was the labor relation was structure within and sustained by a political and institutional order that severely impinged on, when it didn’t altogether deny, black citizens’ avenues for pursuit of grievances and standing before the law.
On Django Unchained:
Defenses of Django Unchained pivot on claims about the social significance of the narrative of a black hero. One node of this argument emphasizes the need to validate a history of autonomous black agency and “resistance” as a politico-existential desideratum. It accommodates a view that stresses the importance of recognition of rebellious or militant individuals and revolts in black American history. Another centers on a notion that exposure to fictional black heroes can inculcate the sense of personal efficacy necessary to overcome the psychological effects of inequality and to facilitate upward mobility and may undermine some whites’ negative stereotypes about black people. In either register assignment of social or political importance to depictions of black heroes rests on presumptions about the nexus of mass cultural representation, social commentary, and racial justice that are more significant politically than the controversy about the film itself.
On Hell on Wheels:
That’s the happy face of adolescent patriarchy, its expression that doesn’t usually involve a restraining order, though it’s probably best that the brooding loner hero’s sainted wife is nearly always a martyr and thus motivation for, instead of the object of, his sadistic violence and mayhem. But in Hell on Wheels that device also reinforces the reduction of slavery to slaveholding as an individual act, a consumer preference to be negotiated within a marriage – like owning a motorcycle going to the strip club with the guys every weekend, or painting the living room magenta.
On Beasts of the Southern Wild:
The film validates their spiritually rich if economically impoverished culture and their right to it. (Actually, the Bathtub’s material infrastructure seems to derive mainly from scavenging, which should suggest a problem at the core of this bullshit allegory for all except those who imagine dumpster-diving, back-to-nature-in-the-city squatterism as a politics). Especially given its setting in south Louisiana and the hype touting the authenticity of its New Orleans-based crew and cast, Beasts most immediately evokes a warm and fuzzy rendition of the retrograde post-Katrina line that those odd people down there wouldn’t evacuate because they’re so intensely committed to place.
On Won’t Back Down:
Being a progressive is not more a matter of how one thinks about oneself than what one stands for or does in the world. The best that can be said for that perspective is that it registers acquiscence in defeat. It amounts to an effort to salvage an idea of a left by reformulating it as a sensibility within neoliberalism rather than a challenge to it.
On Swept Away:
.. their abomination completely erases the original film’s complex class and political content and replaces it with a banal – aka “universal” – story of an encounter between an older woman and a younger man, while at the same time meticulously, almost eerily, reproducing, scene by scene, the visual structure of Wertmüller’s film).
From “Why ‘cultural politics’ is worse than no politics at all” by Adolph Reed.
My problem with this debate is where does it leave us exactly..? So, too much left-wing politics is about repositioning within neoliberalism and not challenging it, and pop culture’s use of history without real politics is obscuring and undermining the very social justice causes it seeks to highlight, and our approach to making sense of racism has been derailed by a preoccupation with individuals rather than systems, and we fail to recognise in our analysis the extent to which class politics is at play in inequality because most of our analysis is done by one particular occupational class* … now what?
* Also from Reed: “the politics of a stratum of the professional-managerial class whose material location and interests, and thus whose ideological commitments, are bound up with parsing, interpreting and administering inequality defined in terms of disparities among ascriptively defined populations reified as groups or even cultures”.
.. if you liked Twin Peaks or The Lakes or Top of the Lake and other series like that then you will probably really like the French series, The Returned (Les Revenants). (Geographical theme, much?) Seriously unpredictable, genuinely unsettling and in a bunch of great performers only two characters who don’t particularly work for me. But don’t read anything else about it, just watch it.
This is about so much more than hip hop or awards shows; it is instructive reading for any white person. Because we want to acknowledge racism but we don’t want to give up any cake in the process…
The Grammys have long been a source of disappointment because of the recording academy’s lackluster record of acknowledging the gifts and artistry of black musicians. The 2014 Grammys proved to be just more par for the course. The first award given during the live broadcast was to Macklemore and Ryan Lewis for best new artist followed by a performance of Lorde’s “Royals.” Lorde went on to win song of the year for “Royals,” a critique of gratuitous consumption in hip-hop culture.
The most egregious error of the night was seeing the brilliant Kendrick Lamar get totally shut out. Everyone knows he’s the best new artist. Macklemore on his best day can barely hold a candle to Kendrick on his worse day. Even Macklemore acknowledged that he “robbed Kendrick,” via a text message that he then sent out screenshots of via social media. However, Macklemore claimed that fear prevented him from taking a courageous stance and saying exactly that when he went up to accept his award. But Kendrick Lamar can’t do anything with a private apology, Macklemore. Far too often, allies refuse to speak up in public while asking for absolution via private confessions. Macklemore failed to use the white privilege that he has readily acknowledged to challenge this structure of power in a moment when the world was watching.
Simultaneous to us witnessing this whitewashing and erasure of the black bodies and black artists who helped create the sound of folks like Macklemore, Justin Timberlake, Pink, Katy Perry and Robin Thicke, the Grammy’s force-fed us a lie of American progress in the form of a diverse marriage ceremony performed near the end of the show, featuring 30 couples, including straight, same-sex and mixed race pairings. As Queen Latifah, who many folks believe is queer, pronounced these folks married, we saw a spectacular display of American multiculturalism. A putatively queer black woman performed a marriage ceremony for the likes of America’s post-race, post-hetero progeny, as Macklemore, rap’s newest great white hope, serenaded the lovers with his hit song “Same Love.”
We know America is no more post-race than it is post-hetero, but each of these lies fuels the other. Macklemore is so popular in part because his music critiques gratuitous consumption and homophobia, both of which are figured to be problems endemic, not to American society, but to hip-hop culture in particular. Thus both he and Lorde scored big awards, he as best new artist, and her song of the year, because the view is that these white folks have come to a transnational consensus, that hip-hop culture is what ails us, and their critiques constitute a cure.
From Brittney Cooper (one of the best new writers around) in Salon with “Macklemore’s useless apology”.