27 January 2005

Art and the masses

Click on over to this great discussion at Dan Green's:

LL wishes these kinds of audiences, and these kinds of art, "weren't mutually exclusive so much of the time." I really can't see why she should. In most cases, the experimental isn't going to be popular (not until it's no longer experimental), and I can't see that it diminishes the value or the accomplishment of experimental or formally challenging art if it isn't popular. Similarly, why is it injurious to popular art that it remain merely popular? Again, in most cases it was created to be so. Why does it seem to be so hard in these matters to settle for a version of "to each his own"? Why not accept that, for the most part, the mass audience isn't going to be interested in what those of us who like it call serious art? Why not leave it to the audience that appreciates it? Serious art and literature would thus be spared the condemnations of the moralists and the polemicists, and popular art would be free to carry on its crowd-pleasing business.

Although I basically agree with his assertion, "Modernism and Mass Culture" is one of the courses I hope to take in the future (if I'm accepted at the University of Leeds, that is). There is something ineffable in the human experience that great art taps into, and I am crazy enough to believe that some people can learn to connect with it. I guess it ties in with this thought by Flannery O'Connor:

“There are those who maintain that you can't demand anything of the reader. They say the reader knows nothing about art, and that if you are going to reach him, you have to be humble enough to descend to his level. This supposes that the aim of art is to teach, which it is not, or that to create anything which is simply a good-in-itself is a waste of time. Art never responds to the wish to make it democratic; it is not for everybody; it is only for those who are willing to undergo the effort needed to understand it. We hear a great deal about humility being required to lower oneself, but it requires an equal humility and a real love of the truth to raise oneself and by hard labor to acquire higher standards.”

(I'll probably be coming back to this issue a lot. If teaching is my future path, I have to believe that it is possible for people to fall in love with deeper works and ideas--not only by exposure to them, but by learning the tools needed to understand them better.)

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