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John Adams Blog

The blog of The Antient and Honourable John Adams Society, Minnesota's Conservative Debating Society www.johnadamssociety.org

Monday, March 14, 2005


The Antient and Honorable

John Adams Society

March 16, 2005
University Club, Saint Paul
Click Here for an interative map to the location.

The decay of society is praised by artists as the decay of a corpse is praised by worms. - G. K. Chesterton

IN GALLERIES ACROSS THE WESTERN WORLD there has been an increasing problem with the janitorial staff. They mistake the art for trash and throw it out. In 2001, a cleaner at a London's Eyestorm Gallery cleared away an installation by artist Damien Hirst, having mistaken it for a pile of rubbish. (The collection of beer bottles, coffee cups and overflowing ashtrays was said to represent the chaos of an artist's studio.) And in the 1980s the work of Joseph Beuys, which featured a very dirty bath, was scrubbed clean by a gallery worker in Germany.

In fact, there is indeed something deeper going on. The janitors are to be forgiven. Like the little boy in Anderson’s the Emperor’s New Clothes, only they see (or are willing to admit) today’s art for what it is: sometimes literally, but almost always figuratively, garbage. From “The Gates” in Central Park to the atonal discord called modern orchestral ``music’’ (not to mention popular music), we must admit we live in a wasteland.

ON THE OTHER HAND, complaints about ``today’s art’’ are timeless. Monet, Renoir, and Degas were barred from the Salon in Paris for violating the artistic norms of the time. Puccini’s La Boheme was savaged for its focus on the ordinary. As a prophet has honor save in his own town, an artist is appreciated save in his own time. Wait fifty years and today’s trash becomes tomorrow’s treasure.

THE CHAIRMAN, hoping to resolve the question in slightly less time, has called for a debate to settle the question:


The Debate will be held on Wednesday, March 16, 2004 at the University Club, 420 Summit Avenue, in Saint Paul. The Chancellor will preside over drinks beginning at seven o'clock p.m. The debate will begin at half past seven. While there is no dress code for attendance, gentlemen who wish to speak must wear a tie; ladies should adhere to a similar sartorial standard. For those gentlemen who arrive tieless yet wish to speak, fret not: the Purveyor of Ties will keep on hand at least one of his quite remarkable ties for just such an eventuality. Questions about debate caucus procedures or about the John Adams Society itself may be directed to the Chairman at 612-709-1168 or the Secretary at (612) 204-5615

If you would like to receive email announcements of upcoming debates, email the John Adams Society with your name, email address, and a simple statement requesting future "Whip Sheets" via email.

Blogger Sloanasaurus said...

This comment was emailed by a member:

What the great Christian apologist and philosopher, G. K. Chesterton wrote and was copied at the top of the whip sheet should end the debate right there.

Art may well be a sign, or should I say symptom, of the times. Oswald Spengler wrote at length in his magnum opus Untergang des Abenlandes (most popularly, if incorrectly, translated to Decline of the West) as to how our own Faustian culture peaked with Mozart, reached its plateau soon after that and began its decline with the fratricide of the Great War in 1914.

In his book about how cultures are organic, he pointed to the Apollonian culture of Greece which was adopted by the civilization of Rome and declined into a miasma of liberal decadence that was no longer recognizable from the well-disciplined, patriotic and idealistic folk of the days of the Roman Republic.

Zur zeit von Hannibal, Rome war ein Volk, aber zur zeit von Hadrian, Rome war nur ein Befolkurung.

At the time of Hannibal, Rome was a folk, but at the time of Hadrian, Rome was merely a population.

For an example of the ‘art’ of the gladiator games, the M.C. would be reading the story of Icarus from a high platform next to a slave and demonstrated how his wings melted and fell to earth “Like this.” As he pushed the slave off the platform to fall to his death.

The art of the mind-bogglingly popular sensationalists such as Maplethorpe and Madonna is no less of an attempt to overwhelm and shock a callous, caustic and de-sensitized public than were the attempts to show off the brutal deaths of the martyrs in the Empire’s coliseum... the parallels are provoking, are they not?

Of course modern ‘art’ is trash. The fact so many women swooned at the passion of a Puccini sonata or German officers were banned from dancing the Tango while in uniform shows how sensitized the public was to real passions with subtleties devoid of a drum machine and synthesizer.

The talent, discipline, craftsmanship and the unfulfilled longing so obvious in the works of Mozart, Bach, Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Shakespeare, who in actually were the very mediums God himself used to glorify Him cannot be compared to any bestseller whether it’s on the New York Times or Billboard list in an age when our most highly praised messengers of the Truth are Castro apologists such as Oliver Stone and idealists such as Mel Gibson are lambasted for producing a work of such true (albeit not original) depth and passion (no pun intended) prove that there really is nothing new under the sun and any truly worthy works of art already exist and the chances are very good the Prince of this World is the true sponsor of modern ‘art.’

11:20 PM, March 14, 2005  
Blogger Craig Westover said...

At the debate, Mr. Augustine asked the question -- “If a great painting were in a room in which everyone were blind, would it still be great art?” I didn’t do a good job with the answer to that one, but with a little thinking time, perhaps this is better.

Perhaps an analogous question will get us to an answer. “If a copy of ‘Hamlet’ were in a room in which everyone only spoke Klingon, would it still be art?”

I think in both cases the answer is yes; however, it takes an intermediary artist to translate it the work in terms the audience understands. The translation takes on an artistic life of its own. Anyone reading multiple versions of the Bible understands the subtle distinctions of translation.

So, indeed, the painting remains what it is, waiting to be discovered, like Hemmingway’s “one-legged prostitute standing in the rain” and its art revealed.

9:32 AM, March 21, 2005  

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