Friday, February 23, 2007

Grey in Paris

Also in Peter Bürger’s essay The Negation of the Autonomy of Art, he suggests that it is because art is outside the praxis of life, that artists enjoy the freedom they do (in terms of subject and form). Of course, there are all kinds of obstacles the artist faces on the road to going public. But, the underlying freedom of production is there.

This freedom is not to be confused with genius. It’s simply a privilege, and has little to do with talent. In the same essay, Valéry is cited as having pointed to the psychological motivations behind attaining “artistic genius” as well as to the availability of artistic means. “Valéry’s theorem concerning the force of pride (orgueil) that sets off and propels the creative process renews once again the notion of the individual character of artistic production central to art in bourgeois society.”

How this relates to my next thought is a mystery to me, but: I was talking with a French woman on my last day in Paris, and I was telling her about how art seemed to have no life at the moment in the city. She agreed, and suggested that it had to do with the fact that the French don’t like France right now. France’s institutions and infrastructure are listless. France is depressed. It has had the same president for fourteen years and nothing has changed. The only good thing Chirac has done is oppose the Iraq war.

This made sense to me. I had never considered how the psychological state of a country might affect its art. This is excellent food for thought. How much does an artist need its country to make good work? Whether its friction or harmony (I can’t imagine the latter), a dynamic artist-country relationship may be a criteria of exciting art.

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