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AN ARTIST ON THE LEFT: a Variation on a
Theme by Whistler
by Miles Mathis
The Victorian artist James Whistler—most famous in America for the portrait of his mother—published in 1890 a collection of essays and letters to the editor entitled The Gentle Art of Making Enemies. It is now little known and hard to find. Despite that it remains one of the most important artist-produced literary documents in history. Leonardo's Codex, Blake's poems, and Van Gogh's letters may be the three greatest written artifacts produced by painters; but the Gentle Art is the single most significant counter-critique in history, for it alone confronts the problem of art theory and art criticism from the point of view of the artist.
my personal copy, first edition from 1890
Few other artists have bothered to write or publish in defense of themselves or of art in general. Until the time of Whistler, it was simply not necessary. Historically, it had been the case that pulchrum est paucorum—that is, art was for the few. Artists had to answer to the clients, the kings and popes, the aristocracy and the clergy. But only to the clients. Art was a compromise between artist and patron, a dialogue limited to two voices.
We all have read of the authority of these patrons, especially when the patron really was the King or Pope. But it should be clear to anyone who has read history that the artist often had great authority as well. Michelangelo may be the clearest example. Many modern critics have accused Renaissance artists of being the political operatives of the aristocracy. Michelangelo, we are assured, was a pawn of the Medicis. But the historical record contradicts this. The Medicis enabled Michelangelo; they never defined him. Michelangelo was the Van Gogh of the 16th century: difficult, stubborn, temperamental, even monomaniacal. He fought with the various Medicis and Popes (including the irascible and domineering Julius) and won. The Sistine Ceiling was Michelangelo's conception, not Julius'. The David was Michelangelo's idea, not the Florentine Signory's. By today's standards, Michelangelo had almost unheard of power and freedom. Of course, in hindsight, he appears hemmed in by the subject matter of Christianity and Classicism, but he would not have felt this. He was a Christian by choice, not at the point of a sword or at the dangling of a gold coin. He respected and loved the Greeks and their sculpture not because he was psychologically compelled to—by fashion or fascism—but because the Greeks were worthy of his respect. No matter what 20th century criticism tries to make of Michelangelo, he will remain the primary figure of 16th century art; not Julius or Alexander VI or the Medicis.
This balance of power—that tilted toward the artist in the case of Michelangelo or Leonardo or Titian or Rembrandt (or, admittedly, toward the patron in the case of many lesser artists)—began to be complicated by other interests at the end of the 18th century. Denis Diderot became the first world-famous art critic when he began reviewing the Paris Salons during the reign of Louis XV. His newsletters were published privately, and went out only to the aristocracy across Europe, but the die had been cast. No longer was art simply a transaction between artist and client. No longer was the buyer the only one whose "taste" must be taken into account.
As the Salons became more and more popular over the next century, and as a greater and greater percentage of the population became wealthy enough to buy (or at least free enough to look at) art, more and more people became necessary to the administration of this art. A large number of art writers were hired to inform the market—and the public—about art and art theory in the ever-expanding journals of the day. At first many of these writers were as well-qualified to critique paintings as a non-painter could be: they were writers of poetry or fiction—creative people in their own right who understood the mystery of creation. In the mid-19th century, Baudelaire was a prominent critic, for instance. And after him, Zola. But already the demand for ink was outrunning the supply of qualified pens. The artists were busy painting, and either couldn't write well or didn't care to.
The great writers soon recognized how foolish it was to act as an authority in another's field of expertise. Painting was not literature, and could not be critiqued as literature. This left a hole; and, as we know, nature and the media both abhor a vacuum. Fortunately for the magazines there was no dearth of other writers willing to expound on any subject, no matter how far from home, no matter how high or low. Men who had been thrown out of the Ecole, denied by the Academy, scorned by the colleges; men who had never tried to draw; color-blind men (I am not making this up): all lined up to scribble for the cheapsheets.
This is where Whistler entered the fray. He wrote his first letter to the editor in 1862. He complained to the Athenaeum, London, that his painting "Symphony in White, no. 2", was not entitled "Woman in White," and that it had no relation to Wilkie Collins' famous novel of that name. He wanted it understood that his art had no literary references and required no literary references.
In his long career he wrote many such letters, correcting the misconceptions of the public and the critics about his art and about art theory in general. These letters are some of the crispest, tersest, most brilliant repostes in the history of polemics, and I recommend them to anyone with an interest in art or argumentation. But Whistler also wrote a small number of treatises, and delivered one of these at his notorious Ten O'Clock Lecture. In all of them he expertly attacked the presumptions of the critics and their purposeful misleading of the public. Finally, in 1877, Whistler sued the famous art critic John Ruskin for libel. He was awarded only a farthing (less than a penny), but the stress of the trial destroyed Ruskin and he never wrote criticism again.
Whistler's success in the battle to define art was the last victory on the side of the artists. The entire 20th century lies squarely in the column of the critics. Kandinsky is the only well-known 20th century artist who made an attempt to argue with criticism, and he was unsuccessful. Neither his art nor his arguments were as strong as Whistler's, and he was anyway outnumbered. By the late teens and twenties Picasso's PR successes had made any genuine statement of fact irrelevant. Picasso had made allies of all the enemies, and battle on the old terms was no longer possible. The circle had closed, and the artist with scruples was outside the circle. If the critic postulated it and the artist (Picasso) verified it and the patron bought it, then art was complete. Nothing else was necessary.
Art has existed by this definition ever since.
Duchamp was the first to fully understand what it took much of the 20th century to finalize: in the above equation of critic, artist and patron, the artifact is absolutely superfluous. If you have a theory, and an "artistic" verification of that theory, and a sale, you have a market—a market you are as free to call "art" as the next salesman. "Artistic verification" can be anything. A discarded commode. A bubble on the bottom of the sea. The idea of a bubble on the bottom of the sea. Anything. Art since Duchamp has been a puerile list of absurdities. Somehow we have spun out almost 90 years of fascination with this game. Duchamp's only virtue was to get bored with it rather quickly and resort to a thrilling life of chess.
By around 1980 even some of the critics were getting tired of the game. Robert Hughes—Time's art critic since 1970 and a great apologist for Modernism—felt it was all over by the early 80's. But where every head of the hydra was cut off (or got some sense) two more sprang up. The market was too lucrative to let go without a fight. If the critics lost interest, the museums and galleries could find new critics. And they did. And they learned from the financial crises of the 80's, and the political crises too. They learned to diversify: to allow a wider range of styles back into art—as long as the stylists still agreed to be subordinate to Theory. They called this "Pluralism." It appealed to America's sense of fairness and equal opportunity—without really addressing either one—and so was perfect. The art dealers and administrators learned from the political candidates how to manipulate public opinion—how to mouthe the proper catchwords at the proper time. Publicly displaying absurdities and inanities became an issue of "free speech." Those who expressed a desire for real art in our contemporary museums were no longer browbeaten with elitist terms like "bourgeois" or "anti-intellectual" or "unrealized" (as they might have been in the 70's). They were now accused of "censorship" and "fascism." They had gone beyond stupid. They were now evil. Un-American.
Recognizing that almost all residual public support for art came from the left, the avant garde began labelling all opposition as right-wing extremists. This effectively silenced all progressives who might wish for something else from art. No one on the left wanted to be lumped with Helms and Giuliani.
In the press the road is now described as having only two forks: hard right or hard left. That is, we either take what we have, and like it, or we underwrite Neo-Nazi "propaganda" art—that glorifies the state and embellishes the rich. The obvious fact that the road can go anywhere we want to take it is purposefully obscured by art critics. As is the irony of the situation: the avant garde is now the status quo.
Nor does the right disagree with this presentation of the situation. The Wall Street Journal and ARTnews see the battle in precisely the same terms. The right has accepted the delineations of the left, and only disagrees with its "taste." Meaning that the right, like the left, is as far away as possible from any idea of artistic autonomy. The right is fine with the politicization of art—it just wants a right spin rather than a left spin.
This puts us in a unique situation art-historically. We have an entrenched institution (Modernism) but almost no opposition. Historically, opposition to entrenched institutions have come from "below." That is, the institutions were aristocratic or plutocratic, and the revolutionary spirit resided in a more democratic "under-class." Certainly that has been the movement since Impressionism. Now, though, there is no "under-class" left. The avant garde has cleverly positioned itself on the bottom of the sea, and no one can get beneath it. Any opposition from "above" can be shouted down as elitist, no matter how far left it comes from. Even Ralph Nader and Noam Chomsky can be dismissed as aristocrats when they start questioning avant garde art.
The only intellectual critique of the avant garde that I have seen published in the mainstream in the last forty years is by Tom Wolfe (I disregard all moral or religious critique from the far right as being outside my argument, here). I mention this neither to praise nor to bury Mr. Wolfe: I mention it because it is a strange statistic in a "free society." I can't imagine that the opposition to avant garde art from the left and the center is so small that it may be represented by one man over that period of time. I suspect that lessons were learned by writers in the sixties and seventies, and that these lessons weren't all about "freedom." I suspect that Mr. Wolfe is the only one who has had the necessary skills to have survived his opinions.
This only goes to show that there is no true dialogue. Art has reached a point of non-correctability, a sort of stretched out "now" with no future. A recycling of stances and poses, with a subtle change of shoes. Art theory is now like a math theory: one that allows for infinite spreading along the x-axis, but no movement at all along the y-axis. We may go as far afield as we like, that is, but may not climb.
The avant garde owns the museums, the universities, the critics, the NEA (what is left of it), the magazines. It chants "Pluralism" at the same time that it viciously attacks any theoretical dissent and ostracizes any artist who will not capitulate. The artist's confidence has become so enfeebled, so devitalized, by a century of psychological strafing that it cannot imagine existing without the life-support system sold by the institutions. And in the rare case where an artist crawls from the ooze with his pen, or massages his larynx and prepares a fateful "yop," he finds the audience elsewhere: listening to a curator at MOMA lecture on the proper subject matter—or the exact philosophical stance—for the artist. Or reading the latest press junket from the priests of PoMo at ARTnews or The Nation.
The truth is, art is not a political category. It is not the property or the tool of the left or of the right. It is neither elitist nor egalitarian. It is personal. It is the gift from the individual to the group, and does not empower anyone. But it can only flourish in the group if it has bi-partisan support. It requires the goodwill, and the freedom from undue influence, from both sides. Currently it has it from neither, but its greater enemy is on the left. This is simply because the left owns art. By the accepted definitions, what the right likes is no longer called art. It is called kitsch or pastiche or decoration or whatnot. But it is not even considered a contender for contemporary art history books. It does not make it into the top museums or the top galleries. The upper financial echelons of contemporary art are exclusively the territory of modernism and postmodernism. No living artist that is accepted by the right is getting millions for a painting. Andrew Wyeth comes close, but he is the only exception. Even the mainstream, bipartisan magazines and newspapers, like Time, Newsweek, and The New York Times, do not report on the art preferred by the right (as well as by many others across the political spectrum). The Wall Street Journal very rarely carries a piece on the non avant garde, but even then, the tone is almost always derogatory.
I mention this not to defend the right or the art it prefers. I mention it as proof that most of the pressure on artists to conform to current fashion and policy is from the left. A young artist, no matter how progressive politically, does not need to attack the Republican party or the right because the right has no power in art. An artist does not need to watch his right flank because he is in no danger of being chewed up by conservative zealots. Conservative zealots have nothing to do with the current definition of art. They occasionally complain about its worst excesses, but this is a only a negative power of a very small sort—exceedingly small because they almost never win. They are still losing each and every PR battle.
It is the artist's left flank that is under constant pressure and constant attack. The list of tabooed subjects, moods, treatments, motifs, and genres is endless, although few things on this list would seem to have an immediate interest to the left. As I list some of these taboos, keep in mind that this all falls under the rubric of Pluralism—where "everything is allowed." Everything except. . . .
Let's start with beauty. Beauty is not only disallowed, it is not admitted to exist. It is considered a social construct of the flimsiest sort, existing only subjectively and only as a tool of a shallow and oppressive mindset. According to the most progressive theories, it was constructed by men who used its existence to justify the domination of both nature and woman. In this view, a landscape and a nude are equally sexist and offensive, unless and until they have been drained of all beauty. Only then may they transcend the error of treating the world as an abject object. If you wish to learn more about the intricacies and background of this theory, I recommend you to the writings of Jacques Lacan.
The proponents of this theory do not attempt to explain how an unbeautiful landscape or nude is, philosophically, less of an object than a beautiful one, or what failing to be attracted to the world is supposed to teach us about the rights of the oppressed or any other deeper meanings or values; but the theory is a clever tool for demonizing the male Id, and it has been quite successful in stamping out the sort of "shallow" creativity exhibited by men from Michelangelo to Rodin, Titian to Van Gogh. . . and even Picasso.
Health is also forbidden. Partly this is due to its connection to beauty. But there is more to it than that. A healthy painting is thought to be necessarily insincere. This is not a healthy age; therefore, any depiction of health or vigor is false. Health also lacks psychological depth. We learn from our sorrows in this vale of tears, and only the ignorant are healthy.
Children or animals should not be depicted unless they are being, or have been, brutalized in some way. This taboo ties into the one above. No social critique can be spun from happy children or unterrorized animals.
As you can see from the three taboos already listed, the figure is almost universally disallowed. There are a few exceptions. Corpses, scary dolls, and the terribly disfigured or malformed are encouraged. They are obviously relevant to our political situation. Very ugly people—the grossly corpulent, sick, wasted, insane, addicted may be depicted if it is clear that they are poster-people. They are examples (do not confuse examples with ideals). "Normal" people may be depicted only if they are hated by the left. Businessmen looking like predators, politicians buggering eachother—these are OK. But even if you voted for Ralph Nader (even if you're a communist and a Buddhist) you may not paint a picture of your wife. Unless she has cancer, or she has decided to eat your children.
Skill is disallowed. You may paint corpses, but you should not use too much technique if you do. If you paint corpses with very much finesse, you will make artists who only paint stick-figure corpses feel bad. Also, someone in an unguarded moment might say your paint was beautiful, and then we are back to taboo number one. Besides, if we allow skill back into art, it's Katy bar the door. If people start looking at paintings again, for any reason, they won't be paying proper attention to the explanations.
Emotion is not exactly disallowed, but it is discouraged. It needs to be very muddy and ambiguous. And it needs to be subordinate to the message. If it is an emotion that can't be put into words, how is it going to be used to make people think the right things? The perfect emotion is one that a critic can explain: one that needs clarification, and a theory to crystalize it. The worst art is art that is emotional like music. What can you say about music? The best art is art that is emotional like a dying woman—a woman being squashed by some big testosterone-filled thing, like a dumptruck or a stack of porn magazines. This is what we want.
Subtlety is right out. It is important to differentiate subtlety and muddiness. Muddiness is good. It requires analysis. Subtlety is bad. It implies the esoteric. It implies grace and distinctions. All these terms are signs of the snob. They are hallmarks of the aristocracy, they betray the odor of the right. Any hint of the idea of "quality" is as good as an admission of a belief in hierarchy. As is use of the word "talent." This word is very incorrect. The "T" word. It implies distinctions, and distinctions imply inequality.
Depth is taboo for the same reason. It implies different levels of understanding and thereby implies the hierarchy. All political intent should be right on the surface. Muddiness need not imply depth. A bathtub can be murky. A puddle can have a visually impenetrable layer of scum. This is what to shoot for. Think Warhol: as depthless as a vinyl countertop, but theory through and through.
Content. Content was disallowed in the 50's and 60's, but we have had to let it back in. Pluralism, you know. Appeasement. Work without content is still preferred, but content that allows for a left political spin is OK. The only exception is leftist politics that implies that the future will be all right. Pollyanna art is boring, and it lures the "left middleclass" into the bourgeoisie. Learned subject matter is also boring, even if it is left-leaning. It implies the hierarchy again, it usually suffers from pretensions of depth and subtlety (there are only pretensions—"greatness" is a myth), and it often mirrors "great" art of the past—which is a categorical mistake. The past is over and there is no going back. Which brings up. . .
A debt to the past. This is not allowed. Artists should not admit of the possibility of any debt to the past. The past is regressive, by definition. Any similarity or parallel between contemporary work and work of the past is therefore forbidden. An exception is made for work that parodies, defames, defaces, belittles, or otherwise undercuts the work of the past. Artists who take the past seriously are guilty of a breach of the hierarchy taboo, and open themselves up to charges of subtlety, depth, beauty and quality. This brings us to. . .
The work of the right. Since the right is still stuck in tradition, their paintings and sculptures, although vastly inferior to art of the past, nevertheless resemble it in form and content. If a work by an artist "on the left" were to resemble the art of the past, it would also, by the commonest syllogism, resemble art on the right. This is the worst thing imaginable, and is not to be thought of. Therefore, all progressive art must, as a first principle, differ in form and content from art of the past and art on the right. Otherwise it would be too easy for people to mistake your intentions.
This is just a short list of the most important taboos. There are of course many, many others. Thou shalt not work small (small propaganda is no propaganda at all). Thou shalt not write in your paintings (but if you do, do it either illegibly or in stencil). Thou shalt not write poetry into your work (but if you do, do it illegibly, or tongue in cheek, or misquote someone you hate, or purposely plagiarize). Never rhyme, except as a joke. Never mention truth, except as a joke. Never do anything well, without clearly undercutting it. And so on and so on.
In the current state of affairs—and despite all the claims of absolute freedom and pluralism and multiculturalism—there is really very little diversity. There are any number of styles but only two "schools." And only one of these schools counts.
These two schools are Decoration and Politics. They usually call themselves "realism" and "the avant garde." Or Classicism and PoMo. Or whatever. Each has its own market, a market with very specific boundaries that mirror the boundaries of current theory in each school. With all the styles you see—abstraction and realism and impressionism and photorealism and installation and video and photography and so on—you would think all the creative possibilities would be covered. You would think that "there is a place for everyone." You would think this because you are told this, by the administrators of art, over and over. But you would be very very wrong.
The first school—Realism, say—likes to think it is a continuance of tradition. But it is really only a distillation of it. A thin vapor. Of all the styles and lessons of history, only a few have remained, in shadowy form. In brushwork, a lot of Sargent and Monet, a little Rembrandt, a touch of Gauguin now and then, a tiny bit of Corot or Inness. Either that or hard-edged photorealism, slick and flat. And almost nothing else. In subject matter, sailing ships and cowboys and sunsets and flowers and fruit and barns. Occasionally a portrait; even more rarely, a "tasteful" nude. And almost nothing else. The lack of ambition in this school is astonishing. But ambition, in this market, does not sell. After all, the painting must fit over the sofa. It must harmonize.
But that is all beside the point, since according to the experts all that is not art. It is kitsch. Meaning it is crap. It is painted by hacks, not artists. It does not count. What does count is politics. The avant garde is built upon social theory. Art theory is a subset of social theory. The artist may paint whatever he or she wants, but it is not relevant unless it can be tied to current social theory (by writers). Pluralism, that seems so variable, even chaotic, to the casual observer, is actually all held together by a single thread. There were two threads at first, it is true. There used to be "formalism" as well as politics. Clement Greenberg, the father of American criticism, had tried to join minimal form to leftist politics; but all the argument about form died in the sixties, and now only politics is left. The "form" is now the plural part. It may be almost anything. But the politics is very specific. Important art is an art of ideas. Important ideas are ideas about politics. Important politics are politics that empower the weak (or confront the strong). This is what art is.
You may say, of course. So what? Art is decoration or politics. It is pretty things or it is progressive ideas. What else is there?
There is all the great art in history.
None of the great art in history has been defined by either decoration or politics. These two categories, that exhaust all the current examples, leave out all the real art in history. Before the 20th century there was a third category completely removed from decoration and politics. This category was called art. It is now not only extinct, but its extinction has gone completely unnoticed.
Take the David as an example. You will say, it was both decoration and politics. It decorated the Piazza del Signoria and stood as a symbol of Florentine power. But I ask you, what is the David to you? Not to a plaza in Florence or to a 16th century governor. But to the viewer. I say that to any viewer, 16th century or 21st century, the David is a verbally unstatable emotion of beauty and depth. It is a feeling of awe that vastly transcends any thought of decoration or any conception of politics. The David is not an idea at all. It requires no theory. It suffers no context. It does not harmonize all around it. It is its own thing.
Nor does this just apply to the David. Some will accuse me of taking an example that has no analogues. But I claim that all great art is great in the same way, and for the same reasons—though perhaps rarely on the same level. A portrait by Titian, a sculpture by Rodin, a landscape by Corot, an etching by Whistler, a flower by Van Gogh. All these call up an immediate emotional response that has little to do with "prettiness" or decoration, and nothing to do with politics. Visual art is different from the word or the idea in that it is read directly by the mind, without any verbal interpretation. In scientific terms, art mostly bypasses the neocortex and speaks directly to the limbic system. It affects you like a dream. I say that the more interpretation that is necessary, the less it is art. If a work makes you think, it has gone wrong from the beginning.
Please understand that I am not denying the validity of decoration or politics, or the importance of the word, or of thinking, or of ideas. And I am certainly not denying the importance of continuing the fight for equal-opportunity and fairness. I am pointing out that all communication does not necessarily concern itself with these things. I am saying that the political aspect of art is not the only aspect. It is, in fact, a rather tangential aspect, at best. But it has turned out to be a predatory aspect. Once it is admitted to be a part of art, it wants to be all of art. It wants to redefine art as itself. Art can exist with politics as one of its influences; but it cannot exist as a subset to politics. Art, as it is defined now, has engulfed what used to be art, and the old category is gone.
It is disallowed. It is not even attempted anymore.
The markets and the buyers would not know what to make of it. They would not know how to look at it.
Take as an example the nude above. It is not allowed in the realist market: it is full-frontal, it has a personal content, it is direct, it is not especially decorative nor especially beautiful, it is not very colorful, it is an odd pose and a rather un-voluptuous girl. The paint is somewhat Sargenty—that is, bravura and expressive—which would be a good thing if the model weren't so damned difficult.
It is not allowed by the avant garde for many reasons. First, it is painted too well. It has a excess of technique. The artist appears to have studied painting for its own sake, which was short-sighted of him. He would have been better served to have read the newspaper. Also, the painting has no definable content. One has no idea what to think of it. The only politics it seems to contain is a regressive objectification of the female. The nude body has not been undercut in any way. The model is entirely too beautiful (notice the difference here from the realist market). She is thin and blond—standard jack-off material. Her gaze is almost edgy enough to allow for a psychological reading. Unfortunately the artist is a male. If the artist were a female, we might be able to make something of it. As it is, it is entirely too sexist—and not in a tongue-in-cheek way.
In much the same way, if not always for the same reasons, the two markets dismiss almost everything that might have any real artistic content (by the old definition). What the contemporary viewer sees as faults, the viewer in the past would have seen as strengths. What might Whistler have thought of this nude?
For him, I suspect, it would also be a bit too Sargenty (he didn't care much for Sargent—he thought that Sargent's paint often outran his painting). But the low tones, the color harmony, the simple background, the subordination of the composition to the mood—the means to the end—all these would have appealed to him. The direct gaze, the strong emotional content, the non-standard pose—individually expressive—he would also have liked. He might not have liked the model—she is a little sickly by Victorian standards—but he most probably would have understood the connection of her body and pose to the mood created. At any rate, he would have been struck by the daring of the piece. It is shockingly intimate, not as in sexy but as in charged. As in real. She is not sexy like a pin-up or a porn-star. She looks at you like you are her lover. She knows you. She is sexy like a whole person, a smart person, a thinking person. The pubes may be in the center of the painting, but it is the eyes that swallow you.
If what I say is true, where does that leave us? Some will say, if art is extinct and no one has noticed, how is that a problem? Are people likely to demand the return of something they don't even know was stolen? Do we really need sonatas and fancy paintings and long boring books? If people are satisfied with pop culture—by movies and vidgames and rap and clever installations and limited edition prints—who are you to browbeat them?
Some are satisfied and some are not. There remains a large audience for old books and music and art. These people are not satisfied by contemporary realism or by the avant garde or by pop culture. But they do not stand up and demand great works from the present because they are convinced it is a demand that cannot be met. They do not want to appear ridiculous. Nor do they wish to seem unsupportive: it would be uncompassionate to imply that artists are not already doing their best. So they are silent.
And the artists are silent, too. Historically, artists have avoided talking about art because we wanted the viewer to know that art is not about that. Art is not about explanations and stories and words and ideas. That was one of Whistler's great notions—to make the analogy between music and painting explicit by titling his scenes "nocturnes" and "symphonies." His point was that you don't ask questions about a Beethoven sonata, why ask questions about a painting? But our silence has been the door through which the talkers have walked. People wanted to know things. They wanted to chat. And the critics have been chatty. They have answered all the questions, even when they had to talk nonsense to do it. They have filled the magazines and newspapers and airwaves with their chatter, and they have reaped the benefits of the social. They have made friends everywhere. And the taciturn artist has been left on the sofa, nursing his tonic, while the party moved into the living room. Finally, of course, the artist was replaced with a cut-out. A bad-boy cut-out with a cigarette—a two-dimensional prop who was just glad to be there.
But the party people are not going to give up the paper hats and the rockin' flat just because the old artist whispers "fairness" through the keyhole. No one is going to leave of their own accord. The drunkards will not listen to reason; they can only be bypassed. Bypassed by a new dialogue. The silent artists and the silent connoisseurs must come together and start talking again. They must remind eachother that they exist. They must remember the possibilities, the work left to do. The importance of creating and supporting a living culture. The importance to the future of believing that history is not over. The feeling of worth this rightly gives to the present.
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