Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Dave Hickey, Air Guitar pages 168-169

(Cross-posted from Commonplace)

The justification for this pretense to disengagement derives from our Victorian habit of marginalizing the experience of art, of treating it as if it were somehow "special"--and, lately, as if it were somehow curable. This is a preposterous assumption to make in a culture that is irrevocably saturated with pictures and music, in which every elevator serves as a combination picture gallery and concert hall. The question of whether we can enjoy, or even decipher, the world we see without the experience of images, or the world we hear without the experience of music, seems to me pretty much a no-brainer. In fact, I cannot imagine a reason for categorizing any part of our involuntary, ordinary experience as "unaesthetic," or for imagining that this quotidian aesthetic experience occludes any "real" or "natural" relationship between ourselves and the world that surrounds us. All we do by ignoring the live effects of art is suppress the fact that these experiences, in one way or another, inform our every waking hour.

In my own case, I can still remember gazing at the lovely, lifting curve of a page upon which Oscar Wilde's argument that "life imitates art" was inscribed and knowing that this was the first "big truth" I had come across in writing. I can remember, as well, standing on the corner of 52nd Street and Third Avenue on a spring afternoon, six feet from a large citizen gouging the pavement with a jackhammer, and thinking about the Ramones, amazed at the preconscious acuity with which I had translated the pneumatic slap of the hammer into eighth-notes and wondering what part, if any, of the pleasures and dangers of the ordinary world might rightly be considered "natural." So it seems to me that, living as we do in the midst of so much ordered light and noise, we must unavoidably internalize certain expectations about their optimal patternings--and that these expectations must be perpetually and involuntarily satisfied, frustrated, and subtly altered every day, all day long, in the midst of things, regardless of what those patterns of light and noise might otherwise signify.


Peter Ward said...

I always felt art should properly be part of something else, a natural component of it. Imagery accompanying religious worship, say.

I'm not sure how and why this divorce happened--i.e., the birth of "art".... Possibly (ignorant European) contact with new cultures resulted in a misinterpretation of the significance of artifacts brought back as well as the discovery money could be made in their trade.

Ethan said...

I think money and trade are the key issues there. I'm always ambivalent about Hickey; he seems to somehow think that money and trade are what liberate art and life, which, heh, I do not agree with.

The axis between people like Hickey and people like, say, Vaneigem (whose Revolution of Everyday Life I'm also picking through, with considerably less ambivalence) is the axis I wish our larger cultural dialogue took place along.

Peter Ward said...

Cf. my above comment: John Dewey, "the Live Creature" from Art as Experience (p. 9-). Dewey says, e.g.:

Art is remitted to a separate realm, where it is cut off from that association with the materials and aims of every other form of human effort...


Mountains peaks do not float unsupported; the do not...just rest [on] the earth. The are the earth in one of its manifest operations.