Monday, May 28, 2012

30 Things "The Scream" is screaming, 16 (Is This Art?)

The other day, Jeremy Bates, author/commenter, mentioned that Dali might be someone worthy of reinterpreting The Scream, as opposed to Andy Warhol, who commenter/author/dad/teacher Andrew Leon felt contributed to art solely by painting soup cans, while author/superhero author PT Dilloway felt Warhol's Elvis painting was the most notable thing about pop art like that.

Which brings me to dadaism.

My previous exposure to dadaism was through the group dada and their song Diz Knee Land,

which I used to rollerblade to when I was an undergraduate at UW-Milwaukee.  I also listened to Ned's Atomic Dustbin:

but that latter one has no real connection to dadaism, so don't worry too much about it.

Anyway, I went a-lookin' for a Dali interpretation of The Scream and before I could search much I ran into a math website that talked about artists, which seems like a weird way to teach math but then, teaching math is a weird way to teach math, as we should focus more on surveys of math, teaching kids mathematical concepts and thinking rather than rote memorization.  Schools should be a whole lot different, and would be if (when) I was in charge.  There'd be no history, for one thing.  And more science.  And everyone would take shop class.  And art.  And football teams wouldn't be a big deal.

I digress.  Dadaism according to the math site was an art form that said art had no meaning and would therefore take everyday objects and alter them slightly and call them art.  Wikipedia actually says a lot more,  including that the movement was meant to point out the absurdity of modern life, not art, which is kind of confusing: The idea that art has no meaning would be directly contrary to the idea that your art can point out that art has no meaning. 

But that seems the kind of thing dadaists would enjoy.

Most of the dadaists quoted on Wikipedia talk about destroying art and commenting, in doing so, on the horrific images and aftereffects of World War I, which was credited with helping spawn the movement. 

Here in America, the movement took on stronger anti-art themes, with Marcel Duchamp's famous Fountain:

Which the moment I saw it I thought was obviously the birthplace of every single hack art student work ever, right up to and including putting crucifixes in urine.

The idea that art could be shocking and demoralizing was new and revolutionary (and shocking and demoralizing) back in the early part of the 20th century.  But can any art shock or demoralize anymore? 

And by shock and demoralize I don't mean "make right-wingers mad."  That's not hard to do, at all.  I mean really get the world up in arms, one way or the other.

I'm sitting here, on this fine Monday morning and trying to think of a painting or poster or play or musical or art form of one kind or another that shocked the world or took it by storm.  And you know what I come up with?

The Matrix.

Not that it shocked the world, not the way dadaism seems to have.  But it changed the world, in that before it came out, movies looked one way and after it came out, movies looked another way. 

The Matrix wasn't anything new, really: computer games, 'what if this is all a dream?' -- it was simply freshman-dorm-room philosophy.  What it did was present that old idea (going back to pre-Plato times, the idea that none of what we are experiencing is real but is instead a construct we make, an idea Plato actually rejected, postulating instead that we had two potential kinds of existence, the imperfect one of our senses and the perfect one of being) in an entirely new way, and in doing so, completely re-ordered the way movies are made.

Which is to say, The Matrix tore down old movies and built up new ones.  It's impossible to say whether that big-deal, 360-degree scene of The Avengers assembling would have been made if not for the fact that The Matrix nearly 15 years ago gave us 360-degree freeze-frames, just as it's impossible to say if pop art like Warhol's would have existed if dadaism hadn't shocked and demoralized the world by tearing art down.  Maybe eventually we would have naturally progressed to the point of making new art, or making movies look new, but dadaism and The Matrix jump-started the process.

I think maybe that's why I'm so underwhelmed by The Scream.  It sold for $119,900,000.  Why?  Is it ground-breaking?  No.  Is it especially proficient?  No.  Does it represent the best, the newest, the weirdest, the most-thought-provoking, the -est of any category?

No. Not other than "Most expensivest," which maybe is the newest form of art at all.

Today's caption:

Plus, I'm not even very pretty to look at!

Caption 15.

Caption 14.

Caption 13

Caption 12

Caption 11

Caption 10


1 comment:

Andrew Leon said...

I think there are things that can shock and demoralize still; we just don't know what they are. It's that whole thing of being something new that shocks and demoralizes. We don't nor can we envision what that new thing is until it happens.

No time to comment on the whole movie thing at the moment other than to point to my a to z post about the moon landing.

I think the only important thing about art anymore is the expensivest part. Really, that's all people care about.