Friday, November 22, 2013

De Comburendo Heretico.

"And pity, like a naked new-born babe, / Striding the blast, or heaven's cherubim, hors'd / Upon the sightless couriers of the air".

“Who among us would not prefer to read one of Shakespeare’s plays, where not one rule of the theatre is observed, rather than some more modern production, where not one single rule is broken?” – a rhetorical question designed to provoke an indignant and very negative reaction.

And the unwritten rules of society are enforced by group pressure.

I am paraphrasing something I read once, here. And I guess that says a little something about me, in that I couldn’t find the talent to do it myself. And I guess we’re all products of our environment. But…

“At one time art reflected aristocratic taste and interests. The spread of modern industrial mercantilism created a new bourgeoisie; sufficiently strong to assume the role of nobility in the sponsorship of art.”

“Societies motivated by profit, power, greed, and luxury have little use for artistic integrity and imaginative creativity.”

“Artists are sought who can translate values into art, thus giving rise to a school replete with banality and vapid themes; a saccharine romanticism. A certain degree of originality is tolerated and accepted, but only if the artist doesn’t transcend the boundaries of conventionality.”
How are we to translate middle-class Western values into art?

“No artist can escape the age in which he lives. At best, he can reject it. It has ever been the pastime of academies to create the illusion of preserving a cultural heritage. The public wants the familiar, the soothing, comforting reassurance of having its taste confirmed and certified by a higher authority.”

“The public does not want to be surprised. It hates the unexpected. It fears being duped or mocked or satirized by the artist. Tradition is by no means synonymous with repetition; but its self-appointed guardians invariably equate it as such. The official arbiters of art decide who will be punished, and who will be rewarded.” They are making money off of ‘what is,’ and so why change it?

“Stupidity and narrow-mindedness reduces the artist to a craftsman”—as in Canadian journalism, for example. Writing has been reduced to a trade. For thirty-five dollars an hour and a dental plan; I’ll write anything you want. If you study the news media, sooner or later, if you are a thinking person, you will come to the conclusion that it is mighty short on facts. What you are looking at are opinions. No one wants to talk about this. I guess that makes me an idiot.

If you put forty monkeys in a room full of word-processors, sooner or later, they will not write one single line of Shakespeare.

“Cezanne was wise enough not to adopt the conventions of the Renaissance. ‘I am old,’ he said, ‘I can only show you the road, younger men will have to follow it.’”

“The Greeks of Constantinople, after purging away the impurities of their vulgar speech, acquired the free use of their ancient language, the most happy composition of human art, and a familiar knowledge of the sublime masters who had pleased or instructed the first of nations. But these advantages only tend to aggravate the shame and reproach of a degenerate people.”

“They held in their lifeless hands the riches of their fathers, without inheriting the spirit which had created and improved that sacred patrimony: they read, they praised, they compiled, but their languid souls seemed incapable of thought or action.”

“In the revolution of ten centuries, not a single discovery was made to exalt the dignity or promote the happiness of mankind. Not a single idea has been added to the speculative systems of antiquity, and a succession of patient disciples became in their turn the dogmatic teachers of the next servile generation. Not a single composition of history, philosophy, or literature, has been saved from oblivion by the intrinsic beauties of style, or sentiment, of original fancy, or even of successful imitation. In prose, the least offensive of the Byzantine writers are absolved from censure by their naked and unpresuming simplicity, but the orators, most eloquent in their own conceit, are the farthest removed from the models whom they affect to imitate.”

“In every page our taste and reason are wounded by the choice of gigantic and obsolete words, a stiff and intricate phraseology, the discord of images, the childish play of false or unseasonable ornament, and the painful attempt to elevate themselves, to astonish the reader, and to involve a trivial meaning in the smoke of obscurity and exaggeration.”

“Their prose is soaring to the vicious affectation of poetry, their poetry is sinking below the flatness and insipidness of prose….the minds of the Greeks were bound in the fetters of a base and imperious superstition, which extends her dominion round the circle of profane science.”

“Their understandings were bewildered in metaphysical controversy; in the belief of visions and miracles, they had lost all principles of moral evidence…their taste was vitiated by the homilies of the monks, an absurd medley of declamation and scripture.”

“Even these contemptible studies were no longer dignified by the abuse of superior talents...alone in the universe, the self-satisfied pride of the Greeks was not disturbed by the comparison of foreign merit, and it is no wonder that they fainted in the race, since they had neither competitors to urge their speed, nor judges to crown their glory.”

A number of sources were consulted or quoted  in the writing of this missive:

“Cezanne, father of modern painting,” by Frank Elgar.

“The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire,” by Edward Gibbon.

*the author of the first quote is unknown to me.

Editor’s note:

Mr. cooper is probably the greatest living artist of his age who is presently living and working in Canada, and not making a dime off of it, and it is undoubtedly true that he will die alone and in the most abject poverty. He accepts this, although he doesn’t like it very much.

“You guys are all fuckin’ crazy,” he says. “I wouldn’t swap places with you for a million bucks.”

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