Saturday, April 16, 2011

Art and Truth- A Post in Progress

Easter holidays. Warm sun. The country calls, the lakes call, the owls call (all bloody night, in fact), and there will be no internet, no bloggimng, no wider world at all, for a few days. When I come back, regular readers know posts will be bucolic and whimsical in nature until the mind adjusts and normal ranting resumes. So I leave you some very incomplete thoughts on the nature of truth:

It’s easy to do art. A minimum of imagination, Something to express, anything, and a medium. There are plenty to choose from. It may not be good art, people might not like it, or understand what it’s for, or agree with what it says, but it’s art. Truth is hard. Science is hard, because it seeks truth. If it doesn’t seek truth it is not science. If it calls itself science, or research or some such thing, but doesn’t seek truth or has no means of evaluating what it finds, it is worthless. Vast sections of our universities, of those parts of them dedicated to the humanities, make no attempt to seek truth, to discover new things, but they claim to. If they presented themselves as giving opinions, as riffing on the texts and situations they look at, as merely using the text they are analysing as a starting point, as a way to set their minds working, as a medium to express their own opinions, moral judgements, intellectual conceits, prejudice, ignorance or whatever, they could be judged on how far they achieve the goal, and on how interesting or useful the results are. Or they could just have fun. They could do a form of art. Of course, they would be less obviously suited to tenured posts at universities if they were open about what they do, and their motives for doing it. And they wouldn’t get to take themselves so immensely seriously, which I suspect is part of why they do it.*

Art does not care about truth. It has no need of truth. Only of some form of perceived coherence. Its purpose is to communicate something. I don’t think it matters much whether the perceiver appreciates what the originator had in mind. The producer  is trying to do

The ways in which art is defined, or what we assume it to be, can have some awkward consequences. If Damian Hirst is simply a self-publicist playing the public through manipulation of the media, then he is not doing art all. And that is not a critical judgement of his work, it is the truth.

*The more direly dreary and politically charged areas of the humanities attract people who are not intelligent enough for real academic work, but who want to feel part of the game. They’re like the boy you allow to play on the team sometimes because his father has an off-licence, but only when it’s cold and wet, and only at left back.

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