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Re: Book Art vs. Book Arts



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                 URL:http://www.rci.rutgers.edu/~mjoseph

"All art is propaganda" strikes me as the reductio of this art and
politics thread. Its angry crackle resonates the old cultural wars
formulation, 'all art is ideological,' sometimes encountered as 'all
writing is ideological,' or 'everything is ideological.' It's really an
empty and misleading revelation, as, for example, John Higham, the senior
historian, points out in HANGING TOGETHER. The ideological value of
cultural events (like art objects) may be incidental to their impact or
intended meaning or effect. To raise the ideological issue with some
(most?) works is almost perversely to ignore other, more fruitful,
theoretical approaches, to turn one's back on history and meaning. It
would be as boring and senseless to determine the propaganda content of a
work of art as it would to interrogate every artwork for gender or race or
ethnicity, to become a kind of Charlie Chaplin attempting to tighten the
bolts on anything and everything that crosses one's path.

It is a very common debating ploy to describe something in terms of
something else, rather than frontally engage with it. I want to assert
that I agree with Richard's defense of "cultural exchange," and do not
take the term euphemistically or cynically to mean simply "propaganda," a
vehicle for acculturation or the dissemination of rhetoric for purely
political ends. I think one should defend government involvement in
publicizing the work of American artists, as he has, and work politically
to ensure that the selection process is transparent, and the artworks are
critically defensible or powerful. It seems to me that the parallel
between American support of abstract expressionism, and Soviet support of
Socialist Realism is highly tendentious, and, indeed, not only not to be
taken seriously--but not intended to be. It should have been obvious, that
Jules raised the issue of politics as a red herring, with the sole
intention of minimizing the work of abstract artists (i.e., book artists
who work in non-traditional forms), whose work he described as
"meaningless." Meaningless? I'd be interested in hearing from him, and
from other artists, on how work becomes meaningful, or what kinds of
meaning they want for their work, and from other critics (if there are
any) on what they feel their role is in interpreting/bestowing meaning on
a work of art. I will go out on a limb and say that most book artists and
artisans on this list want their books (or typography, bindings,
calligraphy, etc.) to be 'perfect,' or representative in some 'real', and
personally important way of themselves, but that there is also an urge to
pay homage to the work of others, in effect, to place themselves within an
organic and evolving tradition. I would say that this profound grounding
in tradition is the major divide between the book arts and the fine
arts. But, of course, as a critic, what do I know about art?




Yours,

Michael Joseph







On Wed, 29 Aug 2001, Richard Minsky wrote:

>
> Jules Siegel wrote:
>
> >does the evaluation depend upon politics or art?
> over. Rockefeller claimed Rivera was propagandizing. Rivera declared
> "All art is propaganda."
>
> --
>  Richard
>  http://minsky.com
>  http://www.centerforbookarts.org
>
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