Sunday, October 23, 2011

Art and Truth; Is Truth Enervating?

Is art that is truthful will-shattering?  Art that reveals the meaninglessness and arbitrary violence of the world destroys the will to maintain an arduous struggle toward virtue or artistic elegance.  After Schopenhauer's descent into chaos and futility, Friedrich Nietzsche posed a solution to the dilemma of will-shattering truth. 

Nietzsche in The Birth of Tragedy describes the tension that he found in the Greek tragedies between Dionysian and Apollonian art.  Dionysian art embodies the chaotic energy of the world, which in Greek thought is antithetical to reality as differentiated by form delineated in Apollonian art and philosophy.

Nietzsche was for a time an admirer and promoter of the music dramas of Richard Wagner.  He saw in Wagner's music an illusion that could sustain the will against the chaos of Dionysus. 

Here are a few references that may be useful:
Nietzsche; The Birth of Tragedy
Arthur Schopenhauer
Aaron Ridley on Nietzsche; Art and Truth

To put the quesion in more contemporary setting, here is a link to my review of a book by Carson Holloway titled All Shook Up; Music, Passion, and Politics.

The question of art and will makes an interesting discussion.  How is an artist to persist against the banality and chaos of the world?

Saturday, October 22, 2011

It's not Vertigo

She gets mild light headedness
Mild but frequent enough to be disturbing
Too often it comes on when she sings
With the expansive breathing

It started after several phone calls to her aunt in Cincinnati
The last of which was to security at the senior residence
Who had to force the door
To find Alice cold on the floor

The last of three sisters
This memorial service was the end
Her father had been gone three years by then
No more trips to Cincinnati

The doctors have suspected low blood pressure
Ear infections
Ménière's disease
And one by one eliminated each as a diagnosis

The disorienting illusion persists
Usually in the afternoon
Exercise seems to ward it off in the morning
Physical therapists, chiropractors, acupuncturists seemed to help

A number of them have applied their cures
Now a cranial-sacral deep tissue masseuse
Recommends books by Illuminati
The saints, medieval and modern are strewn about our cushy chairs

They variously recommend living with the disturbance
Asking what it has to tell us
Being in the joy and pain of here and now
Outside the window it's warmer than it appears

The wind is mild, spacious with a few flecks of rain
A walk to the mailbox is not unpleasant
Despite bills from physicians and labs that insurance won't pay
And the HSA can't seem to process

A maple is red against the firs
This sky has many shades of grey
And opens to infinity beyond what ails us here
Its coming in would elicit a sensation like vertigo

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Arts funding doesn't show diversity

Brett Zongker this morning in the Seattle Times cites a study by the Washington-based National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy:
"Billions of dollars in arts funding is serving a mostly wealthy, white audience that is shrinking while only a small chunk of money goes to emerging art groups that serve poorer communities that are more ethnically diverse, according to a report being released Monday."

The jist of it is an unsurprising assertion that the opera/ symphony crowd is grabbing too much of the money.  What this slant evades completely is that BIG ARTs organizations get the money regardless of whether the art is that of dead white European males or of the kinds of organizations Zongker seems to favor:

Maurine Knighton, who leads the foundation's arts and culture programs, said changing the way foundations give grants is possible but will take time.
"You are dealing with shifting demographics that are fairly recent," and foundations will have to make a deliberate effort to catch up, Knighton said. "It's just a different way of considering how to be most effective with our grant dollars."
The Ford Foundation, a major arts funder that launched a $100 million initiative last year to develop spaces for diverse arts groups, has funded a dance center in New York's Chinatown, the New York Latino cultural center El Museo del Barrio, and community arts projects in Seattle, New Orleans, and elsewhere.
"There is no question that investing in a diverse array of arts and culture institutions is an important direction for funders," Darren Walker, the foundation's vice president for education, creativity and free expression, said in an e-mail. "In a country that is diversifying as fast as ours, it's even more important to lift up artistic voices that can help us understand who we are and who we are becoming."

Well, OK, diversity in cultural tradition counts for something, but dance centers and museums are useless while artists in these communities are working as waiters, employess in airport kitchens, and secretaries instead of performing for the local audience that is usurped by BIG ARTs organizations.

Government funding legitimizes established organizations and private funding follows it.  A new opera or dance company founded by and for local artists faces debilitating competition from organizations that are already too powerful and taking not only the lion's share of funding but monopolizing the local audience as well.  Indigeneous organizations can't afford to perform in the spaces built by "Ford's $100 million initiative last year to develop spaces for diverse arts groups." 

Finally the money from government and private contributions in local communities that does trickle down to artists and performers goes to those who are represented by financially advantaged New York management, not local singers, dancers, or visual artists.