Archive for October 16th, 2005

Is Art Dying?

Interesting op-ed piece in today’s NYT by presidential biographer Edmund Morris, wherein he argues that art and the creative process are becoming sterile and impersonal because artists and art are becoming increasingly “hands-off.”

He waxes poetic about the violent physicality of Beethoven and Bernard Dufour’s creative process and the way they literally attack the paper or canvas, as compared to “video recording, performance art and installations farmed out to contractors….”

I’m not entirely sure how to feel about this as a photographer who can’t draw a straight line to save his life. And not just any kind of photographer, but a digital photographer, so my idea of photo “processing” no longer involves chemicals or film or timers or darkrooms. My only interaction with the physical (apart from the actual picture-taking) is when I print the photos out, which is still a far cry from the film-based print-making experience.

To me, this is simply a time and expense saver. There may be some value added by using film, as some of my old-school photog friends insist, but they have always couched their arguments in terms of the quality of the media itself, never in terms of the process of spending hours in the darkroom, personally developing their own negatives and prints and coming out smelling like chemicals.

On the other hand, my girlfriend is a genuine drawing-things-on-paper kind of artist who would never dream of creating her art electronically. Scanning the finished product for display on the web, sure, but to my knowledge she’s never used an electronic app for anything artistic beyong doodling or graphic design. Is it quick or convenient? No. But it’s the only way she can achieve the quality she requires. Digital is simply not an option for her, and I believe it is likewise not an option for a large number of artists who create images from scratch.

As I ponder the validity of Morris’s two basic premises, that A) “Physical” art is dying out, and B) That this will suck all the life out of our cultural discourse, I find that my conclusion is that my disbelief in Premise A almost validates Premise B. I can’t imagine the demand for physical art ever drying up, because people in the market for art want something tangible, something created by the artist’s own hand. There’s a uniqueness and a prestige to that which electronic, infinitely reproducible and essentially virtual works of art can never equal. And this is why no-one will ever pay thousands of dollars for any of my photos.

I admit, I don’t really have a profound point or insight to make, but I’m intrigued by the questions that it stirs up, and the whiff of traditionalist snobbery evinced by Mr. Morris.

3 comments October 16th, 2005 at 10:52pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Art/Architecture

Everybody Have Fun Tonight, Everybody Wangchuck Tonight

Why can’t we be more like Bhutan?

It may be time to think about a trade-in. Goodbye bigger-is-better, happiness-is-a-Hummer, excess-is-best American Dream, hello Bhutan Bliss.

Yep, Bhutan. Little country somewhere in the Himalayas. It’s attracting a lot of attention – even envy – these days, because instead of pursuing the old dream of a red-hot economy, it is pursuing an even older dream: The pursuit of happiness. Bhutan’s 49-year-old king, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, has made it his goal to increase his country’s GNH – Gross National Happiness.

This may sound about as sensible as basing an economy on lollipop exports, but the king is serious. In his 30-odd years at the helm, he has made preserving the environment a priority and decreed that 60% of Bhutan’s land must remain wooded. He opened schools throughout the country, where there had been no public education before 1960. Teachers get rotated from city schools to rural ones to ensure all kids get the same quality of education…. Anyone sick can choose between Western and traditional medicine, because both are respected. And from 1984 to 1998, life expectancy increased a whopping 19 years, to 66.


“America’s priorities are out of whack,” states [Betsy] Taylor, president of The New American Dream, an organization with 83,000 members dedicated to “Less stuff, more fun.”

“I think people would welcome a debate about Bhutan vs. the U.S.,” says Taylor. “Who’s really living life to the fullest? Is it the people who can take a long afternoon stroll in the forest? Or is it the people who eat lunch at their desk, shop at lunchtime, rush home exhausted and then continue to work at home?”

If they have wireless internet, I’m so there.

2 comments October 16th, 2005 at 08:56pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Coolness,Weirdness

Sportswriters Against Bush

Ouch. The NY Daily News #1 sports columnist, Mike Lupica, is pretty clearly not a big Bush fan…

After watching our President interview those soldiers in Iraq the other day, I think we can pretty much rule out a talk show for him once he leaves office.

Geena Davis is doing a better job as Commander-in-Chief than W these days.


By the way, four appearances for Karl Rove in front of a grand jury has to be some kind of modern record for a White House chief of staff.

He’s got almost as many grand jury appearances as Dick Cheney had draft deferments, which is kind of neat.

Okay, so maybe it’s not exactly A-list material, but it’s pretty harsh for a sports column. And if I was a president, especially a manly, resolute, joe-sixpack president, I’d really want to have the sportswriters on my side, ya know?

3 comments October 16th, 2005 at 08:32pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Bush,Cheney,Media,Politics,Rove,Sports

A Modest Proposal

Here is my recommendation for cutting down on all but the most necessary wars:

With the exception of response to an unprovoked military (i.e., non-terrorist) attack, any president who initiates, and any congresscritter who approves, an attack on a sovereign nation must be forced to choose between:

A) Making all of his/her age-eligible children or grandchildren available for a special draft; or

B) Spending a week in the target country 3 years after the invasion, walking the streets and talking to the people, sans bodyguards or body armor.

My expectation is that most would choose Option B (depending on how they felt about their kids, I suppose), and be very focused on the follow-through and reconstruction.

2 comments October 16th, 2005 at 11:01am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Iraq,Politics,War

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