Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Types Of Criticism

There are three methods for experiencing art: first, to experience it without questioning it; secondly, to experience it, and to research the art to discover more about what your experience was like or, even, what your experience should have been like; third, to engage the art with various intellectual strategies referred to as "criticisms." Most people will, for example, go to a movie, eat popcorn, watch the film, laugh, cry, or experience emotional other triggers, then leave and be done with the film; there's nothing at all wrong with this. Some people will go to an art museum, for example, and see an image that stays with them, that somehow "speaks" to them, and they may go to the library or book store and get a biography on the artist and read up on the historical events; there's nothing at all wrong with this second approach, either. Then there are professors and students loitering in universities across the world determined to understand the art, and they form elaborate systems of cognition that have certain "goals" and engage methods of discourse with various erudite names like "Deconstruction," or "New Historicism," and even, "Psychoanalytic Feminist Marxism." There are, generally speaking, at least two things wrong with this third approach known as "criticism."
There are lots of different types of criticism, and each has its own aim to expose certain truths or oppression. For example, Psychoanalysis, the decoding of the mind's tricks and messages, is prominently utilized by Feminists to expose male dominance and sexual oppression in art. Deconstruction has been employed by minority groups in revealing political oppression. New Historicism, on the other hand, looks for dates and historical clues to understand more about the world within a narrative. Reader Response Theory is more concerned with how an audience member brings what they all ready know to a work of art and that is used by the audience or even by the artist for engagement, whether the audience realizes it or not. "Erasure" and "noise," two strategies I have used frequently for posts, are "branches" of Deconstrution. Marxist criticism usually focuses on how economics and class are structured in works of art. In this painting, The Dance Class by Edward Degas, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art,and completed in 1874, the Marxist critic Robert L Herbert, in his book Impressionism Art Leisure Parisian Society, discusses how all these young girls are essentially being prostituted by their families because they come from lower-middle class families, and they hope that, by becoming ballerinas on the stage, they will attract a wealthy patron, i.e., a rich man who will support her in exchange for sex.Herbert goes on to demonstrate, in one of the absolute classics of modern Art History, how nearly all of the Impressionists incorporated the economic hardships of their subjects into works (I can't recommend the book highly enough, it's absolutely fascinating). Until Herbert had done this work, no one had any idea about the difficult social conditions to which the women in Degas' ballet pictures were subjected. He uses the paintings to further his views of society and to demonstrate how capitalism was causing this unfortunate vacuum for young women, but if he hadn't have done it, these facts of history would have been lost forever; so, while I am mocking criticism for not being based in reality, there are times with exceptionally talented and astute academics, like Herbert, who don't ignore reality, rather, make it the very subject of their inquiry and we all benefit then.
First, criticism is largely inaccessible to most people: if you are not a student of literary criticism, art history, philosophy, or film studies, you probably are never going to be exposed to criticism except as a passing joke in a Woody Allen movie. Secondly, these modes of criticism, while they do offer up golden nuggets of intellectualism valuable for their own sake, really don't have much to do with reality and our day-to-day affairs. So, unless you are publishing a paper you hope other professors/students will read, the vast majority of people will never have reason to learn even one of the dominant methods of criticism, which leads us to my decisions for this blog.
So, is there any "moral" reading of a work such as this that we can make? Of course. Tomato Soup Can by Andy Warhol is a massively subversive social critique. Warhol was a devout Catholic who went to Mass everyday. He is critiquing that there are more people who don't join him for worship, but who slave away to make this Tomato Soup Can look to iconic, so important, so desirable. Yes, that's advertising, and Warhol himself was in advertising, but the soup can is an icon, that is, its virtues are being celebrated rather than the virtues of a saint, or just even virtue itself. Warhol recognized the eroding of values and the dwindling percentage of Christians attending Church regularly, and with his works such as Brillo Pads and Money, he demonstrated how "invested we are" in the material world, that there are name brands and generics from which we can choose to purchase, and we have certain likes for certain products and dislikes; but what about our spiritual lives? What about the world of the invisible where our real battles take place? In other words, Warhol wants to say, Tomato Soup might be good for the body, but is it at the expense of the soul?
I received an email from Andrew who wasn't complaining, but he complained that all I do is socialist/capitalist, or liberal/conservative viewpoints, and I need to expand my repertoire. I understand that it appears that it is all I do, but actually, that's not what I do at all. I do moral criticism. Post World War II, moral criticism ceased existing almost overnight; ask students and professors today about the "morality" of a literary work, film or visual art, and they will call you a Bible-thumper or something along those lines. Moral criticism does not exist today, except at this blog. I made a conscious decision that, because it was no longer done, and because there were no Christian critics (Film Review Mom and Date Night Review don't count) it was clear that was going to be my niche: re-discovering what moral criticism is, and how it does or does not support Christianity. There is, however, a problem with this,...
There are many different types of morality. Most people think they are moral people, even if they have been in the Sicilian mafia all their lives. Even among Christians, we have a tendency to disagree about what is and is not morally acceptable behavior: is homosexuality moral? Is abortion moral? Is drunkenness moral? Living with someone to whom you are not married moral? Etc., and while most of these answers used to all be "No," with no exceptions, because of the political atmosphere developing the last thirty years in the USA and other countries, these questions have been intentionally muddied by a small group of people intent on confusing people who are easily confused. Morality, in other words, has become a battleground, and rather than at church or even from family members (because of high divorce percentages and out of wedlock pregnancies) art, especially film and television, happen to be the ground upon which the majority of today's morality of what is and is not socially acceptable, public and private behavior, is taught. So why am I always mentioning socialism and capitalism?
Socialism has always, until about 2008, had "morality" in direct opposition to what Christianity has always traditionally taught; why? Socialism absolutely has to take God out of the equation of the relationship between individuals and the government; why? Because if individuals say they can't bake a cake for a gay "wedding," that makes the state who just "legalized" gay "marriage" look bad; so the state outlaws God and all religion in general. As Christians, we should be worried about this. The way socialism has gripped government and society with such strength is because, little by little, it has eroded our morality: easy divorce, easy birth control, easy sex, and increase of feeling over rationality, making it look like more and more people are "naturally" gay and so they should be accepted, couples living together instead of marrying, and this has largely been accomplished--not with wars, not with public debates or publications--but with language and art. I know plenty of liberals who claim that socialism is far more moral and Christian than erosive capitalism is, but these are also people who know nothing about socialism and very little about God. "Sexual orientation," and "women's choice," "healthcare," "personal choice" and "evolution" are some of the anti-Christian methods employed to erode Christianity in American society and throughout the world in order to achieve a population not rooted in God so they can become rooted in government. If this doesn't bother you, then you should find another blog to read.
So, the purpose of The Fine Art Diner is to expound and teach moral criticism in art so it is accessible on a daily and realistic level for Christians watching TV, reading a book, listening to music or watching a film; when demarcating between art being socialist or capitalist, (and I will be the first to admit, I almost never, ever point this out to readers, so my apologies), I mean "socialist to erode Christian morality," or "capitalist to protect Christian morality." Up until about 1991 or 1992, when political correctness began brainwashing people and controlling behavior, America was a free society: laws protected us from unwanted behaviors and their consequences, but we were free. We aren't now, and we will continue to become more enslaved. Because I think the statement is such a profound one, I made William Butler Yeats' observation on the role of art the motto of this blog: "Supreme art is a traditional statement of certain heroic and religious truth, passed on from age to age, modified by individual genius, but never abandoned." If socialism takes over America and the world, art will cease to exist; there will only be propaganda glorifying the state.
Eat Your Art Out,
The Fine Art Diner