Art and Revolution


The weekend before last, Dan and I went to the Denver Botanic gardens for a walk, at sunset.  In retrospect, this was both a good and bad idea.

It was a good idea because we had fun and it was a lovely afternoon.  Of note, there were three weddings in the gardens that afternoon and I was amused at how ethnically mixed all three parties were.  (Ethnically because it was beyond racial.  In a party with blond bride and groom there were three Indian women in saris, for instance.  Probably work acquaintances or inlaws.)  It amused me because of the myth of growing white supremacy and racism.  It was in fact, pretty much one of those things you only see in America, even while our media is busy convincing far more segregationist Europe of how segregated and hateful we are. (PFUI.)

One of the parties was rigorous steam-punk and the guests had fanned out all over the garden, making it both very interesting and making me go “Yes, the geeks have won.”

It was a bad idea because the botanic gardens were holding a sculpture exhibit, called “human nature” with statues from various times and places.

And why was this a bad idea, Sarah?

Mostly because I’m married to a mathematician. There is a certain… ah… compulsiveness that comes with it. If there’s something that’s numbered and has a route, we OF COURSE have to follow the route and see every single statue, even if that’s not what we set out to do.

This made things very interesting, since the wedding parties were blocking some of the statues, and others we could see from a distance were the sort of modern art that your kids could do with a backyard forge, meaning the actual level of artistry was about the level of a kindergartner, only they used metal instead of playdough.

This leads us to Sarah’s first rule of art: if people viewing it have trouble telling it from accidental formations, it’s probably not art.

The second corollary of this is: if you need an elaborate card pointing out to you that it’s art, it’s probably not art.

The third would be that if you need a placard explaining to you how daring and courageous this art is, and how it defied some tyrannical regime at great peril to the artist’s life, it’s not only not art, you’re in the presence of a self-aggrandizing conman.

This always annoys me because you find this in every branch of the arts, and frankly these people are given way more credit than they should be, partly because born and bred Americans, even those who claim vaunted knowledge of the world have no actual knowledge of what life under a dictatorship that silences dissent is like.  (I remember for instance a friend who thought my mom might disapprove of my being a writer because “she thought dictators would stop you.”)

Look, unless a writer or an artist is pretty explicit in his/her opposition to a tyrannical regime there is a good chance they’ll be left unmolested.  Frankly, explicit or not the overwhelming chance is they’ll be UNNOTICED unless someone denounces them.  And even then, the ones that end up arrested have EXPLICITLY spoken out against the regime, in ways that can’t be ignored.

An East German poet I met in the eighties said that mostly the regime had contented itself in saying he was mad.  And while his poems could be read as very explicitly anti-communist, he never mentioned any of the figures of the regime at the time, and was therefore largely ignored.

Yes, tyrannies sometimes step, with disproportionate force, on normal citizens who just “said something” but those instances are usually fairly isolated and the principle of it is “unpredictable.”  (Which means they might step on you for something you never anticipated, too) Yes, this silences a lot of people who then think that it could happen to them (we are seeing some of this right now with social media banning and silencing) and moderate themselves before they speak.

BUT again, this is rarely — I would say “never” except that I don’t actually know all the outrages perpetrated by evil regimes — visited upon people who are allegorical or allude to or simply make some sculpture or painting they say “means” something.

What brought this mind particularly was this sculpture which had its own self-lauding description about the courage of the artists who made this to “oppose the Franco regime.”  The sculpture apes the image of the little princess Margarita, infanta of Spain.

Apparently, according to the card, the Franco regime made this painting a symbol of Spain or something (look, I grew up nearby and NEVER HEARD OF ANY OF THIS.) So, by turning it into a grotesque monolith the artist was “defying” Franco.

And I’m sure he felt warm ALL OVER.

Seriously.  If you’re defying an actual dictator, you name the dictator and say you’re defying him.  You don’t create a sort of 3-D silhouette of a famous painting.

I could be wrong, of course.  Maybe the artist was horribly persecuted for this sculpture and Franco talked about how much it irked him or whatever.  Frankly, I don’t feel interested enough to look it up, because the sculpture itself did not in any way engage me or make me think.

Yeah, I do get that art is a personal experience.

I’m also fairly sure if the artist had been thrown into a dungeon for the sculpture this would be mentioned that in that adulatory card.

Also, I’m starting to get sick, tired and a little nauseated after reading this sort of thing.  It’s like people patting themselves on the back for fighting the “tyrannical” Bush or Trump.  Kindly tell me about your heroism when you suffer anything from it.  Yes, okay, having certain prizes and accolades inflicted upon you  IS a form of punishment.  But since I’m fairly sure people who do this don’t think of them that way, it doesn’t count.

Bad art is bad art.  Telling me you’re so courageous for creating it doesn’t make it any better.

If you need a little card to tell me you’re so important, you’re not important.

Also, pfui.


183 thoughts on “Art and Revolution

  1. “ third would be that if you need a placard explaining to you how daring and courageous this art is, and how it defied some tyrannical regime at great peril to the artist’s life, it’s not only not art, you’re in the presence of a self-aggrandizing conman.”

    I would suggest that there is a possibility that the correct last word of that quote might be “nitwit”. It strikes me that a lot of the ‘artists’ of the Modern Progressive Era believe their own press, to some extent. They shape their goals and their Art to fit Teh Narrative, and many of them internalize it to a great degree. Keep in mind that the whole “the Artist is the Final Arbiter of Culture” nonsense is nearly 200 years old, having sprung up in the period 1815-1830, as covered in Paul Johnson’s THE BIRTH OF THE MODERN. (Which book I strongly recommend). There’s a weight and momentum of (fake) history behind it that’s hard to ignore if you are inside the field.

    1. In reading my post, I see I failed to make something clear; I think the correct term may be “Nitwit” in some individual cases, not overall.

  2. Well, I have had the government send U.S. Marshalls to interview me about comments made about a corrupt prosecutor 2600 miles away (guy was deliberately covering up the Fast and Furious investigation and absolutely obstructing justice.) They had some bizarre idea that I was commanding my hordes of followers to descend upon the courthouse and drag the ne’er-do-well out and hang him from the nearest cactus. All I said was that I thought he ought to have been hung for his crimes.

    Depending on whom you offend or irritate in the government, regardless of whether you actually committed a crime or not, Big Brother WILL do what he can to lean on you and make you shut up. But as Sarah says, you actually have to be noticed first. You can’t be oppressed if nobody knows who you are. Makes you wonder if the only artists who get grants from the National Endowment for the Arts are those who submit applications and fit their narrative. Heh. Maybe I should download the form, fill it out saying I’ll paint a picture that conveys “Orange Man Bad” for a mere $50,000, just to see what would happen.

    1. Note that the thing is also “your meaning has to be obvious” and “you have to name someone in power” (by name or title.) Not make some cryptic work of art and then claim you’re being brave.

    2. Marshals showing up to interview you to see if you plan lynching the guy isn’t being leaned on. Not in the US. Now, if you were in Russia? That I can see being threatening.
      It’s “this guy said he thought an official should die, did it publicly, yeah in 9,999 of 1,000 cases it will be Mike Houst or similar, but that one extra guy is the dumbshit that shot up the Congressional baseball practice.”

      Hell, it’s what Sheriff Israel should have done in Parkland, but he was too busy covering up criminal activity for personal gain.

      1. Was the 1,000 intended?

        And sadly there are two levels of cynicism in play here. First is the standard ruling class vs ruled “would they care if it was me”. But the mistrust of the govt wrt enforcing laws uniformly has only increased (admittedly significantly) tecently, not began.

        1. One in a thousand threats might be legit was intended, yes. Is there another possible allusion?

          Thing is, officials are different than citizens who aren’t officials– a heckler’s veto to policy is a REALLY FREAKING BIG, BAD IDEA.

          That said, if I reported someone saying “Foxfier should be hung,” then unless there’s a Sheriff of Parkland level screwup involved they do an investigation.
          Just most of the time, online, that consists of “do you even know who they are? Do they know who you are?” and gets roundfiled.

    3. “I submitted a sculpture
      for a government grant.
      It was risque and ultra-nouveau,
      a Mapplethorpe shock-value visual rant
      fit for the best East-Cost show.

      But I lost to a carving
      of a woman feeding duckies
      by a dog with big floppy ears.
      In the letter they sent me,
      they told me I was lucky
      to be among that sculptor’s peers…”

      – Greg Keeler, “Waddell’s Grant Song”

  3. Seriously, if you need a couple of courses in art appreciation to go all warm and fuzzy over something represented to be “art”…

    Me, I have never gotten the appeal of Jackson Pollock, for example. I’m sure he worked very hard to make the multicolored paint splatters on half an acre of canvas, but you could feed a flock of grackles bird seed with dye in it, and get pretty much the same effect on a sidewalk…

    1. Read THE PAINTED WORD. If Tom Wolfe was right (and I think he was) an awful lot of WTF Art doesn’t make sense until you know what Art Theory it illustrates.


      1. I agree with that and don’t even need to read the ook… but then, i have some ‘art theory’ and ‘film theory’ courses under my belt. Nothing to ruin movie going for you quite like a film theory class or two or three or four.

        Especially if they all show Battleship Potemkin.


    2. I have a bit, a bit, of a soft spot for Pollock. Not for the art as something I look at, but he did work hard and those weren’t really splatters.

      He spent a good deal of time learning how his various paints behaved under various conditions and then made deliberate placements. My one sentence explanation is “He is painterliness without subject.”

      In that I think what he did is valuable to other painters in the same way on days I’m feeling generous I say that about some of Cage for musicians.

    3. Part of the problem is that we use the same word “Art” to refer to:

      * Stratospheric level technical skill (all fields)

      * Technical skill and demonstration thereof in artistic mediums

      * The philosophy of Art

      * Artistic expression (which itself has a number of different facets that are distinct yet deeply intertwined)

      When you have this level of confusion in your language, and then on top of that have people deliberately confusing the issue, is it any wonder that Art is a more slippery concept than a spherical greased pig?

      1. Expanding on the Artistic Expression part we have:

        * Art as something pretty for pretty sake.

        * Art as something pretty/ugly for message sake (Advertisements, Religious Art, Political Art, Fairy Tales / Fables)

        * Art for depiction sake (Wanting to tell a story, paint a portrait)

        * Art for evoking a specific emotion or emotional palette

        Note that that last one is the underlying reason for the others.

        A lot of “modern” art-for-art’s-sake is based either around pure emotion, frequently something in the unsettling category, or around pure technical demonstration. The result is that our wired in need for meaning starts screaming for something to bite down on and gets nothing. Result: “art” becomes a swear word.

        And that’s with normal people. Someone like me who has a higher gain on the meaning-need wiring is going to start clawing at the walls if they can only get access to this kind of art.

        1. I see I come late. Well, I’ll leave the last word to C.S.Lewis, in =The Great Divorce=. We hear a painter consigned to Hell because he stopped looking at the glimpses of Heaven that he had seen and painted and got caught up instead studying paint for its own sake.

        1. Whether a language construct is good or bad is an mechanically simple question. Implementation can be absurdly difficult, but the mechanics are simple:

          Does this construct help, or hurt communication?

          Using “Art” to refer to all of those things which – while related – have large and very important differences between them does not help communication. At all. It is so bad that it turns “Art” into an unnecessary shyster’s playground. Well beyond anything caused by the nature of the meta-category Art itself.

          We may as well use “tool-thing” and only that word to refer to everything from a toy squeeky hammer, to a multi-million dollar machine tool.

          If you want depth in your language you need precision, not an undifferentiated blob that belongs in a modern art gallery.

          1. Gotta disagree; using the term ‘art’ for a ton of judgement based things is extremely useful for designating a difference from objective/measurable based items.

            That they are further clarified by context just strengthens that use.

            We may as well use “tool-thing” and only that word to refer to everything from a toy squeeky hammer, to a multi-million dollar machine tool.

            This is correct, BUT points to the issue you’re trying to fight and the technique of shysters.

            For example, the word “tool” is used in an even broader range of meanings– but they are still clear in context. It means something like “stuff which are used to reach a goal.”

            Cooking is both a technical feat, and an art– I am a highly skilled technical cook, but can only bob up a bit into the level where I occasionally reach art. (And damn, but it feels good– stuff just starts to click.)
            But I can still cook on a decent level by technical skill, rather than art, because I follow the bleepin’ steps.

            1. Gotta disagree; using the term ‘art’ for a ton of judgement based things is extremely useful for designating a difference from objective/measurable based items.

              That isn’t the problem. “Art” as a category name is fine, same as “tool”. The problem is that there are important parts of the subject that people are failing to distinguish.

              And thus you get people caught in endless circles arguing whether a Pollock or a Cage is Art. They catch on the question of whether something is [big-blobby-art-concept] which is an undecidable question when dealing with edge cases using that non-definition.

              A Pollock painting is definitely art-in-technical-skill, and skill-in-artistic-medium. Though more subjective it can also be art-as-something-pretty, and art-as-emotion-summoner. I don’t know enough about him to know if he was deliberately doing philosophy-of-art or not.

              Cage’s 4:33 is nearly pure philosophy-of-art, and cannot be understood outside of that.

              These arguments are all classic category failures. Not unlike trying to decide once and for all if photons are *really* a particle or not: your premises force you to fail before you have even begun.

              When your categories land you in an undecidable position you need to take them apart and figure out what the goals behind those categories are.

              1. They catch on the question of whether something is [big-blobby-art-concept] which is an undecidable question when dealing with edge cases using that non-definition.

                Then that is your issue, not the term “art.”

                Philosophy-of-art hits the “term of art” theoretical limiter, where if applied outside of the medium it is nonsense— it works, but you need the context.

                MANY of the abuses hit the context limit.


                When your categories land you in an undecidable position you need to take them apart and figure out what the goals behind those categories are.

                Yes, you do– so why did you promote dumpting the who fandamley?

                1. Then that is your issue, not the term “art.”

                  If it were just me these arguments would not be the defining aspect of how people have been talking about art for the last century plus.

                  And those “edge cases” can be massive swaths of territory. Up until the SJWs invaded the big meta-question that people argued over was “Are videogames art?”. The twu ahhhhtist gatekeepers did not want it to be, the pearl clutchers did not want it to be. Some gamers wanted it to be so they could gain some legitimacy. An entire medium (now larger than Hollywood!) is not a small matter.

                  Another “edge case” because the gatekeepers wished it to be so: science fiction.

                  Philosophy-of-art hits the “term of art” theoretical limiter, where if applied outside of the medium it is nonsense— it works, but you need the context.

                  MANY of the abuses hit the context limit.

                  THAT IS WHAT CON ARTISTS USE.

                  Which is why you need to be able to reason about this. “Philosophy of art” can be entirely summed up in the question “What is Art?”. You will never get away from it while art exists. Anything that claims you can avoid the question is either sneaking in an answer by the back door that wouldn’t otherwise hold up, or simply ignoring the problem. And what ignoring the problem results in is that someone else will define it for you, and not in a way you would have liked.

                  1. If it were just me these arguments would not be the defining aspect of how people have been talking about art for the last century plus.

                    Might want to read the argument again, I didn’t say it was “just you.”

                    Also, stop using “edge cases” in arguing with me like it’s my term when you are responding to me rejecting your argument.

                    It’s silly.

                    Additionally, somebody somewhere saying a thing has no relation to what I actually said.

                    Which is why you need to be able to reason about this. “Philosophy of art” can be entirely summed up in the question “What is Art?”. You will never get away from it while art exists. Anything that claims you can avoid the question is either sneaking in an answer by the back door that wouldn’t otherwise hold up, or simply ignoring the problem. And what ignoring the problem results in is that someone else will define it for you, and not in a way you would have liked.

                    To which, I will again say:
                    Philosophy-of-art hits the “term of art” theoretical limiter, where if applied outside of the medium it is nonsense— it works, but you need the context.

                  2. Shorter:
                    If it were just me these arguments would not be the defining aspect of how people have been talking about art for the last century plus.

                    No, because you already established that shysters like the term art.

    4. Just so you know, I’ll be quoting you on Mr. Pollock. Thing is (according to the very Secular and Non-Judgy “Humanities 2002” class I took fifteen-ish years ago), he actually could paint, half-way decently (at least as well as Hitler!) and you could even tell mostly what it depicted. And then he discovered that the TVA Art Grants that funded him didn’t care what he painted, if anything. Ergo, the portraits of economic efficiency!

      1. Say what one will about Pollack’s work, I will always appreciate his contribution to inspiring Fritz Leiber’s wonderful short, “Rump-titty-titty-tum-tah-tee.”

        BTW, found in the process of searching the exact title of that story:

        Rump-titty-titty-tum-tah-tee, or why Fritz Leiber’s short stories are worth reading
        … a story in which several beatnik artists (various media) and intellectuals (various scholarships) channel the ultimate earworm: a witch doctor, the many-times-great-grandfather of one of the beatniks, sends along the addictive phrase in the title. It comes out in a musical phrase and a paint splatter, and rapidly spreads, disrupting society to the point that the group reconvenes to implore “Many Greats” for the antidote. He provides it, under duress from the higher ups in his current environment.

  4. By my lights, art is that which causes an emotional reaction. Most modern “art” elicits nothing more than “yep, that’s a…thing.” Occasionally I’ll come across something that makes me think “that’s pretty neat to look at” which is a useful definition for decoration, not art.

        1. Oh, hell, yes. In fact, they made a dining room rug from carpet remnants in the pattern of one of his designs, and it looked great! It was good graphic design, abstract color-balance subdivision. But to like it as Art? 🤷‍♂️

  5. If memory serves, the CIA supported a lot of Modern Art back during the Cold War, as subversion against the Soviets. Since most modern artist were (and are) good little Socialist, them and their works would get to be shown behind the Iron Curtain- which had the counter effect of displaying western freedom to those chained to the dictates of Socialist Realism. “You mean they can make THIS rubbish, and still be free to travel? And the government doesn’t censor it?”

    1. I think you’re inverting that. We KNOW that the KGB supported a lot of modern art in the belief by making our art ugly they would subvert capitalism.

      1. Because of that, I tend not to support lefty-approved artwork or sculpture…

        especially since I like strong-and-sexy female figurines that modern feminists/SJWs/neomarxists could probably type entire dissertations on whereupon they could theorize on my racial treason because of the whiteness of the character and self-hatred of my feminine form (because natch it doesn’t look like me) and how it is an expression of my ‘suppressed lesbianism, hidden behind a cis-het mask, and biofemale privilege and oppression of transgender male to females by refusing to concede that transwomen are more entitled to men than myself as a reward for their efforts in becoming a woman, therefore I should kill myself to make way for transwomen’… or something. I kind of threw a bunch of their favorite buzzwords that I’ve seen/read/heard lately together.

        Also, I rather regret having clicked on the link of some of those supposed sculptures, because really, all I can think about is what a huge waste of metal that is, and it’s not even pleasant to look at. You were being very generous in calling it play-do. I’d have said ‘monkey playing with turds.’

        1. … they could theorize on my racial treason because of the whiteness of the character and self-hatred of my feminine form (because natch it doesn’t look like me) and how it is an expression of my ‘suppressed lesbianism … blah blah blah … transwomen’… or something.

          Heh. Maybe you could make and market a game of some kind: Write all the buzzwords on little tiles, shake them around in a cup, and make sentences out of the ones that pour out face-up. It might work if the players were sufficiently hammered.

        2. I love the cat in that figurine. ~:D

          The big noise in art these days is Anime, for sculpture or video or drawing. Y’all can fight me, but when I look at the artz kidz on the interwebz, that’s what they’re doing.

          “Modern” art at this point is entirely derivative. Blobs made to resemble previous blobs that were supposed to look like Jackson Pollock. Or the ultimate lazy fucker, that con-artist who made “Voice of Fire” which is a RACING STRIPE, and he didn’t even get the cut line straight.

        3. I tend not to support lefty</DEL government-approved artwork or sculpture…

          What damn fools do with their own money is not any of my business (until it disturbs my sleep or spoils my view) but what the government takes my money to do in the name of en-effing-hancing my environment is a whole different thing.

          It is mostly cronyism, often corrupt, corrosive of fiscal discipline, contributing to an improper relationship between the government and those whom they would govern. It encourages mediocrity in artists and indifference n the public. By indulging the popular progressive fable that “Art is supposed to challenge our values” it violates the compact between citizen and state under which the servant has no right “challenging” the master.

          It is also conducive to public immorality and, I suspect, contributes to poor hygiene and tooth decay.

          1. Neal Boortz had a line that if you were trying to find a government building in an unfamiliar city, look for an ugly piece of modern sculpture.

            1. 🙂 Too true. OR public park. Or new bridge on the damn freeway, both ends! Although the latter 3 as art pieces aren’t bad. But OMG do we have some WTH is that, ugly ones in our parks.

              I wish they’d left the photo tube shaped as horses, sometimes mares with foals, both sides (a dozen locations.) Made it interesting traveling between southern Portland and Eugene.

        4. Some abstract modern sculpture is fun. There’s an artist out my way (Steve Tobin) who does swoopy abstracts that look like some alien caught in mid-step. Then there was the sculptor (whose name I forget, damnit!) who did abstratcs that rocked and swayed. Ohio State wanted one and he told them it would take an extra couple of weeks to reinforce it so that students could climb on it without damaging it. The Ohio State people told him “But the students won’t be ALLOWED to climb on it.”. There are various versions of his answer, ranging from a flat stare to “Where’s the fun in THAT!?!”

          But most abstracts are just jumbles of uninteresting scrap.

          1. Oh, no. I’ve seen GOOD abstract art, especially motion sculptures that incorporate entertaining water physics, or wind or light into it. Interactive modern art that does that? Good stuff. Especially if the artist intends that part of it is supposed to be FUN? That’s lovely and human-joy invoking.

            Blocky lumpy turds of metal? The message is inevitably ‘I hate people. and life.’

    2. I might have been hearing more than Scruton actually said on the topic, but I thought it was a reactionary impulse against Socialist Realism, the way hideous West German slab-o’-concrete buildings were a reaction against Albert Speer and his philosophy of “how good would it look as a ruin?”

    1. I am thinking of a dramatic panorama of Pilate’s hand-washing here – I don’t remember who did it, but it was done by an Italian, whose brother was also a painter, in peak years for chiaroscuro. That doesn’t quite speak without the outside context, does it? I mean, you certainly can tell it’s art, if that’s what you mean, but context IS important.

    2. The Conundrum of the Workshops
      When the flush of a new-born sun fell first on Eden’s green and gold,
      Our father Adam sat under the Tree and scratched with a stick in the mould;
      And the first rude sketch that the world had seen was joy to his mighty heart,
      Till the Devil whispered behind the leaves, “It’s pretty, but is it Art?”

      Wherefore he called to his wife, and fled to fashion his work anew —
      The first of his race who cared a fig for the first, most dread review;
      And he left his lore to the use of his sons — and that was a glorious gain
      When the Devil chuckled “Is it Art?” in the ear of the branded Cain.

      They builded a tower to shiver the sky and wrench the stars apart,
      Till the Devil grunted behind the bricks: “It’s striking, but is it Art?”
      The stone was dropped at the quarry-side and the idle derrick swung,
      While each man talked of the aims of Art, and each in an alien tongue.

      They fought and they talked in the North and the South, they talked and they fought in the West,
      Till the waters rose on the pitiful land, and the poor Red Clay had rest —
      Had rest till that dank blank-canvas dawn when the dove was preened to start,
      And the Devil bubbled below the keel: “It’s human, but is it Art?”

      The tale is as old as the Eden Tree — and new as the new-cut tooth —
      For each man knows ere his lip-thatch grows he is master of Art and Truth;
      And each man hears as the twilight nears, to the beat of his dying heart,
      The Devil drum on the darkened pane: “You did it, but was it Art?”

      We have learned to whittle the Eden Tree to the shape of a surplice-peg,
      We have learned to bottle our parents twain in the yelk of an addled egg,
      We know that the tail must wag the dog, for the horse is drawn by the cart;
      But the Devil whoops, as he whooped of old: “It’s clever, but is it Art?”

      When the flicker of London sun falls faint on the Club-room’s green and gold,
      The sons of Adam sit them down and scratch with their pens in the mould —
      They scratch with their pens in the mould of their graves, and the ink and the anguish start,
      For the Devil mutters behind the leaves: “It’s pretty, but is it Art?”

      Now, if we could win to the Eden Tree where the Four Great Rivers flow,
      And the Wreath of Eve is red on the turf as she left it long ago,
      And if we could come when the sentry slept and softly scurry through,
      By the favour of God we might know as much — as our father Adam knew!

  6. There is a thing called “Iroquois” in Philadelphia ( I have no idea what it has to do with the nation or anything. I don’t know that the human Iroquois know this exists. But, I get to walk by it a lot and it’s rather annoying. As a side note, it used to swing (that part that looks like an “L” on its back). But too many people jumped up and played with it, so they added a cable to hold it down. Some people have no respect for art! 😀

    1. There is one on the way out of one of the MARTA stations I use (every Wednesday because it’s close to my comic shop and some other days) of sheet metal cutouts in “humanoid” shapes bent are various angles and each painted in a different bright color.

      It’s called “Diversity”. Can’t find a picture of it, but there is this beast at the other end of the station:

      1. Everyone knows that the Iroquois were known for their courage in battle, their hairstyles, and their unmatched skill at making orange I-beams.

        1. if it had been made by Mohawks, it’d not need the cable support
          It’s like someone tried to honor the iron hangers of the Mohawks, messed it up and named it for the Iroquois to piss em off.

          1. Zsuzsa – Yup, that was a thing. A modern thing. A lot of upstate New York and Canadian Indians from the former Iroquois Confederacy were construction workers building skyscrapers. They were really good at not looking down, having good balance having a good head for heights, etc.

            Of course, that sculpture could also be random pickup stix.

    2. I think “Iroquois” could be subtitled: “I got a great deal on beams and plate! Think I can get some sucker to pony up for the paint?”

    3. Once again I think of the editorial cartoon with a fellow rushing out to a truck, “No! No! That’s the Art in Public Places sculpture. The scrap pile is over there!” As I recall, the scrap pile looked more artistic, naturally.

  7. I remember progressive friends talking about how worried they were about getting arrested/”disappeared” if they were overheard talking against the “W” administration. Sigh… what idiots.

    Now I get to hear about how “tyrannical” and “fascist” the Trump administration is. I can kinda see their point. After all, he did lower (nearly) everyone’s taxes, practically against their will! Among other things of course. I know a Puerto Rican who is CONVINCED that Trump wants to deport him… never mind, of course, that Puerto Rico is technically part of the US, and Puerto Ricans are considered American Citizens. Not that it matters, since (I’m pretty sure) he was born in New York anyway.

    1. Actually, enough of them are getting annoying enough I want Trump to give them what they want and disappear them.

      Then let them come back in a month…maybe they’ll learn how it is nicer to just LARP it.

    2. I laughed so hard I almost ran a red light when I was behind the Latest & Greatest SUV with the usual wokenut assortment of bumperstickers plastered on its back, capped by a shiny new one that read “Is This Freedom?”

      …yes, actually, it is.

          1. I mean, if you were going to set up a gulag here in the States where else would you go?
            Alaska requires you to use aircraft or ships if you don’t want to pass through Canada, and more southern deserts are too close to Mexico. There aren’t really a lot of great options.

            1. North Dakota. Just dump ’em in the woods, no fence. The ones that “escaped” would be dead in four days, long before they got to Canada.

              Because Wokenuts ™

              1. There’s no where near enough trees on the HIGH PLAINS of North Dakota to make up a “woods” to dump them in.

                1. You beat me to that observation.
                  In the winter the winds start in Northern Manitoba and don’t stop ’til they hit the Rio Grande. Because there’s nothing in the way to stop them.

      1. Behind us (as soon as we humanly could) today on the highway was a car saying “I am not a Republican”. He was weaving madly from lane to lane without a turn signal.
        As I told Dan “Well, they do have a bumper sticker saying ‘I’m not rational.'”
        Okay, I’m also not a republican, mostly. But feeling the need to proclaim it to all on the highway would seem to translate that way.
        he laughed.

    3. Tell them about the Broad Agency Announcement in the last batch that is clearly asking for fundamental work to be done on the mathematics of mass murder. Tell them about a quiet mathematics think tank formerly associated with the University of Nebraska. Tell them about the rulemaking on Medicare part H, H for holocaust. Tell them that the Denver International Airport security force has been murdering some of Colorado’s new homeless, and turning them into chemtrails.

    4. To publicly denounce Trump as Fascist, while being in the US within easy reach of death squads, requires one of three things:

      1. Tzar Nicholas II in 1914 level of stupidity, not to realize that you could be targeted by death squads.

      2. White Rose level of bravery, not to care that you could be targeted by death squards.


      3. Enough hypocrisy to know that Trump doesn’t have death squads and still denounce him as a Fascist.

      Which isn’t to say that there aren’t certain things Trump has in common with how Mussolini and Hitler were in the 1930s. Same number of legs, for example. Roughly similar number of teeth. Etc.

      1. The fact that Trump breathes air* like Hitler and Mussolini is a definite sign of a Fascist dictator.

        *and they all turned good oxygen into evil carbon dioxide, killing the planet!

      2. Actually, it is option four.

        If you use the right secret decoder ring, originally distributed in 1958, you can understand the messages used to recruit and organize Trump’s inner party and direct action groups.

        The Art of the Deal actually contains a starkly horrific theory of state power when you can find the true message in it.

        Trump’s death squads have never had as many as thirty people serving at any point during this administration. Yes, Blokhin was able to kill 200 people a day. So 15 people could have killed under three million and 25 under five million, in theory. In practice, Blokhin had a better support structure, and Trump’s death squads have been much less efficient.

        Back of the envelope, if Trump has had ten thousand political enemies killed so far, and he has about thirty million dedicated political enemies, that is only a realized danger of one in three thousand.

  8. I’m still waiting for the list of critics President Trump has had shot by his henchmen, the names of his prison and re-education camps, and the placards demanding the release of political prisoners who were jailed for writing critical stories. (No, those with convictions for drug dealing, burglary, armed robbery, or drunk and disorderly conduct don’t count as political prisoners.)
    I’m becoming more and more convinced that a modern humanities education endows its recipients with all the maturity, good sense, and sober rationality of Chicken Little.

    1. Well, you can find a Clinton body count page. Can’t find one for Trump. The anti-Trump ones all concentrate on his being a chip off his racist father’s block, and dealing with all kinds of mob and crime families to do construction. Never mind that you couldn’t DO any construction without dealing with them.

      1. How dare they smear President Trump like that, making him sound like a Democrat.

            1. One of many reasons he should. But, and with him it is a big but, Hillary thought it was extremely funny when 0bama insulted him at the Press Dinner and supposedly he decided that night to do what he could to undo everything they did and prevent her from being President.
              It has been entertaining.

              1. And the Left and the MSM (but I repeat myself) can’t restrain themselves from constantly attacking, insulting, and belittling him, which serves to further push him apart from his earlier Dem ties.

                1. Indeed! They seem intent on forming him into the shape of their destructor. I can only think of one other Republican president* in my lifetime so instinctively inclined to give the Left almost all they desire, but every time Trump extends the hand of comity they reflexively bite at it.

                  *That would be, of course, Richard “EPA” Nixon, he of the Wage & Price Controls. All he wanted was contain the Soviets and he would have remade America in their image in order to do so.

                2. I don’t think them ties were that tight. More biz relationship sorta like having to deal with the Mob to build in NYC and Jersey. He was rich enough, the policies didn’t affect him much, and he always had a rather antagonistic relationship with the MSM. So, all the attacks are like water off a duck, and he know just exactly what to do to play them into all kinds of responses.
                  He is doing way, way better than I expected. Could be better, but I expected worse, though certainly not Hillary levels of worse.
                  I bought in knowing I was getting a Yugo instead of a burned up Trabant, and I am finding the Yugo has every Fiat 127 race part in the book on it.

          1. Aw, shucks, ain’t nothing but the truth. Just as one example, I know a woman who bought the Dems propaganda and wasted the first few years of her adulthood working for the Democratic Party apparat. Then frequent visitors to the offices started turning up on the evening news, courtesy of an FBI organized crime task force. A re-evaluation of career choice and political allegiance followed.

      2. There’s been Arkancide, I’ve read, but not a whisper of Trumpencide. Which must be due to lack of bodies turning up here or there.

    2. Silly fool; don’t you realize that he’s sent his henchmen back in time ti remove those people from History?

      1. Well dang! I need to apply to the Secret Temporal Police Force then. I’ve got a list…

  9. It’s like people patting themselves on the back for fighting the “tyrannical” Bush or Trump.

    Screaming at the cops defending them, spitting on soldiers, throwing paint on little old ladies who appear to be wearing fur, mobbing cute girls wearing a kimono while not obviously Japanese…..

    They’re awful brave against folks they know can’t hurt them.

    1. Don’t forget that state representative who bravely confronted a little old lady praying outside an abortion clinic. Truly, the soldiers of D-Day had nothing on him.

      I would have loved it if that story ended with him finding her house, trying to stage a protest outside the way he threatened, and then discovering that she lived with her two dockworker sons, Guido and Frankie, who are over six feet tall, collectively weigh about 530 lbs, and don’t take too kindly to folks harassing Mom…

      1. In that case the story would have been “Christian men assault openly-gay state representative.”

        1. Doubt it. Pretty sure the headline would have been more along the lines of, “Openly-gay state representative reinforces stereotypes by pissing his pants as he runs away like a scared little girl…”

    2. I love the ones who get bent out of shape when beat on for their attacks. You smashed someone in the head while holding an egg and stayed within reach? You got no reason NOT to expect getting a slug back from your assault victim or their body guards. Do you REALLY want to go that route?

      1. In too many minds, yes. Figure at best the establishment will turn a blind eye like portland. Others expect that sympathetic juries will commit nullification.

        Not necessarily a valid assumption but the assumption that same thoughts playing thru victims minds adds to the feeling of power and righteousness.

        1. Some of them seem to be ignorant enough to not realize that what they’re doing is actually against the law. Anyone who disagrees with them is involved in “hate speech” and a “fascist”, and you’re allowed to do anything you want to “fascists” and those involved in “hate speech” just short of actual murder.

          Case in point, the young female college student recently caught on camera (by the victim) who stole a pro-life sign, and then seemed dumb-founded when a cop not only stopped her, but actually arrested her.

          1. I was thinking of the Aussie kid and his supporters who whined after he egged a pol (with quite a bit of force) who then slugged him. How dare he strike someone who had just struck him! The Nerve!

    3. Well, if they picked on weaker folk, they’ll come out pretty much unscathed.

  10. There is also art which is suppressed because it’s better than the work produced by the ideologically sanctioned artists. I recall reading about the thriving trade in smuggled Jazz records in Moscow during the Cold War–the Soviets were making these lavish spectacles of culture, with ballets and symphonies, and the people were risking prison to listen to Duke Ellington and Charlie Parker.

    1. A thing I read about somewhere was old X-ray films being repurposed to press bootleg albums in the Soviet Union.

          1. I saw it long ago, I think maybe Yakov Smirnoff going back to Russia after the ussr failed, but way back then. I also knew a dentist with a massive record collection who was trying to get a few for his collection. (when single he rented a 3 bedroom apartment to hold his collection)

            1. I wonder how close that building was to collapse…

              Vinyl records are *heavy*. When I moved to CDs I gave my LPs to a friend in another state. It cost him a small fortune in shipping to get them to his place, one ten pound box at a time…

              1. And there were also three other collectors in that complex (though their 3 collections were together only slightly more than his one. At one time they all shared a house, but eventually they needed more space, and the dentist got engaged, therefore wanted his own lodgings. Odd group. A rock band, their manager (who later became a co-worker and friend of mine) and a Jewish soon to be dentist (who I met when he was still in med school, when he and 3 of the band guys came over for Mardi Gras . . one guy in a Mr. Rodgers sweater, and 3 in leather jackets)

    2. Of course. Trust me. We know all about that. Not talking about me. not that it’s that hard to be better than the ideologically sanctioned artists.

  11. It’s like people patting themselves on the back for fighting the “tyrannical” Bush or Trump. Kindly tell me about your heroism when you suffer anything from it.

    On Monday there was a tweet (now gone apparently) that said something along these lines:

    Our great grandfathers fought WW1
    Our grandfathers fought WW2
    Our fathers fought Vietnam
    So now recognize your valor for resisting the dictator Trump.

    My reply was not friendly.

  12. I have a rule for these types of installations: if the object is meaningless without the placard, then the placard is the activity. Neither political polemics nor personal credentials are art.

  13. I clicked to both the sculpture, and original paintings. I am not impressed. The paintings are lovely; the sculpture is meh. And wasn’t Franco dead long before 2005?

  14. Who was it that first said, “If you have to say you are, you aren’t”? Works for everybody including artists.

  15. C S Lewis:

    “It is taken as basic by all the culture of our age that whenever artists and audience lose touch, the fault must be wholly on the side of the audience. (I have never come across the great work in which this important doctrine is proved.)”

  16. Sarah, a note about the weddings you noticed. Someone pointed out that it took about 60 years from the great influx of Irish and Southern Europeans to America before they became just a part of our heritage and not an outsider (except in certain snobby circles). An American of Irish or Italian descent marrying an American of British descent is no longer even remarkable. I have observed this phenomenon starting to take place with pale Americans and those with more melanin now that it’s about 60 years after the Civil Rights Act. Just sayin’….

      1. I can believe it as almost all multi-generation American blacks are mixed race of some sort whether dating from the actual days of slavery or after the emancipation. The imposition of Jim Crow laws and marriage certificates (yes that’s where they trace from, to try to prevent mixed-race marriages) retarded the natural American tendency to intermix until after the Civil Rights laws, at least in my opinion. The D party is back at it again insisting on segregation in all things–for the good of the benighted of course. Always the same thing with that party. Sigh.

        1. The imposition of Jim Crow laws and marriage certificates (yes that’s where they trace from, to try to prevent mixed-race marriages)

          Not actually true, but frequently reported.
          The US has had marriage licenses for longer than the country has been here. (Massachusetts began requiring marriage licenses in 1639, per a live science article.) They are to prevent invalid marriages (such as when one person is already married), and some states declared certified-black-and-certified-white marriages to be invalid.

          I don’t know where the story got started, though I know it’s in all kinds of scholarly reports– the funny thing is that there are a bunch of different dates used as the “first required marriages licenses to prevent intermarriage” thing, and they vary by over a century!

          1. Thanks Foxfier for letting me know. One of those things I swallowed without researching. Good cautionary tale.

            1. You’re welcome!
              The scary thing with that one is that even if you HAD done the research, you would’ve been confirmed– unless you happened to look in two places and notice they had different dates.

              Several years ago on Ricochet one of the posters did a really great article about the history of marriage that mentioned it.

  17. I’m remembering a long ago news story about a piece of “Art” at the Chicago Art Institute that was hauled away as trash. IIRC, the tone of the article was that the trash collectors were Philistines, but one suspects they were classically trained artists and impromptu critics. (With a garbage truck.)

    1. I had a short story once about a group of art thieves who disguised themselves as trash men and hauled away public art. They considered themselves modern day Robin Hoods: robbing from the rich to save the poor from needing brain bleach…

    1. Springsteen made that claim about GWB. Had nothing to do with not having anything out for much of that time and what he did release being lack luster and more a place holder.
      His latest is not bad, but not great either . . . but that is based on hearing one song in full and a part of another. I predict a Trump blame in his future.

      1. Which I find particularly amusing given the existence of the “tortured-soul” and “you must suffer for your art” tropes. Shouldn’t artists *seek out* opportunities to be inspired by their terrible circumstances?

        I have even seen some discussion of hiphop artists seeking to do a year or three in jail for minor crimes in order to boost their street cred. Which is way more than I am willing to do. Or, apparently, certain other “artists”.

    2. Oh and GWB was once asked about listening to someone who spouted hate for him, and he replied if he only listened to musicians who he knew supported him, he’d have a much shorter play list

    3. Preach. I know a traditional fine artist whose stuff isn’t being bought and indeed is far too pretty ever to be seen dead in a metropolitan art museum, and she’s just like “okay how do I work on my marketing.” (I think it is beginning to succeed.)

  18. 1) Mostly because I’m married to a mathematician. There is a certain… ah… compulsiveness that comes with it. If there’s something that’s numbered and has a route, we OF COURSE have to follow the route and see every single statue, even if that’s not what we set out to do.

    I totally understand. We were in Las Vegas for the Ceasar’s Palace 50th anniversary, and I found myself standing at Significant Spot 6 of 10 that they had set up. That, of course, meant that I had to spend the rest of our trip trying to find the other nine spots, and as an added challenge, I tried to do it just by exploring rather than getting the official map and doing it that way (I found 9 of 10 on my own, but I had to get the map for the last one, otherwise that last spot would have driven me nuts forever).

    2) When I was in my freshman year of college some alumna donated a whole bunch of modern art that was put up in the science quad. Fortunately, it was only there for about six months before it was sent to a gallery, but it was a painful six months.

    One of the sculptures was of fifteen headless people, and the seniors of that year decided to play a prank by putting all fifteen in adult diapers. In front of the sculpture, they wrote a message in chalk:

    “Is this art? It Depends.”

    1. One of the good but creepy as hell statues was from a Swedish sculptor. What she thought she was saying was something about the environment. What she was saying was that the featureless sameness and zombie-like receptiveness of her characters says a lot about a culture where “enough” (meaning “the same as everyone else” has become something to strive for/aim at and the socially approved thing.

  19. If your art requires someone to explain why it works, you have a problem.

    Look, I understand that there are things I will miss and never quite get. The appeal of blouse-ripping vampire romance novels (the fetishization of a sapient STD, eww…). Why people find The Big Bang Theory funny. Lots of “art” that looks like piles of junk glued together.

    I can “get” kinds of art that aren’t my usual taste. I can understand how jazz and rap work, even if I’m not a fan. Or romantic comedies. Or Bujold novels.

    But, please don’t pretend that you can make us confused and call it “art.” It smells more like “scam” to me.

  20. Modern “art” is more con game than anything else. I seem to recollect John C. Wright having posts on the subject…basically, the art critics will buy stuff cheap, then publicize the artist, and sell the art they had bought at a high profit.

    There’s commercial art that is quite good, though. And go over to and enjoy.

        1. according to what i have seen, he died at the scene, and the officer he shot, his vest stopped it.

            1. Update:

              Virginia Beach shooter named as fired city utility worker and Army veteran
              DeWayne Craddock, 40, was identified as the Virginia Beach shooter who killed 12 people and injured at least half a dozen others Friday.

              Craddock worked as a certified professional engineer for the city in the Public Utilities Department and was listed on news releases for the department as a person of contact for information on local road projects in the past several years.

              He previously served in the Army National Guard and graduated from Denbigh High School in Newport News, Va., in 1996, according to a Daily Press report from that year.

              He graduated from Old Dominion University in 2002 with a degree in civil engineering and received his professional engineer license in 2008.

              His criminal record was limited to traffic tickets, according to the Daily Beast.

              According to the Wall Street Journal, Craddock had been fired and opened fire at his former workplace as revenge. Police did not disclose a motive Friday.

              Officials told the newspaper that Craddock had purchased multiple firearms in recent weeks. Law enforcement officials told CNN the weapons appeared to have been legally purchased.

              Craddock was killed while exchanging gunfire with police, Virginia Beach Police Chief James Cervera said.

              1. Related only to the page itself-
                holy mother of F, seriously, they auto-play a feed about freaking tariffs on a shooter page?

                Cus that is like totally rational.
                “Hey, they are interested in the guy who shot people. Let’s tell them about import costs!”

              2. Question:
                Any Army guys on here to tell me if an Army National Guard guy is usually considered an “Army Veteran”?
                I know Army is kinda different, and that technically AFR and NR are both put into the air force and navy systems, but it’s a pretty distinct line… just nobody I know is in position to give info.

                1. For the purposes of the News, any guy who once drove past a National Guard facility will be called an “Army Veteran” for the first two days, and then vanish, never to be heard of again.

                    1. Yes, and if you parse their bullshit on your blog, you are FakeNews.

                      We in Canada are about to have a no-joking Ministry of Truth, which will literally pick and choose what news stories are “True” and ban the rest. There will be extra-judicial fines and other punishments handed out by the (no I’m not kidding) Section 13 of the Human Rights Commission, a (still not kidding) tribunal which will trawl the internet looking for “hate speech” and drag the perpetrators forth for a good talking-to. The tribunal will not operate by the same rules as a court of law, and as we have previously seen, verifiable truth will not be a defense.

                      Good thing there’s an election coming in October. The Conservatives will very likely do exactly the same thing, but they’ll do it slower. Conservatives know how to boil the frog, they don’t rush.

                2. I can’t tell you about the army side.

                  I can tell you that given the dates, and looking at the rules on the Virginia website, the time taken to complete the degree and get the PE is about right. Assuming Old Dominion’s civil program is ABET accredited. He had a couple of years here and that could have been spent on time in the Army.

                  I would expect a PE to put some forethought and planning into a spree shooting, so that part isn’t strange.

                  What does seem strange is that a PE, without disciplinary actions ongoing and with a whole year before the renewal being due, would go on a shooting spree instead of finding another job.

                  It may be that I am wrong, even stupid, for thinking ‘Only forty and has the PE? Why not just move on, that is practically like having a career in front of you?’

                  Three possibilities come to mind.

                  One is that whatever got him fired was a fairly serious matter, and would have had broader repercussions.

                  Two, he’d become dysfunctional as a result of an emerging mental health issue.

                  Three, maybe he was an affirmative action hire directly into the public sector, had never worked anywhere else, never pushed himself to be able to work anywhere else, and emotionally speaking didn’t realize it was even possible.

                  Those autopsy reports will be interesting when they are available to the public.

                  1. Distant fourth possibility: he was accused of some sexual impropriety, knows he was framed, and went classically postal. The fake accusations being taken completely seriously by a kangaroo court happen often enough that such a scenario is gonna happen SOMETIME.

                    And when it does, the fascist-feminists will have the gall to be surprised.

                    1. If I didn’t think of that while writing one, I almost thought of it. Racist boss frame had occurred to me, I’m not sure why I hadn’t considered sexist boss, or a sexist and a boss who wouldn’t support.

                      That career path could fit with a single, fairly high functioning autistic of the sort who are loathed by a certain flavor of sexist.

                      The thing about the criminal record is suspiciously similar to the criteria used by the Virginia board of licensure for PEs. The Daily Beast could have been relying on his clear record with them for that conclusion. Especially with the timing.

                      The Virginia board links to an NCEES website. I’ve spent a little time today happily reading copies of an NCEES newsletter apparently intended for state boards of licensure. Which had some hilarious stories of investigating PEs, and discovering all sorts of felonies that had not been disclosed to state boards.

                      No wonder so many people try to observe the 48 hour rule.

                  2. “Those autopsy reports will be interesting when they are available to the public.”

                    You’ll have to go look that stuff up yourself, he’s not a white guy so the media will memory-hole this incident by tomorrow.

              3. Yes, but tell us the most important statistic: Was he a Democrat or a Bernie Sanders voter?

                1. I must still be ill.

                  Didn’t even think to check.

                  It doesn’t look like there is a way to check someone else’s voter registration online in that jurisdiction.

                  Social media is not something I look at, likely has been scrubbed, and what he left behind might have been set up for effect anyway.

                  1. African American and a public employee? I know which way I’d call the odds.

  21. Fourth, if you need a little placard explaining what the art is supposed to represent, and even then only someone with an art degree is going to be able to see it, the problem is not the viewer, its the artist.

    I played a little game in my fourth and last film theory class… i would take a film, pin one of the standard themes on it that was NOT assigned to it by my betters, and then come up with a BS explanation why it fit. The instructor knew what i was doing… lol.

  22. …3-D silhouette of a famous painting.

    This is something these educated assholes do to preen in front of their peers. They take something famous, like the Elgin Marbles, and they copy it, but then they add a twist. Thus we get:

    Which sold at auction, according to Wikipedia, for $5.6 million bucks. The same author has produced an inflatable lobster pool toy.

    So really, it is less Art than a mockery of art, and a scam to get money.

    On the front lawn of the Phoeinx Modern Art Museum when I went the last time was a large cage with car-sized a red plastic tyranosaurus toy in it. I was supposed to read some kind of profound message into it.

    I declined.

  23. I was working at Ohio State when they built the Wexner Center For The Artistically Challenged, and the arts community was horrified that one of the pieces commissioned for the event had been vandalized by students.

    It seems that some Japanese (IIRC) artist put up a bunch of plywood “shacks” all over campus, and they forgot to tell 50,000 drunken college students that it was “art”. I think a lot of it got used for a bonfire after a football game.


    1. Well I went out for a walk last week,
      I passed a shop they call a boutique.
      Fancy Dresses of every size, fancy wigs to pop your eyes.
      Bracelets, diamond rings, stuff for women too.

      Well I didn’t want to see no more,
      I slipped inside the grocery store.
      I took down a can of beans, I pulled a dollar out of my jeans.
      A fella said “Hold it, that’ll be three hundred dollars”.

      Well a feather could’ve knocked me down,
      I mean, I knew this was a high priced town.
      But this was getting hard to take, I said “What the hell do you get for steak?”
      He looked surprised, said “It isn’t just a can of beans, It’s a work of art”.

      Still if I had my preference, I’d rather be Batman

  24. If you need a little card to tell me you’re so important, you’re not important.

    My father always liked to mention that on the English language side of Hirohito’s business cards it simply read:

    [Hirohito’s given name]

    And that was it….cause really what else was needed?

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