At 09:21 AM 9/20/99 -0400, Robin Hanson wrote:
>... I read a for me thought provoking article
>"Nobrow Culture" by John Seabrook in New Yorker, 9/20/99, p.104.
>I'd be interested to hear the reactions to it of those more
>art-savvy than I.
You gotta have fun with this piece - and so I did.
Seabrook begins he article in The New Yorker by letting us know that we are accompanying him on his way to buy some tomatoes and to witness his final deliberates over Belgian tomatoes or the late-season Jersey tomatoes.
The real taster-test to cultural elitism is if you know of John Cage. And, if you do, are you familiar with the Whiskey A Go Go, and if so, then did you take your research a bit further to learn about Oscar Fischinger. Can you converse on music "noise" and "silence" or "juju" as described and exhibited by John Cage? And, if you don't care, is it because it's too abstract?
Dawkins: memes 101; Cage: aesthetics 101.
An important point Seabrook made in this article, and his book as well, is that the more one knows about a particular subject, the more refined that person becomes. He or she develops an assortment of reference points that give knowledge to the particular subject. This in itself separates the knowledgeable person form the person(s) who has not developed an interest or study of the subject, or has no interest in the subject, or has a minor but educated interest in the study but his/her cross-references are limited. The limited cross-references could be based on any number of reasons, such as narrow thinking, upbringing, not having the time or resources, etc.
The person(s) who have an absorbed knowledge of a particular subject can no longer communicate with ease with those who do not share references, or do not have the skill to bridge reference-gaps. Thus an elitism can develop, not out of one thinking she or he is better, but out of a need for the communication and finding stimulating and well-rounded or well-thought out communications rather than shallow or non-shallow attempts by those who want to communicate but haven't the knowledge.
The old totem of elite, as Seabrook says, requires culture, quality, time and money. So does the appreciation and study of biotechnology. In order to feel fluid in the biotechnological culture, one needs the culture (community), the quality of information (individuals who are well read and have made contributions) the time to attend conferences and keep up with the latest information, and the money to all same. In the art world there are many cultures, but let's bring it home. One needs the culture (Transhumanist Arts), the quality of information (individuals who are well read and have made contributions), the time to attend events, and the money to commission the arts. (Film, video, computer graphics, books, painting, etc.)
Throughout the 1970s the art came off the canvas (metaphor) and began walking around the museums, galleries, and streets. New York is very famous for this. I recall being at the Metropolitan Museum for an extravagant opening. Being radical, I wore a silk nightgown and my girlfriend (who was editor of House Beautiful magazine) wore a potato sack, and her husband (a Manhattan architect) wore a tuxedo. We were our art. In fact, we were so shocking in our garb, the WWW (Women's Wear Daily) photographed us!
The 70s was a mixture of museum and gallery openings and the most fun was getting dressed for the events and people watching. The "real" events became the cocktail parties.
In 1985, I held an exhibition in Los Angeles at the first CyberGallery at EZTV in West Hollywood. The theme was 12 paintings of people. They were full length (approx. 5 ' x 7') and each person in the paintings came to the exhibition dressed exactly as she or he was dressed in the full length portraits. It was if the people had simply walked off the canvasses! It was a huge success. What made this a success was that it was so much fun. Also, I sold every painting except one.
At this exhibition, I think that Seabrook comments fit quite well: "The audience is at least as interesting to look at as the art is … But most people are there just to chill out and watch one another, secure in the knowledge that they are the culture."
"In the early eighties, it was still possible to have made it through six years of literary studies at two world-class universities without encountering any significant challenge to the notion that an individual's taste - the ability to tell a good book from a bad book, say, on the basis of certain accepted standards, which you could learn - was one of the most important qualities a civilized person could possess. Taste was the concentrated essence of one's cultural capital-the syrup made from all the great works of Western civilization you had imbibed, boiled down, and refined."
Highbrow - lowbrow - nobrow. High art, Low Art - no art. Susan Sontag thought that these descriptive words did little for the arts or the appreciation. High art simply means that it was produced or viewed by someone who is well invested and versed in the arts, someone who has taken the time to study, research and produce any one of the many modalities of art. Low simply means that art is a craft - like weaving or throwing clay on the spinning wheel. Highbrow referred to fashion - pearls and heels, lowbrow was more for the back hills crowd.
This paragraph was a delightfully humorous and culturally revealing cultural reflection, as Seabrook says that he may not be able to discern a piece of art, but he darn well knows how to pick a tomato. To his surprise, when he opens the tomato it lowbrow. Moral to the story.
If one wants to be knowledgeable (and if knowledge is power) develop
interest and understanding of the arts. You may not like it at first, feel
unsure, but keep going. Learning how to log on and build a Web site wasn't
easy as pie for everyone in just starting out, nor was calculus nor was
understanding the double helix, which way it is spiraling, what are those
ladders holding them together or pushing them apart, and those pearly dots
along the strands. It takes time to learn.
But, back to the subject of tomatoes: I know a little about tomatoes. I
grew them, canned them, stewed them, and painted them in oils. Tomatoes
grow well with white stakes and navy blue ribbons to hold the trailing
growth upright. They also grow quite well with a brick boarder and
marigolds. And, I'll tell you my secret: a comfortable chair, a jigger of
scotch (or beer if you're lowbrow, or if you, like me, are current nobrow
in this regard, Arrowhead water) and a good book. That is how I grew my
But, back to the subject of tomatoes: I know a little about tomatoes. I grew them, canned them, stewed them, and painted them in oils. Tomatoes grow well with white stakes and navy blue ribbons to hold the trailing growth upright. They also grow quite well with a brick boarder and marigolds. And, I'll tell you my secret: a comfortable chair, a jigger of scotch (or beer if you're lowbrow, or if you, like me, are current nobrow in this regard, Arrowhead water) and a good book. That is how I grew my tomatoes.
So, drink my essence and eat my thoughts.
Natasha Vita-More: http://www.natasha.cc To Order _Create/Recreate: The Third Millennial Culture_**
http://www.extropic-art.com/createrecreate.htm Organizations: Transhumanist Arts Centre - Home of Extropic Art: http://www.extropic-art.com Transhuman Culture InfoMark: http://www.transhuman.org
"We are transhumans ..." Meme Orbits Saturn in 2004!