September 19, 2009





And closer, still....


A few notes:



One night soon after I returned from Spain, I invited a couple of friends over for a reunion over drinks and smokes, to talk about what's been happening and enjoy one another's company so sorely missed. As one bottle led to another, wine for two and tequila and beer for another, the hours clocked into the madrugada and Michael Jackson's recent passing floated into the crosshairs of our conversation. In moments, my pals found themselves on either sides of a moral issue: did Michael Jackson err by clouding the question of pederasty? ...or is such a moral line difficult to locate in our day and age? As point jammed into counterpoint, I tried (unsuccessfully) to point out that it is interesting that both of them in fact agreed that such a line existed and more significantly, that perhaps this is a sign that we are living in a new era.

The modern era was, among other things, concerned with contesting the existence of such a moral line. I prefer to think of the emergence of the modern in terms of acceleration and velocity. Acceleration is the rate of change in velocity. Cultural change from the middle of the 19th century to the middle of the 20th was one of great acceleration. We were thrown back into our seats by the birth of modernity, an excitement of the social change wrought by technological revolution (communications, warfare, engineering, etc.). Today, life is indeed changing a great deal but we feel relatively less acceleration that we did at the turn of the previous century, even though our cultural lives are now traveling at such a great velocity. The only way to feel such a comparable change is to imagine what would happen to society if aliens would land on the White House lawn, or if cold fusion was not a fool's errand. This minor thought experiment is a way I use to try to place myself into the mentality of an artist living during the birth of modernity. The arts were preoccupied by sorting the fruits of such radical change and one consequence was an ongoing contest of whether distinctions of any sort should exist at all. It was a worthy and necessary project at the time, and it generated a great many valuable, indeed priceless, cultural artifacts. However with the fullness of time, it was a literal dead end in as much such a line of inquiry led to nihilism and thus this led us to the threshold of suicide. Art and life together die at the extremities of nihilism.

We all want art to live on.... don't we?

Despite the fact that my pals were struggling with each other on opposite sides of the issue, I wanted to point out that it was significant that both of them -and all of society by extension- were cognizant of the existence of a moral line despite the fact that they were arguing where the line was or even could be drawn, and this could be a distinguishing feature of an era that has -in this historical moment- succeeded the previous era, modernity both classical and postmodern. In other words (...less words...), it was significant to me that they weren't contesting the existence of the line -that a line existed at all- but that they both implicitly agreed that such a line existed.

(* The drawing was a collaboration, and I should conceal the attribution until I get permission of my friend. Until then...)

Posted by Dennis at September 19, 2009 6:07 PM

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