Life Mirrors Art is unoriginal but apt … or to mix references, which comes first, the chicken or the egg?
Bloggers pick up on trends and post on them. Some pick up trends early, some come to nothing, other trends are as obvious as night following day – Cameron was nailed in 2007 by many pundits. Today in the Telegraph was a link to a site which went on about Palin and a get rich quick scheme – there might be trends but there is also disinformation.
Less controversially but controversial for all that, is the increase in ugliness as a concept. My recent references have been to this and what I had in mind was Tolkien’s last few chapters in Lord of the Rings. Sharkey wanted to do dirt on the Shire, so he attacked fundamental things like the big tree in the centre of town and uprooted it, on the grounds that it gave the people of the Shire comfort. He tore down historic architecture, very Hobbit architecture and had erected barracks style buildings, bereft of style, warmth or comfort, Euroconformity barracks, designed to impoverish and demoralize the hobbit mind.
This triumph of ‘function’ over form in recent decades has dehumanised our towns and cities. But it is not only architecture that has drifted away from beauty. Contemporary art has made a cult of ugliness, and artists vie with each other in the game of putting the human face on display and throwing dung at it.
Not all artists, of course: there is still beautiful art today as there has always been. But such art remains below the horizon of official patronage.
Official art today is the art sponsored and encouraged by the likes of the wealthy collector Charles Saatchi, who championed Damien Hirst and his cadavers of cows, calves and pickled sharks.
It is the art favoured by the Tate’s director, Nicholas Serota – not an idealisation of life, but one of life’s sordid off-shoots, like Tracey Emin’s notorious My Bed, an installation of an unmade bed complete with condoms, underpants and empty vodka bottles.
That is chicken and egg. Which came first – the uglification of life and the artist reports on it or the uglification of art and life mirrors art? The suggestion in Scruton’s article is that, at the least, the artist goes along with it:
The ugly art and architecture of today divides society rather than bringing it together. Written across so much of it is the word ‘me’. Beauty is not popular among professional architects – it suggests a scaling down of ‘artistic’ pretentions for the sake of people whom they don’t need to know.
The images of brutality and destruction in modern art, the tales of vicious and repugnant ways of life in today’s novels, the violent and harrowing music of our age – all these are forms of egotism, ways in which insignificant people draw attention to themselves by standing ostentatiously apart from the majority of us who crave beauty. [My underlining]
Over the decades, this has produced both weariness and brutalisation in society, yet the critics still go along with it. And to gain favour from the critics today, you must avoid making something beautiful.
That is the crux. One constant criticism is the sexualization and drugging of the underage child, abetted by the passivity of the new parent [Gen X]. If the Boomers destroyed Gen Y, their children, implanting false values, then Gen X is perverting Gen Z, today’s kids and it’s trendy to let your kids run riot – that’s ugly, ignorant and produces a William Burroughs scenario in the society. This is left-liberalism turned licentious.
It’s constant – the uglification of women continues and I’ve joined others in long calling for a return to femininity but that, predictably, is attacked as wanting to return women to the kitchen or being misogynist, which is a deliberate misinterpretation. An example is the return to steam, as in Steampunk. At our work, four people walked in, in Steampunk gear and they looked, as per their motto, “Splendid”. What wasn’t said was that they were caricatures in a mish-mash of styles, vaguely redolent of “the past”.
So having the past excised or bastardized in the textbooks, thanks to the leftist curriculum branches of LEAs, with guidance from above, the books have been rewritten and this generation can only caricature something, rather than replicate it. Thus you have a goth girl with a nosebone and bits of metal hanging off everywhere, body mutilated and scarred in lurid colours, dressing in clothes which the people of the time would have been horrified to see her in – only circus freaks would have resorted to such mistreatment of themselves in those days.
And that brings up the question of self-abuse. If the body is the temple of the spirit, then what are all these people doing? These are the new hollow people, ignorant of their place in the nation at the end of a long, turbulent history, ready to and already creating a brave new world of ugliness – ugliness in behaviour, ugliness in dress, ugliness in manner and ugliness in the soul, which can’t be papered over.
On Saturday, a woman came into our shop and opened with, “Am I a snob?” She was invited to expound and spoke of some man walking up the street, burger splattered over his face and falling on the ground, swigging from a bottle. So obviously, he’d never been brought up to eat with the mouth closed, to say please and thank you and not to eat in the street.
The thing is, I don’t want anyone banned from doing things, the typical left-liberal reaction but I would like parents to start bringing kids up again as we were in this respect, for a start. And it’s not a class thing either, dear Marxists. The working class were not all Marxist and most had pride in their land, pride in their houses and pride in themselves. Ian Dury made reference to it in My Old Man. The Krays helped old ladies across the street. You saw the code in Ralph Fiennes in In Bruges.
You can’t make a silk purse from a sow’s ear and those of the newer generation trying to roll back the clock are pushing it uphill. In a post on the Downton “ladies” dressing down and partying, what was painfully obvious was that these were no ladies – they were “modern” females dressed up to the nines in a costume drama, now reverting to their natural savagery. It’s not that they were sexless, it was that they were lurid and gauche. It was a twisted notion of what femininity means.
What they lack is breeding.
Now I’m not a toff and people who see this as high-nosed do not understand that I am simply the norm for four decades ago. If you think we’ve actually progressed as a society, then I suggest you have issues of perception.
I’m neither toff nor working class – I’m bourgeoisie – but I’ve had sufficient exposure to the working class over the decades to know that there were standards present in those days which everyone upheld and that is now gone. Look at Corrie now and look at it in the days of Ena Sharples and Minnie Caldwell. Even Elsie Tanner kept it behind closed doors.
Everyone makes fun of Prince Charles and the way he’s been banging on about ugliness in architecture and while I might not share his concept of architecture, he’s right about the blight on our nation. Do you remember the balcony of that high rise in Quantum of Solace where M receives Bond? Did you have a good look at the godawful “architecture” of that building and the bleak scene portrayed, contrasted to the hi-tech within?
Why? Why must it be ugly? Why grotesque, bland or unhappy? Are they trying to make beasts of us?
The answer is that either the architects know no better or else this is what a certain section of society has pushed for since days immemorial. I refer to this section as Them and Tolkien referenced Them through Sharkey. They want a desolate landscape, they only feel comfortable in one and they are inuring the people to ugliness. Have you walked about Manchester lately? Hull?
Anything elevated, integral, anything which lifts the spirit, is either anathema or parodied in this PoMo dystopia we’re forced to endure. My boss went to Bruges the other day for a break. Why? To find some beauty, an escape from our bleak Britain of today. Zenna Atkins said all schools should have at least one sh** teacher and one commenter here the other day said that there needs to be ugliness “to define” beauty. What utter bollox and even me saying that is ugly. Plus I’m gainsaying a lady publicly, so you see, I’m succumbing to it too.
Where to get the model from to get back to an England, to a British Isles which is proud of itself again? It’s not going to come from us – we’re marginalized and irrelevant today. It will have to come from a rebuilding by the next generation but just look at the latest generation – do they inspire hope?
Societies have done it but history says they’ve done it as a rebuilding process after a disaster, e.g. a depression, followed by war and that’s we’re I’m sure we’re inexorably being drawn now. Someone will rediscover how it used to be and it will become the norm again because it is attractive.
Because it is necessary.
And where will the people who are pushing this uglification have gone? To ground of course, back into their redoubts, to reemerge and start their cancerous antics once more, as society reconstitutes itself.
And so the cycle continues. One last thought – at my site, co-author JD wrote, in a post on Samuel Palmer:
These paintings are a splendid antidote to the marxist-materialist-miserabilism of our current politically correct art world.
As in art, so in life.