An Introduction and Other Vagaries
Updated: Jan 6, 2021
Welcome to the beginning of what I hope will be a fruitful blogging project!
I am Zack Brown, a 27 year-old opera singing aspirant looking for an outlet where my experience with art, broadly speaking, can be proffered with interest and joy. I was inspired, quite recently, due to a compounding of events which have left me believing that my words and insights can, in their most servile role, act as crumbs for better minds to gather into more nourishing projects; and, in their more lofty aspirations, will inspire and guide those in need of a sunnier vision of the shady mystery that is art, the flowers of human and divine husbandry.
I will spend some time, now, laying a groundwork for the series of environmental changes and happenings which compel me to begin organizing, writing, and posting my musings.
Art and artists occupy a wild terrain ruled by open minds—liberal minds, I daresay—and it is no small tragedy personalities, that in a different era would have been healthy and free to row away from the island of reality into the stormy and glorious seas of imagination, have been hemmed in by an ideology that demands dry land and deference. I am not the one to outline the ideology; however, I can observe some of its effects. Most notably, the platform for inspiration and evaluation at our disposal—the Western canon and musing on aesthetics—has been dismissed, having been created by some combination of the following named evils: straight, white men; the patriarchy; colonizers; Eurocentrists; racists/white supremacists; misogynists; capitalists; Western Civilization; heteronormative standards; the male gaze; etc. And I’m sure more individuals/ideals/traditions can be tacked on to those forces of Hell that created Hamlet—and later deemed it to be a good play. In place of a millennia-long tradition, a new rubric seeks to evaluate art on its espousal of accepted socio-political beliefs—of a certain socio-political leaning—and group identity representation.
And, so, a shift has occurred from celebrated art being an exploration of individual and universal transcendence to it being a coloring book whereby “artists” need only fill in the designated spaces with the appropriate shades (as determined by the very woke). We are confronted with an assault of Liturgical Dramas: Hamilton; Black Panther; Wonder Woman; Ocean’s 8; BlacKkKlansman; Get Out; The Shape of Water; Hidden Figures; Blackish; This is Us; First Reformed; Between the World and Me; The Handmaid’s Tale; Game of Thrones (the TV show, specifically); Mad Max: Fury Road; and many more. We are told that these pieces are the very height of artistic achievement because they have a good message and represent the right people (including their roles as heroes and/or villains). Discussion and evaluation along the lines of performance; visual and aural aesthetics; enchanting narrative and setting; insight into the human experience; qualities and details unique to the piece; artistic innovation; etc. do not occur. And so pieces like Brooklyn, Room, Jojo Rabbit, Phantom Thread, The Favourite, Dunkirk, and Manchester by the Sea fall by the wayside (at least in the public eye). And I’m only talking about films, here. How many works with the potential to “spiritualize our age” are out there in the form of novels, poems, plays, symphonic work, lyrical drama, and fine art from contemporary artists? What are we missing in the game of foursquare between 50 Shades of Grey, Joker, W.A.P., and Kanye West? I think we are missing much, floating by our present like distant guppies passing a battleship.
(Make no mistake, I am not a dullard who sees every public success as an artistic failure! Dark Knight is one of the best examples of a film with broad appeal—capitalizing on the hunger for superhero movies—and stunning artistry. Nolan for both his drawing of the urban galaxy of Gotham (New York City) as a hard, militaristic machine with blown fuses throughout; and, also, his moving pictures, glorious in the scope of their size, speed, contrast, and exploration of violence. Ledger for his imaginative embodiment of a man riddled with nihilism. Evidence of its merit exists in the way our society quotes some of its more famous lines: “Some men just want to watch the world burn.”; “Why so serious?”; “He’s the hero Gotham deserves, but not the one it needs right now.”; “You either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.” It enchants and spooks in its drawing of Gotham; it is prophetic in its observation of shifting public perception; it provides a Dostoevskian glance into the nature of evil.)
What’s more! Voices and advocates for art who are in a position of great intellect, experience, knowledge, clarity, and imagination are out to sea. Sir Roger Scruton is dead; Jordan Peterson has suffered tremendous personal difficulty; Camille Paglia, a gladiator for the arts, is no longer in the public sphere at the time of this writing; Heather MacDonald and Douglas Murray come to mind as public intellectuals beyond capable in this realm but they are after bigger dragons at the moment. Worse is the cowing of artists and artistic directors to the demands of the intolerant liberals berating them for not being orthodox enough in their liberalism; and, worse than this are the artists organically infected by the orthodoxy. And, so, in a time where the most encouraging sentiment and defense of creative projects comes from Kirstie Alley’s Twitter account, I figure I can throw my own hat in the ring.
My project and hope is that I can post weekly musings on a particular work or artistic theme. I have a few things in mind for the coming weeks to set me on a structured path. I don’t want, however, to set any philosophy or plan in stone: change is necessary for development and an openness to adjustment on all levels will make my thought process and writing process richer. Therefore! The only set point of this blog is that I will post weekly and it will be on Mondays.
I will continue to consume and read as much as possible to strengthen good beliefs and lenses and correct for the wayward. The fact is, I myself am an amateur and much more needs to be read, listened to, seen, and experienced before my thoughts become truly strong and worthy. The other problem facing contemporaries and me is the era in which we live: there is too much to know! What were once deemed Classics in the public subconscious can now be deemed Distant Memories in a select consciousness of the very few. While I dig up heralded memories I will be meeting hopeful cadets. My hope is that an awareness of the old will light a path for better understanding of the new.
Celebration of greatness and achievement, I believe, marks one out as healthy and/or of a right mind (and I extend this to communities and cultures). I think it is a worthy project to spread this festive sentiment for great work to every mind capable of that childlike vision of the world. In this way, perhaps, we will become more spiritually aware, more present in the moment, less cynical, more understanding. Works that move us in this direction will be better recognized and disseminated while the lesser ones can be enjoyed for what they are and not forced to wear mantels that are dangerous or unwarranted.
So! Let us proceed in the spirit of wonder and awe, righteous defense of our work, belief in the divinity of the individual and transcendent experience, and all that which can propel the best forward for ourselves and for posterity.
-For more artistic discussion https://zeitgeistweekly.wordpress.com/