Art and the Painting Pachyderm

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Sometimes
one gets to experience a cliché. Today, dear readers, we
experience "going from the sublime to the ridiculous."

When
last we met I took up the Libertarian Party's enlistment in the
"War Against Terror" [the Party of "Blank out."]
with their discovery that the Central Intelligence Agency and the
National Security Agency are now requirements for American liberty.

That
was sublime. Now for the ridiculous…

While
having dinner at my Mother's, "60 Minutes" was on the
television. Her TV is out of sight of the dining room, but you can
hear it. Reporters were blathering about Martin Luther King's family.
My Mother's dinner was more appetizing and interesting.

The
next story caught my attention: Christie’s has been selling for
large amounts of money paintings done by, if memory serves, a Thai
elephant.

Good
food is one thing, but examples of living in, "The Best of
All Possible Worlds," another.

Most
of the French side of my family have been artists. Many, but not
most, of the Spanish side have done artistic work. Art is something
with which both sides of my family have worked.

The
reporters brought in an art critic who gushed that the elephant's
was, "as good as De Kooning."

My
mother and I got up to see this. Full marks for the critic! C'est
vrai. Nous sommes d'accord. La peinture de l'elephant ressemble
a celle de De Kooning. Mais le question devrait etre: Est ce que
la peinture de De Kooing est vraiment de l'art? [Translation:
It's true, we agree. The elephant's painting resembles De Kooning.
But the question should be: Is De Kooning's painting really art?]

My
mother's grandfather Paul's critique of modern "art" seems
apt: Un cochon avec un pincaue dans ce derrier ferait mieux.
[Translation: A pig with a paintbrush in his behind could do better.
It does sound better in French].

How
about this corollary to the art critic: De Kooning's oeuvre
is no better than an elephant smearing with a paintbrush. By that
standard, De Kooning is not alone.

When
confronted with nonsense on so many levels, my time in, "this
movement of ours" pays off. Where, I wondered had the mailed
fist of the State given the finger?

It
didn't take long to find: a local branch of "a criminal gang
with flags" had banned harvesting the forest. This diktat
per the reporters left the elephants unemployed. Unemployed? The
reporters did not grasp that elephants, in this setting, are a species
[sorry] of capital called "livestock."

Were
the elephants getting wages for their work before?

The
"unemployed" should refer to the Thai lumberjacks. Economic
ignorance by reporters is routine, but one should note them.

Our
painting pachyderm was shown carrying "his" canvas, paintbrushes
and sporting a French artist’s cap as he trundled off for a place
for artistic inspiration. Why a French artist’s cap? Don't Thai
artists have special hats? Once one accepts an elephant as an artist,
quibbling about a French or Thai artist’s hats becomes unarguable.
Quoting Johnny Carson, "Once you buy the bit, you buy the premise."

Over
a hundred years ago aesthetics took a hit from which it hasn't recovered.
Thus Rembrandt, Titian, Michelangelo and Rubens are said to be equivalent
with Mondrian, De Kooning, Picasso and now a Thai elephant.

States
erode the institutions of voluntary human action. From art to economics,
language to sociology, in time society catches the statist bug.

The
idea of art, as being art only if it touches the human soul by being
intelligible falls away. In an almost Greshamite fashion, the cliché
of "obscurantism being the refuge of the incompetent"
is fulfilled.

If
there is no line in the sand of aesthetics, let me "draw"
the following:

To
be art it must be intelligible to human comprehension. Yes, one
needs to study art to appreciate it. This doesn't relieve an artist
from creating intelligible art.

Abstract
designs can be aesthetic. Aesthetics implies standards by which
art may be analyzed.

Standards
for art? We haven't heard that in a long while and it shows.

Treating
this painting pachyderm's output, except as absurdity, is an act
of cynicism: a linchpin of today's "art" world. Before
Picasso was famous he painted well. His stuff was good, if not great.
To achieve fame and fortune he played epater le bourgeoisie
by painting rubbish.

He
became famous: his rubbish sold. As he stood on a Paris balcony
the night of his first opening he said of the crowds, "When
I was painting good stuff, they ignored me. Now I paint s**t and
they love it."

As
my Uncle Tito put it, "Mixing horses**t with ice cream doesn't
hurt the horses**t, but it knocks the hell out of the ice cream."

Why
complain about a Thai [con] artist selling his elephant’s "paintings"
to crazy Westerners with Christie's and "60 Minutes"
complicity? To cite von Mises: we all have a stake in civilization.

Let's
take a measure of civilization and the arts. From a vaudeville sketch:

A man asks
his dog, "What's on top of a house?" The dog barks,
"roof." The man asks, "What does sandpaper feel
like?" The dog barks, "ruff." The man asks, "Who
is the greatest baseball player?" The dog barks, "ruth."
The man asks the audience, "Is this a smart dog or what,
folks?"

The
joke is the man's stupidity in projecting human consciousness to
the dog. We laugh at his foolishness. We laugh, because at some
time we have been the fool.

What
was a vaudeville joke is today's art world.

There
are other sins in this: 60 Minutes said people were buying the
smearings to help unemployed lumberjacks and "preserve"
other forests.

Let's
recap the story and its import:

  1. Thai state
    prohibits forest harvesting [Mailed fist state action].
  2. Thai lumberjack
    gives elephant a paintbrush that smears on canvases.
  3. Christie’s
    pretends the smears are art [Intellectual fraud posing as modernity,
    sign of erosion of artistic standards. Velvet glove of state
    action.].
  4. 60
    Minutes pretends the smears are art, that the elephant is an
    artist and that this is a wonderful story [see #3].
  5. Buyers
    purchase the smears to help unemployed lumberjacks and to further
    restrict forest harvesting [Aristocracy aids cultural erosion.
    Wealth transferred from modernity-lovers to state.].

Here
are some Paleo-libertarian counter-points: First, define the terms
"art," "con games" and "states."
Second, remove state, Thai or others, restrictions on natural
resources. Third, return state "property" to its rightful
owners or treat as subject to homesteading.

Finally,
when visiting your Mother for dinner: leave the TV off.

August
12, 2002

Alan
Turin [send him mail]
is painting his house as well as an elephant or De Kooning.

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