• 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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