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Cud quote of the day #1 – Jon Lasker


Fellow art ruminants: take a chaw on this. Agree, disagree? Examples? Let us all in on it…

"…I feel the job of the artist in today’s society is not to be radical but rather to work on rebuilding faith in meaning."

Jonathan Lasker, Dallas Museum of Art, 1992

from comments on Greenberg’s "The Avant Garde & Kitsch" 



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24 Responses

  1. jwhatley

    The issue is really whether or not there is still a place for idealism in art. It sounds laughable to even suggest such a thing. “Art for Art’s sake” frequently becomes the occasion for a game of intellectual oneupmanship. I am “smarter than thou” and you just don’t get it.
    Oh, the humanity!….

  2. tobrienwriter

    Maybe the ideals have simply shifted – the modern impulse, in the broadest terms (Enlightenment on) was, positively, at one level about clarifying disciplines, so that we could stop thinking that Galileo couldn’t be right because his findings didn’t correspond with Papal law, that kind of thing. So science, politics, religion were distinguished more clearly from one another, but in all cases the ideal was object-ivity, while mostly denying the validity of the subjective (Romanticism maybe arrived to be the standard bearer for subjective holism. Art as we think of it was really born then). In the negative, that obviously began to pose some serious problems. The postmodern response (which really began as early as Hegel), was to assert the primacy of the subjective/internal experience, personal or social. Man, that’s oversimplified – but anyway, we’re seeking balance, and better models. It’s a dialogue and process with sometimes brutal consequences. Hello Taliban; how do, Rev. Falwell.
    The ideal drives every evolution, every turn of the wheel. I think you see a lot of manifestations of the idealization of the deeply subjective – hence the lack of overarching style. We don’t prize that anymore – we prize subjective novelty, and intellectually distrust grand pronouncements. That’s the ideal – the unidealistically ideal. And I agree, it can result in some distressing games(wo)manship, and institutional navel gazing. I have a good quote for that from Hal Foster. maybe next time!

  3. samsanford

    ‘Faith’ normally refers to belief in something contrary to observed facts. So ‘faith in meaning’ I guess refers to something that is apparently meaningless but which we nonetheless believe has meaning? (Like this quotation perhaps?) To me, if ‘meaning’ means anything, it isn’t something that requires faith to find – it is directly experienced. Luckily, the real job of the artist is to do whatever (s)he wants – f my job was to ‘rebuild faith in meaning’ I guess I’d have to resign.

  4. jwhatley

    Kitsch isn’t evil. Evil is kitsch, but why is its bite always worse than its bark?

    It really isn’t a question of meaning. Every action, artistic or otherwise, has meaning. It all depends on your point of view. The problem seems to be one of relevance.
    Perhaps if we could all agree on the meaning, relevance could be miraculously achieved. Of course, we might have to “dumb it down” to meet that criteria. Oh well, so much for being a smarty-pants…

    Your real job sounds like everybody’s real job. Now if we could just get someone to pay us for it…

  5. samsanford

    not to be clear, straightforward, and honest but rather to work on assembling cryptic, vague, meaningless and absurd phrases

  6. jwhatley

    Wow. I apologize for being so cryptic.

    As far as evil being kitsch, when I read the post I just reversed the words in my mind. ( I do that sometimes). That made me think about the “banality of evil” and about “totalitarian kitsch”. ( I could name-drop here, but why bother?) Anyway, my comment has nothing to do with the quote about faith and meaning, so I sincerely apologize if I offended.

    My observation about your “real job” was simply based on your definition of being free to do whatever you want. I believe that’s what everyone does. ( the necessity of employment notwithstanding ). I personally would love to get paid for doing exactly as I please. I was tempted to take issue with your definition of faith, but that would lead to a pointless exchange. So I hope you find the explanation for my comments more straightforward. Again, I apologize.

    Perhaps I should give any future posts more context. I forget sometime that we are all (myself included) pretty much in emotional swaddling clothes.

    Apologies all around

  7. Tabitha

    Oh dear, it was a joke about kitsch jwhatley, you know uninspired – insensitive and pale, as in pale imitation. Nothing personal, just banality crucified, isn’t faith organized around crucifixion of some sort?

  8. Gilbert

    Lasker’s is a grandiose statement that smacks of personal inauthenticity. His “Artist” is a panderer and his “society” only includes the economic and academic elite. The “job” of the artist, historicaly, has always been what the deciders dictate. It’s only beneath that surface of artificiality that we find art, and invariably, it is the fulfillment of an inspired and individual vision mainly oblivious to fad and fashion.

    Mr. lasker is talking about decorating egos, not art.

  9. samsanford

    No need to apologize to me. No one should be held accountable for another person’s reaction to what he or she says, in my opinion. I actually intended my own vague

  10. samsanford

    No need to apologize to me. No one should be held accountable for another person’s reaction to what he or she says, in my opinion. I actually intended my own vague and cryptic comment as an indictment of Mr. Lasker’s statement, not yours, although now that you mention it your “evil is kitsch” bit does fit the description.
    To be clear and straightforward, I think a lot of supposedly critical art talk is so much meaningless baloney – empty phrases full of ill-defined terms, sloppy arguments built on vague abstractions. I think there is an emperor’s-new-clothes phenomenon – no one wants to be the first to say, “this doesn’t make any sense.” Mr. Lasker’s phrase “rebuilding faith in meaning” is a perfect example of the kind of baloney I’m talking about – it gives no clear information, you can’t argue with it because it doesn’t really say anything – not much to chew on.
    I’m curious what objection you would raise to my definition of faith – I think it’s a simple statement of the conventional usage of the word. We don’t normally talk about having faith in things that we can perceive directly, or in things we can logically deduce from what we can observe; we talk about having faith in things that can’t be observed or percieved, and things that are contrary to experience and observation. What other usage of the word do you have in mind, I wonder?

  11. tobrienwriter

    I enjoyed all this, even/especially misunderstood word-play, and thoughtful retorts, explanations, rejoinders et al.
    To Sam I just want to defend Lasker insofar as this is only the last line of a longer, if still brief, artist statement. but i would argue that I that I like his writing about art precisely because he doesn’t resort to art speak – and while his meaning here remains elusive, that was what i thought might spark some discussion. He speaks, a la Walter Benjamin and Debord, about the proliferation of media images, the glut of them we swim in, and so where does that leave the artist? thats the point his arguing I think…

  12. samsanford

    It seems (embarrassingly) clear that my reaction to the partial quotation was a bit misguided – I made him the scapegoat for my frustration with a whole bunch of art writing.
    It would have been helpful to have access to the rest of the statement from which this quotation was pulled – I looked for it but couldn’t find it.
    I enjoyed it all too, thanks for getting it started and let’s do it again soon.


    I feel like I am being dizzied by the Vascini-esque genuis by all the parties!
    As the late great Jerry Patrick used to say —“a picture is worth a thousand words.”
    Post up (your work) so I(we) can see it! and chew it’s cud!— jwhatley, tabitha, tobrienwriter and sam(though I found you already)


    “Never trust a Sicilian when death is on the line. Ha Ha Ha ha………arh”

    here’s a links to 5 pieces of the 7 pieces (short films) that will be on the Territory this season
    (on KEDT broadcasting only) You need a MAC or a PC with the latest version of Quicktime player.
    I too play music and it plays a large role in the work.

    Also here is a link to a few selected pieces

  15. Tabitha

    So the artist is the priestess between meaning and the people. Since evil is kitsch life will be smooth and easy only having to contain the bubbling schmaltz of good times gone south.

    How’s that? Can someone grade me please.

  16. tobrienwriter

    that is an archetype. But no the only one. The priest/ess is the vehicle of preordained interpretation. Its fixed. The shaman on the other hand (from shramana, or Buddhist adept, which is some freakin interestin etymology) is the live wire conduit of the Mysterious, the other realm, and that’s a much more vital role: scarier, funnier, weirder. Media glut, which has some relation to kitsch, since kitsch doesn’t exist anymore (Jeff Koons told me so today – I’m serious – and I agree with him) reduces the citizen to the consumer. And I’m not buying it. ha.
    Say ‘meaning’ ten times fast its so much nonsense. but the direction of this sentiment is I think on target. What role does the artist have, in relation to the TV producer, media executive, film studio. I hope one that will counteract/contrast, for instance, the latest Indiana Jones movie, that I found the most cynical piece of shit I’ve seen since Coppola’s Dracula.

  17. Tabitha

    Thanks for schoolin’ me tobrien, good points, esp media glut is kitsch if it existed any longer which it doesn’t the porn star of a rising fascist country’s ex-husband told me if wasn’t true already it was when he said it only within the idiom of exile.

    Without meaning though we can’t think or pick favorite videos etc. Can we now?

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