My friend Pablo says he's tired of dystopia and wants to get Utopian. Let us talk, then, about some Utopians...
After the Weinstein affair became public Stewart Klawans, the famous critic, went to the New York Film Festival and wrote a column, saying that none of the films there solved the problems of the day, words to that effect. And he was speaking in reference, of course, to the film industry but to the art world in general, the #MeToo movement and misogyny throughout our culture.
Not only film, but art in general is not going to solve any of our problems. Art will never solve our problems. From the cave drawings to today on into the future. Indeed, any passing glance at art causes many of our problems when it isn’t simply aiding and abetting them or those who cause them.
This is a good thing, however.
At its best art serves two good purposes.
It gives us pleasure and it gives us an opportunity to think.
That’s not bad for an abstraction in and of itself. They are good reasons to create art. Good reasons for artists to continue to do their work. People need the pleasures of good art, and perhaps more importantly they need those opportunities to think and to think in ways that only good art can make them think.
At the founding of the United States—whatever else bad may have been taking place or been on the minds of those men who founded this nation—the people who were responsible for it made a promise.
They told us, their “children,” that they were men of politics, war and commerce whose sole purpose was creating a land where we, their “children,” could become those who would only study philosophy and art; living lives filled with opportunities to create and study, to make us think.
A Utopia. A utopian ideal, circa 1776.
It was their aspiration, their purpose in life, the reason behind freedom as far as they were concerned. The true meaning of the phrase, “pursuit of happiness,” that they wrote into our founding documents.
But is it enough? And, with all their differences, debates, and the spectrum of opinions among them, can we say with any safety that this actually encompasses what they meant? No war, politics, or even commerce in their future plans as far as end goals were concerned? Great men, foundational thinkers that they were, flawed in most respects, liars most of them, both in their revolutionary fervor and political mendacities, could they really have idealized past money, power and hate? Or raw desire?
All to achieve an idealized society existing upon nothing but philosophy and art.
So they went ahead and enslaved people, massacred people, raped the land. Invaded nation after nation. Spread the word of Christ everywhere in blood.
Some guy like Weinstein grabbing a woman’s bare behind under her dress while she’s unaware. Another one jamming his tongue down her throat, forcing her to kiss him when she doesn’t want to be kissed. Another one jerking off in front of her in the privacy of his office, without her permission. Or getting a young boy drunk so he’ll get a hand job. What makes men, or women, want to behave this way, or gives them the impression they can? All for the sake of art?
If and when this prophesied singularity comes to pass, there will be no human involved. This sort of behavior will have to be left behind. But also left behind will be that “pursuit of happiness,” and with it the goals of philosophy and art themselves.
Everything we know tells us you cannot have the good without the bad in this life. You cannot have pleasure without pain. You cannot have life without death. You cannot have triumph without struggle.
You cannot have art without the impetus against which to produce it.
Anything that flattens or eliminates the distinction between those polar opposites eliminates the needs for life itself.
That's why we call Black Holes "singularities."