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ROBERT HUGHES: GOING OUT IN STYLE:RonPrice on 9:58 pm Sunday, 12th August, 2012
ROBERT HUGHES: GOING OUT IN STYLE
This afternoon my wife invited me down from my study saying “you’ll like this.” (1) And so it was that I had the pleasure of watching a doco released in 2008, a doco that subjects the commercialization of art to a withering criticism, a damning indictment of its degeneration into: (a) flashy triviality, and (b) the worst and the best of our post-modern world. I won’t give you chapter and verse of this hour-long critique by Robert Hughes(1938-2012) who died this week. You can read about this TV doco in cyberspace; perhaps the best analysis came out back in late 2008 at the internet site In Defence of Marxism,(2) although there was, for me at least, a splendid discussion containing both encomium and opprobrium for the doco, a discussion with several amateur, that is, non-professional art critics at this link: http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/mona-lisa-curse/
With his trademark style, Hughes explored how museums, the production of art and the way we experience art have radically changed in the last 50 years, telling the story of the rise of contemporary art and looking back over a life spent talking and writing about the art he loves and loathes. Hughes looked old in this doco; that car accident of his in 1999, the year I retired from a 30 year teaching career, took the stuffing out of him. Four years after this doco, Hughes died.-Ron Price with thanks to (1) Robert Hughes: The Mona Lisa Curse, ABC1 TV, 3:00-4:00 p.m.,12 August 2012, and (2) Alan Woods, Art and the Crisis of Capitalism, 22/12/’08.
This doco started out in December ’62
with the French government loaning
the Mona Visa to the United States of
America to be displayed at New York’s
Metropolitan Museum of Art….I had no
idea at the time, immersed as I was in
grade 13 studies with 9 subjects as well
as four hours of homework every night
just before my father died & just after
I started my travelling-pioneering life
for the Canadian Baha’i community in
Dundas, the centre of Ontario’s Golden
Horseshoe. You were right about that,
Robert, things certainly have changed
in the last 50 years, and not just in the
world of art: we've had transformations
across the arts and sciences little does
the world know as it launches forward.
As Henry Miller wrote back in 1941:(1)
(1)“when the destruction brought about by the Second World War is complete another set of destructions will set in. They will be far more drastic, far more terrible than the destruction which we are now witnessing in the midst of this first global war. The whole planet will be in the throes of revolution. And the fires will rage until the very foundations of the present world crumble.” --Henry Miller, American writer and painter(1891-1980), in The Phoenix and the Ashes, Geoffrey Nash, George Ronald, Oxford, 1984, p.55.
Miller was arguably the first to use "the F word" in his published novels. He was known for breaking with existing literary forms and developing a new sort of "novel" that was a mixture of: novel, autobiography, social criticism, philosophical reflection, surrealist free association, and mysticism. Miller's novels that were always about and expressive of the real-life Henry Miller and yet they were also fictional. His most characteristic works of that kind are: Tropic of Cancer (1934), Black Spring (1936), and Tropic of Capricorn (1939). He also wrote travel memoirs and essays of literary criticism and analysis.
Some of the observations of Carl Von Clausewitz(1780-1831), in his famous book On War, may apply in what Miller calls ‘a new, far more drastic, far more terrible destruction.' Some military strategists argue that Clausewitz’s work was the first written effort to systematize the principles of conflict. His essays appeared from 1817 to 1828 and were published in On War(Princeton UP, 1976). Clausewitz said “everything in strategy is simple but not easy”(p.656) and “there is no higher or simpler law than keeping one’s forces concentrated.(p.664)
Both principles apply, it could be argued, in this new style of war, a style of war which could be said to have begun in the world of art, at least according to Robert Hughes, in 1962. I would add, though, the caveat that ‘forces’ are those that operate in the private theatre of one’s inner life, and in a host of new collectivities that have emerged in the last century.--Ron Price, comment on Clausewitz’s On War in Pioneering Over Five Epochs, updated on 12 August 2012.
After that superficial propriety of mine
was given a good hard kick in the teeth
by raucous rock-and-roll which woke us
up from our day-dream world: Mr Clean,
General Ike, Doris Day....no negroes and
no genitalia: that war started & I had no
idea that it had begun! I had just moved
to the town of Dundas at the time; it was
a little place in the Golden Horseshoe...I
call it pioneering now; that was in 1962..
...& the battle has been on ever since with
so many fronts running across the two wide
continents, caught in cross-fires which left
me bleeding raw and wounded...............
I slowly recovered, found the right kind of
prophylactic; am taking it slowly, walking,
hands in my pockets,just watching the fires
burning, harrowing up the souls of billions
in an orgy of violence of such complexity
and confusion, bewildering and so often a
silent agony which insinuates itself into a
very soul, mind, & spirit of men's children-
all the generations well into the future of
our planetizing, globalizing, fiery world!!!
13 January 1996
Updated For: The Australian Arts Community
married for 45 years, a teacher for 35, a writer and editor for 13, and a Baha'i for 53(in 2012)