Sunday, December 15, 2013

Dave Hickey on Art and Criticism

Dave Hickey
"Here's looking at you, kid."
Art Critic

I'm reading Dave Hickey's critique of the art world, namely, The Invisible Dragon: Four Essays on Beauty, which I love for its great prose, but to understand its critical stance with respect to the art world, I'll need to read a second or third time, for it seems to have made a strong impression there, as Hickey reports in the objective third-person:
In the Dragon's wake, he gave lectures in university auditoriums during which the faculty rose en masse from their seats in the back row and walked out. Honorariums were withheld. Dinners were canceled. Litigation was threatened. The endowed lecturer was deposited unceremoniously at a Ramada Inn beside an empty highway and left to dine out of the candy machine.
Why was he so despised? No, not for writing in the third person. Rather, because he said:
In images, beauty is the agency that causes visual pleasure in the beholder, and since pleasure is the true occasion for looking at anything, any theory of images that is not grounded in the pleasure of the beholder begs the question of art's efficacy and dooms itself to inconsequence!
In short, how art appears comes before what art means, an implication that the academic purveyors of art's meaning found threatening:
How was he to know that critiques of the sort he had been writing, however apt or inept, would threaten the livelihoods of well-scrubbed young Americans and scruffy, dolorous Brits. It never occurred to him that he was tilting at windmills upon whose continuing rotation jobs, promotions, raises, tenures, homes, pools, skis, bikes, spas, Audis, and academic reputations were absolutely dependent.
Therefore was he disliked. I'll report more if I find some pithy remark to record . . .



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