I posteted this on my facebook wall a while back and thought it could also be read as an interesting blog post. I am currently heavily into reading Dr. Marimba Anis` book “Yurugu” which in my opinion gives an excellent critique of European culture and thought and helps me to deconstruct myself and the culture I was raised in. It is even helpfull while visiting art museums:
I visited the Museum of Contemporary art in Oslo a while back and after looking at the art I felt confused and a bit disappointed “It is so ugly. I feel like I dont “get it” where my thoughts, but after Reading Dr. Marimba Anis Yurugu, it all made a lot more sence : “In European culture «art» becomes the domain of the intellectual elite, because it is they who determine the criteria of its perfection; it is they who say what its attributes should and should not be. The ordinary participant in the culture does not have access to, nor is he considered capable of enjoying «true» art. What he does enjoy is not considered to be «art»; nor is it «beautiful»……
On a conscoious level European audiences must constantly speculate about the artists` source of inspiration and guess at her intention; her «message». «What is she trying to say?» is the quesion heard at a New York art gallery. The artist is conceived of as a person who, out of his own unique and individual experience and agony, joy and suffering, seeks to express himself to moral and cultural strangers. It is no wonder that in the West, art appears to have no place in life; it seems to be carried on as an adjunctive activity as though it does not affect the vast majority of Europeans. It does however: Sublimanilly, it effects the European national consciousness. There is a sense in which «art» could cease to exist, and the average European would only become aware of its demise if it were chronicled in the newspapers.”
To this a facebook friend of mine responded with a quote from Oscar Wilde.
“A work of art is the unique result of a unique temperament. Its beauty comes from the fact that the author is what he is. It has nothing to do with the fact that other people want what they want. Indeed, the moment that an artist takes notice of what other people want, and tries to supply the demand, he ceases to be an artist, and becomes a dull or an amusing craftsman, an honest or a dishonest tradesman. He has no further claim to be considered as an artist. Art is the most intense mode of Individualism that the world has known. I am inclined to say that it is the only real mode of Individualism that the world has known (…) And it is to be noted that it is the fact that Art is this intense form of Individualism that makes the public try to exercise over it in an authority that is as immoral as it is ridiculous, and as corrupting as it is contemptible. It is not quite their fault. The public has always, and in every age, been badly brought up. They are continually asking Art to be popular, to please their want of taste, to flatter their absurd vanity, to tell them what they have been told before, to show them what they ought to be tired of seeing, to amuse them when they feel heavy after eating too much, and to distract their thoughts when they are wearied of their own stupidity. Now Art should never try to be popular. The public should try to make itself artistic. There is a very wide difference”
I am not sure if his intention was to prove my point or if he was trying to argue against it (even though I have a feeling it was the latter), but the quote in my opinion certainly served as an extremely good exaple of how European culture views art and how it claims universality. To this I responded:
Yes, this is indeed a very good example of how Eurpeans view art and is certainly highlights Dr. Anis` main point: That European art is extremely individualistic and at the same time it claims to be universialistic. If you don`t like art it is becaus you are “culturally deprived”. But if we are to look at Wilde as an “individualist”, shouldnt also his statement be seen as a statement from one individual only and not as a universialistic statement that should be valide for all art? An artist is also dependent on money, something that challenges such an individualistic claim, beause in order to live of your art people need to buy and like what you do as an artis. Isn’t is kind of contradicting that he one side tries to claim that art is individualistic while he at the same time tries to say something universialistic about art? Dr. Marimba Ani also has this to say about European art:
“We are told that the European artists creates “arts for arts`s sake”. The artist is able to break out of the socio- Cultural limitations and definitions of the creative experience and therefore produces art that has no other purpose than that of expressing that artists own individual ego. This we are told is “progress”… But this formulation is both intellectually and emotionally unimpressive. It is meaningsless, incomprehensible, and confusing. Is it any Wonder that elite art produced under the guidance of such a philosophy fails to reach the major portion of the culture, often has no Cultural significance other than material power?… The “fine arts” in the West tend to become merely intellectual exercises. “art for arts sake” is peculirarly European and should be rejected as a Critical standard in other cultures. Yet this very peculiar misconception has been one of the main Tools used by Europeans in their criticism of non- European art”.
I also added this quote from Joseph Okpaku (which is a quote Dr. Ani refers to in Yurugu”: “There is no universal aesthic, and if there were it would be most undesirable. The greatest value of art lies in the very fact that there are at least as many different and sometimes conflicting forms as there are different cultures. This is the basis of the wealth and richness of art. For full enjoyment of art, is not necessary that all art be reduced to a single form (the Western form) in order to make it easily comprehensible and acceptable to the Western audience and to all thos who have acquired its taste (by “proper education”), but rather that the would- be connoisseur make an effort to learn to appreciate different art forms”
My facebook friend never got back to me.