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Saturday, 3 November 2012

The New Serious vs the Old Shallow

David Cox wrote recently in The Guardian about the emergence of the new serious. He argued that while 'Cinema still plays host to gross-out, farce and facetiousness; yet it is darkness, deliberation and doom that are doing some of the best business.' The Daniel Craig James Bond films and the Christopher Nolan Batman series are among the examples he gives.

He continues: 'Art galleries and museums attract record crowds. Uncompromising lectures on recondite topics have made TED a surprise internet hit. Some sports writers have taken a heuristic turn. Weighty public debates sell out, while people queue all night in the rain for tickets to literary festivals.

The Institute of Ideas has had to move its annual Battle of Ideas festival to bigger premises to accommodate growing demand, with more than half of those attending in their teens and early 20s ...

Phenomena such as these get less attention than complaints about low educational attainment, the preoccupation with celebrity or the supposedly mind-rotting effects of social networking. Yet alongside apparently relentless dumbing down, a new hankering for seriousness seems also to be emerging.'

Similarly, in the Visual Arts, some critics are beginning to react against the way in which 'Money talks loudly and easily drowns out other meanings.' Sarah Thornton - the “Seven Days in the Art World” author - recently announced she was no longer covering the art business with a "rousing list of reasons" and the influential American art critic Dave Hickey told the ... Observer ... that he’s had it with art criticism and the current state of contemporary art.

Thornton concludes that the subject is too corrupt to report on and Hickey states:

'Money and celebrity has cast a shadow over the art world which is prohibiting ideas and debate from coming to the fore," he said yesterday, adding that the current system of collectors, galleries, museums and art dealers colluding to maintain the value and status of artists quashed open debate on art.

I hope this is the start of something that breaks the system. At the moment it feels like the Paris salon of the 19th century, where bureaucrats and conservatives combined to stifle the field of work. It was the Impressionists who forced a new system, led by the artists themselves. It created modern art and a whole new way of looking at things.

Lord knows we need that now more than anything. We need artists to work outside the establishment and start looking at the world in a different way – to start challenging preconceptions instead of reinforcing them.'

Cox, however, concludes: 'In the real world ... our newfound seriousness has not cut very deep. The long-awaited crisis of capitalism has produced plenty of attitudinising, but profound discussion of how we might change our world has hardly been to the fore.'

Like Cox I'm unsure whether the new serious is a significance paradigm shift but, for what it's worth, here is my take on the old shallowness:

Hello! We are the shallow people,
reflections of our fitness ratings,
shining the surface of our existence,
selling our lives to seek significance.

OK! we are on heat, on fire,
hyper cool, yet full of desire.
Bad and wicked are terms of approval.
Bums and tums are there for removal.

Narcissus is our role model;
made in Chelsea, such a fit young man, 
lightly tanned and with a wicked four pack,
we know that he is Essex!

We are pissed off, falling over,
stumbling in the dark.
Drunk on celebrity chardonnay,
technology sated, intoxicated.

We think we are such foxy ladies
sexy, sultry sods.
We are hung over, hearing voices,
kissing the porcelain god.

We are off our heads,
out of our skulls,
out of our minds,
we decline.


Adele - Skyfall.

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