Friday, June 04, 2004

Robert Hughes' speech, cited yesterday, is here reprinted. Hughes speaks to an issue I know nothing about, but his words as always are worth reading in full for the broader points he makes about the increasing trivialization and trashing of culture.

Hughes calls for reviving England's Royal Academy of Art, which has long come to represent everything conservative and unprogressive in the art world; the idea of a "democratised institution run by artists" is good for art, he says, because it serves as a bulwark against increasing commercialization and it preserves the skills involved in the making of images.

Some great and typically Hughesian points:

I have never been against new art as such; some of it is good, much is crap, most is somewhere in between, and what else is news? I know, as most of us do in our hearts, that the term "avant-garde" has lost every last vestige of its meaning in a culture where anything and everything goes. Art does not evolve from lower states to higher. The scientific metaphors, like "research" and "experiment", that were so popular half a century ago, do not apply to art. And when everything is included in the game, there is no game to be ahead of. A string of brush marks on a lace collar in a Velásquez can be as radical as the shark that an Australian caught for a couple of Englishmen some years ago and is now murkily disintegrating in its tank on the other side of the Thames. More radical, actually.

The camera, if it's lucky, may tell a different truth to drawing - but not a truer one. Drawing brings us into a different, a deeper and more fully experienced relation to the object. A good drawing says: 'not so fast, buster'. We have had a gutful of fast art and fast food. What we need more of is slow art: art that holds time as a vase holds water: art that grows out of modes of perception and whose skill and doggedness make you think and feel; art that isn't merely sensational, that doesn't get its message across in 10 seconds, that isn't falsely iconic, that hooks onto something deep-running in our natures. In a word, art that is the very opposite of mass media.

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