Unreal Nature

January 27, 2015

Circulating

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:49 am

… I would say it works more like an atmosphere, circulating and making itself felt in the subtle, untraceable ways that belong to an atmosphere.

… (My reasoning here is no more circular than experience itself.)

This is from ‘Can Taste Be Objective?’ (1972) found in Clement Greenberg: Late Writings, edited by Robert C. Morgan (2003):

The word “TASTE” (gusto in both Italian and Spanish) entered the discussion of art in the seventeenth century. In the eighteenth it became the hard-and-fast word for the faculty of aesthetic judgment. It’s as though this term, in isolating this faculty, also isolated and brought into focus most of the problems connected with that faculty: problems that were, as far as the understanding was concerned, the crucial ones involved in the experiencing of art.

[ … ]

… You may find Raphael too uneven or Velázquez too cold, but if you can’t see how utterly good they are when they are good you disqualify yourself as a judge of painting. In other words, there are objective tests of taste, but they are utterly empirical and can’t be applied with the help of rules or principles.

It’s the best taste that, as I’ve already indicated, forms the consensus of taste. The best taste develops under the pressure of the best art and is the taste most subject to that pressure. And the best art, in turn, emerges under the pressure of the best taste. The best taste and the best art are indissoluble. Well, how do you in your own time identify the bearers of the best taste? It’s not all that necessary. In time past the best taste could have been diffused through a whole social class, or a whole tribe. In later times it may or may not have been the possession of a coterie — like the cognoscenti in and around the Vatican in the early 1500s, or the circles in which Baudelaire mixed in the mid-nineteenth century. But it would be wrong on the whole to try to pin the best taste of a given period to specific individuals. I would say it works more like an atmosphere, circulating and making itself felt in the subtle, untraceable ways that belong to an atmosphere.

… Art can do without taste: I hear voices from as far back as 1913 saying this. What they mean, without knowing it, is that art can do without art; that is, art can do without offering the satisfactions it alone can offer. That’s what art doing without taste really means. Well, if the satisfactions exclusive to art are dispensable, why bother with art at all? We can go on to something else.

-Julie

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