Youmans (pronounced like 'yeoman' with an 's' added) is the best-kept secret
among contemporary American writers. --John Wilson, editor, Books and Culture Marly Youmans is a novelist and poet out of sync with the times
but in tune with the ages. --First Things

Sunday, May 18, 2014

"Industrial pictures are not art"

Poster for the new Jodorowsky movie...
I like this Alejandro Jodorowsky quote about forgetfulness and remembering in the movies. I think it applies to other art forms as well. After all, remembering the self goes on in all art. And what is "industrial" and "not art" is frequently hailed as art in other areas of the arts as well.
I don’t want you to forget yourself for two hours seeing a picture. I want you to remember yourself seeing the picture, but not remember your problems. I want you to remember your life and the beautiful human beings you are. That is what I am trying to do.
How does he want to be recalled? "He was free to do whatever he wanted, and he wanted the freedom to have artistical expression in movies."

24 comments:

  1. Apropos of nothing, your blog posting reminds me of the strangely named courses I took in middle and high school: Industrial Arts. (BTW, the girls took Home Economics -- another peculiar label.)

    Even then I was puzzled by the use of the two words together: industrial and arts. As far as I could tell, no art was being produced in those classes. Well, perhaps my bread cutting board was art -- but I doubt it.

    I guess I am still puzzled by the marriage of those two words. Perhaps I am missing something (still).

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    1. I went to high school in Cullowhee, North Carolina--our school was the former "laboratory school" for Western Carolina University student teachers. It had a wild mix of kids. In our Industrial Arts classes, a lot of the mountain boys made dulcimers...

      And I wish that I had been allowed to take Industrial Arts!

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    2. Dulcimers? Wow! My bread cutting board now looks even less like art by comparison. Of course, I did make those sheet metal cookie cutters. Pity the mothers (mine included) who graciously and lovingly accept such pitiful handicrafts from their boys who muddled through Industrial Arts. However, in the 9th grade, boys could opt instead for Home Economics; I did, and I made the most hideous apron (not artistic) while later making some of the worst (even less artistic) cookies imaginable. To make up for my poor showing in such classes, though, I excelled in actual art classes, and I even won a prize at the student art show (but my parents were not impressed since no person could possibly prepare himself for an independent livelihood as an artist).

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    3. Oh, that's sad! Parents are often fearful about what will become of children, though--it's understandable.

      One year the dulcimers were very popular with the Scots-Irish mountain boys, who were heavy into shop, probably because it was useful to what they then envisaged as future--back then, they lived a wholly different life than the townies and professors' kids. Now all that has been swept away by modern roads and television.

      Home Ec was useful to the mountain children as well. There were girls who really had almost no clothing who doubled their wardrobes by making a skirt and a sheath dress. I regret so much that I didn't get to know that group more, although I had one good friend from Little Canada. Professors' kids and Little Canada kids didn't cross lines much. Alas.

      I'm sure your mother loved those cookie cutters! Bread board, too.

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    4. Well, you'd be wrong about my mother's love. But that is a story for another time and another place. In fact, it would make a novel. But wait. I think Flannery O'Connor already handled those kinds of mothers in her fiction. And she did it more artfully than I could ever hope to do.

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    5. Oh, dear. I am sorry. (On the other hand, they make great O'Connor characters.)

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  2. It's not that different a feeling when reading a really good novel. We don't so much as lose ourselves in the novel (though on occasion, if it's a really good novel we spend the entire day doing nothing else but reading it) as we do find our own selves in the novel. To care about someone fictional becomes a reflection of our relationships with ourselves and others. Also -- I love feeling the structure of the tale, -- something that real life doesn't hand us, except in hindsight, but which we are always trying to image forward into the future.

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  3. There seem to be many iterations of "arts". Is car making an art? cooking? talking? In the meantime, in the wisdom of our ultra concservative governments, the 'arts' are being eliminated from universities. Now it's all about trades fro jobs, or would that be 'industrial arts"? (Pardon the wee rant.)

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    1. Creativity can pop up in many places and many jobs, but the loss of a higher culture signals decline, I believe. And that is, indeed, what we have in universities and on the national level. Entertainment and art once were in more of a balance... and we understood the pleasures of each.

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  5. marja-leena: I simply and strongly disagree with your ranting assertion about "our ultra conservative governments" as the reason for the elimination of the arts from universities. My 15 years at a U.S. southeastern state university leads me to believe (actually, leads me to know) that the problem was not governments -- federal or state -- but university administrations -- and very few of those people can ever be characterized as conservative. But perhaps I know nothing at all, so pardon MY wee rant.

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    1. As I have not been part of a college or university for quite a long time--aside from a few summer gigs when I have the time--I feel quite free to say that the bloating of administration is a terrible problem at many, many schools. Get enough bloat, and you don't have money for what matters as times get more difficult. And that's where we are now. Get rid of mere "cultural" departments and add three new Deans of this-and-that and hire a few adjuncts to cover holes in the teaching schedule.

      A problem colleges have with students and parents is that the professorate is out of balance in its political views. Any great imbalance means we are deprived of free speech and debate--a thing that used to and should still characterize a university--and that "politically incorrect" views are seen as wrong or worse. We've begun seeing a lot of "thought crime" cases on campus, where debate and differing views were once sacrosanct. Visiting speakers are judged as to whether they fit the template of political correctness, too; I can remember when colleges thought it exciting, thrilling to have a speaker who hewed against the grain of the times.

      In the area of literature, many of our English departments have veered too far from matters of art, understanding. and taste and into political and theoretical waters--the most loveless, joyless, soulless way of looking at art possible. It is simply sad.

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    2. RT, may I clarify... I'm in Canada, specifically in BC. Our province, in fact all provinces, administer funding which schools (elementary to high school), colleges and universities receive based on numbers of students and other factors. Tuition fees are only a part and the other part comes from the grants funded by our taxes.

      Because of underfunding, my university and many others cut art and arts programs as well as some others that were deemed frivolous.

      I agree that administrations are also to be blamed - they have become more and more top heavy, and when suddenly they need to make cuts in their budgets, it's not their jobs or slaireds that are cut.

      When I was a high school art teacher many years ago, the band program was cut one year, then my art program the next year. That is happening again.

      When I say conservative, that means that taxes are lowered for the rich and therefore there is less money for education, health care and other social services that have been the foundation in Canada. I could go on, but that is the basics.

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    3. Inspired to consult dictionaries and Wikipedia: "Going to hell in a handbasket", "going to hell in a handcart", "going to hell in a handbag", "sending something to hell in a handbasket" and "something being like hell in a handbasket" are variations on an American alliterative locution of unclear origin, which describes a situation headed for disaster inescapably or precipitately.

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  6. Marly, your assessment of English departments is a bulls-eye. In my own (past) department, gone are the required courses for majors (Shakespeare, Milton, and Chaucer) and present are the new courses for majors (African-American Literature; Literature by Women; LGBT Literature; and similar courses in which the canon is ignored and the newest, politically-correct flavor-of-the-month is embraced), and this is at an ostensibly conservative university in an ostensibly conservative region. To paraphrase Dickens' Tiny Tim: God help us, everyone!

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    1. Sad to think of a young writer who works in the English language going through school without an acquaintance with his or her roots in Shakespeare, Milton, and Chaucer... Of course, plenty of current English majors have never read the bible and don't grasp how it rushes through the Medieval World and the Renaissance and beyond. And what about classical roots?

      It's fine to read contemporaries (I'm glad when people read my books), but roots . . . roots hold up the tree.

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    2. As for higher education, the phrase you all are searching for is "going, going, gone!" I think the trends will not be reversed. And governments are not the reason. The academy itself is destroying itself from the inside.

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  7. Afterword: It is a shame that Alejandro Jodorowskya has been forgotten in this discussion thread, but I suppose that is the way it goes in the blogosphere. BTW, I will have to give more thought to AJ's approach to film-viewing. It seems at first blush to be a curious mix of objective detachment and subjective immersion. But perhaps that is the essence of the art-observer relationship.

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    1. Well, good for you to bring it back again! The article was interesting, and your summation is too!

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  8. Yes, lets reel it back to where you started, Marly. Jodorowsky. A genius. Everyone should see what he makes. Definitely a film-maker for visual artists.

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    1. Clive, the detour away from Jodorowsky was largely my fault. I apologize. I should know better than to highjack someone's blog. So, with profound apologies, Clive, I will bail out at 30,000 feet with a promise not to interfere again with such irrelevant digressions from the flight plan.

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    2. RT, digressions are fine! Rather amused that this was such a long one...hence the "Whew!" But I never mind them.

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Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.