I thought I had been running away from European intellectualism, to New York City, the place of bluntness, where people still talk of pictures rather than ‘signs,’ canvas rather than the ‘heterogeneous materials of the medium,’ and so on. But in my lovely nightlife, cruising the New York art world, I encounter a rather strong current of Francophile (and hence Euro-phile) art talk. I guess I shall probably have to run to China next. French philosophy – the kind of thought that involves more technical terminology than anything else I’m aware of, including quantum mechanics, and that still gives itself the air of being deeply humane – has reached these shores.
Part of this trend, it seems, is a dismissive attitude towards modernity. For the uninitiated, it may be noted that the relevant philosophies presumably have uncovered the dangers of believing in science, knowledge, or progress of any sort. Modernity, of course, is culpable of naïve optimism of the suspect kind. All of this, and much more, is discussed in such convoluted terms that it seems inconceivable to me that anyone would want to read it.
Anyway, I was quite depressed last night, when I realized that said judgment about modernity extends to Pop Art, apparently now viewed as a simple-minded happy affirmation of clear lines and straight strokes (as in “naïve belief in order and knowledge”). Has everyone forgotten about the fun in art?