Sure, I'm an art snob. That means I consider it possible that "good things" and "my favorites" are not necessarily the same. But what ought to go into the good things category? Or even the best things category?

We cannot tolerate this being simply be a matter of technical sophistication and production value. Very high-priced films with famous writers and great cinematography are often mysteriously inadequate. Big budget Soviet propaganda movies are interesting as historical curiosities -- not gems of the cinema. The remake of Evil Dead is technically a better horror film but sooooooo much less interesting than the haphazard and amateur irony of Sam Raimi's original films. So where does that leave us?

Well, the traditional approach for defining great art is simply a cocktail mix of "popular renown" with "academic vanity". I am suggesting that if a creation is both famous and often used by institutional intellectuals (either in praise or critique) then it ends up occupying the de facto category of Great Art. This is the approach that the whole world symbolizes in the icon of Da Vinci's Mona Lisa.

Yet I have elected to decorate this thread with Salvador Dali's Mona Lisa. For why? You might say it is one of my beloved Nietzschean themes. That weird theorist sought to remake the value of all values within an organic hierarchy based on the usefulness of each value to the overall production of increasingly complex and coherent intensities of empowerment for living beings. I.e. art should be GOOD for life's sake.

What is good art for life's sake?

It has three necessary characteristics:

  1. It makes you want to make art. The best artwork is whatever incites you to want to generate art and to feel confident that you can generate art, with a good conscience, using the resources at your disposal.
  2. It makes you feel more alive. The best artwork amplifies and enriches your sense of what it means to be you -- and what it means to be a human being.
  3. It arms you for life. The best artwork makes you happy with what is, ready to embrace your world and your culture, and gives you the mood of capability to productively engage your specific life challenges and the universal human challenges (e.g. time & death).

This is art for life. It is what fascist art said it wants to do... but never actually accomplishes. Does the Mona Lisa do these things? Not really. Not for me, anyway. Da Vinci's historical status and apparent technical capacity seem beyond me. How can I match the curiosity of the moment in which that woman smiled so ambiguously? How does it relate to my life? What does it make me feel? How does it empower me for real challenges? It doesn't. So I must take myself seriously and devalue her status. Maybe it is really bad art!

On the other hand, I remember -- as a child -- walking out of the movie theater after Die Hard 3. Wow! I was ready to take on the world. After watching Twin Peaks I was confidently alert to the vibrant ethereal dimensions of my own local wildlife and community -- ready to intelligently struggle with world of even murders and demons!

Art becomes dangerous and dubious when it is so grand and involved that the individual feels distanced, placed into the role of the appreciative spectator or "consumer of facts about art". Just observe those sad pointless faces of school children at the museum... quickly moving from exhibit to exhibit READING THE NAMES, DATES AND EXPLANATION CARDS! Horrifying. 

Art becomes dubious and dangerous when intellectuals start thinking that the conceptual inquiry of "What is art? Could anything be art?" is either interesting or in any way related to the vital questions with which artists are grappling. 

No, the art of life is much closer to "cult classics" than to either sheer popularity or the academic praise of art critics, pundits & professors. In the recent documentary It Might Get Loud, musician Jack White describes how his favorite song is still the one which made him WANT to be a musician -- the instrument-less, untutored blues classics of Son House. That is great art. It animated him in art and life.

Although I have been a lifelong fan of Tolkien and the Middle-Earth films... they do not do for me what art should do. Instead, they "take me away" to "another place" whose challenges and energies bear little or no resemblance to my own life. On the other hand, the problematic writings of H.P. Lovecraft make me feel as if playing with words is accessible, highly personal and wildly chaotic opportunity. And Star Trek -- well just look at the power of human well-being, experimentation and actual technological innovation that has spread from that brief 1960s TV show! Probably we should say is a much greater work of art than the paltry Mona Lisa.

So if we really took seriously this call to revalue all values in the service of life -- our life -- how would we begin to rank Great Art? What paintings make us ready and willing to paint? What songs actually makes us feel capable of working to improve our lives? What television shows make you not only glad to be alive but more willing to be creatively engaged in YOUR life and life of the specific culture into which you are born?

And if this is the axis of altitude then what are the "levels" of an integral analysis of art?

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Quite right. So in all practical affairs there must be some sort of functional balancing between factors like "trade expertise" and "liking" (as well as human and ecological well-being). They operate dangerously and dysfunctionally on their own. 

And we should bear in mind that Travers incorporates not only her personal likeability but that of the Book and its characters which are in her social custody. 

The genius of Disney (as least as portrayed by Disney's version of their founder!) amount to a kind of inuitive awareness that his business expertise could complement the likeability of that book and then be matched by popular feelings of well-being in audience members. The only think missing there is whether it is a good use of our resources to do this using the technological system which produced films. But in either case the real "wealth" is constituted by the potential hybrids between values in different domains. As this becomes obvious to a meta-level analysis it also becomes increasingly feasible to map this into the nature of currency itself -- establishing a new economic platform which is at least minimally integrated (an improvement on the current situation).

Saw the Wolf of Wallstreet last night. 

506 F-bombs! 

It was a criticism of unfettered capitalism in the same way that a "Cheech & Chong" movie is a criticism of pot usage.

Just goes to show how far someone can go if they're good at selling fairy dust.

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