Zero Books Podcast #42: The Truth About Art

This is a podcast that I like to listen to sometimes – its host is the editor of Zero Books, the description of the publisher being something that might help give you an idea of what the podcast concerns itself with:

Contemporary culture has eliminated the concept and public figure of the intellectual. A cretinous anti-intellectualism presides, cheerled by hacks in the pay of multinational corporations who reassure their bored readers that there is no need to rouse themselves from their stupor. Zer0 Books knows that another kind of discourse – intellectual without being academic, popular without being populist – is not only possible: it is already flourishing. Zer0 is convinced that in the unthinking, blandly consensual culture in which we live, critical and engaged theoretical reflection is more important than ever before.

I think the discussion that happens in this episode of the podcast is a great addition to what I was trying to say with my post talking about what a modern polytheist art tradition might be. Here’s the summary:

Patrick Doorly is an art historian specializing in Renaissance Italy. He divides his time between writing and teaching art history in the Department for Continuing Education, Oxford University, where he was acting director of studies for art history in 2001–02. Previously he was Head of Critical and Theoretical Studies at the School of Art & Design, Croydon College. Today we’ll discuss his book The Truth About Art which was published by Zero Books in August of 2013.

His book:
Traces the multiple meanings of art back to their historical roots, and equips the reader to choose between them. Art with a capital A turns out to be an invention of German Romantic philosophers, who endowed their creation with the attributes of genius, originality, rule breaking, and self-expression, directed by the spirit of the age. Recovering the problems that these attributes were devised to solve dispels many of the obscurities and contradictions that accompany them. What artists have always sought is excellence, and they become artists in so far as they achieve it. Quality was the supreme value in Renaissance Italy, and in early Greece it offered mortals glimpses of the divine. Today art historians avoid references to beauty or Quality, since neither is objective or definable.

Click here to give it a listen!

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