Chuck Grimes cgrimes at
Sun Dec 13 17:31:01 PST 1998

Louis Proyect wrote: "The proper way to make art that has political impact is a topic best left to another post, which I will turn to when time permits."

As a musician, I would be most interested in this. It was a pleasure to read about your experiences with opera, by the way.

Daniel --------------

I unsubbed for awhile to get some work done on my computer, so please excuse the post if it is off--but I think I recognize the topic.

The thing about art is that it can be and has been just about everything, so, the means to a revolutionary or progressive art is like-wise diverse. So, you get to choose whatever means you want or think might be effective.

In my case, I went back to this question and decided that what makes art revolutionary isn't its media, its content, its practioners, or its audience but the fundamentals of the practice itself. More specifically, by focusing down on the skills required, not the 'creative process' but the manual and intellectual skills, the states of learning how to do art, you become aware of, conscious of what words like 'skilled trade' mean. It is that awareness that opens the progressive or radical door on the world. That is you become aware of the nature of skill, what it takes to develop a skill, and 'what' you own, when you have achieved a certain level of accomplishment. I suppose you could just dismiss this as 'learning sets you free'. However, the difference between that triviality and learning an art, is that say within the visual arts, you become aware of exactly how a broad mass culture is constructed, how it works upon and forms a perception of the world and other people, and how that visual culture has created in the mind's eye our concepts of everything from three dimensional space, to the icons we associate with the concepts of the State and Corporate America--icons which by extension have become identical to State and Corporate identities.

So, it is this learning aspect that can form the radical core to art. I say, can because these concepts need to be articulated and developed--either through writing or through various art media. But in any case the skill achieved is its own form of radicalization. But there is no essence here. It is only within the current cultural context where everything is both manufactured and mass produced, and creates an apparently seamless illusion--it is only in this kind of context that learning a high level craft, takes on a potentially radicalizing manifestation. (what am I talking about?)

If you know how to draw the human figure in a compelling and convincing way in just about any position in illusionist three dimensional space, then you know how the illusion of space is created--that knowledge opens the entire spectrum of current media up to scrutiny--to examination of the means that create this illusion and how these illusions are used to manipulate the emotional and intellectual perspectives of an audience. The simple form is this: good painters make the most convincing propaganda, just as good writers write the most convincing propaganda. But there is more at issue here than just propaganda. The creation of our intellectual world is generated from these illusions--those of history and combined with those of our own era--the mass consumer culture. Together these conceptual worlds determine, focus, and create the lens through which we percieve our selves, the world and other people. Understanding how this is done is a radical form of knowledge. Whether it leads to positive action and progressive or leftist views is probably another question--that in my opinion you have to leave up to the better nature of the people involved.

Chuck Grimes

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