The third Fleet Foxes album arrives after a six-year hiatus and lands beard-first into the debate on the role of the artist in 2017: to reflect the complex real-world landscape or to make an oblique and beautiful piece of art?
We have entered the age of the woke space opera where war crimes and mass slaughter are perfectly acceptable as long as they form part of a journey towards redemption and self-improvement.
He tells me about a taxi driver he’s met in town. The man hated contemporary art, but has been converted by the artists he has taken to and from the gallery. “He absolutely loves it now. He feels like he’s part of the conversation.” You can tell the story delights Johnson, an artist who insists on everyone’s right to be seen.
Dystopia used to be a fiction of resistance; it’s become a fiction of submission, the fiction of an untrusting, lonely, and sullen twenty-first century, the fiction of fake news and infowars, the fiction of helplessness and hopelessness. It cannot imagine a better future, and it doesn’t ask anyone to bother to make one. It nurses grievances and indulges resentments; it doesn’t call for courage; it finds that cowardice suffices. Its only admonition is: Despair more. It appeals to both the left and the right, because, in the end, it requires so little by way of literary, political, or moral imagination, asking only that you enjoy the company of people whose fear of the future aligns comfortably with your own. Left or right, the radical pessimism of an unremitting dystopianism has itself contributed to the unravelling of the liberal state and the weakening of a commitment to political pluralism. “This isn’t a story about war,” El Akkad writes in “American War.” “It’s about ruin.” A story about ruin can be beautiful. Wreckage is romantic. But a politics of ruin is doomed.
The only means I have to stop ignorant snobs from behaving towards genre fiction with snobbish ignorance is to not reinforce their ignorance and snobbery by lying and saying that when I write SF it isn’t SF, but to tell them more or less patiently for forty or fifty years that they are wrong to exclude SF and fantasy from literature, and proving my argument by writing well.
Ursula K. Le Guin, in the interview “A Lovely Art”, published in The Wild Girls, from PM Press.
What a year this week has been
“There’s anger because they haven’t taken circumstance into account,” says Nadja Argyropoulou, a curator in Athens. “Their theory is beautiful, radical and timely, but they didn’t mingle or take the leap into the everyday or address the reality here. Circumstance is what humbles theory and makes art as important as real life.”
Very apropos my previous post, and it is a very beautiful sentiment (from this article on the German Documenta contemporary art event in Greece), but I still don’t know, the graffiti (from the same article), may be more appropriate: