Art and revolution

Doyle Saylor djsaylor at
Sat Nov 4 14:27:49 MST 2000

Hello Nestor,  Greetings Comrades,
    I like your reply with respect to bringing up Dali and Miro.  Modernism
has produced some beautiful work.  I like Diego Rivera and other Mexican
muralist a lot.  One of the great Mexican muralists, Orozco probably set
Jackson Pollack off into drip painting, and got abstract expressionism some
technical bases for exploring non-figurative images in American culture.

I believe that the
general idea I exposed (a structure of coherent meaning, not
necessarily a realist structure, and its relations with the meaning
of our relationship with nature and other human beings and groups)
does not imply that "realist" art is "better" art.

I want to focus on the word "better" here.  I was writing about the Marxist
emphasis upon realism, and with obvious care on your part you, Nestor, tried
to make it clear you weren't arguing wholly for realism as "good" art
despite referring to the realist canon and icon, Balzac.  Your reason
perhaps being the problematic history on the left concerning realism.

Yet I want to argue for realism in art because that tradition has much to
give us for our future.

I want to point out some key parts of values.  We have values because we
"feel" things.  Writing does not adequately convey feelings.  Human feelings
emerge not so much in language but parallel to speech through the body.
Smiles, and facial expressions to be seen, gut feelings for us to experience

For example where you use the term "better art" most of the time people will
call something as "good" a "value" judgement.  I think the way you phrase
yourself is to carefully avoid making a value judgement of realism as good,
abstraction is bad.

The disconnect between words and feelings is important to human beings
compared to say Chimpanzees who have a less flexible communicative system
for their social structure.  What I am driving at is that in realist terms a
realist form of expression that truly incorporates value judgements about
the goodness and badness of art is much more complex than the traditional
realist arguments about good art and bad art.  The problem is about
universal values in feelings.  What does that really mean?

I would agree with the thrust of your comments about trying to avoid using
value judgements about realist art is "good" art versus modernism is bad
art.  In the sense of you wanting to say this,

What I mean is that
whatever it is in their paintings that moves me, I am of the idea
that it has to do with the expression of feelings that exist in
society, feelings to which I can be sympathetic or not, but which I
can relate to.

A major question throughout the last hundred years of modernist painting has
been how human feelings do attach to works of art.  In my mind American
"Action Painting" failed to resolve how feelings are involved in the
painting process.  That was central to their claims of their movement, an
(emotional) authenticity of the artists felt life in the existentialist
sense of the words.

A realism about feelings is body centered and not fine grained information
about something (see Antonio Damasio, "The Feeling of What Happens, Body and
Emotion in the Making of Consciousness" Harcourt Brace, 1999).

Rationalism dealt with the obvious conflict that angry people exhibit by
excluding feelings from written content which works well given the problem
of conveying feelings through writing.  Therefore the success of writing to
produce knowledge relatively free of emotions convinced most of us that
feelings get in the way of brain work.  This is in fact a false view of the
human brain, for which there is more than adequate proof that emotions are
central to human cognition.  And this is very obvious to artist who deal in
emotional content all the time in their work.

The primary emotion management tool literate societies have is writing
systems.  Christianity early on used writing as a way to universalize
morality and this tradition weighs heavily upon Christian cultures.  Where
morality is value (emotions) judgements about social conduct.  We can see
now how value judgements against homosexuals by Christians fails to
understand the complex contingent nature of human feelings.  How else to
explain that people in extremely heterosexual cultures spontaneously form
homosexual relationships based upon emotions, than that emotions are
contingent.  We are thus used to writing systems as the primary way we think
of understanding social feelings, when the tool is really quite primitive
about giving us a sense of how people really feel.

And from this I would point once again how important conversation is to
processes of people forming social connections.  And in turn how e-lists
show us the value of conversation.  Even though writing does not readily
show feelings accurately we are able to overlook the frequent flaming and
other painful consequences of the failures of writing systems so that we get
the best value out of what we read anyway.

And returning to the theme of conversation as a ripe area for Marxist to use
and work with, that a realistic development of e-lists requires taking
seriously the realistic flow of emotions in the conversation.  Which agrees
with the gist of your liking Miro, and Dali.
Doyle Saylor

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