Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Where Glamour Is Measured In Degrees Of Banality

Fig. 1. Jeff Koons - Baroque Egg with Bow, 1994-2006

'The banality that the psychology of the arts is partly the psychology of status has been repeatedly pointed out, not just by cynics and barbarians but by erudite social commentators such as Quentin Bell and Tom Wolfe. But in the modern university, it is unmentioned, indeed, unmentionable. Academics and intellectuals are culture vultures. In a gathering of today's elite, it is perfectly acceptable to laugh that you barely passed Physics for Poets and Rocks for Jocks and have remained ignorant of science ever since, despite the obvious importance of scientific literacy to informed choices about personal health and public policy. But saying that you have never heard of James Joyce or that you tried listening to Mozart once but prefer Andrew Lloyd Webber is as shocking as blowing your nose on your sleeve or announcing that you employ children in your sweatshop, despite the obvious unimportance of your tastes in leisure-time activity to do just about anything. The blending in people's minds of art, status, and virtue is an extension of Bell's principle of sartorial morality ... people find dignity in the signs of an honorably futile existence removed from all mental necessities.'

Steven Pinker