27 January 2018
Dr Great Art Podcast Episode 28: Neo-Sophistry in Art
This episode concerns a troublesome yet seldom acknowledged tendency in the artworld: Sophistry. Why are you in this struggle? Are you an artist or critic or curator simply for careerist "success"? Weren't you actually CALLED to art?
Dr Great Art Podcast 28 28
Sophistry, Careerism in Art
Hi this is Mark Staff Brandl, with the 28th "Dr Great Art" brief podcast. I hope you enjoy it and come back for each and every one.
Today my Artecdote concerns a troublesome yet seldom acknowledged tendency I see in the artworld: Sophistry. Or more correctly, (Neo-)Sophistry
There is a new Sophistry now rampant in the world and even in the artworld, where one would least expect it.
What is Sophistry?
The essential claim of sophistry is that the actual validity of an argument is irrelevant (even non-existent); it is only the ruling of the audience which matters --- and usually only the ruling of a "chosen" audience of fellow-believers. Thus any position ruled true by these "judges" must be considered completely correct, even if it was arrived at by naked pandering to prejudices, or even by bribery or by coercion. Critics such as Socrates have, of course, argued that this claim relies on a straw man caricature of logical discourse and is, in fact, a circular, self-justifying act of self-deception and even fawning.
Sophists claim there is no reason to search for or even desire such things as quality, truth, analysis, criticality, social justice, etc. In fact, they claim that there no real knowledge, yet they historically insist on teaching this very "fact" of know-nothing-ism, producing students who excel in memorization, performance, and what we nowadays call yuppie-career-development. Socrates criticized them, noting that they are not concerned to know and teach the way anything might really stand, but only to prevail over others, merely to win, without provoking their listeners to desire anything of importance. Sophists, according to him, are not only ignorant of the essential nature of the phenomena they profess to teach, they practice deception.
In a parallel manner, many of the "powerful" in the artworld of today, even artists themselves, make no claim to any actual desire for anything beyond a rather bovine, suburban, view of career success and are happy to teach this and promote it and themselves in universities, museums, Kunsthallen, exhibitions, biennials and the like. One prominent European curator and art school director has even openly claimed his position as a complete Sophist. Most others in similar positions would deny it, but practice it, which is Sophistry at its most conformist.
Thus Neo-Sophistry is the newest form of an age-old erroneous and self-serving belief, often born of a very middlebrow envy of creativity, deeper intellectual thought or vital desire.
Ask yourself, why are you in this struggle? Are you an artist or critic or curator simply because you were too incompetent to be a success in a "real" career such as banking or popular music or novel-writing or...? I don't think so.
Weren't you actually CALLED to art in some way, by someone?
Think back. Duchamp said that that he wanted to be the "champion of the world or champion of something" yet denied easy success at every turn. He eventually claimed (fallaciously it later was revealed) to have renounced his vocation. Explaining this supposed retreat to his patron Katherine Drier, he wrote: "Don't see any pessimism in my decisions; they are only a way toward beatitude." But actually he was working on his last permanent installation.
The best way toward beatitude lies, though, NOT in denying your vocation, or lying about that, but in remembering and returning to its original roots regularly. That is in order to try to truly be yourself in art, one of THE most difficult of all things. Keep in mind your love of art.
Do not be conformed to this artworld of Neo-Sophistry, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Confidence in your calling is your source, not hypocrisy or careerism. These are false gods.
Neo-Sophistry in art is the blind promulgating the mute.
Thanks for listening. Podcast number 28.
Sophistry in Art.
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If you wish to hear more cool, exciting and hopefully inspiring stuff about art history and art, come back for more. Also I, Dr Mark Staff Brandl, artist and art historian, am available for live custom Performance-Lectures. In English und auf Deutsch.
I take viewers inside visual art and art history. Entertainingly, yet educationally and aesthetically, I analyze, underline, and discuss the reasons why a work of art is remarkable, or I go through entire eras, or indeed through the entirety of art history, or look at your desired theme through the lens of art history. The lectures often take place with painted background screens and even in my painting-installations.
Some recent ones were on the entire history of Postmodernist Art from 1979 through today, on Metaphor(m) in Art History, and on Mongrel Art. Once again, I'd like to thank Chloe Orwell, Brad Elvis, and the rock band the Handcuffs for composing, performing and recording my theme song, "Shut Up and Paint," a tiny portion of which begins and ends every Dr Great Art Podcast.
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