Life in Omaha (in Scottsdale)

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Monday, August 02, 2004

Art and Meaning

Terry Gross interviewed the comedian Patton Something or other (Spence
on King of Queens) and he said that comedy and eroticism are
unarguable. That is if something is funny, or something turns you on,
that's the end of the discussion. One cannot argue that something
should be funny for an individual, nor can one convince a person to
find a person or activity seductive. They are binary--on or off.

I wonder if art works this way. Perhaps my students have been right
all along with art. It either engages you or doesn't. Ultimately,
that is the end of the discussion. Where we operate (as teachers)
comes well before the end of the discussion--or perhaps we are having a
discussion that they don't even know about. We want to know how the
art works. But isn't how it works evaluated by if it works? And if it
works is unarguable--"I really like Tom Clancy novels"--then what have
we been talking about.

I'm throwing this line out to try and figure out where are lands in our
understanding of the world. There are two clear ways we know the
world--narrative and data. Narrative of course is the province of most
of the humanities: English, History, Religion, etc. Data is the
province of the sciences. But where do we put such things as painting,
sculpture and music? Outside of say opera or explicitly narrative
artworks, these arts are very abstract. Although music has
mathematical characteristics, and much of the visual arts are

This all ties back into a sense of transcendence--if its not an
illusion, then surely art must have some universal, ahistorical
quality, irreducible to data or narrative.

(10 miles, Ponca Hills short loop, Florence Heights variation. Saw a flock of turkeys (~30) with a number of turkey chicks--turklets? giblets?)


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