I need an in depth example in each of the 6 major art forms
April 25, 2013 10:17 AM   Subscribe

Hello, I recently had to write a dissertation in class arguing whether the state is concerned with artistic creation. The prof criticised me for limiting my examples in literature and poetry and recommended me to have at least a solid example in each of the 6 art forms.

They are:
-Literature, poetry

I have the literature and poetry covered but I seriously lack knowledge in the other arts. Can you recommend me a philosophically significant example that can be used in as many domains as possible in the other art forms?

Could there be an artist more philosophically worthy than Michelangelo? He is a painter, sculptor and an architect. How about Da Vinci? I can't afford the time to spend on multiple artists except if there's a good resource that you know analysing them. Should i go with my classical music taste and choose Bach? Could Beethoven be a better choice? Finally I'm completely ignorant about dancing, I need your help on that one.

I've tried googling but couldn't really settle on the example for each art, that's why I turn to the taste of mefites.
posted by lite to Media & Arts (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Just as a quick clarification-- you need examples of the state aka the government's role in artistic creation?

US based (aka the American federal government's interactions/sponsorship of the above six)? International?
posted by Flamingo at 11:40 AM on April 25, 2013

Flamingo: "Just as a quick clarification-- you need examples of the state aka the government's role in artistic creation?

US based (aka the American federal government's interactions/sponsorship of the above six)? International?

That was a dissertation that I already handed in, I need exemples from art that could be used in a future dissertation involving art. So recommendations of interesting artists or philosophers that wrote about art is what I need.
posted by lite at 11:44 AM on April 25, 2013

I'm not sure what you mean by "philosophical worthiness" but here are some examples of the state concerning itself with artistic creation in your domains:

Painting: Jackson Pollock. The Congress for Cultural Freedom, an organization to promote American culture and values, backed by the CIA, sponsored exhibitions of Pollock's work. Certain left-wing scholars, most prominently Eva Cockcroft, have argued that the U.S. government and wealthy elite embraced Pollock and abstract expressionism in order to place the United States in the forefront of global art and devalue socialist realism. See the film Pollock.

Music/Dance: Chinese opera, particularly how it fell in and out of favor during the Cultural Revolution. ("During the Cultural Revolution, most opera troupes were disbanded, performers and scriptwriters were persecuted, and all operas were banned except the eight "model operas" that had been sanctioned by Jiang Qing and her associates.") See the film Farewell My Concubine for a primer.

Architecture: The controversy over the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. ("James Watt, Secretary of the Interior under President Ronald Reagan, initially refused to issue a building permit for the memorial due to the public outcry about the design.")

Can't help with you sculpture, unless you want to go into Ai Weiwei's run-ins with the Chinese Communist Party (I'm not sure they had anything to do with his sculpture per se, though). See Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry.
posted by seemoreglass at 11:45 AM on April 25, 2013

I want to say Dorothea Lang, and maybe you can argue her into Painting, or at least flat visual media with a serious social impact...
posted by acm at 11:57 AM on April 25, 2013

Works Progress Administration art, which skews towards murals in public buildings, also prints. Government sponsored art for the people.
posted by PussKillian at 12:27 PM on April 25, 2013

Art and Politics are and always have been inextricably linked, and you can look at almost any artwork in context and find long exegeses to be written about its affect on the state and vice versa. It's not always as obvious as French theatre in the 18th century or punk music, but it's always there. Art is nearly always some form of propaganda or rebellion. Lydia Goehr has written extensive and eloquent philosophical essays on this topic, especially w/r/t music, and I recommend them. Here's a good intro, but it's behind a paywall.

Anyway, here's a few thoughts on examples of music:

Probably the first significant example of the state's concern with music is in Plato's Republic.

The most stand-out and oft-cited historical example of a state's involvement with music is probably Shostakovich. He fell in and out of favor with Stalin and Soviet Russia throughout his life. Arguments continue to this day as to whether things like the 5th and 7th symphonies are meant to be ironic, mocking, or earnest, as they move between expressionistic movements espousing contemporary theory and fanfares that seem to be all hail Russia. There have been many similar examples in Russia - from Prokofiev to Stravinsky to Schnittke, but Shostakovich is the exemplar for sure.

Germany has its own weird state/music relationships. There was Hitler's use of all sorts of music as propaganda (famously Orff's Carmina Burana, but among many others). Wagner was an inextricable part of German politics at he end of the 19th century. To a lesser degree, Bach and Beethoven were often cited as works that led to the geist-type stuff Hegel talked about w/r/t German History. Even to this day the history of Western music is largely the history of German music.

And America, of course. We often joke that Copland, THE American composer, was a gay communist Jew from Brooklyn and was very politically active and had rifts with all sorts of political figures. Debates over music censorship and music's affect on the state a la punk and Manson and Sinead O'Conner ripping up the picture of the Pope on SNL - these are all big intersections of the state and music.

In general, the first half of the 20th century was just ripe with political upheaval bleeding all over the classical music world. There's a reason why most of the famous composers and philosophers of art ended up defecting to America - Stravinsky, Schoenberg, Bartok, Adorno, etc. A good layman's intro to this, I think, is Alex Ross's excellent book The Rest is Noise.
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:29 PM on April 25, 2013

Government sponsored art for the people.

Oh, yeah. I can't believe I forgot to mention Gebrauchsmusik, or music for use, which was a movement led largely by Paul Hindemith (another defector to America), where the music was always written for some social purpose.

This debate over what music should be for in relation to the state and society was a huge debate in the 20th century. People think Copland's famous "Fanfare for the Common Man" was written for vets of WWII, when in actuality "Common Man" refers to the worker.

The theme continued well into the later part of the century, culminating probably with George Maciunas and the Fluxus stuff, where people believed more or less that the idea of the artist should die, everyone should have day jobs working for the communist utopia, art is made everyday in small ways, etc.
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:34 PM on April 25, 2013

You have not defined "the state" which makes providing information difficult. I see you are in France, but just for some context one could not write this dissertation in the US without addressing the WPA, and the NEA. Additionally, and unusually, in Ireland income from many of the arts is tax-free.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:58 PM on April 25, 2013

For a contemporary example in sculpture & painting, you might look into the role of public art in Ba'athist Iraq and the debate over whether it should be demolished. For example, the Victory Arch was initially slated for demolition, but now the plan is to restore it as a gesture of national unity and reconciliation.
posted by Johnny Assay at 1:12 PM on April 25, 2013

Your question's pretty vague and open-ended, especially for grad work (unless I'm misunderstanding "dissertation").

But specifically with sculpture, you can look to the Chicago Public Art Program, which ensures public art as a part of new construction, and that almost always takes the form of sculpture.

The other big place you see state interest combined with sculpture is in fountains. They were a regular part of public life for millennia, and as such the state used their form for propaganda.

You might also look to Nazi aesthetics, including the idea of "ruin value" as promulgated by Hitler and Speer.

But while I think we can give you some hints, the interaction of the state and art is, like, a major part of aesthetic theory as it overlaps with political philosophy. There's just too much to tell you without asking for more specifics — like, there's plenty of Derrida and Foucault that underpins most modern discussions of post-structural/post-semiotic aesthetic theory, but it's kind of overkill unless you're actually writing a real dissertation, in which case, talk to your librarian about literature reviews.
posted by klangklangston at 1:28 PM on April 25, 2013

You might want to check out some of Jacques Ranciere's work: almost all of it is concerned with the intersection of politics (the state) and aesthetics (art, broadly conceived). His Politics of Aesthetics is pretty short and fairly comprehensible (there's even a glossary). There's a review of it here.

I'm not sure that it will help with specific examples (I can't really remember how many specific artists/works he looks at), but it should prove useful for thinking about the relation of art and the state more generally, which might help you in coming up with your own example.
posted by experiencing a significant gravitas shortfall at 4:53 PM on April 25, 2013

Your question's pretty vague and open-ended, especially for grad work (unless I'm misunderstanding "dissertation").

"In France, the academic dissertation or thesis is called a thèse while the word dissertation is reserved for shorter (1,000–2,000 words), more generic academic treatises." So this is the sort of thing you'd call an essay or a term paper in North America, not a major research project.
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 7:33 PM on April 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

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