Saturday, August 14, 2004

A Cultured Respect for Authority

"What strikes me is the fact that in our society, art has become something which is related only to objects and not to individuals, or to life. That art is something which is specialized or which is done by experts who are artists. But couldn't everyone's life become a work of art? Why should the lamp or the house be an art object, but not our life?"

- Michel Foucault, "On the genealogy of ethics: An overview of work in progress".


Sheryl said...

There you go posting on one of my favorite subjects again. How am I supposed to avoid babble mode when you do that?! Oh well.

You know who has the most beautiful ideas on this subject is Oscar Wilde--he's so funny and clever!

I bought a book of his quotes the year before last. Then I found out that William Gilbert (of G&S fame) based his wonderful musical Patience on Oscar Wilde. It pokes fun at the pretenses of artistic snobbery, and it just happened to be my favorite of the G&S musicals. Really weird.

But Oscar Wilde used to go around saying things like: "One should either be a work of art, or wear a work of art," and "I think a man should invent his own myth," and "Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates life." You get the idea.

Turns out that these two people I really admire were a little bit competitive with one another in real life. Someone should write a book about it, because they are both brilliant.

Here's a quote from my book about it:

"William Gilbert (of Gilbert and Sullivan) met Wilde at a dinner party. As usual, Wilde dominated the gathering with his stories and wit. 'I wish I could talk like you,' said Gilbert during a rare pause. 'I'd keep my mouth shut and claim it as a virtue!'

"Ah, that would be selfish,' responded Wilde. 'I could deny myself the pleasure of talking, but not to others the pleasure of listening."

That must be my excuse as well. Hahahahaha. :-)

Anonymous said...

Perhaps some one here will know. In England there is a famous (so famous I cannot remember him) earlt 1900 designer - art deco style maybe (sorry really bad with details) but he said something once about how we should live with beauty around us in our life so we should surround ourselves with beautiful things. I have tried to quote websites with no luck. but this post reminded me. Does anyone here know a good website for quotes? I am trying to find one that a french philosopher said about how you should live your live calmly and routinely so that you can be violently creative at work? strike a chord? anymore?
From : Worst memory in the world :-(

Sheryl said...

You might actually be thinking of Oscar Wilde. :-) He was a british writer at about the same time as George Bernard Shaw. I thought that was interesting when I learned that, because Shaw's the one who wrote Pygmalion (the precursor to My Fair Lady), which is also about the power of illusion and art. I guess it was a popular subject in those days.

Anyway, Wilde was big into the "aesthetic movement," which is all about appreciating the beauty in things. So there are tons of quotes by him about beauty and art.

Maybe one of these will ring a bell:

"Devotion to beauty and to the creation of beautiful things is the test of all great civilizations."
"Beauty has as many meanings as man has moods."
"Beauty is the only thing that time cannot harm."

There are millions of quotation sites on the internet. I made a link myself, but rather than give you my link, I'll tell you how I went about creating it.

Think of some quotes you like already, and enter them into Google with quotation marks around them. A million links will come up with lists of quotes. Read through the lists and find more you like, and then repeat the process every time you find a new quote you like. In a very short time, you will have amassed a very large list of wonderful quotes, according to your own tastes and values.

What made me sad viewing the quotation sites was how many people just robbed other people's lists. You'd think that they had no preferences of their own.

Believe me, it's lots of fun. I felt very experimental accumulating my list of quotes. :-)

Anonymous said...

Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or at least beautiful- william morris.

hopes this helps

Anonymous said...

I like these ones about beauty. Sorry if unrelated to the post:

i'm tired of people saying that beauty is skin deep. what do you want? adorable pancakes.

i know this quote is not exactly correct and i cannot recall the name of the actress who said it.

another one is -
a woman is not loved because she is beautiful, she is beautiful because you love her.

sorry i don't know who said it. i'm sure you can punch in the key phrase and find the author or it could be author unknown.

Sheryl said...

The whole issue of beauty and art and self definition are so interesting.

On the one hand, I don't think we could have personalities at all if we didn't dream of who we could be as opposed to who we are. Ambition itself is about getting past the truth of who you are and transcending that to who you could be. First you define who you want to be, and then you turn yourself into that person. Because to a certain extent, we have choices in what kind of people we want to be. We can be beautiful people and stand for beautiful things, or we can be shallow and stand for nothing.

On the other hand, you could play Sybil in someone's blog, for example, but that wouldn't mean that if one of your multiple personalities appeared dignified that the person behind the mask would inherently be any less bourgeois.

So whereas I think illusion can determine reality, it does not define it. :-)

In terms of beauty in the eye of the beholder, I thought that old Twilight Zone episode from 1960 "The Eye if the Beholder" had a brilliant spin on that idea. :-)

But I still advocate the musical Patience on this subject. It's a very thought provoking musical, and too funny.

Sheryl said...

PS You can quote me if you wanna. ;-)