We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Samizdata quote of the day

By obsessing over politics above all else, identitarian artists of the twenty-first century resemble the Socialist Realists from the Soviet Union in the early- to mid-twentieth century. One could charitably call Socialist Realism an artistic style, one that glorified peasants, factory workers, and Communist values, but it was nurtured by a totalitarian police state and was the only “style” allowed by the government lest hapless artists wished to live out the remaining days of their lives in a Siberian slave labor camp. “Like Socialist Realism,” Ahmari writes, “identitarian art claims to be revolutionary, but in fact rigidly adheres to a set of political dictates. Master its political grammar, and you can easily decode any piece of identitarian art. For all its claims to ‘transgressiveness,’ identity art is drearily conformist.”

Michael Totten

6 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • The very speed with which a new identity is brought forward and made the current fashion speaks of an immense urge to conform.

    Identarian politics is simply our times’ dress for an old phenomenon: The dreary conformity of the supposedly revolutionary left is far older than I am. George Orwell, in ‘Looking Back on the Spanish War’ (1942), wrote that:

    “the same people who in 1933 sniggered pityingly if you said that in certain circumstances you would fight for your country, in 1937 were denouncing you as a Trotsky-Fascist if you suggested that the stories in New Masses about freshly wounded men clamouring to get back into the fighting might be exaggerated. And the Left intelligentsia made their swing-over from ‘War is hell’ to ‘War is glorious’ not only with no sense of incongruity but almost without any intervening stage. Later the bulk of them were to make other transitions equally violent. There must be quite a large number of people, a sort of central core of the intelligentsia, who approved the ‘King and Country’ declaration in 1935, shouted for a ‘firm line’ against Germany in 1937, supported the People’s Convention in 1940, and are demanding a Second Front now.”

    And, of course, the behaviour is much older than that. It could be argued that Herodotus’ story of the Greek tyrant in the cornfield, levelling all the stalks down to uniformity, is the eternal reality of the left.

    (Aside: Orwell’s dates are debatable in the quote above. The ‘King and Country’ debate – i.e. the Oxford Union saying they’d never fight for Britain – was in 1933. Orwell may mean that it was during 1935 that it became no longer ‘relevant’. The “People’s Convention for a People’s Peace”, i.e. peace with Hitler, met in London in early 1941; they were of course active in 1940.)

  • bobby b

    This may be OT, but . . .

    When I read Totten’s article, my thought was, where are the artists?

    Historically, we go through cycles in which the influence of identitarian art waxes and wanes. When it’s at a low, art tends to be more aesthetically pleasing, because that’s how art qua art tends to be judged.

    But when identitarian art is rampant, aesthetics take a back seat to message.

    So, when the SJW reigns in the art world, where do the people go who just want to make nonpolitical art?

    Are artists so attuned to where the money comes from that they can transform their own art into the social messages demanded of them by the identitarians? If we could stamp out the identitarian impulse, would these same artists just switch over to producing art of a nonpartisan nature?

    Or do the identitarian “artists” push the real artists out of the system? And, if this is the case, why don’t those people ever push back?

  • Alisa

    I think the short answer to that is ‘the former’, Bobby.

  • bobby b

    Alisa: That was my first guess, but then it occurred to me that “real” artists, no matter what their medium, tend to be people who can draw a cow that looks like a cow.

    Whereas identitarian “artists” don’t necessarily show that kind of skill.

    Leaving me wondering if there’s any overlap between the groups.

  • Alisa

    Art requires talent and skill – talent being something with which one is born, skill being acquired. If you accept that, then talent is the attribute where most of the overlap probably is.

    Skill is trickier, because of the question ‘what kind of skill?’ Is it the skill to genuinely move others on the emotional, and hopefully the intellectual level (what you or I would probably think of as ‘real art’), or is it the skill to conform to and parrot party lines/popular trends and tastes – a real, albeit quite different skill as well? I strongly suspect that some of the overlap is there as well, in both kinds of skills.

  • Paul Marks

    There is good art and bad art – and one should not judge what is good and what is bad art by the political message the art is trying to push. And “identity” is part of that.

    “That is a bit much coming from you Paul – you often judge art, such as film, by the political message”.

    Do not do as I do – do as I say!