Is there a case for arts optimism during a pandemic?

Here is the short talk I gave for the Center for Cultural Affairs, for their recent conference:

That is Haitian and Russian art in the background, Biguad and Bilibin, respectively.

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Thank you for this optimistic view. Perhaps these assumptions will form the elements of a more elaborate essay to appear?

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Decameron

"“You know what the fellow said – in Italy, for thirty years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance...."

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The Great Depression was a period of great innovation and productivity in the arts, in part due to the direct support provided artists and art by the New Deal but also in part by the economic and social reforms brought about by Roosevelt and the New Deal. Lest one forget, Hoover was president up until March 1933, well into the Great Depression, when Roosevelt became president, and when the flourishing of the arts began in earnest and arts became a leading form of entertainment as art and life merged. Can history repeat in the pandemic crisis?

Okay, I threw in some political economy, but only to give Cowen's blog post a broader context of what inspires innovation.

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1) Prominent Anti-Brazilian blogger Alexander Scott has ditched his blog: https://slatestarcodex.com/

2) Minnesotans protest for increased Brazilian-American friendship and demand an end to absurd restrictions to Brazilian travel to America.
https://www.google.com/search?q=minnesota+demonstrations+today&client=tablet-android-samsung&prmd=niv&sxsrf=ALeKk02CZAgqnDszI3poD-M_R6v9YOag0A:1592910694578&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwj3te_g5pfqAhW2IbkGHYVABrQQ_AUoAnoECCYQAg&biw=800&bih=1280&dpr=1.5#imgrc=Xlotf8k9_yhEMM

Are you the same guy who made 500 accounts to comment about how great the president of Brazil is?

No. Why would I do that? I am just a common America who wants its government to be accountable to the people in the best American tradition.

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Taleb's predictions from 2010 are not 100% accurate but remarkably thoughtful with much insight and staying power:

"Companies that are currently large, debt-laden, listed on an exchange (hence “efficient”) and paying bonuses will be gone. "

"The world will face severe biological and electronic pandemics, another gift from globalisation."

"Science will produce smaller and smaller gains in the non-linear domain, in spite of the enormous resources it will consume"

And of course my favorite:

"Finally, what is now called academic economics will be treated with the same disrespect that rigorous (and practical) minds currently have for Derrida-style post-modernist verbiage."

https://www.economist.com/news/2010/11/22/nassim-taleb-looks-at-what-will-break-and-what-wont

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Tyler: first off, get a new microphone.

Perhaps the best or the only case for "arts optimism during a pandemic" you report is the heartening news that Hollywood productions are mostly or entirely on hold. The Hollywood model of production, if not dead and discredited courtesy of its own excesses, deserves to die because studio imagery no longer relies on film as much as it relies on computer manipulation of imagery and sound (non-diegetic music saturates the soundtracks of Hollywood fare in order to conjure affective responses that the film or "the drama" and its characters [and actors] cannot themselves generate). Images have become much less trustworthy ("seeing is no longer believing and even less a matter of imagination"), and because of all the attention to production values, the story content/"human content" hardly matters except insofar as comic book readers are still compelled to turn pages to follow the puerile or infantile narratives. Commercially-leveraged art of all kinds deserves to die because it chiefly is responsible for the creative sclerosis you complain of.

The live performing arts spend far too much on production costs, too, following the lame Hollywood model of production: no viewer is asked to bring his imagination to any such presentation because the producers have seen fit to supply FAR TOO MUCH DETAIL (realistic or fantastic) and therefore rob the viewer of his own imaginative input and contributions. (I finally caught Beckett's End Game online last week in a marvelously stripped-down production.)

All the commercial arts you herald betray all the symptoms and signs of the cultural inertia you cite in passing. The commodification of the arts you never cite in so many words leaves any public with any pretense of critical response more than ample reasons to desert the entire commercial (and leveraged) arts enterprise on the far side of our pandemic scourge.

The diversity of artistic perspectives you want to champion will not be emerging from institutional patronage, I don't much think, and my thinking is guided by the model of the non-performing art of writing and literature which in the US has been ruined by the cabals of academics and publishers that have gifted America with its dreaded MFA industrial complex. The stupid efforts to "credentialize" and "professionalize" writing and literature courtesy of the wasteful and dubious MFA requirement I can only hope will elicit more and more vomit as we go through this period.

"Independent creativity", the note you closed on, remains the only hope for new ventures of perspective and expression going forward. (And if our plague helps drive urbanites out of their cozy sclerotic domains, it may yet transpire that the next wave of creative arts in the US will all emerge from the provinces, from all the non-urban locales you slight by focusing on the urban art "market".)

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If you want better art abolish taxpayer subsidies. Those who find that they must write (for example) will do so anyway. Maybe they'll find private sponsors or maybe they'll write like Trollope i.e. while holding a serious everyday job.

The less obsessive will find something else to do.

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Let's have some food blog posts to go with the arts blog post. We all need a lift. I certainly do after my close encounter in the low country last week. By the way, to a Southerner the "low country" includes more area than what non-Southerners can understand or appreciate. Tiger was in the "low country" this past weekend playing golf, but not at Hilton Head (the site of this past weekend's PGA tournament).

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quillette knows cults
see postmodernists fubar science education here
https://quillette.com/2020/06/20/exploring-other-ways-of-knowing-the-new-religious-threat-to-science-education/

heres why we will never have flying cars

the postmodern gender theorists have rebranded newtons laws as "newtons rape manual" and are currently "decolonizing" light

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Videogames are doing very well during the pandemic.

Some legacy art forms have some distribution issues. But really, people like doing arts and it'll be fine.

There are always people who willingly become starving artists. Starving accountants, not so much.

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