As everyone knows, the Last Original Ramone, Tommy Erdelyi, died last week.  It may be surprising that I did not post, but gosh, there were so many posts about his passing, including from such as thunderpants, and I chose to let others say what I wanted to.

(yeah, I saw him with the Ramones once.  The second time I saw them I think he was absent)

And in the last week or so, the horrendous news from all parts of the globe made musing on music art artifice about art seem to be trite.  Blowing the shit out of commercial airliners.  Land war in Israel.  Rising oceans, and an appalling humanitarian crisis in our own borders. A creepy unexplained gaping crater in Siberia. Hostile bug-creatures invading Antarctica.  Unimportant in the face of such.  (admittedly, I am facetious about one of them)

Tonight, I watched “Monuments Men” which is admittedly right the hell in my wheelhouse; Bill Murray, Bob Balaban, and John Goodman.

As I saw it, the theme of the movie was about the importance of art and music and yes, architecture to humanity, how it is part of our shared culture.  I have often talked to meatspace people about how I feel that aesthetics are crucially important and that design failures are nearly as tragic as other kinds of failures; I talk about this with my robot building kids, and now our robots look as good as any on the field.  In architecture, not only does a failure in this built environment contribute to a diluted and debased environment, but in a more meager lifestyle.  Reduced to viewing your city through the windshield of a car, going from garage to garage and isolated from any fellow human beings.

Used to be that even the factories of America used to care about how the things they produced looked; and how use would be integrated into that (yes, sometimes they failed.  As everyone does from time to time).  But now, when we don’t outsource that design to cheaper labor countries, it is usually half-assed and mainly people just follow Apple’s lead, creating knockoffs hours after their latest items are displayed.

The movie made a point that true fascist recognize that they have to control the artistic impulse and make it unavailable to people not of the 1%.  Yeah, take the art made by the poors but keep it for the review of the rich and powerful; even if they have no ability to be moved by it.

I believe the constant push to commodify artistic impulses – music; art; movies – is not only driven by the Madison Avenue need to make money at everything, but that it also serves to cheapen the IDEA of art for Art’s  Sake.

Because Art is something that can’t be controlled.  Artistic expression on it’s own can’t be controverted and turned toward specific ends.  It’s very nature means that it will express itself to it’s audience in ways that the audience determines.  That is why, as recently noted in an LGM thread, conservative whine-nozzles are STILL complaining about Duchamp’s “fountain” or “Piss Christ”  fucking DECADES after they were initially exhibited.

[admission.  I have seen DuChamp’s work in person, and it still retains much of it’s transgressive power, especially considering that it is in a series of galleries of modern and sometimes intentionally disturbing work.  THAT is the sign of true art, my friends and guinea pigs, that it continues to elicit strong emotions TEN FUCKING DECADES later]

Punk music was resisted by every means that could be brought to bear.  Police beat punks, the record labels refused to release it, punk clubs were shut down and the whole thing was treated as a further sign of societal decline.  Yet still; a couple of decades later:

I bought that album when it was released, and it didn’t blow up until several months later, knocking “Thriller” off the top spot.  And later, seeing the co-option of his music that and his other demons, added up to Cobain blowing his brains out in his own house.

Art scares the ever living fuck out of authoritarians.  Always has.  The Ramones scared them  Nirvana scared them.  Rock and roll scared them.  for fuck’s sake, POINTILLISM scared them.  Frank Lloyd Wright scared them.

Fuck me, the SEX PISTOLS scared them.  Have you listened to that Sex Pistols album lately?  It is so tediously mainstream that it makes you wonder why anybody paid attention.

Anyways, I really liked the Monuments Men, but that’s probably just me.  People who know more about movies say it was mediocre, and who am I to disagree?  I know it was pretty predictable, and even the Matt Damon/Cate Blanchett near miss was predictable.  But I found the underlying issues of what it means to have a culture, and what that is worth, to be a good thing to put out there.

In these days when savages are once again killing people indiscriminately and giving not one shit about the culture they are mowing under their tank treads and blowing to pieces with ordnance that, like as not, comes from our lovely MIC (thank you Darth Cheney may you rot in my backyard forever just so I and my descendants can piss on you daily until the Earth is consumed in the expanding sun) – I think it very important that we continue to consider the loss of our human cultural heritage.

Guernica 4

I think that the impulse to Art is something that humans have found to be kind of a package deal with our big brains.  We find the need to express our fears and loves and terrors and loves… in any way we can.  We bleed out onto the pages of books, into songs, onto canvases, carving stone and creating skyscrapers that make our souls sing.  And when a Van Gogh or a Mozart or a Calatrava creates something ineffable, thousands will respond and the destroyers will only think to break and crush.

And even if they manage to destroy the pieces of art that have been created, they will fail because we -those of us who find some connection to some ability to create something out of nothing- will only be further inspired by that destruction.


So let’s bring this back around to one of our punk forefathers, echoing a song from a descendant of American slaves



As humans, we make art.  we will continue to make art, spitting in the face of every damnable force that tries to stop us.  We will sing, and write and paint and play music and we will not stop; you can’t kill us all.  we will draw inspiration from the past and we will never EVER QUIT BECAUSE THAT IS WHAT IT MEANS TO BE HUMAN.

soundtrack to this post:  Mekons.

  1. Wow. I poured a lot of sweat and blood into that one, and now the Mekons are telling me irmportant things.

    i don’t owe nobody i don’t even owe the rent
    i’ve even got some money left i still haven’t spent

  2. mikey says:

    Nice. Thank you for that. It’s a fascinating topic to noodle on, art, the drive to create, the REASONS to create, the co-option of art not for its value but for it’s market value. People make art because they need to. All down through history the community collectively funded them by way of piecemeal contributions, payment for shows, or even stipends from wealthy benefactors. Other, more soul-less people try to stand between artists and art lovers, collecting rent from both. In Streets of Fire, this was the key dynamic between Billy Fish, Ellen Aim and Tom Cody. Ellen and Tom love things that cannot be bought or sold, and Billy is frustrated by them because he only cares about things that can be bought and sold.

    I think you also hit on a very key point: The magic of art is that it is the only thing of transcendent value that can be created out of whole cloth, out of nothing but imagination, a few pigments, some junk lying around the back yard. This is terribly frightening to the capitalists and the fascists because they have no straightforward way to control its production or own its output. I can write, you can draw, The Ramones can sing songs, and nobody can build a fence around our ability to produce. The rent only came due when distribution into a large market became possible. The great invention of the so-called ‘Music Industry’ was the ability to get small quantities of physical media distributed to tens of thousands of small town outlets. That and the creation of a pop music radio infrastructure put the corporations and the marketers in position to control the artists. [This is where we seque into a discussion of the democratization of the music business via digital production and internet distribution.]

    I have Monuments Men on a server around here somewhere, I think maybe I’ll watch it tonight…

  3. Excellent post. You’ve gotta helluvalot of good shit rolling around in that rotting head of yours, Mr. Zombie.

  4. Ever since we were sheltering in caves, we’ve known the power of art. Art made us as much as we made art… look at the power of the Altimira cave paintings, the Australian aboriginal rock paintings. Art is as much a part of us as language or opposable thumbs.

Go ahead, tell me how I fucked up this time.

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