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Another battle in the culture wars, this time in Venezuela

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#1 Alexandra


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Posted 25 April 2001 - 12:14 AM

Not exactly Taliban West, but the president of Venezuela is disturbed about elitism in the arts and made some personnel decisions that some in the art world find disturbing. There's an article in today's NYTimes about it -- this isn't about ballet, but an art museum, but the principles discussed can apply to any art form.

Ballet is often accused to being elitist by some (and proudly claimed to be elitist by others). I think this article is worth taking the time to read. Those who do, have you any thoughts on the issues raised?

#2 Ed Waffle

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Posted 25 April 2001 - 11:28 AM

A difficult time for Western European culture in South American it seems. In the current issue of Opera Nowa magazine published in the U.K. there is an article on opera companies specifically and music generally in Columbia.

The regime in Columbia, unlike that described in the Times article on Venezuala, is certainly not Marxist. State Capitalism based on drug exports might be closer to the mark. However, the effect seems to be the same. A few quotes from the article:

"...last autumn the first shock announcement by a new minister of culture--that Bach be taken out of schools because this music is only for geniuses..."

"The ministry has announced that all funding be rescinded for 'foreign art forms' which puts the proposed 2001 Verdi season in jepordy."

[ 04-25-2001: Message edited by: Ed Waffle ]

#3 Alexandra


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Posted 25 April 2001 - 11:49 AM

It's always fascinated me how much fear art can generate. The Far Left often simply doesn't want people to have access to it, period. It uplifts their minds and we wouldn't want that. There is a fear of the geniuses, of not only those who may be "better" than the norm, but of the very notion that such people exist. Over on the other side of the battlefield, the Far Right is terrified that one glimpse of a naked saint will divert people from the Path of Righteousness and, therefore, must be expunged (or at least not publicly funded :) )

#4 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 25 April 2001 - 03:25 PM

I think this quote is the most telling:

 Ms. Imber has been an outspoken critic of Mr. Chávez and is the widow of Carlos Rangel, a political writer who was an adversary of many of the Marxist theorists who have risen to power with Mr. Chávez. But Mr. Espinoza denied that politics or personal revenge were factors in Ms. Imber's dismissal, saying that her ouster was part of "a natural process of renovation and renewal" intended to end what he described as the stagnation of culture here.

"I am a personal friend of Sofía's, and I continue to admire and esteem her," he said. "But I am absolutely convinced that to preserve and guarantee her work, it was necessary to replace her."

Gotta love that spin. They're saving her work from her. This is not about art, it's not even about politics. It's about power. :)

#5 Alexandra


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Posted 25 April 2001 - 03:48 PM

I think attacks on art, or particular artists, are often about power. The attackers hide behind whatever buzz words will sell to their constituency.

#6 salzberg


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Posted 25 April 2001 - 05:05 PM

What, pray tell, is the difference between the elitism of the snob who says that all art should be highbrow and that of the snob who says that all art must be lowbrow?

#7 cargill


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Posted 26 April 2001 - 08:25 AM

I think that all this is just what usually happens whenever art is judged by any other reasons than aesthetic. "Is it useful?" can be answered I guess, by saying it is too great for people to understand. The left often sees art in terms of politics--always criticise art produced by those in power and support that produced by the oppressed. And the right sees it in terms of results--does it offend. There seems to be so little room for simply appreciating and enjoying what those before us have produced. And then there are managers who support art for the money it will generate for whatever city it is in.

#8 Alexandra


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Posted 26 April 2001 - 11:09 AM

Mary, I think your "is it useful, how is it used?" criterion is very apt. It's interesting, after a century of abstraction, how most people still react to art primarily in terms of content.

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