Sunday, 26 November 2017

Why high culture?

Why should high culture be important to society? Why paying for it, why funding its institutions? Isn't it immoral to use tax payers' money to fund things which only seem to be to the benefit of a minority?

"We are interested in high culture because we are interested in the life of the mind, and we entrust the life of the mind to institutions because it is a social benefit. Even if only a few people are capable of living this life to the full, we all benefit from its results, in the form of knowledge, technology, legal and political understanding, and the works of art, literature and music that evoke the human condition and also reconcile us to it."

The erosion of this kind of awareness has concrete implications for the arts, it opens the doors to nonsense and fakes and clichées:

"Hence for a long time now, it has been assumed that there can be no authentic creation in high art which is not in some way a ‘challenge’ to public culture. Art must give offence, stepping out armed against the bourgeois taste for the conforming and the comfortable, which are simply other names for kitsch and cliché. The result of this is that offence itself becomes a cliché. If the public has become so immune to shock that only a dead shark in formaldehyde will awaken a brief spasm of outrage, then the artist must produce a dead shark in formaldehyde — this, at least, is an authentic gesture. In place of the late American art critic Harold Rosenberg’s ‘tradition of the new’, we have the ‘cliché of the transgressive’ — a repetition of the would-be unrepeatable."

If the arts, as presented by the established institutions, only consist of fakes, there is no longer any justification to support them, since they no longer serve public interest, and forfeit their position in public space:

"In a world of fakes, the public interest is constantly sacrificed to private fantasy, and the truths on which we depend for our rescue are left unexamined and unknown."

Thus Sir Roger Scruton in an essay on the website of Aeon:

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