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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

IGNORANCE IS NOT BLISS

julian schnabel's portrait of andy warhol, 1982




I hear on the news a "stolen smart-phone is very serious." As serious as killing children in their beds in Afghanistan? More. A "smart-phone" costs a lot and it has all your phone numbers in it, very serious. Serious in that undoing damage done if your phone is stolen can be relentless and not work. When they were telling about the people killed in their beds in the middle of the night by an American, I don't think it was ever introduced on the news as "very serious." Alas, not serious at all; towel-heads, black hair, foreign language, poor. Killing poor children has been on the news since Vietnam. It didn't end there. Makes me wonder if the people killing kids have been doing it for the news. I can't forget that I heard somebody say after the Afghanistan massacre of a family that it seems odd for something like this to be happening in a war. It has become a part of the American character to mow down a roomful of unsuspecting and defenseless people. How American is that? It's our foreign policy. Where will it happen next? Anywhere. Night after night on the news we see bombs go off in Baghdad blowing up apartment buildings, American soldiers in desert cammies armed with amazing weapons, shooting towel-heads. It's what we see every day as "reality" on the news.


At present I see tv about once a week watching the races with Justin on Sunday afternoons. I don't see much besides the race, but for some golf and some basketball. A lot of commercials. The aggression in the commercials I find notable. It seems they get louder, have more flash, instant information that is not informative, and many of them more clever every year unto comedy. I can't help but make the connection between television and the vanishing American attention span. The American disdain for knowledge, intelligence, paying attention, is really showing in our representatives, our politicians. In this time a politician commits to no knowledge at the beginning. Vote for me, I don't know anything and am committed to never learning anything. Alice's Tea Party politicians represent that mind, a perhaps majority of white man mind, the party of willful ignorance, ignorance with intent to be stupid. It cannot be testosterone. It is culture. My grandfather once said to me, If ignorance was bliss, boy, you'd go to heaven for sure. I suppose that's where I learned ignorance is not bliss. A woman I once knew, who lived by her belief that ignorance was bliss, grew old bent over, in continuous agony living with her tormentor, self-esteem beaten down into the ground, because she can't stand up for herself, because she's been so willfully stupid since childhood she never learned anything. When I see her pushing a cart in the grocery store parking lot, bent over behind it, I look away. She's so incredibly depressed I don't dare say, how are you?


Today's movie was Factory Girl, the Edie Sedgwick story re-enacted. Edie was a case of self-destructive willful ignorance, a junkie without regard for consequences. She represented for me willful ignorance set on self-destruct, something about like Janis Joplin or Sid Vicious, a junkie lacking foresight who falls through the bottom and self-destructs. I've an idea "junk" was the subject of Chuck Berry's early song, Downbound Train. I've seen Ciao Manhattan, an "independent" film made when Edie Sedgwick was back in California after her self-embarrassment in New York, living in the empty swimming pool at her parents' house with a tarp over the top of the deep-end. The drugs had blown her circuits by then. She was no more the Vogue glamor girl of the month. I found it interesting the Bob Dylan character in her life was called Quinn in the film. Evidently Dylan denied permission to use his name or music. He was always represented in the movie by songs having heady themes, but not reminiscent of Dylan at all. The actor playing him did, indeed, play Dylan, showing very well his contempt for Warhol and the junkies hanging at the Factory.


I've read two biographies of Warhol, seen about 4 documentary films concerning his art. Warhol has stressed over and over that he does not know anything; he cannot be a genius because he's hardly a person. Everybody takes it for affectation. But it's the affectation of the truth. In the time, the dress-up Sixties, Warhol repeated that he had the same depth as a movie screen; none, merely reflective surface. He was right. He had no depth. His irresponsible behavior showed it. I have to say that just about all the people I know are people I'd prefer to know over Andy Warhol. I find him an intensely interesting artist. Artists are not necessarily charming talk show hosts. Warhol as an artist is awfully much a poet too. His visuals are a visual kind of poetry. Not a poetry of words, but a poetry of associations perhaps. I find it most interesting that his images are shallow, his films boring, he uses the news for historical context. He correctly read our time an era of shallow people. He depicts his own shallow character and connects with everyone else's. But there is no rule book anywhere that says an artist must be intelligent. Ideally, art is not of the mind. When someone like Warhol has mind out of the way, it doesn't interfere with his senses so much. Very odd individual. And one of the great artists of our time.        

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