25 Aug 2006

Lileks on the Culture of the Elites

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James Lileks has some sardonic reflections on the contemporary art scene in the Age of Islamic Terror. Read the whole thing.

Sign of the times: Type “naked woman cuddling dead pig” into Google, and your first result is not one of those horrid pervy sites whose pictures make you want to bleach your eyeballs.

No, you get a review of a British performance artist. For four hours she hugged a porker while spectators filed past and thought: “There’s something you don’t see every day, a fact that might be conclusive evidence of a benevolent God.”

Naturally, she got a grant for the project; public pounds paid for the dead pig, which she stabbed with a knife in order to bond with the corpse. Bring the kids! And the next time you’re in the grocery store holding some bacon, consider taking off your clothes and selling tickets. You might make enough money to make bail…

It’s hard to convince Britain’s radicalized immigrants to assimilate if it means they must pay for some naked lady getting jiggy with piggy. These are the values of the West? We must pay for this, and you call it freedom?

Good question. What is Western culture all about these days, anyway? Little but narcissism, lassitude, sneers and muted despair, it seems. No, correct that; it’s European/U.S. elite culture that seems unmoored. Standard lowbrow American culture is quite clear about what it likes: snakes on planes, loud cars going around in circles with the occasional airborne detour into the stands, high-quality TV shows, mediocre pop music, naked people without the whole arty pig thing.

It’s generally confident and not particularly self-reflective, which leaves the “elite” stratum of the arts worlds to face the true hard issues of our times. Like pig-hugging and the threat to democracy posed by Joe McCarthy.

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