The Ricky Gervais Guide To… Art

Disclaimer: Language, Mild Bullying, Intellectual Ignorance

Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant (creators of The Office and Extras) teamed up with Karl Pilkington (An Idiot Abroad, The Moaning of Life) to create a series of podcasts that are meant to be educational on different high-brow subjects.

The basic set-up is to try to get Karl Pilkington to talk about smart-people stuff as he is, for lack of a better term, a real life Homer Simpson. The podcast is basically an excuse to make jokes and hear Karl give his weird little theories on life and the world.

It’s the most fun you’ll have without hallucinating. They’re genuinely hilarious dudes and you do end up learning a lot through osmosis. If y’all have nothing better to do, I suggest you check it out. I’ll also link to their episode on Philosophy in case someone actually cares to read this!

Have a groovy summer, yo!


Final Proposal: The Aesthetic Experience is Dead

With my final paper, I will attempt to make the argument that the inspiring of aesthetic experience is no longer the main focus of art today. Art has become an instrument of intellectualism in a way that drives its tendencies away from sensory experience which is not unlike what Higgins’ describes is happening with “beauty” in art.

My paper will use Dewey’s “The Live Creature and The Aesthetic Experience” to define the “aesthetic experience” in the sense I mean.

However, it must be mentioned that this attitude towards the aesthetic experience doesn’t seem to be coming from the artists’ end but from the audience and the critics. Therefore, interpretation plays a big role in our perception of art. Susan Sontag’s “Against Interpretation” is also quite illuminating in discussing how an interpretation can bring an artwork into an intellectual realm and blind us to its aesthetic possibilities.

I want to attempt to make a successful argument that in our hyper-aware and deconstructive society, art has to swim upstream in order to be considered for what it is rather than what it means.


Seedbed – Vitto Acconci

I’d like to preface the following post with the fact that I still have yet to understand exactly what Acconci was trying to achieve here. Maybe I should art more. However, Creepy-Man-Masturbating-Under-Floorboards seems to cut right down to questions of beauty’s propriety in art in a way that makes it very relevant to Higgins’ essay.

She writes: “Who can deny these days that the sensitive absorb more disturbance than beauty from their world?” (282). Certainly not Acconci, for whom concerns with beauty seem to be secondary, if non-existent. By narrating his sexual fantasies involving the people who walk on the floorboards above him while masturbating below, he dives into a perversion than are at odds with what is beautiful. Unless you’re the type of person that finds that beautiful.

In a letter to Michel Houellebecq, Bernard-Hneri Levy wrote: “There’s nothing to equal the drive to conquer as an antidote to these two twin poisons, the desire to please and the desire to displease.” (Public Enemies, 33)

What they’re discussing is artistic intent (particularly in defending themselves against critics) – what made me think immediately of this conversation is the contextualization of beauty that Higgins writes about. Artists like Levy and Acconci use beauty as an element of art insofar as they are aware that the two are intrinsically related. Confrontational works, in some ways, predict an audience’s appetite for beauty, for affable art, and bring the aesthetic experience to them by denying them what’s beautiful. In doing so, they create a moral choice out of the inclusion, exclusion and perversion of beauty in art.

After all, Levy concludes one of his correspondences by stating: “And perhaps we would also need to try and explore writers’ own desire. Which is? The desire to displease, to be repudiated. The giddiness and pleasure of disgrace.” (Public Enemies, 13).

42nd Street – Busby Berkley (Carroll 587-588)

In answering Noverre and Weaver’s unwavering position of dance’s status as ‘high-art’ being dependent on mimesis, Levinson proposes an alternate theory. ‘Formalism’, as this “alternate position” is referred to, insisted that “dance be thought of primarily in terms of movement patterns” (Carroll, 587). Levinson is said to be advocating “perceptible choreographic form” as the only qualifier for dance as art (588). What does this mean? It means that dance’s “independence from practical concerns” is more in tune with Kant’s views on beauty than Artistotle’s mimetic rigidness (588).

Busby Berkley’s choreography can be seen as a prime example of formalism in dance. His work is perhaps known for his “elaborate geometric formations” – these formations would form a type of shifting painting, a dancing canopy of bodies and movement, that would take its power in their intricacy (Mashable). Personal life notwithstanding, Berkley became one of the most influential choreographers in Hollywood, crafting a style that would be imitated in everything from Burger King commercials to Coen Bros. and Mel Brooks films (TV Tropes).
The scene linked in this blog post is a scene from the famous 1933 picture, ‘42nd Street’ – what’s important here is not that the dance (choreographed to ‘Young and Healthy’, advances the plot or is an imitation of some kind. Rather, it is a kaleidoscopic look into the extravagance and opulence of Broadway. His focus on shapes and movements (as well as camera angles created to highlight these patterns) is what makes this a ‘formalist’ dance piece.