Monday, December 19, 2011

High Culture / Low Culture

This lecture was about high and low culture and how the term 'avant garde' is used everywhere and not just used in art anymore. Avant garde used to be a term that would relate to the fine arts and be associated with high culture; however it is now used a lot in popular culture so has the true meaning been lost? The dictionary term is saying that, being avant garde in the work you do must be challenging, innovative and experimental.

In regard to the artistic practice, avant garde was considered as something that would be different, sensational, shocking even. The Fauvists were self taught painters who would rip apart the rules of art and be incredibly experimental for their time. If you have studied art at any stage of your life there are more than likely 4 things that you would have been told. Innovation - to create something new, experimentation - the process to create something new, originality - copying someone's work is bad, the key is to be original and creative genius - to bring out the hidden creative depth. All of these things you could class as being avant garde as it is promoting innovation, challenges and experimentation.

Before the 18th century only the rich people would be able to go to art school. They would be assigned to a master and copy their work over and over again until they were able to master their technique. From this they would then do small tasks for their master for example the background work and then the artist would then finish it off and sign it as his. These people were never given freedom, they had to work to a brief and it was never about expression - not 'avant garde' at all. It wasn't until the 18th century when art became free, new artistic styles emerged, experimentation, yet in order for them to sell their work they had to produce something that people wanted to buy. So when you think about it this still is not avant garde, they can't be innovating and experiment in the way that they want to as people would not understand their work.

Two types of art came about, Romanticism and Realism. Both were very different from each other, Romanticism having the meaning that one day people will understand their work. It would be art that should retreat from the world to make itself better and purer. Realism was quite political and shocking, it depicted subjects that people would not want to hang on their walls e.g poor workers. This type of art wanted to change the world.

The problem with being experimental is that you run the risk of being classed as 'elitist', you run the risk of people not understanding your work. Yet this can be contradicted by saying that if you don't be experimental you run the risk of being the same as everyone else. Is appealing to the public more important than producing your own work?

When talking about high/low culture the word 'kitsch' comes to mind. Greenberg stated that everything that isn't avant garde is kitsch. That it seeks the qualities of 'true art' however for various reasons it fails. Pieces of work end up being re-contextualized and sometimes it jumps across media. Some people may find this not suitable as the piece then becomes common and not as appreciated; however if you look at it in another way, not everyone has thousands or millions of pounds to spend on a piece of work. They may love a single piece of work, but by having a print of it may be their only way to get close to it. Art becomes more accessible to people.

When looking at high/low culture within film, games and animation it's hard to try and think of something in particular, especially animation. Within film though, during the BBC Proms this year, The Spaghetti Western Orchestra did their own take on the Western soundtracks. They bought the film element to the Proms, the people who were there were not necessarily high or lower culture people, it was a mixture, yet I'm sure that it would have opened up that film genre to a new audience. You could question whether there is such a thing as high/low culture anymore. These days everyone has their own opinions on what they like or want to see. There are no true boundaries anymore, it's all becoming more individualised.

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