Sunday, April 20, 2008

Ivy League update
Tom Smith

Including the sickest art project you've ever heard of at Yale, that fortunately turns out to be a fake; a paper that suggests  that judges who hire Yale Law School clerks are statistically more likely to be reversed, and Islamization at Harvard. (via instapundit.)

So just to put this in context, and with apologies for explaining the extremely disgusting, I take it the situation is this.  At Yale, an undergraduate art major announces the following project.  She has artificially inseminated herself and then induced a miscarriage using herbal abortifecants, capturing the process on video camera and collecting blood from the process.  She did this (she said) as many times as possible.  Then mixing the blood with Vaseline (TM) she spread it all over a large sheets of plastic, put the wad inside a clear cube, and hung it from the ceiling.  Or something like that.  In any event, made a big mess.  As intended, people were shocked and appalled, but it turns out to have been a fake job.  So an instance of fake, fake art.

Meanwhile, at Harvard, lots of activity on the accommodation of Muslims front, including separate hours at the gym for Muslim women, and projects on Islamic finance, which involves collecting interest on money without violating rules against collecting interest on money.

Back at Yale, it turns out, apparently, that federal districts judges who hire law clerks from Yale are more likely to be reversed than those who doona.

This goes to show something those of us who hoist the almost unbearable privilege of having gone to graduate school there already know, which is that there are some extremely strange young women at Yale.  Worthies there might consider the wisdom of a simple question on the admissions application, "Are you extremely odd?"  I am not suggesting that the extremely odd be excluded from Yale, only that a quota might be a good idea.  This goes for faculty hiring as well.

I think the Muslims have a point about separate hours for women at the gym.  I know from my membership at Fitness 24 that having women run around in gym clothes can lead to impure thoughts and can lead men to attempt to lift weights beyond their ability and thus to injury.  Muslim women never going to the gym, moreover, is likely only to promote disaffection and bitterness among young Muslim men, which we know is one of the root causes of terrorism.

Why do judges who hire Yale clerks get reversed more often?  There could be many reasons.  It may be, for example, that judges who hire clerks from Yale are more likely to have gone there themselves, and so less likely to know the law.  I don't see why the clerks should be blamed for the judges' mistakes.  Also, who's to say they are wrong?  There are plenty of courts of appeal judges who are no bargain.  Maybe the Yalies are right and everybody else is wrong.  I recall something of this sort from law school.  And as long as plenty of Yalies get to be Supreme Court clerks, who cares anyway, as they will get the last laugh.

And now for some deep thoughts about Art.  I think the heart of the problem is not that artists take themselves too seriously, but that everybody else takes them too seriously.  People forget that art is fundamentally interior decoration.  And occasionally outdoor decoration.  The job of art is to produce stuff that rich people want to buy and put on their walls or in their gardens because it is nice to look at, or use, if you are talking about, for example, pots.  Rich people here includes rich institutions, such as the Catholic Church.  That is, contrary to what Ms. Something or Other of Yale says, art is a commodity.   Well, maybe not a commodity.  In justice, I suppose frequently it qualifies as a unique good for purposes of commercial law.  But just  a good.  This notion that markets make bad art, is just the opposite of true.  Institutions supporting art for non-market reasons produces bad art -- political art, ideological art, art about issues, and so on.  Dreadful stuff.  Art produced for markets produces stuff you can imagine wanting to buy if you had the money.

(Stumbled up this:  It's interesting that while art is the never-a-commodity at Yale, sex is definitely a commodity.  Why not tattoo corporate sponsorships on the bodies of porn stars?)

If you walked into Brooks Brothers and said you wanted a really thought-provoking tie, the salesperson would think you were a fruitcake, and she would be right.  You buy a tie because it is nice looking, and maybe even beautiful.  If you are using your tie to make a political statement, that's fine.  A regimental tie makes a political statement in the UK I imagine.  And maybe you think it is a nice looking tie.  But the statement and how nice looking it is are not related, or only related by accident.

I think a good rule of thumb is that if a piece of art has to be explained to you before you can see why anybody would bother to make it or look at it, you are wasting your time looking at it.  One useful thing about repellent performance art, such as videos of abortions, is that it disabuses people of their earnest middle class sentiment that art will somehow improve or elevate them, if only by opening their minds.  It can do that, but it has to start with something else, and it has to have something to improve you and elevate you with, which is not going to be art itself.  I suspect that governments giving money to artists has done a lot to promote bad art.  Finally, there is a lot of shockingly dreadful Marxist theory of art stuff out there, which I advise you to avoid.

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Tom Smith


You are getting a little short-sighted on the history of art, even European. Maybe you think folks like Michelangelo were not part of a market operated by not-for-profit equivalents? It is pretty much all ideological in one way or another. Objects for rich people is right, but skip the stuff re profit and non-profit as it muddles your point and is historically off.

My guess is that there is just more art, and almost all of it, as always, ranges from uninteresting to dreadful.

Posted by: J. Bogart | Apr 20, 2008 2:04:25 PM

Did Michelangelo profit from his art?

I rest my case.

Posted by: M. Simon | Apr 21, 2008 6:38:23 AM

"judges who hire clerks from Yale are more likely to have gone there themselves"

The value of an Ivy League education is in the cronyism you benefit from down the road, not (obviously) the quality of the education you get there.

"shockingly dreadful Marxist theory of art"

As part of a comedy act ("come see the violence inherent in the system"), or are professors actually trying to push this with a straight face? Or is that the same thing... Why is it even possible to get a degree in "art"?

Posted by: J | Apr 21, 2008 6:50:10 AM

The Marxist theory of art as I understand it is
1) Art is Political.
2) Art should be democratic, open to all.

1) I'm not a fan. 2) is really very American. YouTube is a great example of it. So are the thousands of actors waiting tables in Manhattan. In a lot of Europeans countries, to make a go at theater or painting you really have to get into a select institution. IT's very hard otherwise to get anywhere. This is less so in America. And I think that's a good thing.

Posted by: David B. | Apr 21, 2008 7:29:51 AM


What kind of what is that?

Posted by: Paul A'Barge | Apr 21, 2008 9:45:07 AM

I thought that art was supposed to, in some way, project truth. But if the art is fake then it must project some sort of fake truth, that is, a lie. A lie used to promote some political or social agenda is simple propoganda. Didn't there used to be academic standards meant to curtail this kind of stuff? Ah! Wouldn't it be nice to have a few of those standards back?

Posted by: Richard of Oregon | Apr 21, 2008 10:30:08 AM