Thursday, October 18, 2012


“Now if we look at the proper meaning of the sign, then we see that it has a double function (and is not just one thing or a simple activity): the assumption that there is an obstacle (either of participation or expression), to be overcome, and the real or imagined attempt to overcome the obstacle. This striving toward effective communication, this technical attempt to communicate through a particular element which indicates but does not constitute the whole, means that the work of art beomes a more or less coherent system of actions, whether suggested or explicit, directed at real communication.  This is what endows the work of art with a dynamic value of which perhaps even the artist himself is unaware.”

Jean Duvignaud, The Sociology of Art, translated from the French by Timothy Wilson, New York, Harper & Row, 1972.

I don't remember acquiring Jean Duvignaud's book, but given its incredibly low price for a “quality” paperbound ($3.95 for a H&R Icon edition!), I think it’s likely that I picked it up in Swarthmore College's bookstore and that it has sat on my shelf unread for forty years, surviving many apartment and house moves.

Duvignaud (1921-2007), a French novelist and sociologist who taught at the Universities of Tours and Orléans, and was mentor to Oulipo pioneer Georges Perec, examines literature, music and dance, in addition to the visual arts in The Sociology of Art, but there are no illustrations at all, which is always regrettable in a book about art.

Far worse, however, is that the preceding passage seems to be babble --  wooly, incoherent and wholly inapplicable nonsense.  

Which brings me to Tuesday evening's presidential debate on Long Island, which I listened to but didn’t watch, because of being laid low (i.e., supine; prostrate) by a nasty illness earlier in the day.

Hearing, but not seeing, the debate proved to be a good idea. Video replays I watched in bed all day yesterday provided further evidence (as if any were needed) that America’s political pseudo-debates are utterly lacking in integrity.  If there is any value to be had in watching two tall men stalk and physically menace each other on and around a large weird stage, occasionally hovering like mega-mantises over the repellent & spiderlike Candy Crowley, it isn't readily apparent.  

Listening to their words with eyes closed, however, was profitable and elucidating.  Romney spoke, as he usually does, logically, factually and as specifically as possible given the large number of inchoate, changeable and unforeseeable circumstances facing any political challenger wanting to remedy our Dire-And-Getting-Worse Status Quo.  Deprived of sight, I found the corner-of-the-ring verbal pile-ups unpleasantly emphasized, but so was my awareness of moderator Crowley allotting the president extra speaking time (10 %) and repeatedly throwing him Cash Cab lifelines. Crowley’s performance was the worst, most biased and unprofessional, I have ever seen in a debate "moderator," and I believe that CNN should summarily dismiss her.   


Obama’s remarks were just as empty as Jean Duvignaud’s -– arrant bullshit from a man whose life-leitmotifs have been bullshitting, coasting, grafting and dining out on the public dime. Hearing him speak about anything tangentially related to economics was sad and pathetic.  He has absolutely no idea what he is talking about, offering no cogent explanations (but some puppy-ate-my-homework excuses) for his lamentable record, as well as some weird fantasy riffs about the nature of gasoline pricing and corresponding unemployment levels. 

I strongly suspect that Jean Duvignaud was a sensible and serious scholar and a person of integrity.  The president is a fraud.

Back to bed.  As Governor Romney says, we don't have to live this way. (And, by the way, it would be nice -- really nice -- to have heard the debate moderator or the person who signed the Lilly Ledbetter Act into law actually explain its content and implications.  I would put serious money down on the probability that neither of them could actually do this.  It's merely a slogan to them.  Like "I'm A Mess.")

The Tower of Babel (1563) and details, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, oil on board, by Pieter Bruegel the Elder (1525-1569).

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