Musings on Photography


Posted in artists, the art world by Paul Butzi on December 14, 2006

In an recent interview, the playwright John Patrick Shanley said “I’m very aware that debate has become the form of the communication, like on Crossfire. There is no room or value placed on doubt, which is one of the hallmarks of a wise man. It’s getting harder and harder in this society to find a place for spacious, true intellectual exchange. It’s all becoming about who won the argument, which is just moronic.”

Shanley’s play Doubt won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, the Drama Desk award, and a Tony Award for Best Play. It’s one of the best plays I’ve seen, ever. And trust me – I’ve seen a hell of a lot of plays. Shanley deserves every accolade he’s gotten for Doubt, and I think that we ignore his warning at great social peril.

It would be nice to think that the world of Art would be just the sort of place Shanley wishes would be easier to find in our society – a place where it’s not all about winning the argument. Artists, in general, seem to pride themselves on their openmindedness, on their tolerant viewpoints and respect for diversity.

Sadly, it seems to me that the Art world isn’t really much different from the rest of society, and it also seems to me that artists in general are, if anything, more polarized and certain in their convictions than the rest of the population.

Why else would someone comment “I’d love to be able to afford to NOT sell to people with socially conservative “values”? Is that really the attitude we want – we’re not even willing to sell our art to someone just because we disagree with their politics? We look forward to a day when we can afford to turn someone’s business just because he disagrees with us?

Wake up. Tolerance is pretty shallow when you insist that someone hide their political views from you in order to do business with you. Diversity is a sham when it means ‘people who look different but all think the way I do’.

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  1. Trevor Hambric said, on December 14, 2006 at 8:31 pm

    I would suggest that the problem is much worse than Shanley says. There isn’t even any room for real argument/debate. That state of affairs would imply that there’s actually some argument going on and would be a large step up from where we now stand. In a world where conservative speakers routinely get shouted down or even physically muscled away from the podium at major universities, where name-calling stands for discussion, a true argument would be a breath of fresh air.

    The world of the university is supposed to nurture serious thought and debate but instead smothers it.

    As for ‘doubt’… where does ‘doubt’ fit in the world of Unjustified-Self-Esteem-Rules-Above-All-Else?

    And, finally, to the person who said they’d “love to be able to afford to NOT sell to people with socially conservative ‘values’?”… How terribly impressive of you, in your closed-minded, bigotted way, to lack the courage of your convictions. I’m sure the conservative members of your clientelle would be happy to provide the spine you lack if you’d just tell them up front that you can’t stand the smell of conservative money.

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