All that Glitters By Mrs Vera West

     As a Christmas present, the noble editor and his lovely wife, whom I have met once, posted to me a nice hardback copy of Camille Paglia’s Glittering Images: A Journey through Art from Egypt to Star Wars  (2012). The book ranges over a massive number of topics, and I cannot adequately assess much of the material because I don’t have a university education, and even if I did, it would be, like centuries old, and irrelevant to the world of pop culture, which is concerned with the here and now.  Sure, I have heard of Any Warhol, paintings of soup tins, everybody is famous for 15 minutes, Star Wars, and the like.
     However, the opening page of the book, which ties all of this up caught my eye:

“Modern life is a sea of images. Our eyes are flooded by bright pictures and clusters of text flashing at us from every direction. The brain, overstimulated, must rapidly adapt to process this swirling barrage of disconnected data. Culture in the developed world is largely defined by all-pervasive mass media and slavishly monitored personal electronic devices.  The exhilarating expansion of instant global communication has liberated a host of individual voices but paradoxically threatened to overwhelm individuality itself.
     How to survive in this age of vertigo? We must learn to see. Amid so much jittery clutter, it is crucial to find focus, the basis of stability, identity, and life direction.  Children above all deserve rescue from the torrential stream of flickering images, which addict them to seductive distractions and make social reality, with its duties and ethical concerns, seem dull and futile.  The only way to teach focus is to present the eye with opportunities for steady perception – best supplied by the contemplation of art.  Looking at art requires stillness and receptivity, which realign our senses and produce a magical tranquillity.”

     Yes, that is probably true, but classical European music can do the same, as can any great art forms. It is a pity that Paglia spent so much intellectual energy on the trash of today, the products of a culture in decline, rather than celebrating the achievements of the past, that would give real hope for the regeneration needed for the future.

 

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Tuesday, 09 August 2022