Like most people who lack the intellectual capacity for nuanced thought, I love a sweeping statement. The huger the better. Indeed, most of my utterances consist entirely of a single noun followed by either “sucks” or “rules.” Such pronouncements are usually unsolicited, baseless, rendered in loud volume and about some kind of “art.” Yes, I hate when self-styled “aesthetes” take something as inherently anti-intellectual as “art” and try to IQ it up by talking about it at length. Oh, god. Show me pretty much anything made by anyone ever and I can immediately tell you what’s up.
Take, for instance, “the arts in the ‘00s.” My knee-jerk judgment? It sucked. Fine art, for starters, just sat around and floated bullshit balloons like “relational art” all decade. Popular music’s sins were unending — crunk, emo, auto-tune, Animal Collective. I didn’t really watch any films in the ‘00s, but I heard they were nearly all Saw sequels. In sum, we just rode out the worst decade in arts since… the 1990s.
Ah, the ‘90s, what a total vom-fest that was. Almost as bad as the ‘80s, that ignoble Age of Ineptitude when reverb ran roughshod over the musical kingdom, and neo-impressionist hacks like Basquiat debased fine art into finger painting. I suppose such degradation was to be expected after the debacle that was the ‘70s. Indeed, its rock operas (a misnomer, neither “rock” nor “opera”), and German New Wave cinema (a misnomer, actually “shit”) blunted our collective tastes irreparably. And the 60’s! Take it from someone who wasn’t there and has no idea what he’s talking about — the ‘60s were definitely the most overrated and underwhelming decade that has ever been rated or whelmed.
Of course, the vulgarity of the ‘60s was certainly presaged by the artless abominations we call “every decade of the first half of the 20th century.” And those, in turn, were corrupted by every decade of 19th century, replete as they were with turgid pre-Raphealite portraiture, and nigh-unreadable barbarian idioms masquerading as literature. And, shit, the 1790s? For real? Still, I’d almost prefer that decade’s banal Romanticism — and tub-thumped melodic buffooneries of Beethoven — to the unrestrained Rococo inanities of the 1730s. Or anything of the 1720s.
As far as I’m concerned there was no Renaissance. And, maybe I’m just a “hater” who needs to “stand down” or whatever, but I have scant tolerance for the Latinists of the Carolingian Dynasty of the 880s. Likewise, the orotund cantos of courtier Einhard and over-wrought liturgies of the Frankish Benedictine Strabo which marred the 820s. Of course, these only extended the consummate farce that was art in the 130s BCE — all mud pots and dirt piles. Which is to say nothing of the sub-Dan Brown-level asininity of 2380s BCE thrillers, such as The Maxims of Ptahhotep. And don’t get me started on the cave paintings of the 13,020s BCE, with their garish lines and laughably unschooled technique. Or the crudely voiced clicks and glottal stops of the 40,010s BCE hominid “poets.”
So much sucking. All of which leads me back to the 13,999,999,990’s BCE — the first decade, the only decade in arts that ruled. When everything was new, erupting with hot and spontaneous creativity, like a nimble bass line. When sound and colour exploded with beautiful self-effacement, into cosmic symphonies and vast abstract compositions. When everything was “real.” This quintessential decade in artistic achievement is, of course, not to be confused with the next, the 13,999,999,980s BCE, in which everything already started to become played out, and, as such, sucked.
Anyway, enough longing backwards glances to the salad days of 14 billion years ago. Where do we go from here? Into the 2010s. Into “the future.” And, because one cannot know what the future holds, I find myself distressingly unable to promptly dismiss it one way or another. Indeed, I feel, for the first time, the pangs of mixed feelings. While part of me feels like “we definitely can’t reach any lower lows,” another part thinks, “Obviously, we will reach many more new lows, probably within the next three to five minutes.”