22 March 2006

If Richard Lugar Can Dream, So Can I (We?)


Richard Lugar, Republican from Indiana, has sounded the trumpet at the Brookings Institution: "No one who is honestly assessing the decline of American leverage around the world due to our energy dependence can fail to see that energy is the albatros of US national security." and is calling for a paradigm shift. "Realistic" energy policy has been defined by Cheney to mean business as usual, and Lugar calls for a new reality, one that takes reality into account. One that dreams up a better tomorrow.

And as a dreamer who sees the tyrrany of reality, that just makes my heart sing.

More tyrrany of reality yammering in the blogosphere... Edward Winkleman's What About The Artists thread yesterday devolved into artists claiming powerlessness and Edward's retort: You're the artist, do something creative to solve the problem and kwitcherbitchen. An interesting place to land. A little context:

Modernism's fivehundredplus years of active dreaming mostly took place in a context of not knowing any better. The individual dreamer, from Michelangelo to Edison to David Smith, had a lot of clout and was able (as part of a larger power structure) to spin a Big Truth. Everyone who went to college in the last twenty years or so learned a different tradition. Behind every Big Truth is someone else's Big Lie. Everything has a backside. Critique that institution, find that power structure. Deconstruct!

My generation has been trained only to take apart the world and see that it is a sham, point to the inequities, examine its power structure. This is useful and I would not go back, especially since as a woman I had no hope of being included in the old Modernist Big Boy Game. But all this knowledge comes at a cost. The intellectual imparative of the cultural elite is to unmake and expose, and there is a sense that we are powerless to make or invent. Frankly, outside academia, we look like a bunch of whiners.

Of course, actual power and actual making happens somewhere else. WalMart and Karl Rove are still taking over America--they are dreaming and making. Liberals, intellectuals, democrats... all very interested in how that power works and not so interested in grabbing any of their own. Obviously nobody thought about this beforehand. Deconstructionists need a power structure to deconstruct, and can't be part of that power strucutre or they can't deconstruct it. And heaven forbid you go creating your own power. Then you're open to being deconstructed! What an oppressed position to be in. Of course Lugar's assertion that "American ingenuity and resources" must be fully committed to new energy sources seems quaint (but welcome!). Of course artists are giving the market all the power so that they can deconstruct that power--to the point of making little figurines of art collectors to show at the art fair.

I point this out because I want to understand what is going to happen now that it's time to actually make something new. New energy sources. New relationships to the art market (I happen to agree with Edward, it is time for both dealers and artists to stop bitching and make alternatives). Please god, new art that actually manages to play in a bigger backyard.

The question becomes where do artists get the power to dream when it's not provided culturally? When there is a lot of deconstructive inertia to overcome? How do we dream and make new now that we know better?

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