What do we do with the art of monstrous men? Whatever you need to do with it

Consuming a piece of art is the collision of two biographies: the artist who can shape the viewing and the consumer who views. This makes evaluating art created by people who have done heinous things in their personal lives especially subjective.

Hemingway and Picasso, both of whom were especially cruel and vicious to the women in their lives, are the 20th century icons of this tricky question. Hemingway’s third wife Martha Gellhorn wrote that the great artist needn’t be a monster but rather monsters can only hide behind art: “A man must be a very great genius to make up for being such a loathsome human being.”

In the end, which art we set aside, and which we can still enjoy is up to the viewer, and the time period. (Chuck Klosterman writes about how art is reinterpreted by each new generation). Admittedly, if you have the choice of hiring or elevating a creative today who is cruel, you might choose differently. But in terms of consumption, well, that’s up to you.

“The way you consume art doesn’t make you a bad person, or a good one. You’ll have to find some other way to accomplish that.” Or so argues culture critic and essayist Claire Dederer in her book from this spring called Monsters: A Fan’s Dilemma.

I first came across Claire and her writing in her 2017 essay “What do we do with the art of monstrous men?” It seems to me one of the defining questions of the last few years, so I appreciate the effort she put into shaping mine and other’s perspectives. I recommend it. Below I share my notes from the book for future reference.

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I bought my daughter an NFT

Constrained ownership of digital assets could mean thrilling possibilities.

The chaotic pandemic contributed to a frenzied focus on a new stage for non-fungible tokens. I was introduced to the concept a few years back and followed with interest the explosion of attention more recently. I wanted to purchase an NFT to become more familiar with the process, to support an artist and, most importantly, to give my young daughter a small slice of this strange moment in time.

The process is still quite clunky, expensive and fairly confusing — with multiple related systems. It helped that I also recently went through a similar process to chip into a DAO.

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Art with tradition is objective, that without one is subjective

Appreciation for art is meant to be, by today’s focus on accessibility, wholly subjective. Whatever your view of something can be defended as your experience with it.

Over drinks at a Gayborhood bar last month, a primatologist-turned-choreographer shared his view on trying to interject objective reality into art — incorporating technology, data and fact into ‘timed performance art.’ With no art history background or deep cultural experience, I deserve no voice in the conversation, but our chatter did result in me sharing with him something I’ve been mulling since.

My knowledge of the debate on whether art is subjective or objective seems incomplete. As I understand it, there are two very different types of art: that which aims to inspire through an existing tradition and that which aims to explore something new.

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Art and Technology: moderating City of Philadelphia Creative Economy panel

What are examples of ways artists can leverage technology and how might the Philadelphia artistic community differentiate itself that way were topics of conversation during a panel discussion I moderated Tuesday night.

Held by Creative Philadelphia, the City of Philadelphia’s Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy, in its gallery space at City Hall, I was charged with leading the Art and Technology event programming, our three presenters and moderating questions afterward. As anyone who knows me knows, my utility was more Technically Philly’s coverage of the intersection of arts and technology than any discernible artistic ability I might have.

I kicked off the night by offering some examples of organizations and institutions doing interesting things, as covered by TP or participating in Philly Tech Week. I then handed off to our far more competent and capable panel members.

The event was live streamed here. Some photos here. See my slides below.

Thanks much to Gary, Moira, Josh, Jeff and the staff at Creative Philadelphia for putting this, the first in a forthcoming series of events, together and for including me.

Knight Arts Challenge in Philadelphia: my seven submissions

Today is the deadline to put 150 words together that could help change the direction of arts in Philadelphia.

The Knight Arts Challenge Philadelphia is a three-year, $9 million initiative of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. We’re seeking the best ideas in the arts. We’re investing $9 million, to be matched by other funders, to impact the arts in your hometown. We are seeking the most innovative ideas in the arts to inspire and enrich Philadelphia’s communities. [Source]

Philadelphia is just the second city in which Knight is running this arts challenge, following the foundation’s home of Miami. Get your questions answered here or submit here.

On a train ride home, I brainstormed a dozen ideas for the arts challenge, seven of which I thought were clear and concise enough that they’d be worth submitting. While only a couple directly relate to my work with technology community news site Technically Philly, as venture capitalist Fred Wilson recently wrote (H/T Karl Martino), there is great cross over between a maturing creative economy and an aged arts world.

So, I find it relevant to share what I’ve submitted, which I will do below.

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Phila. fine-arts scene goes where youth are (Philadelphia Inquirer: 2/24/09)

By Christopher Wink | Tue, Feb. 24, 2009 | Philadelphia Inquirer

inquirer-cover-2-24-09On Valentine’s Day, Pennsylvania Ballet staff members stood in the Merriam Theater’s lobby handing out coasters that bore what might have seemed a strange suggestion coming from an arts organization: Go to our YouTube channel.

What the mostly graying matinee audience made of the invitation to an online video-sharing site is unclear. What is clear is that the Pennsylvania Ballet is not alone in lusting after online social-network users.

The Kimmel Center has a Flickr photostream. The Curtis Institute of Music is on LinkedIn. The Arden Theatre and the Franklin Institute use Twitter. The Philadelphia Orchestra has a MySpace page.

The Theatre Alliance of Greater Philadelphia, the Opera Company of Philadelphia, and just about every other arts organization in the city has a Facebook page. The Philadelphia Museum of Art has an RSS feed of its exhibitions on its Web site, and the Academy of Natural Sciences shares exhibit-construction videos.

The Philadelphia fine-arts scene has gone viral, and no one is hiding the reason.

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