* an ongoing series of quotations – mostly from artists, to artists – that offers wisdom, inspiration, and advice for the sometimes lonely road we are on.
Not enough people believe in the cracks in the universe that you have to wiggle into to get anything new established. There are cracks – places that are not filled in that need to be filled in, so the edifice doesn’t crumble. And if you believe in the arts passionately, they fit into those cracks, because without those connective tissues of understanding all we are are people who go to war every so often.
Zelda Fichandler in Conversations with Anne: Twenty-four Interviews
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Of course, when people said a work of art was interesting, this did not mean that they necessarily liked it – much less that they thought it beautiful. It usually meant no more than that they thought they ought to like it. Or that they liked it, sort of, even though it wasn’t beautiful.
Or they might describe something as interesting to avoid the banality of calling it beautiful. Photography was the art where “the interesting” first triumphed, and early on: the new, photographic way of seeing proposed everything as a potential subject for the camera. The beautiful could not have yielded such a range of subjects; and it soon came to seem uncool to boot as a judgment. Of a photograph of a sunset, a beautiful sunset, anyone with minimal standards of verbal sophistication might well prefer to say, “Yes, the photograph is interesting.”
What is interesting? Mostly, what has not previously been thought beautiful (or good). The sick are interesting, as Nietzsche points out. The wicked, too. To name something as interesting implies challenging old orders of praise; such judgments aspire to be found insolent or at least ingenious. Connoisseurs of “the interesting” – whose antonym is “the boring” – appreciate clash, not harmony. Liberalism is boring, declares Carl Schmitt in The Concept of the Political, written in 1932. (The following year he joined the Nazi Party). A politics conducted according to liberal principles lacks drama, flavor, conflict, while strong autocratic politics – and war – are interesting.
Paolo Dilonardo and Anne Jump, editors, Susan Sontag: At the Same Time
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People who set their sails into art tend to work very hard. They train themselves in school; they practice and they read and they think and they talk. But for most of them there seems to be a more or less conscious cutoff point. It can be a point in time: “I will work until I am twenty-one (twenty-five, thirty, or forty).” Or a point in effort: “I will work three hours a day (or eight or ten).” Or a point in pleasure: “I will work unless…” and here the “enemies of promise” harry the result. These are personal decisions, more or less of individual will. They depend on the scale of values according to which artists organize their lives. Artists have a modicum of control. Their development is open-ended. As the pressure of their work demands more and more of them. they can stretch to meet it. They can be open to themselves, and as brave as they can be to see who they are, what their work is teaching them. This is never easy. Every step forward is a clearing through a thicket of reluctance and habit and natural indolence. And all the while they are at the mercy of events. They may have a crippling accident, or may find themselves yanked into a lifelong responsibility such as the necessity to support themselves and their families. Or a war may wipe out the cultural context on which they depend. Even the most fortunate have to adjust the demands of a personal obsession to the demands of daily life.
Anne Truitt, Daybook: The Journal of an Artist
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