Whew! I thought I had a competitor in the quest for 'person able to post the longest-ass posts in the world' but, I think I'm still the winner here, Merridian.
Merridian wrote:I'd say it's already in the mainstream.
Hmmm, you make an interesting point. The ever-increasing worldwide connectivity and the the fact that the internet has made it so easy for every the smallest sub-cultures to congregate together en masse has certainly blurred the lines between just what is and isn't mainstream. And sub-cultures are likely larger than they've ever been because of the connectivity and, like the old parable, a group of sticks bound together is tougher to break than a lone twig.
That said, I still feel there's very much a spectrum with mainstream and uber-cult being at the poles. Almost everyone is aware of, say, Citizen Kane, 2001, War & Peace, Hamlet, Mozart, The Beatles, etc. even if they've never seen/read/heard them. The same can't be said for Evangelion; certainly so in the West. I've oft-inquired just how 'big' it is in Japan and have gotten differing answers even from people who live there. Many still say that it's extremely far from the mainstream while others say it's everywhere and quite pervasive throughout the culture.
But, even then, I'm not so sure how much mass popularity will equate to lasting posterity. This age of art being presented through potentially permanent mediums and presented in ways which have the possibility of even lesser works having a much longer shelf-life is relatively new. One wonders just what, say, the Star Wars sub-culture will on its centennial; it's really hard to say.
Merridian wrote:As such, "artistic canon" has disappeared - you've got a few things that still circle around groups of people as agreed-upon works of merit, but as a whole, anything done in the last twenty years (or half-century, depending on whose definition you're going on) is largely ignored for this reason.
I don't think it's disappeared at all. I think Harold Bloom produced a pretty darn definitive book of the Western literature canon, cites like Theyshootpictures have devoured lists made by critics and film-makers to create what is likely the definitive list of films in the canon (certainly at least the top 100 if not more), and there's already a large list of 20th century composers that are emerging to become part of the classical canon and even popular artists forming their own (I doubt The Beatles or Dylan will be forgotten any time soon).
Interestingly, there's probably never been an age where such 'list-making' has been as prevalent as it is now. There's 'lists' for everything and the fact is that with any given subject you will see the same works pop up over and over; this is, in a way, how canon is formed. And I don't think any amount of pomo's subjectification of art is going to destroy that.
Merridian wrote:I look at art as being a byproduct of self expression. In this light, it emphasizes creative aspect of doing things more than the creative aspect of simply interpreting things.
Well, for me, the creation and interpretation is simply the speaking and listening part of art as communication. Creation for one's self has its place, but, in the end, it's rather like talking to yourself in that it may be good personal therapy, but it's not going to help, entertain, enlighten, provoke, etc. anyone else. Although the interpretation aspect can go to far. I tend to take a middle road between utter faithfulness to the artist's intention and 'death of the author'.
Merridian wrote:try tackling Ulysses or Finnegan's Wake, both by James Joyce. NGE is a lot more organized than most of the literary canon.
I've read a lot of both and, yeah, I know what you mean. But NGE's second half certainly has a feeling, likely created by its extreme condensation and mimicking of the radical film subversives' techniques, that it's delving into narrative and structural chaos. But even with Ulysses and Finnegans there's always intent under the surface with Joyce pushing multi-cultural linguistic semantics and wordplay to its limits and representing the chaos of, among other things, the working of the human mind.
Merridian wrote:I guess there's something to be said for thoughtless entertainment, but I'm not one that can really get into their brand of brain-clogging tapioca sludgification.
For me, there's a brand of art made for entertainment that has great value, and that's the kind that shows a high degree of thought behind the craft. In these works the content becomes the entertainment but the formal aspects are pure artistry. Classic Hollywood was full of great examples, e.g., Howard Hawks and Billy Wilder rarely made intentionally artistic films, but in all their rampant entertainment there was always incredible thought behind the craftsmanship. Good examples in anime might be Cowboy Bebop or Escaflowne.
Merridian wrote:art has been taken off of its pedestal and given to the masses, whether for better or worse.
But has it REALLY? What I consider the actual mass mediums of entertainment and what within those mediums attract the masses very little of it is anywhere near what anyone would label as good art. It's this kind of disposable entertainment that the masses eat up. And I'm all for giving art to the masses; as I said before, the greats in all mediums seemed to be those that bridged that gap. But it seems that modernism created this kind of schism between the masses and art; TS Eliot said that all art must be appreciated with the context of all other art, and that right there gives it an exclusivity. And certainly works like Ulysses or In Search of Lost Time weren't written with mass audiences in mind.
Perhaps post-modernism meant to give this kind of art back to the people, but I just don't see it. If any of it makes it to the mainstream I think it's more of a difference in the creative approach. Again, creating with mass entertainment first but putting that artistry within the craft.
Merridian wrote:But have you ever branched off from there?
Not much; I've been too busy with other literature lately, but I was devouring comics most of last year. I put those you mentioned on my Amazon wish list. :)
Merridian wrote:I've found that comic books suffer the same stigma anime does in this respect - and the predicament is the same; most comic book writers don't really do much to change that stigma, and most comic book fans are too pretentious or too disinterested to care.
Yet things HAVE changed. Watchmen went mass popularity, Sandman could do so if they could find a decent screenplay and director/producer/distributor (I think it would be perfect as an HBO series). Neil Gaiman tells a humorous story where he told someone at one of those high-class parties that he wrote comic books, and after saying he wrote Sandman they said "Oh, you don't write comic books, you write graphic novels!" which, as he said, was like being told he wasn't a hooker but a 'lady of the night'. Gotta love people's hang-ups on labels! I fear animation (in general) has already created such strong prejudices in people's mind over what it's suited for that there may be no hope for it in the west as a medium with the potential for greater things.
Merridian wrote:But enough individuals have taken interest in Evangelion to ensure its survival already - I doubt adding it to some canon is going to make too much of a difference in that regard.
Are we sure it has enough interest to ensure its survival? What I see is a work that has a very cult following; NGE is certainly a smaller community than Star Wars, Star Trek, Lord of the Rings, or similar sci-fi/fantasy franchises, and I even wonder about their (well, Wars and Trek more than LOTR) posterity. The masses are fickle, and I think there's a great chance that each subsequent generation will be less and less enthralled
Merridian wrote:And it's also part of the reason I'm having trouble understanding your preoccupation with artistic canon.
Because I see the invention of canon as a phenomenon divorced of any artistic movement. I pomo certainly seemed to move away more from the elitism of modernism but I still don't see much of a difference in what they've produced in terms of their relationship with canon or the mainstream. Artistic elitism still exists and isn't any less prevalent, mainstream entertainment still isn't considered art, and most art that is appreciated as great art isn't well known (if at all) among the masses.
Merridian wrote:And as has been established, Evangelion does that exceptionally well. So what's your argument?
Because, as I said, I see it's fandom existing in what is likely a very tenuous, self-contained but easily bustable bubble. Maybe that's not the case in Japan, but it certainly is in the West. I might say that I can see its potential for lasting more than any other anime title, but anime tends to be such an ephemeral medium that I'm far from certain.
Merridian wrote:artwork really is only appreciated by a relatively small minority compared to the billions of people on the planet. Combined with the destabilization of post-modernism, canon has become even more recognized as something that should be individually-identified with, rather than something shoved down everybody's throats.
Well, it's true that art is only appreciated by a minority on the highest level (by that I mean an individual level of passion regarding it); but art is very much mainstream in the fact that people use it as escapism or entertainment; but even among these art becomes very important on some level and informs their lives. Look at the masses who grieve for Michael Jackson; and much of that is genuinely because of his 'art'.
But it's precisely that minority that's majorly responsible for keeping it alive throughout the years. And everyone who studies the artistic fields will encounter common works that are part of that canon.
Merridian wrote:I'm looking at it more as a thing that you should define as an individual--i.e....
But where does that stop? Does one really have to give such subjective comparative analysis with any two such works? e.g. Mozart VS Britney Spears, Citizen Kane VS Daddy Day Care, Hamlet VS Twilight, etc. It's hard to avoid absolute relativism when you place too much importance on the subjective importance of art. In truth, I should distinguish it as being a subversion of mass subjectivity opposed to individual subjectivity; the former is responsible for the invention/shaping of canons, the latter leaves everything up to the individual.
Merridian wrote:Most of the people I've spoken with express disdain for the art-obsessed bohemians who thrive on their own self-reflexive ideas of elitist intellectualism--and I can't blame them. So while 'high art' does exist, it's only relevant to those who care about it. And on top of this, a lot of these elitists aren't very happy anyhow, and use unfairly critical methods (such as, in the case of NGE, the fact that it's anime) to further perpetuate their elitism and their disdain for everything that they don't already agree with.
I think this is more than a bit of gross generalization. The stereotype of the elitist, intellectual, art-obsessed bohemians tends to be much more exaggerated than the actual truth. Of all the people that I've encountered that genuinely love art very few fit that description. I've met voracious bibliophiles who profess a love for Harry Potter, I've met the most intellectual cinephiles who love Transformers... Hell, I'm someone who adores classical music but also don't mind headbanging to thrash and death metal. To me, the true art types are of the voracious and unprejudiced sort rather than the discriminating, exclusive sort who use their appreciation as a kind of measurement for an abstract pissing contest.
Each successive generation seems responsible for altering the canon; adding to, excluding, etc. and it's usually each new critical wave that elevates what were previously perceived as 'lesser' arts or works to much greater status. I see NGE as precisely the kind of work fit for that kind of revolution.
Merridian wrote:art is a fascinating but ultimately useless preoccupation.
I've often thought that art and utilitarianism make better opposing partners than art and entertainment (of which I've always found somewhat synonymous). That said, the very fact that art stimulates the mind makes it useful; as thinking (and a greater ability to do so) certainly has its usefulness in real life.
Merridian wrote:If someone's uninterested in the subject matter or unwilling to give it a chance, calling it 'art' isn't going to make a difference.
True; one has to be open and willing to let something affect them before it will. And I often think the greatness labels that gets thrown on works are such a barrier. One wonders if people went into Citizen Kane with a fresh mind rather than the preconception the 'greatest film of all time' label generates if they would see a completely different movie.