For the last few centuries there have been urges, movements if you will, to push for the collection and saving of “high art”. From the collections of the “Western Canon”, to the “National Film Registry” that the United States Federal Government has created in the hopes of creating a cultural-heritage archive of film; people desperately want to filter out all of that “bad, naughty, low-tier” art that they refer to through a plethora of names. From schlock, to b-movies, to trash, to low art, to whatever pejorative as sharp or dull in its language as you wish, there is an over-arching trend to mitigate their impacts, crush their reach, and excise them from society. But I am here to tell you, it is all bullshit.
Feminists, African Nationalists, Marxists, Conservatives, Liberals, and every other imaginable ideological group, keeps fighting and bickering about what is part of the canon, what is high art, what needs to be preserved, but what I say is, “All of it.” Many responses probably rush through your mind, such as “why”, or “how”, or even “what media?” My response is “all of it.”
You see, the reason I picked ‘Basic Instinct’ as the poster of this article is not because it is a measurable quality of high art despite its lurid fascinations, it is because it combines aspects of what has been deemed “low art” and “high art” and achieved a symbiosis that relies on the other in order to create the image it has in society. It is a modern amalgam of what breaks the concept of “high art” and “low art”, it does not appeal to one or the other. You have gratuitous, borderline obscene nudity and sexuality, combined with such expert film making that it almost feels like it is tricking “serious film critics” into lauding a sleazy fantasy as a groundbreaking film. It achieved critical success and became a spring blockbuster that helped turn the “erotic thriller” into a seriously considered genre both in terms of its profitability and its reviews. Without the eye-catching cinematography, moody lighting, and compelling acting, it would be looked at as another brick in the wall of erotic films, and without the nudity and sex, it would just be looked at as a very plain, very boring noir-thriller.
So if ‘Basic Instinct’ is a jumping off point, where do you go from there? What is the “jumping off point” exactly anyway? Into the realm of that which everyone considers to be the realm of “low art”, the softcore porn realm of course. The long-running series ‘Emmanuelle’ began originally as a book series, but has since been adapted into over 50 different films. Needless to say, the books do not fit into the “high art” category, nor do the films, and yet, they persist without the need for attention from “serious critics” or “scholarly debate”. In some ways, they are above it. They exist to the enjoyment of fans and casual viewers, who some might say, are the true audience for art in the first place, since if it is not going to be appreciated then what was the point in creating it in the first place? Not all art is made to sit in a museum. Not all art is even made to appeal to “critical sensibilities”. In fact, art should not appeal to critical sensibilities, it should appeal to the audiences it was made for, and that is that, whoever they may be.
Some may have intricate and complex, nuanced ideas about what “art” truly is, but I have a much simpler idea of what it is. “Art” are the dreams, goals, desires, fascinations, and contemplations of the author, made manifest for the viewer to observe. The reason I say “author” instead of “artist” is because the author is not always the artist. Artists get commissioned, a lot. From the statue of David to the Sistine Chapel painting, they were commissioned by-and-large for specific purposes, by specific people/groups. The artist’s vision and talent in creating the piece is ultimately their own, but what makes the piece significant was the original purpose behind it, and the purposes of both pieces were from the Catholic Church.
This idea of art being “commissioned” may be blasphemy in the eyes of a lot, but it is a fact of reality that many simply ignore for their delusions of idealism, the concept of art being some sort of transcendental world-shaping experience. Nope. It is a satyr on a vase, fucking nymphs. It is a naked man, standing poignantly for all to see. It is Emmanuelle, traveling the world, fucking anyone she wants. Art is also those cheap paintings you see in hotel lobbies, of snowy cabins or of hunting dogs in the forest. And yet, art is also the Sistine Chapel. Because art encompasses all aspects of society, even those aspects that the elites wish to try and ignore, as per their dogmatic, arrogant world-view in which they deem themselves the arbiters of taste…Arbiters of taste which they so eagerly adopt from the masses they despise (Lobster, red wine, erotic thrillers, and even now horror films, which for ages were considered “low art” or “distasteful” went from being looked down upon to being appraised and highly valued).
Whether through the Western Canon or the National Film Registry, these “low kinds of art” are being collected and preserved with or without their help, from remastering groups such as Shout Factory restoring old 70’s and 80’s horror movies that were forgotten, through individuals on porn websites uploading upscaled versions of decades-past hardcore and softcore films from the 20’s all the way up to the 80’s and 90’s, to the people collecting comic books, to people who collect whiskey bottles. And in time, soon those tastes will change yet again and the preservation of such media will be deemed “culturally or historically important”. Just as we now view the Venus of Willendorf, a mere personal masturbatory statuette to some early human, to be a priceless artifact of human existence. In time will we soon see ‘Nightdreams’ and ‘House on Hooter Hill’ change from being trash to be forgotten, to art that needs to be saved. And why? Because ultimately, it is all art, it is all part of the human experience, and it all exists whether we like it or not.
While I use the pornographic to illustrate my point, that is only because it is the most extreme example, and the sentiment towards them extends in its most basic form to virtually all of the critically ignored media. It is all “pornography” to “them”. From dime novels, to flash games, to pop music. And yet, in time, it will be viewed as being just as valid as Shakespeare. Because “they” do not matter. What matters is whether or not you make art. Is some art better than other art? Sure…For instance, I much prefer Isaac Asimov and Jules Verne over Shakespeare. Does that make their art “better” though? Well, I prefer it, and though people may disagree, I will not change my mind simply to appease their sensibilities. The primary difference between “good” art and “bad” art though is not which grouping, genre, or author it belongs to, it is how well it visualizes the purpose behind its creation, the rigor of its creation, and the tenacity with which the audience finds it charming. And that is the attitude that has gifted us with the plethora of art we see today; instead of the stodgy, limited, abstract art that you see littering museums today, and why museums are in such peril of economic collapse, we see everything from action, to horror, to farce, to romance. The critics who loud the pieces on display in the Louvre get next to no attention, while a film by WICKED Pictures sells tens, even hundreds of thousands of copies. The idea that there exists this line between what “high art” is and what “low art” is, only exists to the elitists that desperately, hopelessly, fruitlessly attempt to control the narrative by ignoring that which they despise. Only, as history has shown, they never controlled the narrative. All of it gets unearthed. Only art exists and this blog does not discriminate between any of it, as it is all worth saving in my book.