In Defense of Aesthetic Contingency

Le Spleen de Paris causes me much pain; mayhaps I should get it removed

Compiling and reading end-of-year, and, good lord, END-OF-DECADE lists, can be an exhausting and unrewarding process. I thought about making a list of my favorite movies from the past year, but then I realized that my list would contain 5 or 10 of the same movies as everybody else’s list. I got bored just thinking about how much I liked The Hurt Locker, and it is sad when the best art is robbed of its exhilarating properties by the expected, codified way critics note their “favorites.”

Furthermore, we all know that there are objectively good and bad things that came out this year–we hardly need a list to sum it up if we’ve been paying attention. Daftpop was supposed to avoid shit like that, because it was originally conceived in appreciation for the subjectivities and contingencies of artistic taste, which is to say that daftpop wants to celebrate what a person feels drawn to and ends up loving the most. And let not this celebration of individual artistic taste be confused with the stupid egoism of some critics (more on this in a minute). The daftpop quest is to discover how we make our aesthetics, and that is a rather grand quest.

Baudelaire wrote in “Wagner and Tannhauser in Paris,” one of his more enjoyable long-winded essays on aesthetics, that writing from the “I” point of view binds the writer within the strictest confines of sincerity and truth. Now, I personally don’t prioritize sincerity or truth as important virtues when writing, but I do think these qualities are more integral to criticism than, say, disingenuous posing, mindless trend-following and stubborn contrariness, which together make the triumvirate of bad critical thinking. Baudelaire builds on his concept about “I,” by close reading the Tannhauser reviews by other respected critics. He then draws parallels between the critics’ subjective perceptions of the Wagner opera and calls the reader’s attention to the uncanny similarities between his, Berlioz, Musset and god-kn0ws-who-else’s-thoughts on the opera. From there, Baudelaire builds his totally psychedelic theory of “synesthesia,” the idea that great art can elicit the same experience in all those who encounter it. I am not talking about synesthesia here, in fact it’s pretty much contrary to my plan, but I did want to talk about the “I,” and the strength of subjective responses to art.

So in the spirit of not codifying a damn thing, and by humbling myself to the majesty of Art (a la Baudelaire), this week I will just write about my favorite encounters with “art” this year. These will include arts high and low… so watch out.


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