Racism, artistic value, and Tintin

 The Moulinsart Foundation, who own the rights to the Tintin series, have recently been taken to court in Belgium for the racist content in Hergé’s 1931 book Tintin in the Congo. Bienvenu Mbutu Mondondo argues that the book should be banned because it “contains unacceptable racist and xenophobic words which are designed to convey the idea that the black man is inferior.” Specific examples from the book include the depiction of Congolese villagers attempting to add two and two; a black woman bowing to Tintin out of respect towards white men; Tintin commanding Congolese to assist at a train crash and the depiction of villagers fighting over a straw hat.

While Georges Remi, better known as Hergé, toned down the racism when the book was published in colour in 1946 and described the work as a “mistake from my youth” he also defended himself from accusations of racism by claiming that the book should be read as a testimony of a bygone age which reflected the prejudices of the colonial period.

This case provides a good example of the problem of the impact of immoral content on the value of a work of art. Continue reading “Racism, artistic value, and Tintin”

Did Pierre Menard author the Quixote?

In a short story by Jorge Luis Borges named Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote the author recites a fictitious inventory of works belonging to the now deceased novelist Pierre Menard. Of greatest importance amongst these works, according to the narrator, is an uncompleted piece that “consists of the ninth and thirty-eighth chapters of the first part of Don Quixote and a fragment of chapter twenty-two.” It was the aim of Pierre Menard, in constructing this particular work, to write the Quixote not by simply writing out passages from the existing text but by creating a new work that just so happens to coincide with the original text.

The result of his painstaking efforts (Menard learnt to write in archaic Spanish style and spent hundreds of hours constructing unusable passages) is considered a more subtle work than the original by Miguel de Cervantes. Continue reading “Did Pierre Menard author the Quixote?”

Philosophy and popular culture

William Irwin, series editor of the Philosophy and Pop Culture books, has recently published a defence of the books that seek to discuss philosophical issues in an accessible way though an examination of works of popular culture. The series spans a number of different popular culture categories such as TV shows, movies and music. Titles include: The Matrix and Philosophy, Star Wars and Philosophy and The Wizard of Oz and Philosophy. Irwin argues that his series shows how philosophy can be made relevant to ordinary life. In addition the series offers an accessible introduction to philosophical ideas that may not otherwise find their way to a mainstream audience. Irwin claims that philosophy should be popularised and qualified individuals should be responsible for this popularisation rather than amateurs. Continue reading “Philosophy and popular culture”

The Moral Import of Pop Music

In a recent article for The American Roger Scruton argued that we should be selective of what music we should listen to because, he suggests, different music genres have a certain moral character that may alter that may in the course of time have a positive or negative impact on the moral development of listeners. Scruton claims that some of the terms we use to describe music (e.g. gentle, bold, etc.) indicate that we make a moral assessment of what is expressed by music. Additionally, just as our character is impacted by the kind of company we keep so it is also affected by the kind of music we listen to. Continue reading “The Moral Import of Pop Music”

The Oscars – in recognition of popular art

The 82nd Annual Academy Awards are nearly upon us. On Sunday March 7 millions of viewers will be tuning in to see which movies, actors, directors and supporting crew will be recognised for their contribution to the popular art of film. A full list of the movies that are up for best picture can be found on the Guardian website. While many people go to the movies to watch such movies as Avatar or District 9 these instances of mass popular art, which are easily accessible to a wide audience both in terms of physical access through mass distribution technology and also in terms of it being easy to understand and engage with the movie, are Continue reading “The Oscars – in recognition of popular art”

Performance and pictorial representation… in sand

As unlikely as it may seem artist Kseniya Simonova won the 2009 series of Ukraine’s Got Talent by telling a story through the manipulation of sand on a lit board. In seconds she was able to create the image of a couple sitting holding hands on a park bench and then with a few sweeps of her hand dramatically change the mood of the scene to illustrate the devastating effect of war in a way that reduced several members of the audience to tears. View her amazing sand animation here.

Simonova is not the first to create impressive representations using sand. While Simonova’s creations are monochromatic Tibetan monks have for centuries been creating vibrantly coloured and intricately designed sand mandelas Continue reading “Performance and pictorial representation… in sand”

Instant Art and the Polaroid Revival

Polaroid is attempting to stage a comeback after the supposed death of instant photography due to increased use of digital cameras. In June 2008 Polaroid stopped production of Polaroid film which caused some artists like Mark Roberts and Denise Rouleau to hold their own “Last Polaroid Show.” However there is hope of a rebirth as The Impossible Project, a team of people who have purchased the old Polaroid factory in the Netherlands, are attempting to develop a cheaper version of the instant film that will work in Polaroid cameras. The project aims Continue reading “Instant Art and the Polaroid Revival”