Recent links of note:
“Progressive Preponderance: A Reply to Douglas McLennan”
Franklin Einspruch, Artblog.net
It would take a gargantuan effort to ignore the fact that, over the past few decades in most of the art world, “diversity” has gone from buzzword to password to, now, the final word. An increasingly monolithic consensus around diversity, which is by definition the very essence of polyvalence, ought to raise a few red flags. Even worse, that consensus has wended its way toward a particularly hypocritical position. Coupling art with progressive imperatives for diversity and empathy, artists like Lin-Manuel Miranda insist not just that all art is political but even that it finds its highest meaning in the political. The ghastly irony behind all this, of course, is that diversity—supposedly a prerequisite for robust and thoughtful discussion in any arena—of a political sort is horrifically absent from the art world at the moment. More preferable, it seems, is the identity-politics brand of diversity, where any differences running further than skin-deep are passed over for the superficial, checkable-box sort. How open-minded.
The artist and writer Franklin Einspruch has heeded this contradiction and fills the semaphoric role with aplomb in a recent blog post on his website, Artblog.net. “First of all,” he writes, “the arts are not for everyone, they’re for anyone.” Small distinctions can have big consequences; on the whole, he provides a nuanced yet forceful take on a subject that badly, desperately needs it.
“The good, the bad and the political”
James Hankins, The Spectator
It is often remarked in our present political climate that the rule of law has given way to the rule of lawyers. For the Harvard professor James Hankins, this is likely something of a foregone conclusion. With the advent of Machiavellian power politics, he explains, political leaders who had served as exemplars of justice and consistency in classical conceptions soon found themselves enslaved to the changing times, trying to guess “which way the wind will blow tomorrow.” When the people cannot depend on their leader, it stands to reason that they would turn to the law for consistency; what goes unremarked is that this “emphasis on law inevitably empowers the interpreters of the law, who will always side with the powerful individuals who pay them.” For more on the damage Machiavelli did to classical notions of virtue and its role in politics, read Hankins’s fine essay in The Spectator and, if you hunger for more, turn next to the book from which it is excerpted.
“The Kariye Museum in Istanbul—a Byzantine masterpiece under threat”
Merih Danali Cantarella and Anthony Cutler, Apollo
The Ottoman empire was dissolved in 1922, and Turkey was declared an independent republic in 1923—or so I thought until reading Apollo’s recent headline about an imperiled fourteenth-century church in the city of Istanbul. The Kariye (or Chora) Museum, originally built as the Church of Christ in the Chora Monastery under the Byzantine emperor Andronikos II (1270–1328), is considered “a pivotal monument of ‘the proto-Renaissance’” flowering of religious art taking place in the Near East at the time, according to Merih Danali Cantarella and Anthony Cutler. It was converted into a mosque following the Ottoman sack of Constantinople; once the Muslim regime fell out of power after World War I, it didn’t take long for the new Turkish republic to decide, rightly, that the magnificence of the seven-hundred-year-old building would be best preserved by turning it into a museum. It has been one since 1934, but—guess what—a top Turkish administrative court has recently ruled that the ancient Ottoman decree turning it into a mosque still holds weight. This decision would be less offensive if it didn’t almost certainly imply the destruction of, or at least significant damage to, the gorgeous murals covering the walls. If the trend continues, can you guess what’s in store for such monuments as the Hagia Sophia?
Music for a While #17: Yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Jay Nordlinger, music critic of The New Criterion, talks music—but, more important, plays music.
James Piereson on the idea of an American nation. Exclusive audio from The New Criterion’s “Sovereignty or Submission” conference.
Roger Kimball introduces the January issue. A new podcast from the Editor and Publisher of The New Criterion.