Art: Cool and Uncool – William Varley Reviews Addicted to Sheep

So, as all cool sentences begin, I think that the best TV programme

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I saw last was Addicted to Sheep. In many ways this google_ad_height = 90; BBC4 documentary was reminiscent of the French film Être et Avoir about a remarkable teacher in a school in the remote Auvergne, although a good deal less winsome. It focused on the lives of the Hutchinson family, tenant farmers in Upper Teesdale. In their remote valley ewes are called “yowes” and at the children’s school they still sing “There is a green hill far away”. The Hutchinson children help with the lambing, including the gruesome task of dealing with still-born lambs.

What is

that all artists had to
make a choice between Mondrian and Duchamp, between advocates of the hand- made, and those of the ready-made. As Jackdaw readers know, Duchamp, asserting that all art was

mere taste, allegedly exhibited a

urinal under the title of Fountain
at the

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Armory Show in New York in 1913. Actually, as Jackdaw readers also know, that anarchic gesture was performed by one of his girlfriends as the Armory Show was ‘unselected’. Still, as someone who was intoxicated by word-play, puns and conceits, he was the epitome of the intellectual dandy. Apparently effortlessly, he invented kinetic art, optical art, conceptual art, and his great hermetic narrative, The Large Glass. Consolidating these innovations he left to allegedly mediocre followers.

His biographer Robert Lebel wrote that he regarded the ready-mades as sacralisation or transubstantiation. (How God-like is that?) However, “His real motive with them was to depreciate our ordinary

am not prepared to think that the satisfaction I might get in front of a Chardin, a Vermeer or a Vuillard is in any way similar to

the satisfaction I would get watching a beautifully pitched baseball or inspecting a google_ad_width = 970; shoe collection.

Her recantation was google_ad_client = "ca-pub-3967079123942817"; welcome, but it was too little, too late: the damage to the impermeability of high culture had already been done.

The other /* xin-1 */ hugely influential aspect of her ‘new sensibility’ was the idea (echoing Matthew Arnold perhaps) that art should concern itself with the moral criticism of life and be used as ‘a tool for changing consciousness’. Whether or not her writings were the cause or whether the true believers in an art for use developed their own ideology, in subsequent decades a veritable deluge of issues appeared. They mostly consisted of that left liberal menu of Goodthink favoured by the BBC that I’ve already mentioned: multiculturalism etc.. They are

very useful for ‘virtue signalling’. “Let’s do the Holocaust”, artists would
say, “or perhaps child abuse”. This is empty posturing, a bit like wearing Aids ribbons. It’s


about as far removed from Kathe Kollwitz’s nightmare visions as it’s possible to be. As the wife of a Berlin //--> doctor Kollwitz knew poverty and illness at first hand. Her emotion was earned, not understand: the structural music of painting invariably remains a mystery to them. And insofar as they reinforce the fallacy that visual art is simply a medium or receptacle of a socio-political statement, it’s
a godsend to those media hacks deputed to discuss them.

Some issues, however,

are so uncool that they’re off limits. Take the case of Kamel Daoud, for instance. This distinguished Algerian (Muslim) novelist wrote


an article in Le Monde in late January denouncing the wave of sexual assaults that had occurred during Cologne’s New Year’s Eve celebrations. He didn’t temporise, calling the assailants Muslim men:

The refugee-immigrants come from the vast universe of sorrow and horror which is

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the sexual misery of the Arab-Muslim world. The subjugation of women is the psychological Gordian knot at the core of the world of Allah, and hence the inspiration of the death cult that claims to
defend it.

You can easily guess the reaction to that: an academic fatwa; and erstwhile friends telling him, with the greatest kindness, to stick to writing novels and, politically,