Friday, June 05, 2009

Shock Value

What is more shocking? The things that shock us or the things that don't?

The current issue of Touchstone arrived yesterday and, fortunately for you, the article Shock Value is available on this fine magazine's website. Subtitled Pro-Life Transgressions of the Avant-Garde, author Micah Mattix juxtaposes the responses on the campus of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to two events that happened one week last fall:
a “gender-bending” play that would push the limits of experimental drama in its exploration of human sexuality
and a display where:
Carolina Students for Life erected several large Justice for All placards on campus, which contained pictures of unborn children being aborted.
Mattix concludes,
In theory, at least, one of the goals of the avant-garde has been to attack the tastes and moral sensibilities of the bourgeois. It has thus presented works containing subject matter that was indeed considered shocking at the time, works that were created out of relativistic theories of composition. Gone was the notion that art represented, in imaginative form, images of beauty and truth. These were replaced—once again, in theory—with works that presented beliefs and morals as constructed.

The avant-garde theater at Chapel Hill, however, no longer attacks the sensibilities of the students, but rather provides them with the sort of work they want to see in the first place—work that does not challenge their moral paradigm, but confirms it—because the moral paradigm implicit in the avant-garde has now become the moral paradigm of much of the middle class. This, of course, is done in the guise of carrying on the tradition of the avant-garde. What is really avant-garde today, in the original, combative sense of the term, is to stand for life, for beauty, and for truth. Nothing shocks us more.
Read it all here.

Better, run to your newsstand and get the whole issue. And if you don't already subscribe to Touchstone, why not?

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