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February 12, 1982 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 1982-02-12

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OPINION

Page 4 Friday, February 12, 1982

The Michigan Daily

I

Culture thrives,

but lacks recognition

By Michael Huget
and Lesa Doll
In a recent column (Daily, Feb. 6), Andrew
Chapman made the assertion that contem-
porary society has contributed nothing to
enhance the state of the arts; that, somehow,
what we think of as art today has grown insipid,
stale, and unpalatable. By discussing a few
areas he considers art (i.e., television), and by
limiting his discussion to those fields, Chapman
creates the illusion that current American art
is without merit.
Quite accurately, much of today's art is in-
sipid and of specious quality. However, we are
no different from any previous society-what is
truly good is rarely reflected and praised in its
own time. Although the mindlessly redundant
and unimaginative art in our culture can be
widely recognized, the finest, often most ob-
scure aspects of American art-aspects that
will be enjoyed by future generations as the
hallmarks of our culture-are overlooked by
critics who lack the background or sensitivity
to recognize and anticipate their merit.
POPULAR MOVIES of the day-Raiders of
The Lost Ark, Absence of Malice, et. al. -are
often dismissed without acknowledgement of a
significant purpose they serve. These films are
not released under pretense that they are, or
should be, considered art; their purpose is
strictly to provide escapism-a means fdr an
audience to forget their economic and social
woes for a few hours. In ten years most current
popular films may be completely forgotten, but
their ability to raise the spirits of an otherwise
despondent individual must at least be respec-
ted, if not admired. Perhaps Nietzsche said it

best when he said, "We have the arts so that we
are not ruined by reality."
Every society has had its Raiders,its
Sharkey's Machine, its Absence of Malice. It is
important to remember, however, that such
examples do not offer a thorough represen-
tation of all society's offerings.
In the early 19th century, American art was
inundated with landscape artists - rarely was
any work acclaimed or sold that did not fall into
the landscape category. And yet, years later,
we forget that the impressionists, who grew
precariously out of this era, were scoffed 'at
and critically ignored.
EDGAR DEGAS, one of the most lauded ar-
tists of the impressionist school, died shortly
after his first painting was put into a museum.
Few realize the impressionists were obscure in
their time-or that genuinely mediocre lan-
dscape artists were the era's "mainstream"
artists. Because of an inherent need to con-
form, we tend to only recognize the mediocre in
the society in which we belong-the less-than-
average creations of post societies fade into
blissful forgetfulness, thus presenting the
illusion that previous epochs were somewhat
more prolific and ingenious than our own.
While holding an almost untainted reverence
for past eras such as the Italian renaissance,
many forget that those societies also produced
boring and insipid creations. Those works,
however, are simply not remembered - just as
we will forget the general films and art works
often hailed as representative of our culture.
What will be remembered, and rightly so, are
the contributions currently being made by un-
discovered American artists. Although often ab-
scure, metamorphoses are occurring in the
world of dance, visual art, music, and theater
that are contributing to what will someday be

bolism and exploration of the individual
psyche, and Pilobolus, with its new blend of
athleticism and dance, and Alwin Nikolais,
with his interpretation of theatrics in dance,
have all equalled, if not surpassed earlier ef-
forts in dance.
The most recent example of innovative dance
choreography is Twyla Tharp's new broadway
production The Catherine Wheel, a chilling
synthesis of dance and music. No one that un-
derstands and appreciates dance can claim.
that the current state of such art is stale.
THE SAME is true for the visual arts. To
those who understand only what is drawn in a
pretty picture with pretty colors, the current
abstract art trends-by now not so
current-can be boring.
Abstract art offers an extremely advanced
treatment of color and form. Jackson Pollock
happens to be a forerunner in this field. Artists
have shifted the focus of their art away from
crowd-pleasing to narcissism. For Pollock, an
action expressionists, the beauty of his craft is
the art of creation.
Likewise, for the op artists-they care less
about what the general population thinks of
them and more about their own process of
creation. Those who think of modern art as
boring merely do not understand its
motivation. Modern-day artists are getting
back to what Degas once said about art: "It is a
supreme form of self-indulgence."
THE RESULTS of the self-indulgent artistic
creations are not blithe works, but rather biting
social criticisms created under the guise of
frivolity. The playwrights of the absurdist
theater are often dismissed as such; the
general public fails to realize the poignant
questions absurdist plays raise about the
nature and order of society and human

relationships. Although often abstruse, absur-
dist dramatists are not concerned with conven-
tional modes of theatre; they attempt to
present a sequence of events designed to com-
pel the viewer to think about what is being said,
not to captivate or enthrall.
There is an abundance of artists and authors
presently engaged in social criticism.
Playwright Arthur Miller, for one, is not blind
to social ills. His plays-from Death of *a
Salesman to The American Clock-often
dissect national traumas, questioning the very
foundations of American society. Novelist E. L.
Doctorow's intrepid novel, The Book of Daniel,
is an indirectly scathing attack on the gover-
nment.
It is basically correct to surmise that it will
be hard to alter American misconceptions on
art. However, this assumption should be exten-
ded to all societies; we are not alone in an at-
titude that stocially resists change. Art has
served, and will serve, the function of
stimulating cultures to forge ahead.
We all occasionally find ourselves enjoying
mindless entertainment, but it is regretful that
some judge all of our culture's offerings based
on this "art." Our judgments of society's art
and artists must transcend the readily
available; we must realize and acknowledge
the nascent American culture. Otherwise, the
revolutionary artists of today will not be
recognized until tomorrow.

New trends in modern dance

considered the great art of 20th century
America.
DANCE CONNOISSEURS are
claiming-and perhaps rightly so-that we are
undergoing a cultural upheaval in American
dance. After the somewhat vapid stage where
Americans borrowed much from European
classical dance, our society has finally begun,
since the Denishawn era of the 1920's, to
develop its own style and contribute to cultural
advancement.
Martha Graham, with her ' chilling sym-

Huget is a Daily Arts editor; Doll
editor for the Michigan State News.

is

-

Edited and managed by students at The University of Michigan

Weasel

By Robert Lence

Vol. XCII, No. 110

420 Maynard St.
Ann Arbor, M48109

Editorials represent a majority opinion.of the Daily's Editorial Board

THE TRUTH
OF THE MATTER IS,
JESSICA, THAT IVE
NEVER LOVED YOU!
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PUT TOWN
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'ObE our NNO
CHARLENE,SHE E'~PAD

fill?'
I CAT BELOV

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OHI, COME ON~, WEASEL-
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AND IN1E6 O WAX~f
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rki " U

ain

U-Cellar's move:
An unfortunate departure

i
6

L L

SO THE UNIVERSITY Cellar has
signed a-new lease for a new
location and they'll move in during the
summer and everything will be fine.
Well, not exactly.
U-Cellar should never have had to
leave its Michigan Union location. The
store was forced out by insensitive and
stubborn management. Management
which, by that same insensitivity, may
have lost the best item the Union ever
had.
On Wednesday, Union Director
Frank Cianciola said he wishes U-
Cellar "the best of success.". Nothing
could appear further from the truth.
The Union's squabbles with U-Cellar
go back quite a few years. The Union
and U-Cellar have been working on a
month-to-month contract since 1978,
when the store's original contract ex-
pired Since that time, troubles have
plagued both parties, but the U-Cellar
consistently has come out on the losing
end.
Most of the troubles have been finan-
cial. U-Cellar agreed early last year to
pay for extensive renovations in their
area of the Union, if the Union would
agree to give them more store space.
U-Cellar officials assumed that paying
for renovations on Union property was
a mutually agreeable action. That
assumption was completely incorrect.
Cianciola then slapped a 65 percent
rent hike on U-Cellar, a cost they could
ill afford. The U-Cellar has been finan-
cially strapped for many years run-
ning. Cianciola should have realized
that a 65 percent rent increase was ob-
viously unacceptable.
Cianciola argued, however, that he
was merely raising the U-Cellar's rent
to market prices. Cianciola claimed
that space in the Union was "prime"
property for any store in Ann Arbor,

and that this was reason enough for a
rent increase.
But Cianciola ignored the fact the U-
Cellar is an establishment run entirely
by and for students. The store serves a
specific and important University fun-
ction-selling vital textbooks and
items to University students at
reduced rates. Its function on campus
should merit receiving a lower rental
rate. At the very least, Cianciola
should have offered U-Cellar officials
an incremental increase in rent, so the
store could have adjusted its prices
and stock in accordance.
U-Cellar is not blameless in this
situation. Officials from the store were
somewhat immovable in their
negotiations. It might have been
possible for a compromise settlement
to be reached.
The rent for U-Cellar's new site is
well below the price Cianciola deman-
ded. The new store, however, is out of
the way for most students-the corner
of East Liberty and Division-and U-
Cellar will likely end up losing even
more money. If U-Cellar is forced to
raise its prices, its function as a
student bookstore will be lost.
U-Cellar was the only thing keeping
textbook prices at other area
booksellers at a reasonable level.
Because U-Cellar is non-profit and
paid low rent they were able to under-
cut the prices of Follett's and Ulrich's
and force them to sell textbooks at
cheaper levels.
Unfortunately, Cianciola, by pressing
his inflated demands with too heavy a
hand, has deprived the University
community and the Union of a good
deal. Now U-Cellar must depart from
its original habitat, thus leaving the
Union with a money machine as its
main attraction.

,

LETTERS TO THE DAILY:

A new humorist joins the Daily staff

To the Daily:
I wish to congratulate you on the
birth of a new humor writer in the
Michigan Daily family. In
celebration of his own emergence
into the world, Mark Gindin has
presented us with his first far-
cical essay, (Daily, Feb. 6) "Of
Students and Liberalism." May I
christen him with a few com-
plimentary, critical remarks?>
I was immediately impressed
by the narrative distance Gindin
establishes in his opening
paragraph. Instead of admitting
that he, too, is a student writing
for a student newspaper, he
charmingly poses as a man com-
pletely removed by time and
space from the University com-
munity. He is fascinated, he
claims, by "that body of
humanity referred to as college
students." What a clever device
this is to make his readers
believe that he could not possibly
be part of that group!
It is amazing that a writer so
new to the Daily opinion page
could already have such
exquisite control over language;
the sound of his sentences is in-
deed an echo to his sense. While
pretending to be a non-student
and anti-liberal, Gindin treats us

to paragraph after paragraph of
worn phrasing, tired metaphors,
and cliches. In this way he
presents an excellent parody of
the conservative figures that his
persona is allegedly aligned
with: "Social programs spread
like wildfire"; "[a] higher stan-
dard of living was merely an ad-
ded bonus"; "freedom in the New
World did not come cheap."
Bravo Gindin: How well you
disguise the freshness of your
language!
The myth of the American
Dream is also keenly satirized in
this essay, where the author
saturates it with sappy romance,
ethical bias, and racist slurs.
Gindin pretends to glorify our
white European forefathers who
"crossed deserts in covered
wagons, built miles of railroad
tracks, and gave up king and
country for a dream." Remem-
bering that this represents the
forefathers of only a limited set of
Americans, the author reminds
us that "being an American" also
means that "the son of an Italian
immigrant can become the owner
of his own corporation, or a Mih-
igan ghetto dweller can become a
multi-millionaire basketball
player." This prejudiced, limited

perspective, pretending to offer a
generous dream to black
Americans, is a marvelous
parody of the self-righteous con-
servatism found in this country
today.
But Gindin's greatest comic
success comes in his implicit at-
tack on anti-federalists and the
opposers of social programs.
While pretending to argue for
Reagan's plans for dismantling
the centralized government, the
author humorously dismantles
his own argument with
generalizatins, stumbling logic,
and pompous moralisms. The
minimum wage "has forced
willing teenagers from the labor
force," he proclaims. "Rent con-
trol causes housing shortages."
Here again is an admirable piece
of parody, for Gindin is
criticizing the vision of those who
are blind to adult workers who
must survive on minimum wage
earnings or who could be turned
out of their homes because they
cannot compete for housing at
higher rents.
The author's true moral fiber
shines through the clearly
satirical assertion that "the
college student who presumes to
know that social programs are

good for people is also 1
dangerous." Ho, Ho! Just think
how "bad" it is for people to have
a chance to eat, having clothing,
shelter, and medical care. Does
it distract them from the basket-
ball courts?
I believe that I have seen
through Gindin's disguise, and I
offer him my sympathy along
with my admiration. Surely he is
someone who has experienced
the needs that social programs
help to fill, or he could never be
so sensitive to the threas that
"the New Federalism" poses to
this country. Only one who has
personally witnessed how the
American Dream's balloon has
burst could so poignantly show
how words like "freedom" and
"responsibility" have been em-
ptied of their significance by the
distanced, comfortablel
promoters of Reagan's economic
policies.
Give us more satirical com-
mentary, Gindin. It's so much
fun to laugh at the ignorant blun-
ders of political conservatives.
-Celia A. Easton
Academics Director,
Pilot Program
February 8
1

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