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Art as Free Expression Under Capitalism x

Art as Free Expression Under Capitalism x

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Published by John Duncan Tait
A study of the Philosophy of Theodore Adorno, Martin Heidegger and Gianni Vattimo on the potential Art has to a product of free expression under capitalist society. is capitalism oppressive to art? or is this all nonsense and paranoia? Why might a Hollywood film like Fight Club keep the integrity of its messages?
A study of the Philosophy of Theodore Adorno, Martin Heidegger and Gianni Vattimo on the potential Art has to a product of free expression under capitalist society. is capitalism oppressive to art? or is this all nonsense and paranoia? Why might a Hollywood film like Fight Club keep the integrity of its messages?

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Categories:Topics, Art & Design
Published by: John Duncan Tait on Jan 08, 2011
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Art as Freedom of Expression under Capitalism
 I wish to give an account of Adornos theory of mass culture and tie this in with his aesthetictheory, presenting the argument that capitalism represses arts potential for originality. I willthen take an example of an artist who attempted to directly resist capitalism in the early20
th
century and see whether they succeeded in any way. Bertolt Brecht, the well knownMarxist playwright, adopted an original approach to opposing capitalism by encouraging hisaudiences to think independently. It is my intention, in the first part of the thesis to examineAdornos philosophy with regard to this. Having done this I will move on to discuss the muchdiscussed cinematic work and cult classic
Fight Club
. I will apply Adornos concepts to thefilm that, it should surely be argued, gives significant criticisms of mass culture and thecapitalist agenda. Whilst attempting this I will mention in passing the perspective of CurtisWhite, contemporary advocate of Adorno, with the use of his work
The Middle Mind; Why Consumer Culture is turning us into the Living Dead.
 In the second part I will account for a new approach to performance art that might resistcapitalist constraints; the work of Antonin Artaud; radical theatrical writer, film maker andartist. In attempting to discover whether the work of Artaud was, and is necessary as anavoidance of constraints by capitalism I will evaluate the value of Artauds propositions inlight of today. In doing this I will apply concepts on art from the philosophy of MartinHeidegger and Gianni Vattimo. By the end of the thesis I hope to have shed some light onwhether art under capitalism can be freely expressed.
 
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Part 1; Brecht, Fight Club and Mass Culture
 Adornos work;
The Culture Industry 
gives us a thorough account of his theory of massculture as an alienating, self replicating product of capitalism. The impression given in thework is that mass culture has become impossible to criticize artistically. In the chapter
TheSchema of Mass Culture
Adorno argues that there is a difference between culture andempirical reality but this is not recognized today. Books such as
Behind Plough and Vice
and
Debit and Credit 
, Adorno argues are examples of a bourgeois education that whilst tellingtraditional heroic stories, also encourages practical competitive thinking as the morerealistic mindset. He writes, Since the beginning of the industrial era an art has been invogue which is adept at promoting the right attitudesit proffersa poetry of its ownnourished upon the work ethic. (p.61, 2006).Adorno makes the point that from a youngage we are taught to think in a certain way, especially regarding work ethic andresponsibilities. Could this be a good thing? With regard to artistic expression the answermust be in the negative. Stories are not something that should be commandeered toappraise an economic ideal. Nevertheless this is part of mass culture. This is the case withart from the moment one is introduced to it in the culture industry that Adorno describes tous. The replication of reality, in its faithfulness to detail, cheats us into making currentreality an ideal in itself - a viscous circle.Adorno argues the case that arts value has been reduced. He also mentions a particularcultural focus art seems to have; a kind of returning back to reality. He writes, Themonopolistic hold on culture, which forbids anything that cannot be grasped, necessarilyrefers us back to what has already been produced in the past and institutes self-reflection.(p.65, 2006).The imagery we see in mass culture only has itself as an end. Art has been
 
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arrested by the rational of technology, and given a means to end function of promoting theeconomic ideal. Adorno doubts the possibility of art changing for good the relations of production caused by capitalism as this should not be arts sole purpose along with the sheerimpracticality of this idea. Yet authentic, free thinking culture is a thing of the past. A faintrecollection is still talked about but without impact in the current state of affairs. Repetitionis constant; everything we are exposed to is approved by all. So arts critical potential as acritique of society has been lost. Is this true in every case?
Brecht 
 I now wish to take the example of Bertolt Brecht as an artist who sought to directly resistcapitalism. If successful, then Brecht surely serves as an example of free expression undercapitalisms supposed constraints on art. Brecht attempted this with the application of his
Ep
ic Theatre
, which is a theatrical method Brecht is always associated with. It tells anarrative, the emphasis being placed on situation as opposed to the personality of thecharacters. Brecht advocatedthe philosophy of Karl Marx which emphasizes a void in theproletariat caused by the capitalist agenda. This void is of a persons genuine desires beingreplaced with false ones; a primary cause of alienation.In
Brecht; The Dramatist 
Ronald Greyargues, Brecht suggests that before his day theatre audiences were passive, hypnotized bythe performance, ready to accept whatever the actors gave out as the truth. (Page 73,2006). It seems Brecht wanted to give his audience members a feeling of alienation to allowthem to see society for the bourgeois system that it is.
The Three
 p
enny o
 p
era
is an exampleof Brechts portrayal of alienation. He wrote the work and described it as the kind of performance bourgeois audiences liked to see. By doing this he highlighted what abourgeois work really is and, as Grey puts it, by writing a work so close to being a

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