Wednesday, February 13, 2008
Certain sentiments set the teeth on edge. 'I believe that children are our future,' must have scraped off several tons of enamel. Either it is utterly false - children grow up, leave home and become, in the process, our past - or it is vapidly true - people who are currently children will indeed be screwing things up when we are too old and frail to protest. Which brings me to Andy, our nicely behaved, 12-year-old Culture Secretary. I just saw him on TV defending the latest implausible Hal meddle. Andy's probably okay - who knows? - but he said something along the lines of, 'I believe all children have a creative talent.' Again, this is either vapidly true or utterly false. Coincidentally, I had just read a quotation from Arnold Schoenberg - 'If it is art, it is not for all, and if it is for all, it is not art.' This is meaningless - why should we assess whether something is art on the basis of some fictional demographic scale running from the all to the few? But it is plainly elitist in a way that would be anathema to Andy. On the whole, Schoenberg's meaninglessness is more persuasive than Andy's vapidity. Artists are, indeed, an elite. Audiences need not be, however, which is why Andy would have won if he had said, 'I believe all children have the ability to appreciate great art.' This may not be true either, but it is, at least, possibly true whereas all children having a creative talent cannot be - unless, of course, we are prepared fatally to degrade the word 'creative' in a way that would render the entire issue meaningless. My point is that a state initiative to produce artists is an absolute waste of time whereas one to produce audiences might just work. It's called education. We should give it a go.
PS I also learn that Schoenberg was 'easily unimpressed'. Maybe he's my kind of guy after all.
Posted by Bryan Appleyard at 1:09 pm