Google’s oddball choices of “holiday” logos have reached a new height of surreality. Though they famously almost never memorialize Easter or Columbus Day (the last Easter was in 2000, the last Columbus Day never), they did celebrate the birthdays of Marc Chagall, Diego Velazquez, Walter Gropius, Alexander Graham Bell, and the LEGO brick this year. And every year they celebrate the Persian New Year, Earth Day, and Saint Patrick’s Day. Today, which is almost over, was the birthday of Rene Magritte, famous for his painting of a man in a bowler hat with an apple floating in front of his face.
Apparently, Rene “This is not a Pipe” Magritte is more worthy of a customized Google logo than other birthday boys and girls Doctor John, Coleman Hawkins, Pope Benedict XV, Stan Musial, Francois Voltaire, Earl “the Pearl” Monroe, Harold Ramis, Goldie Hawn, Bjork, Lorna Luft, or Tina Brown. Likewise he is more worthy of note than Franz Josef, the penultimate Emperor of Austria who died on this date in 1916, or the Memorial of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
I’m not kidding. And I could go on. But I’ll get back to Magritte.
Magritte was a famous exponent of something called the surreal. In other words it’s something other than real: Fantasy, to use an old fashioned word.
Other Surrealists included Salvador Dali, Andre Breton, and Marcel Duchamp. They intermingled with the Dadaists, who were dedicated to the destruction of aesthetics and their replacement with vulgar, mundane artifacts on the theory that since the subjective impression of artistry and beauty was enough to transport some people into an aesthetic reverie, actual artistic skill was no longer relevant. All that was required of the artist was hype. And that’s where we stand now, with hype as the only thing that matters. Abstract expressionism is the classic example in painting. While 10,000 monkeys typing at 10,000 typewriters might never reproduce Shakespeare, three monkeys with a plentiful supply of paint could reproduce Jackson Pollack. Cut-up novels like the works of William Burroughs are quite simply semi-pornographic stories with minimal characterization with a bit of random rearrangement to make them seem sophisticated. And movies, once the quintessential American art-form, are no longer interesting. They are the money gathering thing that reaps the interest sown by brilliantly produced movie trailers and music videos, which are the new quintessential American art-form. And so it is with much in our society. The hype, the flash, the sizzle sells. But the steak is gristly and overdone. How many times do we have to be disappointed before we give up?
Thanks, Magritte! Thanks for nothing! And to Google, thanks for memorializing one of the gang who killed art and replaced it with Andy Warhol hype.
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