Sunday, 7 March 2010

One Generation of Tlonists2: The Labyrinth of Kronos

I: If I could Turn Back Time

I love the internet. Okay, I hate the minutes of my life I’ve irretrievably lost reading the idiotic threads at CiF. But I really like it for one thing: it gives me so much content and so few adverts.

Now, maybe advertising has moved on since I last watched TV/ listened to radio, but I couldn’t help noticing that there was a trend in adverts. A lot of them were based on the idea that if something’s crap and knows its crap then it’s good. It shows how sophisticated you are if you appreciate the irony of something being crap on purpose.

And that pretty much seems to be it, as far as Western culture goes: we have two major commodities. One is second hand debt, which Scotland and Greece possess in abundance. The other is that we have such a rich heritage of art and culture that the only way ahead is to make stuff that’s crap and cleverly knows it’s crap.

I chose the illustration above because I’ve got a warped mind and it illustrates the ravages of time and because Saturn was the Roman counterpart of Greek Kronos which gives us the word for ‘time’. However, Goya’s paintings illustrate my points. One of the most ‘ingenious’ artworks of recent times was the Chapman brothers’ astoundingly clever idea to deface Goya prints and add silly faces to them. The idea being that their installation was crap and knew it was crap and was therefore very, very good.

Don’t ask me how many thousands of pounds they got for that. Some people would say that buying something that's intentionally crap just makes you look stupid, but they would be stuffy oafs with no idea of innovation.

A literary counterpart is modernism where a text is ‘good’ purely because another text exists.

II: A new refutation of time

So, my friends, we Westerners are up the proverbial creek. So, what is to be done? Should we come up with a new theory of time that would be no more or less logical but less intuitive than our own concept of linear time?

I’m not a mathematician and (being honest) not much of a philosopher. But if this idea would stop people admiring Quentin Tarantino for being derivative, then I can see the beauty of it.

Furthermore, I can’t help noticing that being a ‘goodie’ these days opens you to accusations of being trite, because people have been acting like a-holes for so long that we’ve ran out of fresh things to say. For example just listen to the longsuffering sneering way that right wingers say ‘yes, yes, we know: one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter’. It’s absolutely correct. And it’s trite because they keep calling people ‘terrorists’ for not having the technological capacity to kill civilians by accident.

Yet, the sad thing is, that it probably works.

III: In Search of Lost Time

Where I live, there are derelict yet beautiful buildings that were created in the 19th Century based on Bronze Age designs. Yet these are falling apart whilst metal and concrete cubes spring up to host public works.

I find this very unfortunate, yet the idea is that we can no longer have ornate buildings because it is old fashioned and so we have to pretend that because ‘modern architecture’ is new that it isn’t ugly.

What can we do about this ‘logic’? Should we have to invent increasingly intricate reasons why beautiful buildings are beautiful? Or should we just reinvent time?

IV: Et Cetera

In conclusion:

Should we make calendars unavailable to anyone but the Archons? Should we tell people that ionic columns, the paintings of Goya and the writing of Dostoyevsky were all created last week?

Is it remotely possible that it is only by accident that architecture has stagnated and declined in the last 1,000 years? Are there lots of wonderful innovations to be made but just coincidentally, we haven’t discovered them?

Are people waking up to how crap Tarantino films are? If so, does this vindicate linear time?


I’ve been a complete hypocrite throughout this. I do like a lot of really naff stuff because it is so naff. I also like post-war concrete buildings as a symbol of a time when Britain was strapped, but everyone was equally strapped. However, I do not reject the aesthetics of kitsch or concrete, but the aesthetics of arguments in favour of their aesthetics based on time.


  1. One of my favourite paintings. I'd love to have a huge copy of it up on the wall at home but I doubt the wife would be too keen on the idea.

    I agree 100% about contemporary 'art' and the like. Post-Modernism and irony have been the bane of culture in recent times.

    As for Tarantino, I loved everything up to and including 'Jackie Brown'. Everything which has come after is just one in-joke / nerdy reference too far.

  2. Hi CK
    Yes, I am a fan of Goya as well, but can understand that his darker paintings wouldn't be to all tastes.

    My own view is that modern art is something that flatters people. The works are more in the tradition of art criticism than art, and subsequently viewers are a part of the achievement. By contrast the artwork of a genius like Goya or Munch leaves us feeling in awe of someone else's achievements, which is not something our narcissistic society feels comfortable with. There is some confusion as to the naming of the above painting and even the subject, but I think it's valid to say it is Saturn devouring his son, though there could be thousands of other interpretations.

    As for Tarantino it's over a decade since I've watched any of his films, but just thinking of his smirking face makes me want to be sick. I'd probably think his earlier films were fine as Scorcese-esque brutal dramas if he was judged in that way, but I dislike the way that Tarantino films have become an institution for their references to other works. Again, I think it is narcissistic and more in the tradition of film-criticism rather than film-making.