Saturday, November 13, 2010

from Mount Olympus

"This image has made the front pages because it is exciting. Its violence is liberating to contemplate, in a dangerous, Dionysian way. The ancient Greeks mythologised the irrational, savage, destructive side of the human psyche in stories of the wine god Dionysus and his crazed followers. Down the centuries, pictures of social protest have summoned up those same wine-dark powers or recognised them in moments when the quiet of the city is turned inside out and all the suppressed antagonisms of daily life explode in riot."

A recent column in the Guardian by Slavoj Zizek managed to include a quotation that was anti Jewish in tendency and anti Gypsy in substance. This week, Jonathan Jones's column manages to misrepresent the students' protest against increased tuition fees, and provide an example, in the author's muddled prose, of the priggishness and petty ignorance that the present university system is alleged to inculcate.

Jones attempts to explain Nietzsche's concept of the "dionysian" in art, of which he is reminded by some pictures he's seen of the students' protest. Perhaps imagining himself to be writing from Mount Olympus, he sees no reason to mention Nietzsche, who existed in a particular historical context, preferring to regard his theory as holy writ. Jones either feels his readers don't deserve to know the context of the ideas they're being fed, or Jones wants to take credit for them: either as their originator, or as a Derek Acorah of philosophy, channeling the voices of the ghosts.

The students' protest was entirely rational in intention. It clearly expressed an open antagonism. It didn't coincide with Jonathan Jones's personal plans and intentions, and so is presented as its opposite: "irrational, savage, destructive", "all the suppressed antagonisms of daily life explode in riot". With or without the intervention of all the gods of wine, beer and stout, Jonathan Jones seems to be having trouble getting out of his own head.


Le Colonel Chabert said...

catmint said...

Jonathan Jones is quite a good writer, but the whole thing with the kid, the flames, the kung fu, the hoodie - it was a worm too juicy

the picture says it all