[KS] lost in progress

kevin parks kevin at macosx.com
Mon Oct 25 00:39:03 EDT 2004

Leaving aside the question of whether it is safe to assume that 
anything is a "universal phenomenon", (that is just too big a ball of 
wax) and leaving aside an East -vs- West division of the world which is 
perhaps the most bogus false dichotomy in history....

I would just point out that i was not questioning whether cultures 
other than our own value innovation. That the other cultures you 
mention value what they might see as "progress" is clear. I was raising 
the possibility that you were putting to much of a premium on 
innovation as a value in art, in general. Additionally there is the 
whole question of what is and constitutes artistic "progress" (and the 
related notion of "progress" in art as being depicted as linear, and 
who decides what progress is, etc.) The very notion of artistic, 
aesthetic, and historical progress is problematic. These issue seem to 
me paramount in Korean Arts, and it is interesting to me to see how 
certain artists address them in their work and talk about them (I think 
here of some of what Hwang Byoung-gi has had to say in some of his 

Again, i ask, do we listen to the Rite of Spring, Miles Davis, Ornette 
Coleman, read Virginia Wolff, Yi Sang, etc., etc. & co. , only because 
they represent progress and caused a ruckus and we can tell anecdotes 
about how hard it was for them to get publish, performed, etc. ... or 
are there other values we hold, or intrinsic qualities in these works 
that cause these pieces to resonate? Or do these works live on only 
because everyone recognizes your "fundamental fact"? The only (or in 
your words *exact*) reason they are "in the canon" is because they 
broke new ground. I don't want works excluded from "the canon" because 
they are radical or subversive. I also don't want works that are not 
"radical" excluded because the they didn't ruffle the prerequisite 
number of feathers. You seemed to suggest that a work was only worthy, 
if it was radical. If that was true huge tracts of Korean dances, 
musics, and poems, (for example) would have to be purged from the 
books, as would largish swaths of "western classical" music and 
"western" literature ... Also, implied is that pieces that are not 
innovative (per se) are never excluded because they are too 
conservative. This happens too.

As a composer, and an "avant-guard" (yuck!) one at that, i am in the 
ironic position of feeling like i often have to defend, artists whose 
work is not confrontational, or works that are made up entirely of 
things "that have been done before." This is one of the things that 
leads to the appropriation of non-western art forms, for example.....

I once asked a very well known and established composer why he worked 
with the music and instruments of Tibet. I expected that he would say 
something beautiful about the sounds of the instruments, or the 
performance practices, or how the culture had resonated with him, or 
his deep regard for certain traditions, etc.... but no.... his answer 
was this (i'll remember this forever) " I do it because it hasn't been 
done before." So... there you go... when novelty comes first and 
foremost things can get funky.....

One of the things that living in Korea for the better part of a decade 
has done for me (that coupled with an obsession with certain Korean art 
forms *^-^* ... ), is that it has made me question some of the very 
fundamental notions i once held about art. But perhaps this has gotten 
all a bit too off topic since your discussion of this was really in 
service of another point, so now i have veered somewhat off course, so 
i'll let it drop... but since this is the Korean Studies "Discussion" 
list, i hope you'll indulge...

back to your regularly scheduled programming.....


On Oct 24, 2004, at 9:57 AM, J.Scott Burgeson wrote:

> Especially within the modern period, aesthetic
> progress and evolution has always gone hand-in-hand
> with innovation and transgression of aesthetic
> categories. This is a universal phenomenon and not an
> imposition of so-called elitist Western values upon an
> Eastern cultural context. Many Korean, Japanese and
> Chinese artists, writers, etc. happen to value
> innovation, too, and it's rather condescending and
> reactionary to argue otherwise, in my opinion...

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