Virginia Tech hosted a symposium titled MORAL PHILOSOPHY AND ART at the Mountain Lake Resort in 1979. (This resort was used as the set for the movie DIRTY DANCING in 1987.) Clem was joined by Donald Kuspit, Robert Pincus-Witten, and Jan van der Mark over the several days the symposium ran, which was orgainized by Ray Kass and John Link. "Autonomies of Art" was the title he chose for his talk. It includes a clear statement about where art stands in the general scheme of values he held dear. That place may surprise some today, as it surprised many in 1979. You can read the entire text of his talk here:
The Greenberg site: Autonomies.
Q and A went on for a long time, as many in the audience disagreed with his position. Audio courtesy of Virginia Tech.
Talk Itself, 29:15
Q and A, 1:02:26
When art fails aesthetically as well as morally, is it just bad art or is it morally offensive too?
How can Greenberg subordinate art to morality?
Does good art make people morally better?
Can art justify using evil to make itself good?
Isn't aesthetic choice a moral choice?
How can you challenge Kant's conviction that morality is an end in itself?
Why are you so puritanical, sectarian, and limited?
Can abstract art (such as minimalism) be immoral?
Isn't choosing to be an artist a moral act?
Why can't abstract art be immoral?
Matisse was a pornographer according to many in his own time; why listen to anyone about the difference between pornography and art?
Do you mean the artist cannot use pornography?
People of taste in the early 20th century ruled Matisse obscene. Doesn't that mean taste is a force of suppression and destruction?
I am an educator. Would you expel art history from art departments?
Regarding aesthetic distance and pornography/morality: How do you maintain aesthetic distance?
I am troubled by your diminishment of morality. What about its role in narrative art? Isn't narrative art moral?
Is there meaning in art?
Are not the moral and the aesthetic the same thing in narrative art?
Can aesthetic judgment be demonstrated?
If the artist consciously chooses to make representational art, doesn't that free aesthetic distance? Likewise, doesn't abstract art limit aesthetic distance?
What is the art critic's role? Should the art critic forget politics?
On Taste: Western Michigan University, 1983
In 1983 Western Michigan University sponsored a series of talks on taste. With a warning he would speak no longer than 30 minutes, he proceeded to talk for almost an hour. The tape we used was good for just 45 minutes, so there were a few words lost, at 45:00. You can read the entire text of his talk here:
The Greenberg site: Taste.
Q and A went almost as long. Audio courtesy of Western Michigan University.
Talk Itself, 54:23
Q and A, 50:49
The questioner asks if art requires a social context? Greenberg replies the issue has never been successfully resolved
The questioner asks if popular art since the late 50s has helped or hurt taste? Greenberg responds that it has increased the interest in art; meantime, for whatever reason, taste has declined.
The questioner askes if the information explosion has helped or hindered taste and art? Greenberg responds that information itself is neutral, but has played a role in the crisis in art education, noting that trendiness has penetrated all the way to Western Michigan.
The questioner asks what is Greenberg's relationship to formalism and "the tyranny of taste?" Greenberg replies that it is a mistake to associate formalism with himself and that power and art writing don't mix.
The questioner asks what about Picasso? Greenberg replies that he was a great painter until 1926 and was good at drawing throughout his life.
The questioner asks what was Pollock like as a person? Greenberg replies that he was very nice and very sophisticated (except when drinking, which he did in a radical manner).
The questioner asks what is the origin of decorative pattern art, and will it revive? Greenberg replies that he does not know the origin and can't tell if it will revive.
The questioner asks if photography is art? Greenberg replies that when it is good it is as good as painting; same goes for all forms of printmaking.
The questioner asks if taste is intuitive? Greenberg replies that it is intuitive but not instinctual, and that it develops through experience, not by learning it from others.
The Art Scene: Wayne State University, 1990
Clem spoke briefly at Wayne State on this subject, along with Hilton Kramer. I recorded his talk sitting in the audience. The talk itself is fairly clear. The Q and A not so much, but I include it for those who wish to listen to the rest of what turned out to be one of Clem's last public appearances. Q and A went on for a long time and included questions for both speakers. The night before just Clem spoke informally in the art department's studio building to a small group, which I did not record. Audio courtsey of John Link.