the art in subversion

One must have ideas and tunes that are as genuine as hard cash. – Offenbach

Offenbach has always had heavy fans – Nietzsche, Karl Kraus, Kracauer. Kracauer wrote about Orphee aux enfers, the first Offenbach opera to mock the Gods, that in it Offenbach was calling out to the bourgeoisie:

“Confess that you are just as bored as the gods, and follow the lead that they are giving. What was the lead the gods were giving? They were setting about making a revolution… And so that their anger might be given a thorough contemporary note, the orchestra [strikes] up the Marseillaise, which in the days of the Second Empire was very definitely a revolutionary song. The challenge was plain enough.” (Quoted in Michael Chanon, from Handel to Hendrix)

Of course, boredom is a two edged butter knife, and if we make revolution from boredom, what will we do when we are bored with revolution?

Kracauer, thank god, lived in the days before the verb subvert entered the critical vocabulary like a radical chic diva. LI has read with interest – although not with a complete thoroughness, since it was sometimes hard to keep up with all the threads – Le Colonel Chabert’s many sword fights on her own site and the Parodycenter concerning 300, a movie LI is never going to see, as it sounds infinitely boring, and some David Lynch movies, which we might see, and Baudrillard, who we are bracketing or we will drown in themes. What interests us is the set of assumptions that circulate around the convergence of politics and art. We are interested because we find that, mostly, these discussions make art subservient to politics, which we strongly disagree with, while at the same time pursuing a sort of mock politics through art, which we find, to say the least, a funny way to engage in politics. Not that this is new, of course - these themes are as old as the Second International. Anyway, LCC’s comments reminded us a bit of the problem Zola had with Offenbach. All of which fits into our fait divers theme, in its own odd way.

The beginning of Nana is a rather scathing description of La Belle Helene, which you can see in these youtube clips: here (I love Paris in this clip!) and then follow the thread. Zola called it La Blonde Vénus and he had every reason to begin Nana’s adventures here. Those who love their Zola will recall that Nana was first seen as a little girl with daring eyes who watches her Mom go to bed with her lover, who is renting a room from the family, while her father lies in a drunken stupor in his own vomit on his bedroom. If you read the Penguin translation of Nana, Douglas Parmee, who introduces it, writes Offenbach… “whose witty subversion of the regime Zola quite failed to grasp, viewing him instead, with great distaste, purely as the impudent representative of frothy frivolity.” Subversion, subversion, and the failure to grasp it (or its failure to grasp) being at the heart of the LCC controversy, we thought it might be interesting to ask what about a wholly other era and genre – although one that involves Greeks and their mythology – whether Zola failed to grasp subversion, here, or loathed it in the grasping.

Which is something we will revisit in another post.


northanger said…
yann beuron rocks! i mean ... i mean, he's a good um, a good tenor.

awesome clips.