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"Dark" art

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I've recently began reading Ayn Rand, and she's blowing my mind. I don't know if I can properly call myself an Objectivist yet, but I don't need to "fight" her ideas, they seem to make perfect sense to me, and I'm starting to get the whole philosophy, and see life in a very different way.


That being said, I'm wondering about Objectivism's view on art. As far as I understand, the Objectivist position is that art which presents nihilism, malevolent universe, surrealism, etc is bad, because you are promoting these bad ideas to people, which might mess them up, and other people might also think you're messed up, etc.


But can't art just be a portray of something that exists in society? A mirror image? Maybe it can even help people cope with the darkness inside them (think of despairing teens "escaping" through horror movies and dark poetry instead of cutting or killing themselves, etc). Maybe it can get some people interested in philosophy, because they get this "shock" and start thinking questions, you know what I mean? Like when you see an absolute horrifying horror movie? I'll use Tom Araya from Slayer as another example, he's a devout Catholic, yet he sings lyrics that are about serial killers, war, hatred of his own religion, etc. He says that it's all cool, because it's about portraying certain people of society, not about spreading his personal opinions.

I used to be a religious person, and later, a new ager/occult kind of person. I don't believe in any of that any longer, but I wrote a lot of great poetry and music during this period which was obviously affected by my beliefs. A lot of it includes things like determinism, malevolent universe, and supernatural stuff. I still want to share these songs and poems, because I worked hard on them, and the people who've heard/seen them think they're really cool. Even though I probably won't write anything as "dark" as that again (because it's not the person I am anymore), I want to share my work, and I even find mysticism to have a certain kind of appeal, even though I will never stop thinking rationally now that I'm getting that habit. (Which, again, does make me appreciate life in a unique, new way)

I also think that some art promoting "bad" ideas can be masterpieces, such as many horror movies. Think of the Saw movies, which were quite original and extremely disturbing when they came out. Or the game Bioshock, which, despite criticizing Objectivism, is an incredible game. Don't you agree? Can't you enjoy that?

What do you think all this says about me? What should I do with my art, and why? I could:

1. Discard all my "dark" music and poetry and never use it again.
2. Make something like a double album, and a blog with the poems in a chronological order, so that I can show them off, and yet have the "transformation" near the end towards more rational, positive art.
3. Just continue releasing and sharing my stuff sporadically regardless of their underlying meaning, and maybe even make something similar in the future if I'm in the mood for it, because I'm over-analyzing all of this?


And obviously, we also need the why here, as we're all about philosophy. :) Cheers, and thanks in advance for all the answers!

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As you say, art might portray a very dark world, with people struggling for the basics of survival (Mad Max?). Yet, in this dark world, we see people acting like we'd like to act... heroes, in a sense. Or, a protagonist can face an inner struggle, trying all sorts of things to make his life a success, failing at each attempt, and then finally succeeding. Clearly a work can be dark in this sense, and yet be inspiring. Even if the protagonist fails, we can find inspiration from the art. It really depends on the details: whether we end up feeling that they gave it their best shot, or whether we conclude that trying to change was futile.


What about art that portrays action as futile and actors as impotent? People sometimes joke about the sob-story genre of country music: if you sing it backwards, it's a happy song. A "consumer" could take away a cautionary message from such art. While not inspirational, it can be motivational. Again, the devil is in the details.


Even with bad messages that leave one despondent and depressed, art can still be aesthetically good, in the sense that it is executed well. An artist can use great technique to deliver a poor message. Conversely, someone can write a very boring and trite story about a hero... that would be bad art. Or, someone can write a story with the right message, but where the message is "told-not-shown" like an essay pretending to be fiction... that would be bad art. 

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Objectivism's true originality, compared to other philosophies, is at several key points regarding, axioms, essence, validity of the senses, concept formation, etc. - so unless you have a broad understanding of Western philosophy, you probably shouldn't equate a positive response to her heroic fiction with "understanding" Objectivism.  Understanding the true value of Objectivism comes from understanding how other philosophers tried to answer the same questions. My advice is to give yourself time and enjoy what you are learning, and don't discard anything that you enjoy now (unless it's truly self destructive behavior, of course).  It's good to question why you like a work of art, and with time, your taste may change.  But don't forsake experiencing a work of art because it's "un-Objectivist".  I own a lot of 20th Century Classical music by composers such as Berio, Boulez, Schoenberg, Webern, Berg, Hindemith, etc., that any self-respecting "Objectivist" would surely frown upon - but screw 'em.

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I'm always encouraged to know that aspiring artists are discovering Objectivism. Regarding the content of your work as you described it, art for the sake of art is going to give you great satisfaction. On the other hand, if your creating art for the purpose of commercial enterprise, obviously you have to cater to the market. I'm assuming you express dark or terrifying images as a reflection of man's darkest fears. I don't know what inspired Frank Frazetta, Edgar Alan Poe, or Igor Stravinski, but I am thrilled by their works, dark and disturbing though they may be. I have considers the possibility that my appreciation of "dark" or Gothic Horror-style, or even violent depictions in art may reflect some subconscious malevolence I may be harboring. I don't think one has to be a sociopath to appreciate realistic images of violence, such as you might see in a Martin Scorsese gangster film. It's realism. In the proper context, dark images are awe-inspiring; in the improper context, graphic violence reflects nihilism. I find nihilism boring and insipid. As for surrealistic terror, even Ayn Rand admitted to appreciating an episode of Twilight Zone, "Eye of the Beholder." This episode, (if you've not seen it, you should), had no hero, and certainly no vision of "life as it should be." It was a terrific drama illustrating a point, a very thought-provoking point. If at some point in your endeavors, you feel like portraying life as it should be, in the ideal, then you are pursuing romantic realism. When you succeed, let us see your works.

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I could:

1. Discard all my "dark" music and poetry and never use it again.

I forgot to add... don't do this. You will likely regret it in later years. If you come to a stage where you really want to destroy them, put them all in a large packet, seal it away, and commit to yourself that you will destroy it if you still feel the same way a few years later.
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  • 2 weeks later...

let me just say that I still love the music I listened to in my angry high school years.


Even all of the screamo, all of the deterministic lyrics, all of the hatred of the "good".


If I pop in an AFI album I will be rocking out pretty hardcore, even though most of those lyrics are about death and how ugly we are inside and blah blah blah.

At the time I thought I was very cool for listening to music which echoed my deep internal flaws, and the imperfection none of us can escape  :twisted:.


I don't view the universe or myself the same as I did back then... but I'll be damned if Davey Havok's screaming in "Death of Seasons" still isn't the most bad-ass things ever!



(Side note. I agree with you that the SAW movies are a masterpiece, if that is in fact what you were implying)

EDIT (Second side note: I've also played the original Bioshock 6 times. I'll take a ridiculous and ignorant attack on Ayn Rand that has an intruiging story over HALO any day)

Edited by CptnChan
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Radiohead is still my favorite band. Much of their music is outright depressing, but it doesn't have to depress you. Of course, when I first started listening a decade ago, I liked that it was depressing! But, some of it is beautiful, and almost all of it is interesting, and those are the things that keep me listening still. Besides, sometimes listening to sad ("dark") music can be a way to get through a bad mood.

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Music is a special case anyway - you can do what you like there - but evidently you are simply altering and adapting your knowledge (integrating your concepts) in such a way that life is getting better for you, hence you get more happiness i.e. you are doing the right thing, objectively.

Try "The Art of Fiction by Ayn Rand" because, although it is not about music, it is about art, in depth, with examples and explains very well all the art we see around us everyday, why it works and why it does not - it applies generally.

I see you used to be religious, try the-best-bits (if that exists) of the St. Matthew Passion by JS Bach (not the long boring solos) e.g. the eight bars of Truly this Was the Son of God - its a knock out, and I am not religious at all.

Edited by fourtytwo
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