Thursday, September 8, 2011

Coco Higgins - Television is Real: The First-world Whinings of an Art Historian

This semester I am taking a Theory of Knowledge class in the philosophy department. I am an art history graduate student and am required to take two classes outside my field. I’ve never taken a philosophy class before, and have only been exposed to such topics tangentially through looking at art. So I thought, hey, why not beef up my elitist resume (nay, CV) by taking an actual, official philosophy course? The best of intentions, I swear.

Since this is an outside-department course, I am allowed to take it at the undergraduate level. You know, because art historians are in fact idiots who pretend that they are interdisciplinary but in fact know nothing else outside of the world of art objects. In any case, I am in a class full of undergrads who have all taken philosophy courses before. (That is a requirement that I weaseled my way out of by virtue of the fact that I have graduate standing, which should theoretically mean that I am an intelligent person.) These undergrads, however, are ten years younger than me and are much more well-versed in the mumbo jumbo that is philosophy.

Then you have the professor, who is habitually late to this god-awful 9:30AM class (did I mention that I am a nocturnal creature who abhors the thought of waking up before noon?). He barges into the classroom all in a tizzy, the residue of his morning coffee forming Frankenthaler stains on his pants, and a wrinkly unlaundered shirt. His hair is uncombed of course, because he has no time for such trivial niceties. He drones on and on in his velvety but low British voice, mumbling most of the time, and occasionally cracking lame philosophy jokes. Of course he’s disheveled and couldn’t care less if we understand him, because of course he’s probably been contemplating some serious philosophical problem all night that OF COURSE caused his brain to implode.

Meanwhile the smarter undergrads (this is such a degrading thing for me to have to admit) are all sitting there just listening, barely taking notes, because OF COURSE all they have to do is absorb this man’s jargon and contemplate it for the rest of the day and all is perfectly fine. Then they name-drop various dead philosophers, “Oh didn’t Martin “Card Carrying Member of the Nazi Party” Heidewhogivesafuck say that consciousness of blahblahI’mshowingoffblahblah?” Whereas, here I am writing feverishly about shit I don’t know and am now realizing I don’t care a lick about.

What is the nature of knowledge? Am I real? How do I know I am real? How do we know that we know something?

Okay, I don’t give a rat’s hairy ass. I know that “I’m not real. I’m theater. And You and I are just rehearsal.” Said Lady Gaga, the contemporary philosopher. Ever hear of HER? Right, didn’t think so, because you live in (Plato’s) cave and haven’t ventured out into society to decide that you probably don’t like her.

Okay, maybe this sounds like sour grapes from someone who can’t hang in a philosophy class. Maybe that’s true. But you know what, I don’t care. In the art history realm, I am probably more engrossed in theory than my peers (and have been criticized for it, but this is not the time or place to get into methodological politics). I’m not gonna talk about my thesis project here, because I’ll probably just be accused of being a pretentious, insufferable academic asshole. And that’s at least 70% true. Okay 90% true. Alright, let’s be real here, 100%.

But it’s absolutely jarring to me to be in a well-lit class with people just TALKING. Especially about bullshit questions in la-la land. I sometimes can’t even stand just sitting around with friends just TALKING. There needs to be something else going on, namely the (ab)use of one or all three of the following: cigarettes, booze, pot (in that order), perhaps in conjunction with a movie or at least music. Call me socially mal-developed, but I need some kind of distraction for my eyes, ears or hands. And art history classes provide that. The lights are turned down low, grainy images are projected on the screen, and we all start masturbating. Ok that last part isn’t true, but that’s where that sentence sounded like it was going.

Art historians look at and analyze images. I need to LOOK AT something. I can’t just talk about NOTHING. I’m not Seinfeld (thank god, he wore the ugliest pants). And I’m not interested in thinking of the origin of thought and knowledge. Who cares about the origin of anything? Logocentrism is soooo passé. (1 – pun intended. 2 – again with the pretentious asshole bit.) I am alive today, and I’d rather think about lived experience TODAY. (Wait, am I really alive today??? No, I must be in hell because I have to go to class at 9:30AM today.)

So anyway I am tired of the mumbo jumbo and it’s only one week into the class.

And I just wasted a bunch of time writing about it just so I can procrastinate on doing my reading. Who cares, I don’t care, a horse’s ass is better than Descartes’. “I think, therefore I am.” Well, monsieur, I THINK the class is boring, therefore I AM dropping it.

And I’d rather be watching television, because television is REAL. (Actually, no it isn’t, it perpetuates representation, which conceals that which is real. But the actual physical object of my television is real. It’s sitting there on a stand. I’m having a phenomenological experience with it now. Oh my god, one week of that dumb class and I’m already brainwashed into thinking like this. And that last sentence is a conscious realization of my own mode of thinking. Ugh. I hate myself. I hate philosophy. Holy shit, maybe I shouldn’t drop the class. No, drop the class. Join the world of the living.)

I also realize that this whole essay is pot-calling-the-kettle-black. But I have to draw the line somewhere in the sand of bullshit wackadoo pseudo-intellectualism. And I draw it at art history. I think that’s far enough.

1 comment:

  1. Hahahahaha! Funny! I actually took two philosophy classes as an undergrad, but I had a great Professor. Your guy sounds creepy.:)