To Hell with Culture: And Other Essays on Art and Society

To Hell with Culture: And Other Essays on Art and Society

To Hell with Culture: And Other Essays on Art and Society

To Hell with Culture: And Other Essays on Art and Society

Synopsis

Herbert Read was a maverick character in the cultural life of the twentieth century. A radical leader of the avant garde in the 1930s, and an anarchist revolutionary during the war years, by the time of his death in 1968 he had become a key figure at the heart of the British cultural establishment. To Hell with Culture offers readers an ideal overview of the ideas that marked out this seminal and hugely influential thinker. It is a controversial work that engages the reader in a wide range of topics, from revolutionary art to pornography.Adept at challenging assumptions and penetrating to the heart of any issue, Read's deft prose encourages the reader to think critically, to question and to subvert the voice of authority, of whatever political or cultural creed. Only through such a critical evaluation of culture, Read believes, can one appreciate the art that arises from the 'unpolitical manifestation of the human spirit'. At a time when authority and value are questionable terms, and when culture itself is a contested concept, Read's is both a challenging and an enlightening voice.

Excerpt

Several of these essays are reprinted from a war-time volume which I called The Politics of the Unpolitical. By that paradoxical title I meant to indicate that the artist always has loyalties that transcend the political divisions of the society in which he lives. It was not an acceptable point of view in 1943, and after the war it seemed to be for ever superseded by various doctrines of un art engagé-an art dedicated to the defence and propagation of 'a way of life'-the way of life, in our Western world, being understood as free enterprise in economics and democratic forms of government. the fate of art and literature in countries where these values were denied, the totalitarian countries, was the proof by negation of art's involvement in the great political struggle of our time. It was not merely a question of maintaining our political liberty: culture itself-our poetry, our painting, our architecture and music-was threatened by our political opponents and had to be defended.

This defensive attitude was forced on the intellectuals of the West by the cultural aggression of the communists. the

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