Project-Good taste? …BLOG questions

In your BLOG…..

a response to questions on ‘The bottom line on planet one’ by Dick Hebidge

1.Hebidge does not offer much in the way of a clear distinction between good and bad taste. It was a difficult text to negotiate because of this I think. Indeed for much of the article Hebidge talks about the second world, and uses the Jean Luc-Goddard quote to imply that judgements such as good and bad are not relevant in this world.

However, as he discusses the two publications and  compares their characteristics, they both seem to reveal characteristics which my sensibility tells me belong to both the barbarous and the good- and so it’s difficult to categorise them. For example, The Face has elements of ‘good taste’ such as its similarities with post-modern and post-structuralist thinkers, and it’s thus may be thought of as liberal, academic, and therefore ‘high’ art. On the other hand, its liberation from strict object signification reduces its dependence on the ‘high art’ western philosophical and intellectual tradition. In fact the author states explicitly that ‘it is out to supercede….scholarly and commonsense constructions of the relationship between cultural politics, the image, and the ‘popular’(Hebidge, 1999:106), suggesting that it wants to be thought of neither as  high or low.

Ten.8 in turn has low characteristics, and high ones. The students complain that it is too political, too heavy, and not stylish enough (compared to The Face), which suggests that it is High art, as does its funding by an Arts Council grant. In the closing paragraphs the author stresses the universal  humanity in the sorts of traditional ideas of love, death, and judgements which are found in world one and Ten.

2. Hebidge’s main arguments against the people of the post are that they seem to be going overboard on their ‘project’ to rid the world of (common-sense?) signifier and value judgements. They also include some factions who are anarchistic and refute even basic local political objectives.

3. I am aware that the terms high and popular culture are laden with a body of philosophical tradition and discussion, which makes the question What’s the difference? difficult to answer. I prefer a common-sense approach based on the meaning within their titles, as follows. Popular culture implies that it is liked by a large number of people, and that these people tend to come from the ordinary parts of society-what Marx would call the proletariat. High culture implies that it is consumed by individuals placed higher in society, which rationally constitutes fewer people than the ‘populus’. High culture may also suggest that it could involve institutions (or people) who are large in scale and powerful in action, such as the church, or the government.

Taking an example of each, I would class television as popular culture, as it is consumed by almost everyone (even the upper-class). Of course, the type of programme has some relevance, and this may be subdivided into high and popular programmes. Fine art is still high culture, though there is plenty of effort by programme makers to make it more accessible to the masses. With no judgement attached, I believe that in general the masses do not want to consume fine art in galleries or on TV, and that it is too remote, and will take too much effort to be rewarding.

4.Which of the art forms is in ascendence in the media and other cultural areas in today’s society? Is the world flat or round?

I will brainstorm some media and cultural bodies in my world today in order to think about this question. This brief survey will obviously be biased in favour of what I like to hear and watch, and my lifestyle.


– on TV:  quite a lot of trash- action, shoot-em-up, goody v baddy, state v terrorists (Mission impossible, Jack Reacher, Jason Bourne, Die Hard franchises. All are simplifications and few make us think about issues. More occasionally we see cultured, meaningful, difficult, complex ones (on late at night when everyone has gone to bed!). LOW

-in cinema: Hollywood big box office films tend to be dumbed down, action, predictable, as above. Independent and thoughtful films do get into the cinemas, but not for very long. However they do get OSCARS- but the voters are from the film hierarchy and so are more ‘cultured’ than the viewers.  LOW/HIGH

TV programmes

Mostly trashy and popular- even on BBC 1, but there standards are slightly better eg. situationism-real life- played out as drama- babies, dolers, TV watchers, driving tests, talent contests, even the glut of cooking shows/competitions, police surveillance/traffic cops etc….  LOW

Some channels like SKY ARTS, History, and BBC 3 and 4 are much more learned and artistic. HIGH


Pop/rock: massive numbers of radio stations, most independent stations are simply pedalling the same few easy chart tunes every day- helps the masses at work LOW ART. Some stations or programmes are more authentic and deal with Jazz, Country, Big Band, independent bands etc. MED-HIGH ART.

Classical- classic FM tries a bit but still introduces only the easy bits of classical (and often only individual popular movements) HIGH/LOW. Radio 3 is more HIGH brow, with longer (full) pieces, and less famous pieces and composers (and pieces which are less ‘approachable’ to the untrained

Talking/magazine radio

Radio 5 live- this is a phone-in style channel. It gives the listeners a chance to debate things, but I don’t think it often goes beyond the venting of small minded prejudices by the callers. LOW

Radio 4- this broadcasts good quality politics, current affairs, art and culture. Their news is often based on conflict and drama (see Marxist interpretations of media), but the art and culture is  good, thoughtful and doesn’t try to dumb down too much (eg. Front Row every day talks about classical and pop music, theatre, art, sculpture, film…). MED-HIGH

Sports radio – Sport is traditionally a subject for the masses, and phone-in shows a quite unsophisticated, and popular. LOW

FINE ART- when do we see fine art? Probably if we choose to go to a gallery or if you watch arts channels on TV (very few) HIGH. There are occasional stories in the news….mainly about the astronomic price of a picture at auction, or the controversial artists like Banksy, or the BRIT ART lot, but it’s quite trashy MEDIUM.

Some parks and public spaces have sculptures and quality architecture HIGH. It’s not very common, but in general the standard of buildings and art in public spaces has improved over the last few decades I think.

5. Find 4-5 examples of

Contemporary popular culture:

  • Hollywood film- Expendables 2
  • Soap opera- Eastenders
  • Pop music- Beyonce or Take That !
  • TV- The Voice- a talent show

High round world culture

High referencing popular culture

Richard Hamilton- Just what is it that makes today’s homes so different, so appealing ?(1956)


Jeff Koons-Popeye mirror-polished stainless steel with transparent color 2009-11


Eduardo Paolizzi I was a Rich Man’s Plaything (1947)


Edouard Manet A bar at the Folie-Bergeres (1882)


Popular culture referencing High culture

Album sleeves

Deep Purple in Rock ( a reference to Mount Rushmore, USA)

deep purple

Metallica …and justice for all (a reference to The Statue of Liberty)metallica

The Beatles- Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club band (several references to high culture- eg. the artist Sir Peter Blake)


Nirvana-Nevermind (a baby is born already corrupted by money).



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