thumbnail of Man and the multitude; Peter Viereck discussion, part two
Hide -
If this transcript has significant errors that should be corrected, let us know, so we can add it to FIX IT+
I think that one of the one of the ideas of being an artist one of the things about an artist's. Activity what he does which is very important for society is. For the most part not recognized by that society. And for the most part he is not the kind of way that society tries to get whatever meaning there is in what he does what he makes. And I think that it has something to do with the fact that the artist within our society right now is almost the only person who makes a thing. First of all makes a thing which exists primarily for its own sake for its own reference which has value because of what it is rather than for any kind of statement that it makes about a political or social position explicit
statement or rather than that it has any kind of function as decoration or as entertainment. It is something he makes a thing. It's something which has its own value its own presence is its reason for being and that's all. And in society now in an in America now almost nobody except the artist I would say nobody except an artist does this kind of thing and I think that this is this is a very important. This is what the primary function of an artist is. Now the artist as a political being as a person who unlike anybody else who may pay as income tax or buy groceries or support a family or whatever may take a political position a very explicit political position on a question like Vietnam or anything else just the same as any other man can. But the thing the issue that I'm trying to raise is that I think that he has
something more to contribute than that. And I think that the thing that he contributes is the idea that he can become so absorbed or one can become so absorbed in. Thing in a concrete present thing that that can be a world maybe this is a kind of Ivy ivory tower concept of the artist and in that sense maybe also I'm getting back to something else that you were talking about. But I think that this far from being very precious and far from making him a very removed person from all of the attitudes are what is civilization this particular culture is I think far from now. I think this is the one thing which he can uniquely contribute or make for the people of his own time and place of the other thing is that the artist almost uniquely now. Is responsible for the thing that he
makes. Nobody else in our society who makes a thing who is responsible for the manufacture of a thing just about is totally responsible for the thing that he makes. That is he's a cog somewhere among many people who are responsible for the thing which is made of the manufactured article for the for the artifact. And this isn't true of all artists it's true of poets and it's true of most painters is true of most of hers it isn't true say of composers because a composer has to be dependent on the performance. But I think this is something else which is an important issue which hasn't been raised at all here and I would just like to bring it up here that the artist is responsible alone for the thing that he does and it if he makes a lousy painting then he has made a lousy painting and it's nobody else's. You know it's nobody else's bag. If he makes a terrific painting then he has made that terrific painting and he has a kind of sense of elation and responsibility which almost
nobody else in society can have. And it seems to me that the artist within society functioning through our society can be that kind of guy who does this for all of the people in all in his time and in his place in his country and his century whatever it is he can be the guy who does this kind of thing and I think that this is a very important role for him to fill. This may be very much off the thrust of what's been said before but. It was the most relevant thing so got an essential point which is that there is nothing more useful than the useless. There is nothing more social and ethical than the seemingly anti-social and anti ethical withdrawal of the authors in every case societies that were
pragmatic and said the scientist must be practical or the poet must write propaganda have killed sons and killed poetry whereas those that have allowed pure science useless science the pure aesthetic joy of speculation such as Einstein whom I cited last night carried out to them out of this uselessness this poor useless anti-social joy of speculation come the most. The real I was a cowboy in a roundabout and similarly the artist who best fought fascism. Who wrote poems right the arrow was full of low level and right minded and sentiments which didn't help a bit because they were poorly written and had no influence the people who did more against fascism just staying people that I've known in concentration camps were people who wrote such that the dignity of men shone with such radiance through them that even though these
poems were not political and had no appeal to march up and down to protest the dignity of man that came to their beauty was of more social help in letting people resist than any right minded progressive propaganda tract propaganda. Agree with you and I think this has been the most relevant remark of uselessness. The only remark which didn't disagree with you. Stick with me by a lot. So I think I think you mean I think gently to the left but individuals and I think I think partly agree there's one other thing however they can do and you didn't mention. I've talked enough said one word nobody but the audience does it today in this world of. Oh you and us
robots. It's spontaneity spontaneity. We could could we say that we are responding to let's say a political way and respond in a unique way that is not however completely socially relevant. Yeah absolutely but he may respond as a man as any other man made nice taking a position and by stating his position one way or the other. But the thing that interests me is not his role as a man because we all have that right. Everyone has that role. Yes but what does he have which is unique and which is you know I feel that in light of all this Miss said the artist is a human being after all. And that we can lose his identity just as easily as quite shocked or anyone else. He can be subject to academia
and lose his identity as a personality and his individuality. He can do it through becoming souped up on technique and technique alone or spontaneity and spontaneity alone. He can do it by succumbing to modern technology to the point where he's lost completely his identity and you have the object that is foreign to you and only that. The artist is not there any longer. This is there a danger it's a trap. That the artist is subject to these things as much as anyone else and particularly so today. I hear tape music and I admit that it would take a giant to make this a kind of individual performance and we have some giants but there certainly are damn few. But it is very real a very real danger. I think artists can lose is I am a lawyer. I think what you're talking about is you're not trying to make a distinction between good art and bad I have what you would known not oh no you're wrong and I think you
have objects which you feel I have no doubt. Say you're wrong and you say that I'm thinking I don't have that danger existed since the beginning of art if you want to call it that we have not judging anything contemporary or otherwise as I said it could be less an academician he could be lost and still life painting or whatever the hell it might be. But it is a danger and we're subject to it like anyone else and I don't think that we can just say gee here we have all of our little spontaneity aren't we grand and are we doing the world a great good. A hell of a lot of pain and passion and love and dedication and individuality. You want to call it that. And because you're an artist does not necessarily mean you have been given a god give license to inspire the world or poets or writers yet are scientists or whatever have you. Yeah no I agree with that. Why not come for. The people that have been
talking here the most about her. Will that have been speaking for the last few minutes have been mostly artists I'd like to put in a few words for you. You know people who write and I think I think that and I think that one of the dangers and perhaps Mr. Gregg is extremely aware of this is one of the horrible dangers of the literary community is that they do write and they communicate in such a sense that everybody's extremely aware of whatever other people are thinking. And it becomes extremely important. The idea of ideas and communicating in a it gradually gets to a sense of great cleverness. You know everybody wants to share the same ideas and you belong to one Basque intellectual literary club now. I hate to do it to get back to you now that's the most recent thing I can think of Mary McCarthy trotting over to Vietnam with in her mind you know well I'm going to show those guys something and I'm going to go over there and just write awful things by everybody. And she went over there and. Mimic Iraqi darling of the
intellectual community went over there. To try to show up another ex darling. John Stanley who had written some things she didn't like because John Steinbeck is out of the intellectual community. And then McCarthy is in. And it gets to be that much of the comedy out of how Rambo is to have him to be there in the game something which went on that all day I want to be very sure there is I think that many people have been get the idea that you are equating somehow courage with intellectual accuracy. You know I'm not saying that perhaps the ideas are not extremely accurate. What I'm saying is that they are becoming more and more an individual organized corporation like you can see for example they all join a little club to pick up the page ad in The New York Times saying I am an intellectual on the literary intellectual for which reason I am by definition John John John John John it's a horrible thing. You know when you start being at the Divine the literary mind. And you come to the ideas that they have on political issues are more and more predictable and less and less individualistic. It's almost as if you know the cliched
society that John Gavin spoke about earlier has taken over that the literary world where we all work in a little club you know and everybody we all get together and share ideas and if you if your ideas are you know considered not you know not intellectual at the time but there's something gravely wrong with you and boy are you like John Steinbeck's. Young lady a lot of weight about her now there is a danger of pro-Castro her over here intellectual and you almost had the misfortune napping in the park here and I would have not been brave and courageous by standing against the government and you'd go home already feel that you are going to get a vision what does one do. About one's ranks regardless of the consequences other fads. It was almost prima facia evidence against an intellect if he even knows what the fat is. There should be a kind of innocence that one shouldn't even know what is fashionable and I agree with your statement and with one proviso that you are not attacking only the left
because there are equal fads on the right in other words if you are in the local American Legion of a small town then the chic fad would be to say bomb those bombs let's bomb Hanoi and so on and I would condemn this kind of collaboration is just as much as the sheik left collaborationists the Mary McCarthy as a clinical obviousness of making indignant noises fairly safely at cocktail parties. But let's also condemn the American leader right wing club business which. Wants to escalate the bombings and so on and the shelter comes to my presumably and brandishes where you have to be a member of the at certain club Bananarama a deep thinker on the right because he doesn't exist as a mine and doesn't belong to you know very well this is why I'm against Right right right right wing idiots as much as it is against left wing ones
with this difference the right wingers at least admit they're conformist whereas the Left left left things around that worried us a great individualists they are just like everybody else. But it strikes me the artist has that great discipline as well as a great deal of spontaneity. Yes they know something if they have some techniques before he can utilize his spontaneity rap even though the artist does what may be thought of as useless. He also does it in ways which are useful that is a great deal of marketing appears in churches. A great deal of art that has occurred in terms of some kind of context in which people are appreciative. I have not met many artists or must say or know many artists who don't want their work to be seen. I don't want to have a place. So if we can talk about spontaneous a great word we're all for spontaneity we're all for protest. We're all for self-expression. But we're wrong. It strikes me too for some framework within which it occurs and the difficult problems don't seem to me to be answerable by the kind of
apparatus the kind of discussion that we've been having we're off of the private life to be sure but not completely for the completely privatized life because that becomes a part from any tradition apart from any kind of a continuity. So that I I find it rather difficult to. To grapple with what has become now an either or kind of proposition but how the two mesh together sure we all we all want to care and not care we all want as George Orwell put it we want to give the raspberry to the the formalin the serious at some time. We want the underside of the oversight of how much and when and where becomes a regular problem. So we can all agree on these things that the more we start talking about something like Vietnam we separate because the abstractions are not for us. I responded why don't you know the question of the art in the churches which is presumably didactic and which has a kind of function or
use in that art for us now is not in its value for us now is not in that it illustrates a certain kind of story or it's not in its didactic function. We have that in all kinds of second rate artists well isn't first rate arc. And you know from the same period Medieval art Renaissance art whatever the function of that art. Well it has no real function the value of that art for us although it does have a didactic kind of function. The real value of that art for us is what it is as a thing. I have as you know I would just as art but I mean is it because I'm not sure that I'm not saying that art might not have a function of entertainment instruction whatever but if that's its principal value and its principal value is not what it is as a presence as a thing then for me it's not. It's either not serious art or not good art or not interesting art to me it doesn't exist as art for me.
I guess I just want to make that distinction I want to make that distinction and perspective from memory here universal element of some kind of and I have got the necessity of discipline but I also believe in the necessity of the impulse and the spontaneity. Are you suggesting the bedroom again or let the guide play to the peculiarity of his work with the artist and are private rather than public. Yes I would say so and I would say within the object that he makes use of the fang that he makes takes on a kind of existence a kind of sounds corny to say so but a kind of life of its own it becomes something separate from the artist who made it. With jazz itself it's you know it's its own thing. It has its presence its important to us because of what it is as a thing and not because of what it does for us
not because of there it entertains us or decorates our walls are it tells a story or whatever. But may do all of those thing yes. Inform the parent of everybody heard them Professor McGonagall stressed grasses. There's no spontaneity and because there's some record lows again I think what I object to is extra not mechanical. Empire was filmed by a government dictatorship Midwest congressman saying I'm against abstract but I think we both accept discipline and family if it's organic form which grows out of its subject I don't think either of us have a reverse SSN so to speak. So there's no contest at all between spontaneity and on the contrary in poetry reading up the lecture but the afternoon poetry reading yesterday I was asked as a matter of riled ness
and spontaneity Oh is it a matter of strict craftsmanship and the answer is very simple strict while this summer one of your current artist want to have a man who can. Thank you want to wait. Well what. I saw is a car man gives you are this morning ban. Their. Right. As guides say persecuted because of technological image of Perseus us were the ones that have quite humorous old. Person very similar yet we are one of the major. Difference. But I'd rather not go there first. All the terror I don't want my career is based on the love my things and I was for his good love my parenting Otherwise I'm the bread of life the name of
heaven I'm I'm going to fight this you are just saying sure you're wasn't being picked up. We are the ones you have here this is one person had three o'clock in the morning. If you're an athlete you're kind of artist bad good bad bad bad. Possible with the book or. Other words by Alex. Yeah cool develop the whole. Building before packing people together with
a real possibility of being wrong are we. Crap I think I think you know we're here. Are. There. Any. Part of this. By varying numbers of people I want from the odds are against us I agree. Minute Gesta that's where they're just as minute. It has to be made anyway not just by the artist who are not sacred. No no better than anybody else no worse Philistine resentment against artist which we've just heard expressed is really not to be ridiculed by you because our gains of the artist against the Philistines is even worse. Therefore my heart goes out to this loquacious Philistine because I prefer him to the hour again artist who thinks that just because he's an artist he can be and Marlon in every possible field and not made his death in the take care of his family. So
so so that I have great sympathy for for the Philistine I think I'm lying to them and they're raving not time over this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly yet they always discuss little meaning the Romans. I think I think this was a very plain and forthright remark and I'm fed up with it. Just because the artist can behave badly. They had their neighbors or anything else need to be sacred. No Should a big girl or the girl is under the same ethic alone as everybody else although they're against a sacred event happened and the fact they have the same kind of commitment. The principles of the ordinary jackass. Why should I justify that as let's say an opposite as you know the idea they justify themselves with was a notion that was that all women are
claiming that we need you know all sorts of stuff heart of man and the artist the fags and their finding all sorts of ways to avoid principles in order to continue to create their works of art and they're not standing up for the principle of whatever the devil it is they're going to make you for in terms of what we're talking about now stand up for those who are. Disapproving of what the nation is doing. How can you say the artists are not elite and you cannot tolerate this when just before you doubt that they believe they have to care all the time not enough the ordinary Jap has no alternative blasted all he can justify himself and said what I have to you know I have to be careful now as Peter wise you know sat in his cellar hole. I gotta play it cool man if I go out they are not that guy that's being thrown out of his house. They're going to throw me in agreement on stuff and you know look at me like man I'm creating all sorts of beautiful things here and
I'm gonna do a hell of a lot more for the Third Reich and for the future by staying alive than by committing myself and getting killed. So there's a contradiction. And what I was saying initially I'm repeating right now it seems to me and I know all along with his tremendous a lofty concept of the artist that there is a time and especially today it seems to be good and we can believe in the honesty you certainly the actuals we don't believe that just because intellectuals get together and discover that there is an organized the sense that it's a fad and therefore spurious to be honest. We have a record of how disastrously wrong in things like the Moscow trials and style of the writing of intellectuals in office so much wronger than that of the ignorant and the ungainly fall that that I statically I maybe with the oddest but ethically I think he's having at least Stalinist the under-educated non-AA distemper has a has a better record the intellect just cannot claim to be an elite and because they've been so disastrously wrong and wrong and not even for good reason but working out
neuroses within their own family in the revolt that then were well satisfied overall that gets a book about father but it being for Stalin and do this disgraceful record I don't think the artist is belongs to any that kilt elite he belongs to an aesthetic elite of course he does but then the good belongs to a craftmanship elite everyone who who does a good job has its own kind of kind of elite. The plumbers that Moscow tell you that I have data they I cited a poll which showed that the less education people had the more they believe that Stalin was a dictator rather than a Democrat was a better racket. You've been listening to a discussion of a lecture by Peter Bergen titled The fight for creativity and personality in a machine age this lecture and discussion were a part of the University of Illinois Centennial symposium sponsored by the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. This was the final program in this
Man and the multitude
Peter Viereck discussion, part two
Producing Organization
University of Illinois
WILL Illinois Public Media
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
If you have more information about this item than what is given here, or if you have concerns about this record, we want to know! Contact us, indicating the AAPB ID (cpb-aacip/500-3x83p36q).
Episode Description
This program presents the second part of a discussion of Peter Viereck's lecture, "The Fight for Creativity and Personality in a Machine Age." Additional speakers include Gary Adelman, Billy Jackson, Royal MacDonald, Joseph Gusfield, Karl Wallace, all of the University of Illinois; and James McGarrell of Indiana University.
Other Description
A lecture series commemorating the centennial of the University of Illinois.
Media type
Embed Code
Copy and paste this HTML to include AAPB content on your blog or webpage.
Producing Organization: University of Illinois
Producing Organization: WILL Illinois Public Media
Speaker: Adelman, Gary
Speaker: Jackson, Billy
Speaker: Viereck, Peter, 1916-2006.
Speaker: MacDonald, Royal
Speaker: Gusfield, Joseph R., 1923-
Speaker: Wallace, Karl Richards, 1905-1973
Speaker: McGarrell, James, 1930-
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 67-41-11 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:27:19
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
Chicago: “Man and the multitude; Peter Viereck discussion, part two,” 1967-11-15, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed December 6, 2021,
MLA: “Man and the multitude; Peter Viereck discussion, part two.” 1967-11-15. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. December 6, 2021. <>.
APA: Man and the multitude; Peter Viereck discussion, part two. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from