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Friday, 12 July 2019

Taste classifies, and it classifies the classifier

The title above is a 1984 statement by French philosopher and sociologist Pierre Bourdieu (1930-2002) from "Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste", which I noticed in a column about bad taste. The original French version is: Le goût classe, et classe celui qui classe. The Dutch equivalent is: Onze smaak is een uiting van (sociale) klasse (NRC).

In and of itself this statement feels valid. Nevertheless, it also feels patronizing because social class is usually visualized like a pyramid with the elite on top. However, once you would discount taste by honesty, the entire pyramid may flip upside down. Popular taste might seem ignorant to the elite, but false taste displays arrogance

My taste is rooted in a combination of balance, beauty, emotion and symmetry. Quite often, this puts me outside popular taste. My favourite paintings represent magic realism, which "describe modern realist paintings with fantasy or dream-like subjects" (Tate). Nevertheless, the paintings in my house are from my girlfriend, who died in 2016. Her paintings represent meaning to me.

One of the most popular Dutch artists was André Hazes (1951-2004). I don't have a single recording of him in my rather substantial music collection. However, my tears will start running once I hear Voltooid Verleden Tijd by Is Ook Schitterend, or Blauwe Ruis by Bløf. The combination of words and music in these songs translates into meaning to me.

I am not much of a book reader although I enjoy comics. I prefer writing over reading. My favourite writer is Michael Crichton (1942-2008), who was immensely talented. I don't like musea too much and I never visit libraries. Nevertheless, I felt overwhelmed while visiting the ruins of Ephesus, an ancient Greek city that now belongs to Turkey.

I'm not sure how the above would classify me. I'm far from sure that you can classify meaning. Classifying - in the context of putting a (social) label on something - comes close to an arrogant philosophy of supremacy (top) and patronizing (bottom). 

I suspect that Pierre Bourdieu's statement has a double meaning. The critique in my previous paragraph could also be read in the second part of the expression: Taste classifies, and it classifies the classifier. The philosopher and the sociologist combined in one sentence. 

A quote by Groucho Marx (1890-1977), American comedian:
“Well, art is art, isn't it? Still, on the other hand, water is water! And east is east and west is west and if you take cranberries and stew them like applesauce they taste much more like prunes than rhubarb does. Now, uh... now you tell me what you know.”

Art for Art's Sake (1975) by 10cc


Note: all markings (bolditalicunderlining) by LO unless stated otherwise

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