Allen Ginsberg 1985 Naropa Classroom discussion continues from here
AG: Who hasn’t spoken? There’s somebody that has not yet (points to Student)
Student: It depends what you mean by function, because, if you look at it, in today’s world, I mean, you know, Money is King.
AG: It sure is, isn’t it? – Money really is King now, totally.
Student: Yeah, I mean, you know, Marx was right, and its all over now..
AG: Is that what Marx…? I don’t think that Marx was right.
Student : Well, in effect, in effect. We needn’t say.. – He said more too, ok! – (Lets talk about that after class!) – but, yeah, it (art) has no function, and what you end up with is a money-oriented society. The only way that the artist… The artist is supremely selfish, according to society, and so, as selfish, he then produces art to please himself, to get something he has to get out, or.. you know, it can be released, it can be part.. it can anything, but it’s something that just has to come out, one way or another.
AG: So you’re proposing, as an alternative to a money-orientated obsession, a universal (art) society, as a release from that..
Student; Yes, because the artist (can’t) prostitute himself to.. I mean, if you have somebody.. And they’ll do it, they’ll do the writing, or the painting, or whatever the hell it is that they do, because they love it, and not, you know, their.. I have a friend, you know, who’s a sculptor, and in order to support himself sculpting, he waits tables, you know, and he’s got a master’s degree, and he’s an extremely intelligent guy. He could make a lot more money doing something else, but he sculpts because he wants to.
AG: He’s just a neurotic!…(like me!)
Student : Aww! – you’re going to play devil’s advocate on me!
AG: I’m sorry he’s not making some money! I made that mistake a long time ago!
Student (2): (I just want to talk about (that) thing.. about spaciousness and the thing about cultures, the thing of coming together . I think this idea of myth-making (is important), the idea that all poetry began from countries with (myths), and I think that when… for me, when art really works, (that’s) established (the laws and discussion from a previous era). And for a moment (that) gives you a sense of freedom and connects with spaciousness, and what (the) artist that said that may have meant…… (And) then that makes me go again and pursue… (I mean with some evidence of. pursuing it)..
AG: (turns to next Student) Use the microphone. (previous Student was noticeably indistinct) Please be artful enough to recognize the space here. We’ll call it the space. If you could use the microphone. So, stand-up please.
Student (3): There’s a quote by (Albert) Camus, (that) the function of all great art is to bring sincerity back into the world [“A man’s work is nothing but this slow trek to rediscover, through the detours of art, those two or three great and simple images in whose presence his heart first opened”] – and I find (it) interesting, you know, (he’s) talking about art (and its relation to society), and he’s talking about (the artist being) selfish, for his own indulgence, and he’s talking about a state of mind (that)…
AG: Isn’t that sincere?
Student (3): Pardon?
AG: Isn’t that sincere – to be in charge of yourself, to not to want to worry, to have a house and a family? .That’s what the Yuppies say – that’s ultimate sincerity. Everything else is hypocrisy, power-trips, ego-power-trips, artistic ego-power-trips. That’s what the Yuppie philosophy is, isn’t it? Then, the Yuppie.. Apparently, the Yuppie philosophy is that the (situation) of the artist is based on their own individualism, ego power-trips, trying to separate themselves out. and, you know, get some welfare money, not (to) have to work (for it)
Student (4): Right!
Student(5): Sounds good to me!
AG: (I love the idea of trying to build a society on that basis!)
Student (5): Well, there’s always got to be more of them than there are of us. Sorry! That’s the way I look at it – The world’s not going to come to a grinding halt.
to be continued
Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately eighty-one-and-a-half minutes in and concluding at approximately eighty-five-and-a-half minutes in