Being an artist certainly has its natural benefits, and some would say it has social entitlements. This is present in both cases for Salvador Dali. Thus, the repercussions of his artistry were simply accepted, whereas otherwise, would've been corrected. The common person will neuter this argument with a "What can you do?" or my most-hated sterilizer, "Whatever," but let's follow Orwell's lead into the uncommon way of looking at artistry.
Judgment. I'll put it right out there. Can we judge great artists? Ernest Hemingway boozed, Jack London wrote in bed, Leonardo Da Vinci wrote backwards, Vincent Van Gogh mailed his ear to a lover; the list goes on. These artists--and let's not make the mistake of reducing them to the most popular forms--have a vision their audience can't identify the origin of, whom perform their art out of compulsion, rather than occupation. They create works the rest of society can read, touch, and emulate, however--and this may come as a surprise to many--they are still men & women. I remember something Stephen King said in response to a question his introducer asked of his audience. "Who's just here to see Stephen King?" the introducer asked. "I'm just a man," King responded. That brought everyone back to earth, and made some things clear for me.
Why did they need that correction? Why do we need that correction? I'm not exempting myself from this scenario, since whenever I meet a famous politician or actor my stomach impulsively unsettles until I reset it with the King Response, as I've come to know it by. Do artists & celebrities qualify for judgment along the same lines as the rest of us? Applying the King Response, most certainly. Orwell applies a modified King Response through demonstrating how artists literally can't get away with murder simply because they're artists. Socially, jail sentences are reduced due to celebrity, however the argument Orwell is leading us all through is how these individuals still qualify for our judgment (no matter what the legal system does), and not how they are disqualified from our judgment. What other type of evidence do we have, considering great artistry is commonly believed to contribute to humanity's greater good? Well, when the greater good argument links itself to entitlement status, it produces a sort of religious phenomena, rather than a secular affair of living, breathing people. Think about it; people become icons. How many celebrities have a "larger than life" complex? Plenty, and it's due to the entitlement of believing they aren't subject to the same laws, rules, and mores as the rest of us. As if they don't need oxygen or food or a bathroom.
That's not to say artists and common people have equal "greatness." Anyone who has ever seen a Dali Surrealist painting can sense his genius and depth, carved out by his distinct horror, wickedness, and chaos. But with that greatness comes eccentricity. He was a man of disgusting taste and habit; he was a sadist as a child, obsessed with death, putrefaction, excrement and sexuality as a young man, and a necrophiliac as a grown man. It was present in his work. According to Orwell, Dali grabbed his wife by the hair and asked her what she wanted him to do to her. She responded, "Kill me," and he was disappointed because he already wanted to do that. His narcissism doesn't need proving, yet acknowledging it serves as practice for strengthening our King Response. Dali wasn't just an artist being an artist, he was a fucked up human being, being a fucked up human being. Greatness granted no one immunity from bearing cost on others, no matter what the production machine, or civilization in general said. And that goes for all "greats."
How do great artists like Dali get away with this stuff? "Obscenity is a very difficult question to discuss honestly. People are too frightened either of seeming to be shocked, or of seeming not to be shocked, to be able to define the relationship between art and morals."** (p. 655) Fear of Seeming too shocked and seeming not too shocked are evidence of conformity and a resistance toward critical, individual thought. However, this doesn't give the public license to every eccentric artist's personal life. It's merely the opposite side of the secular coin: the public isn't entitled to the details of the artist's personal life but are still encouraged to make judgements of the actions they become aware of. Not necessarily to moralize, but to apply the same observation and reasoning to the genius artist as they would the average joe. And that is exactly what Orwell is talking about; great artistic genius or not, people make choices because they're humans and that's how they should be treated. From simpleton to genius.
**To achieve a fuller perspective of how broken our faculty of judgment and thinking-in-general has become, replace obscenity with any other socially or politically incorrect term, as well as art with civilization.
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