Ian Dennis on High Art and Pop Art.

A definition of aesthetics (notice the parallel to paranirvana): 

A brief review of the concept of the aesthetic in Generative Anthropology.  Eric Gans, Originary Esthetics (Originary Thinking, 1993):

“Oscillation between imaginary possession [relative self] and recognized inviolability [transcendental self] is characteristic of all aesthetic experience.”

The aesthetic is “an effect rather than a solid state” [ananda] and its “minimal locus” is “the individual’s own scene of representation” where it “offers an internal solution to resentment,” or indeed, “permits an unresentful vision of the center” [Recognition].

A definition of pop art: 

And, from Chronicle 315:

“Popular culture, whether it be pre-industrial folk culture or the mass-produced culture of industrial societies, is entertainment for those who . . . adopt, whether for a moment or a lifetime, an attitude of indifference to the functioning of society as a whole.”


High art conveys an aching sense of the inaccessibility, even the emptiness of the center; pop art, the fun, the fullness, the richness of the periphery. It may be only a part, but, often enough and as long as it lasts, it feels like everything. Or enough.

Also from Chronicle 315:

“The popular subject seeks imaginary satisfactions in compensation for his worldly frustrations, but since his ‘oppressor’ is real whereas the fulfillment of desire is not, the heart of popular culture is revenge on the former rather than celebration of the latter.”


Popular art may be “parasitic” on high culture (Originary Thinking 174), but only in the sense that all market activity, economic or otherwise, is parasitic on a public center, the askesis it demands, the peace, order, and good government it maintains.

Consumers of pop “adopt, whether for a moment or a lifetime, an attitude of indifference to the functioning of society as a whole.” One may wonder how common it is for modern denizens of the market to retain such an attitude lifelong, hegemonically, uninterruptedly.

To imagine such consistency is to imagine lives into which no glimpse of the transcendent ever pierces, not even a transitory apprehension of what those around them, from varying positions and with varying degrees of naivety or sophistication, revere as “higher things” or the beauty, in any of its many forms, of self-sacrifice. It is to imagine those never stirred by represented heroism except as they imagine themselves performing it, or as they resent its purchase on their own desires.

What high art feels like: 

One instant of glorious formal significance, one piercing recognition of the beauty of the object of desire, may outweigh in memory a long saturnalia of imagined consumption, haunting the post-prandial, the post-coital vacancy with the squandered promise of lost deferrals.

Full text: http://anthropoetics.ucla.edu/ap2001/2001dennis/

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