Pop Art: What Hasn't Been Done?

The story of the U.S. Patent Office official who resigned his post in the 19th century because he believed there was nothing left to invent makes a point about human creativity. Of course there was plenty left to invent, and still is, but is art a similarly boundless enterprise? Are there limits to what can be expressed? Have we reached them?

I’ve documented the supposed vulgarity that resulted in the National Endowment for the Arts losing nearly half its budget, but, much to the Congress’ chagrin, American writers and artists kept pushing the limits. But have they been pushed over the edge? I’m not saying undisguised sexual art is immoral, but, in a world of art and literature without limits, could old limits be rediscovered as aesthetically pleasing? Or am I some repressed Puritan censor behind this thin veil?

Yale University Press has refused to republish the 2005 Danish political cartoons, which caused violent rioting in the Muslim world, in a new scholarly work about…wait for it…the effects of the cartoons in the media! Granted, the publisher doesn’t seem to be making the choice on aesthetic grounds. “Counterterrorism officials” said reprinting the cartoons could pose a “security threat”.

But some earnest art does seem to be going soft. Zach Hyman, whose photography exhibition is currently open for public viewing, is getting his nude models into trouble by shooting them in public. Maybe it’s no surprise that what constitutes a criminal offense in America is literally a good day at the beach in Spain. Hyman, feeling inspired by the nudes in the Met, says he wanted to take some photos of similar subject matter…in the Met, and why not?

A book blogger at the Guardian ponders what kind of literature will naturally follow writers who “call a cock a cock”. Sex in literature has come a long way since Lady Chatterley’s Lover, just read Chuck Palahniuk’s Guts. But then again, that’s a bedtime story compared to the Marquis de Sade.

Predictions about “what’s next” aim at the infinitely impulsive public mood when art should be evaluated in more meditative ways. Despite Lionel’s rip on intuitive decision making, I’d say it’s a better way to tune into the zeitgeist than prediction based on quantifiable data.

​There are two kinds of failure – but only one is honorable

Malcolm Gladwell teaches "Get over yourself and get to work" for Big Think Edge.

Big Think Edge
  • Learn to recognize failure and know the big difference between panicking and choking.
  • At Big Think Edge, Malcolm Gladwell teaches how to check your inner critic and get clear on what failure is.
  • Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
Keep reading Show less

Saying no is hard. These communication tips make it easy.

You can say 'no' to things, and you should. Do it like this.

  • Give yourself permission to say "no" to things. Saying yes to everything is a fast way to burn out.
  • Learn to say no in a way that keeps the door of opportunity open: No should never be a one-word answer. Say "No, but I could do this instead," or, "No, but let me connect you to someone who can help."
  • If you really want to say yes but can't manage another commitment, try qualifiers like "yes, if," or "yes, after."
Keep reading Show less

Apparently even NASA is wrong about which planet is closest to Earth

Three scientists publish a paper proving that Mercury, not Venus, is the closest planet to Earth.

Strange Maps
  • Earth is the third planet from the Sun, so our closest neighbor must be planet two or four, right?
  • Wrong! Neither Venus nor Mars is the right answer.
  • Three scientists ran the numbers. In this YouTube video, one of them explains why our nearest neighbor is... Mercury!
Keep reading Show less

Why is 18 the age of adulthood if the brain can take 30 years to mature?

Neuroscience research suggests it might be time to rethink our ideas about when exactly a child becomes an adult.

Mind & Brain
  • Research suggests that most human brains take about 25 years to develop, though these rates can vary among men and women, and among individuals.
  • Although the human brain matures in size during adolescence, important developments within the prefrontal cortex and other regions still take pace well into one's 20s.
  • The findings raise complex ethical questions about the way our criminal justice systems punishes criminals in their late teens and early 20s.
Keep reading Show less