Just Keep Swimming

Demuth's poem in The Blind Man compares to Norton’s essay in some unexpected ways. Louise Norton’s essay, “Buddha of the Bathroom” hovers ominously over Demuth’s short dedicated poem, "For Richard Mutt," which seems to identify a type of people, “the going.” Demuth writes, “For the going everything has an idea” (6). Momentum and meta-concepts (the conceiving of concepts?) are clearly important to the poem, and they imply a sense of objectivity, from the perspective of this group—the going. Everything for them (artists like Mutt) can be put into terms of formal traits: the going group thinks about the thinking of the thing, not the thing itself. Therefore, it’s not a piece of plumbing, it’s a piece of art. The poem, as literary artworks often do, gestures to the ideational as integral to the nature of art. Norton addresses this too, but I find that there are differences between Norton’s critique “Progress, Speed, and Efficiency” and what Demuth indicates. At least I think Norton is critiquing the concept: she compares it to a dog chasing its own tail, implying whimsical distraction or playfulness. If it isn’t quite a critique, Norton is at the least ambivalent about these concepts/deities the Westerners worship. My main point is how speed, efficiency, and progress are understood differently in these two works. The way that speed is associated with efficiency and progress in Norton’s makes me read deeper into “the going” concept in Demuth. It’s a positive thing to progress and keep moving, says the pro-Mutt poem. And Mutt can do that. There’s a sort of praise of movement, momentum, artistic progress (not style/convention but innovation) that appears partially formed or inverted in the Norton piece. Yet they both have relatively positive outlooks on the same artist, from what I can tell. I’m thinking about concepts of editorial theory now and how it might be effective to place these clearly different approaches to the same artist side by side. At some level though, I’m also laughing at myself because my instincts tell me how silly it feels to try and critically analyze dadaist/dadaist-adjacent work. Nevertheless, I’ll keep going.



I want to respond to your thought: "my instincts tell me how silly it feels to try and critically analyze dadaist/dadaist-adjacent work." I found myself feeling the same way as I started one post and then another this week before throwing out my original ideas. I had been thinking about the Dada concept of putting (seemingly) total non-sequitur titles on images and how that could be seen as a political commentary about how what is presented to the public is not at all what is actually being proposed or presented. Immediately after that thought, however, I found myself questioning if I was attempting to rationalize the intentionally irrational simply because letting something be irrational for its own sake feels...irrational. To have purpose, I fear I believe sometimes, something has to have utility. Does it have to, though?