Page 76 – 77 / 1941 – 42
Left Hand Page
‘The Chunkel’, camp magazine, ‘Art Today’ by Ronald Searle and ‘Protoplasm and Personality’ by Unknown
Why are the masses so completely out of touch with the ART OF TO-DAY? There seems to be a general inability to comprehend art beyond academic or photographic representation. Why are the public chary of accepting a movement that has advanced progressively for almost a century? Is the artist at fault or is his public in such a state of apathy that they are loathe to exert themselves to meet him even half way?
We hope in this series of short articles to answer these and many similar questions and stimulate a greater interest in a movement of such importance, so closely inter-related with our twentieth century literature and music, that its ultimate effect at the moment cannot be ascertained.
Firstly then, what is art? As soon an anyone asks the question one realises the futility of trying to answer with a nutshell definition. Art is a record of emotion felt and exhibited through any medium. This is like saying, what are women? And answering the female human. Nevertheless it is possible to analyse art or a number of critics of importance are obtaining their money under false pretenses.
Art is a product of something in man which urges him to create. Great art is that which can arouse in the beholder the same splendid emotion that urged the artist to creation. We are all capable of art. The biggest philistine among us has at some time in his life aroused deep emotion in some woman he has loved, in some child or in a friend. To call this art is perhaps stretching it and yet in its embryonic form is the same activity which on a higher plane produces the theater emotions of a Bernhard or the power of a head by Epstein. Art is the sublimation of sex using that much abused term in the Freudian sense to mean the life force, the Libido, the deep central motive power of mankind. The appreciation of art is also active. It demands of the observer that he shall put something into the observing. That is why great art is unintelligible to the great mass of people. They are not prepared to meet a painter or a thinker, or an actor, or an author even half way. The art of the twentieth century is the cinema, and it has to be prostituted and diluted, so that its effusions may wash over a supine audience who just lay back with their mouths open. This is the besetting sin of our time. The decay of metal activity. The divorcement of the observer from the artistic process of which he is as such a part as the artist himself.
In the beginning was protoplasm, and protoplasmic was without form and void. And the protoplasm having inherent personality, a microcosm in the microcosm, it struggled upwards to its eschatological destiny. “Pause in your effusions” you say and “define your terms.” What is this individualistic protoplasm?” “Proto” as you learned at school, equals “first” and plasma means “form”. From which you deduce that the literal etymology is “First-form”. Protoplasm is primeval matter, that is, animal cell-matter. Spenser following Huxley would say that there was primitive, simple, protoplasmic-cell that could and presumably did propagate itself into the multifarious genera, species and varieties as classified by biologists and botanists universally. This form of matter was in the Yesterday of bio-generation swirling in nebulous star-dust in the inconceivably distant past Spenser tells us – there was a casual disturbance in the either and by no ostensible fiat of mind a concourse of atoms fortuitously conglomerating inadvertently retained the requisite positive and negative charges of electricity to become living matter. “Life” says Sir Arthur Keith, “is electricity”. This idea of soul is “current” to-day. Soul or ego is, by these postulates, a circuit of protons and electrons in endless procession. This brings us to our second definition. Personality in the entity of the characteristics of a complete homo-sapien. Can you agree to regard the personality of Man, the miracle as a sort of super-instinct differing only in degree from the teeming myriads that organize an ant-hill? However, be that as it may, our notorious speck of protoplasm as an eventuality of the titanic [unknown] of space-time, became an amoeba, (Greek for ‘one that changes’). This obliging amoeba after aeons of “selection” differentiates itself into the varied species of fauna and flora. Then follows further natural selection’, and the amoeba makes what we can but hope is only its penultimate change and becomes genus homo. Thus the onus has been thrust upon the innocent amoeba either to become a tadpole and then a frog and hop, or an orang-utan, then a man and fly. There must inevitably be, you will agree, in this single-cell animal [unknown] the makings of a man or mammoth. If this sparked-speck turns towards human natures then implied and instinct in this evolving protoplasmic molecule, is Professor, Peasant, Priest or Potantate, ridiculous or sublime. This, of course, brings us back to personality, for, village idiot or Einstein, he harks back to primitive matter. In spite of the anatomical fact that the tissues of the human body are completely renewed every seven years;
Right Hand Page
‘The Chunkel’, camp magazine, ‘Bill Williams on Swing’ by Bill Williams (Continued from page 66 – 67 / 1941 – 42) , ‘Dancers’ cartoon by George Sprod and ‘Drooling at the Dutchman’ by ‘Kirribilli’
[…] I am sure, for at least a similar length of time. After all there are more foxtrots or quicksteps played in the English dance halls to-day than any other dance, and the foxtrot was the real beginning of jazz.
New rhythms such as the rhumba and the conga have been introduced from the Continent and South America, but even these are written four beats to a bar the same as foxtrot. Boogie-Woogie rhythm is becoming increasingly popular at home, and although this style was being played by the negroes even before jazz was introduced I think that eventually it may have a universal appeal. Even this rhythm is written in common time (that is four beats to a bar) but there are eight definite bass beats to a measure. One of the earliest recorded versions of Boogie Woogie style of piano playing is ‘Honky Tonk Train Blues’ played by Mead Lux Lewis.
Often one hears the remark “the tunes of to-day will never last like the old ones” and examples like Blue Danube and Destiny are quoted. It is a fact that a number of those old tunes are still very popular to-day, but I think that the main reason for this is that when those tunes were composed radio had not been thought of and gramophones were very crude affairs. In these days when a new number is written it is usually plugged to death on the radio, can be bought on record for 2/6d, and the complete orchestration is put on sale for the benefit of semi-pro bands to plug still further in the dance halls. The result is that the average life of even a first class hit is about six months or less. In spite of this handicap I think that number like Begin the Beguine, Night and Day, etc., will still be played twenty years hence.
DROOLING AT THE DUTCHMAN
It has been noticed that gurgling noises, smacking of lips, and other sound indicative of relish, have been proceeding from the Flying Dutchman during the past few days.
These are not produced as one might suppose by the usual display of love-me-for-evers and other high-priced dainties, but are the reactions of those unable to retrain their animal passions at the sight of the Searle and Sprod murals which are growing apace on the walls.
Starting from the slaying of a juvenile Wobbygong by a Stone Age warrior, and continuing right up to the grim present, these pictures are amazing all beholders by their life-like representation of their central theme – food. It no doubt causes a twinge to view Hector regaling himself with ice-cream sundaes on the plains of windy Troy, Henry VIII and his paramour wading into turkey at Hampton Court, and a company of medieval lechers seeking to drink their lady friend under the table by plying her with liquor in a small sized tub, but it is important no bear in mind that pre-meal starvation can only be allayed by coffee and ongles – not by such airy trifles.
To sacrifice the reality for a shadow in this times is to court an empty feeling. Grab therefore your coffee firmly in your shaking hand, clamp a tamarin tart between your drooling jaws and consider – pastel has an lawful funny taste. “Kirribilli”