Alex Kierkegaard vs. Scott McCloud on Art

By Alex Kierkegaard / November 10, 2011


In his book Understanding Comics, comic book artist and intellectual luminary Scott McCloud ventures to enlighten mankind with, among many other things, his understanding of art. This theory (which you can read by clicking on the following links: Page 1, 2, 3, 4), and which begins with the earth-shattering assertion that art is basically something useless, is of course completely and utterly false — art is merely one of the manifestations of the will to power, as are the instincts for survival and reproduction; the doctrine of the "uselessness of art", of "art for art's sake", is merely nihilism talking (if not mental illness, as is in fact more usually the case). Yet all the subhumans are so frightfully caught up in it that at this point it is basically impossible to remove it from their brains without damaging them — i.e. without blowing all of them up to fucking bits.
   Note that it would be easy enough to dismiss this comic strip as the ludicrous babbling of a mentally stunted comic book nerd, but the fact is that all the pseudo-intellectuals and pseudo-academics in the world more or less subscribe to it — only instead of expressing this in a couple of badly illustrated pages they do so in thousands upon thousands of pages of bad prose. So I guess in this respect the comic is valuable, in that it condenses all that asinine chatter into a couple of stupid fucking pages, thereby making it easier to understand and ridicule. Which is why I am posting it here, and why I am taking a moment out of my day to point out as many of the stupidities and absurdities in that comic as my remaining time (13 minutes) in this internet cafe will allow me.
   The author of the comic basically belongs to that subspecies of subhuman that over the years has gathered a great deal of random (and mostly false) information from the internet (from blogs, forums, Wikipedia, random links to Geocities sites, etc.), and finally arrives at a point in his life in which he feels compelled to piece all of that fucking random junk together to create a theory that explains whatever profound philosophical problem has come at last to trouble him. In the case of random videogame-playing online-comic-drawing little shitheads, one of those problems is clearly going to be that of art. And of course, God forbid that these little miserable fuckfaces ever bother to open a real philosophical book to see what the geniuses of the past have said on the subject — no, the little scrawny retarded dingbats would not be caught dead doing that — after all, why bother with books and geniuses when you have the internet and all the rancid verbal swill of the uneducated subhuman masses at your fingertips? (And moreover all of it for free — always a very important consideration for subhumans of this kind.)
   And that is how we get comic strips like the above, or blog/forum posts etc., which pretty much regurgitate random combinations of the above absurd ideas.
   So, to get to the point, the retard starts off, as is only fitting, with a retarded definition of art: "Art, as I see it, is any human activity which doesn't grow out of our species' two basic instincts: survival and reproduction!" The number of mistakes he has managed to commit in a single sentence right from the get-go is fucking astonishing, because:

1. He assumes, without any justification, that our species has two "basic instincts", whereas in fact it has but one — the will to power, which it has in common with everything that lives (i.e. with everything, because everything lives), whilst all the other instincts we have created names for are merely its various manifestations.

2. Then he assumes that these "two basic instincts" are "survival" and "reproduction", whereas "survival" is in fact never a basic instinct — the basic instinct is domination — which, of course, in order for an organism to indulge in it must first manage to survive. Survival is then merely a special case of the instinct for domination, and therefore could not by any means be called "basic". There are even countless instances in which, in order to reach for more power, an organism will willingly perish (one calls this "self-sacrifice", in order to miss the main point) — a behaviour which the "survival" theory is incapable of accounting for. So the little comic book nerd is here basically repeating the early Darwinian mistake which he no doubt picked up from TV or internet hearsay, and presenting it in his little learned dissertation as something like a profound fact.

3. But most absurd of all is the assertion that art is something which HAS NOTHING TO DO with man's alleged TWO BASIC INSTINCTS. But if these instincts are really "basic" then ALL HUMAN ACTIVITY MUST DERIVE FROM THEM! Otherwise WHAT THE FUCK IS SUPPOSED TO BE "BASIC" ABOUT THEM!? What the little comic-book-drawing retard has done here is simply define art out of existence! He has entirely nullified it! and his idiotic comic strip is supposed to awaken us to the VALUE of art! Only Tim Rogers or Jesper Juul could come up with a more absurd logical procedure than this! (I'd say Leigh Alexander too if she were't far too dumb to even invent such absurdities.) I mean JESUS FUCKING CHRIST!

Moving on, the next absolutely hilarious mistake he makes is to depict the male prehistoric man as somehow CHASING the female in order to have sex with her. This is typical of comic book nerd psychology: because they have observed that women do not want to have sex with them, and run away whenever they approach them, they automatically infer that women do not like sex and will run away from ANY male that approaches them — even non-idiotic, non-scrawny, non-smelly, fully functioning male humans. All of which is of course nonsense — women like sex just as much as men do, and if you are good-looking enough they will even chase YOU around even more than you chase THEM. All of which of course would sound like science-fiction to comic book nerds, something which however doesn't make it any less true. If they had bothered to spend any time out of their fucking basements they might at least have had a chance to observe women chasing attractive men around, and — however painful this observation might have been to them — they would at least have had the chance to draw the appropriate conclusions.
   Next colossal mistake: art is supposed to come in at times when we "just don't have a thing to do!" A "thriving art colony" (as if there ever could be such a thing, lol — what would the fuckfaces eat?) is supposed to be comprised of "bored people". Again inferences that stem from the psychology of the typical contemporary comic-book-drawing and videogame-playing nerd. Because THEY engage with art whenever they are bored, it follows that prehistoric man, WHO AS EVERYONE KNOWS WAS BORED JUST AS MUCH AS THEY ARE LOL, also stumbled upon art when he was bored. All of this is the theorizing of the kind of person who does not even realize that history books EVEN FUCKING EXIST.
   The truth is of course entirely antithetical to what he is saying: art was never, is not, and never will be "independent from our evolution-bred instincts", for if it were that it would be something completely random that no one would ever be able to analyze. Besides, our "evolution-bred instincts" are merely a theory WE have come up with in order to EXPLAIN ALL OUR BEHAVIOUR — INCLUDING OF COURSE THAT OF ART. It is ABSURD to then turn around and EXEMPT part of our behaviour from the theory we have invented in order to explain. THE LITTLE FUCKING PRICK IS DUMBER THAN MANY 9-YEAR-OLDS I KNOW!
   And then of course he goes on to say that art is the way we "assert our identities as individuals and BREAK OUT OF THE NARROW ROLES nature cast us in", lol — again typical of the psychology of the miserable subhuman, who hates himself and is always grasping about to escape his own skin because he can't fucking stand it. — YOU CAN NEVER BREAK OUT OF YOUR "ROLE" YOU LITTLE SQUIRMING WORM, NO MATTER HOW MANY COMIC BOOKS YOU READ — YOU WERE SIMPLY BORN A WORM AND YOU WILL FUCKING DIE ONE!
   Then, in the next panel, after his absurd theory of art being some random arbitrary impulse that has nothing to do with our instincts but which however somehow magically allows the wretched and the miserable to stop being wretched and miserable, he makes a 180-degree turn and concedes that art has its uses "from an evolutionary standpoint" — THUS COMPLETELY ANNIHILATING HIS DEFINITION IN THE FIRST PANEL THAT ART IS THAT WHICH HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH IT.

lol, etc.

As for those uses of art he mentions:

1. Art as "sports and games" in "later centuries". — Nonsense. Games existed EVEN BEFORE MAN — even fucking BEAR CUBS play games, and certainly our much more playful monkey-like ancestors. Sports are merely an evolution and a ritualization of these games in a more rigid framework.

2. "Art as self expression" with the "artist as hero", lol. — Again a retarded inference based on the psychology of the comic book nerd who, because he has drawn a superman, fancies that he himself is a kind of superman. But a Homer is not an Achilles, a Goethe is not a Faust — an Achilles does not scribble about Achilles — he lives, he acts, he is, he does not fantasize — the artist, the fantasist, comes AFTERWARD, to sing the hero's life and deeds — he himself is by no means a hero, for if he were he wouldn't have had any time to be an artist.

3. "Art as discovery", "as the pursuit of truth". — Finally the comic book nerd raises comic drawing to metaphysical significance — art finally replacing science and philosophy as the most important activity in the universe — not to mention that ridiculous aside about MODERN art, "the soul of much modern art", AS IF "MODERN" ART ACTUALLY HAD A SOUL! AS IF BAUDRILLARD HAD NEVER EXISTED, AS IF HE HADN'T BEEN LAMBASTING FOR DECADES THE MODERN PSEUDO-ARTISTS AND PSEUDO-ART-LOVERS FOR "that shameful complicity in which creators and consumers commune wordlessly in the examination of strange, inexplicable objects that refer only to themselves and to the idea of art"...

But what is most offensive about all this fucking dribble is not really the IGNORANCE or the IDIOCY, but the SMARMISHNESS, the SELF-CONFIDENCE and the POMPOUSNESS with which the little subhuman prick tries to pass off his randomly stuck together junk-knowledge as profundity. Ignorance and idiocy by themselves do not bother me that much, but when they are found together with such blind self-satisfaction and conviction — that is what I find unbearable.