I first found Adorno and Horkheimer's critique of pop culture in the Culture Industry very compelling. Their idea that pop culture was factory produced and induced mindless consumerism as opposed to legitimate and challenging art seemed very intuitive. Then I realized that Adorno considered Jazz to be such a form of pop culture, which is very ironic, given that nowadays it is considered a very challenging form of music compared to the likes of Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift.
This had me thinking that maybe the value or validity of a genre or an art form can only be relative. Jazz, or Ingmar Bergman movies seemed cheap and commercial back in the day, but are no longer considered so. Moreover, the standard "commercial" vs "authentic" classification of movies, music, etc,...seems fallacious, since the moment someone produces or performs art in a professional capacity and expects to be payed for their services, that art becomes commercial by definition. If legitimate art is that which is not for profit, then how is one to separate art for the sake of art from high school plays and amateur cover bands?
And yet at the same time it seems to me perfectly objective to say that Rachmaninov is a higher art form than Beyonce, or that Steve McQueen (the director not the actor) films are more authentic than Michael Bay films. Or a more extreme example, no one would ever consider the majority of pornography available on the internet as legitimate or high art in any way.
My question is:
- Is it ever possible to objectively rank art works and genres by their validity or authenticity?
- In aesthetics, is there a working definition of "high art" or "fine art" as opposed to "low art" or "commercial art"? Or at least a demarcation problem similar to the one in philosophy of science?
- Why is it that works and genres seem to acquire authenticity over time? Bram Stoker's Dracula was just fun adventure fiction when it first came out but it is now regarded a literary classic, or look at how the perception of Jazz evolved from Adorno's time to now.