White Elephant Art vs. Termite Art
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
"White Elephant Art vs. Termite Art" is a film essay by Manny Farber, which originally appeared in Film Culture in 1962, collected in the anthology Negative Space. In it he writes on the virtues of "termite art" and the excesses of "white elephant art," and eloquently champions the B film and under-appreciated auteurs, which he felt were able, termite-like, to burrow into a topic. Bloated, pretentious, white elephant art lacks the economy of expression found in the greatest works of termite art.
"Termite-tapeworm-fungus-moss art," Farber contends, "goes always forward eating its own boundaries, and, like as not, leaves nothing in its path other than the signs of eager, industrious, unkempt activity."