Wednesday, October 18, 2006

scathing review

Part of the problem with your art, I think, is that it is not good art, but simply art for art’s sake. Images, words, melodies without significance. Material without content. No inherent meaning, no…essence. Is that the word?

The force which may be called a living creature’s élan vital is decidedly absent in your work. Rather than thrusting meaning upon the viewer, your work sits back, passively asking the viewer to seek meaning.

“Find it,” your work seems to say, “I dare you.”

An inferior artist might call this absence of substance ambiguity and be done with it, saying, “If you can’t find the meaning, then you’re the problem.” A true artist, upon creating such an empty piece, will scrap it and start over, saying, “There was no meaning, it was not art. It lacked that…something.” And the word she seeks will be essence.

“But what of the surrealists?” the inferior artist will ask, desperate to align herself with someone, anyone. “Decades later, we’re still trying to figure out what their art meant.”

But it’s simply the difference between hollow and multifaceted work. The difference between a piece with no energy, straining the viewer’s eyes with its absence, and a piece bursting with energy, blinding the viewer with its brilliance. It’s the difference, really, between an idiot’s trite remark and a wit’s double entendre.

Is it not cheap to write a book without a plot and ask the reader to look for one? Are fancy words enough? Is spot-on grammar, impeccable punctuation, and a good idea enough to lay down a classic which will be enjoyed for generations to come? Is asking a whole string of questions a lazy way to get your point across?

Part of the problem with your art, I think, is that it is not good art, but simply the art of someone who wants desperately to be an artist. It’s easy to surround yourself with others who want the same thing and feel that you’re all really part of something. Slap each other on the back. Be supportive. Throw around words like profound, genius, and brilliant. And as long as you never look beyond your circle you will never be wrong.

But what if, on the way to the market to buy some milk, you finally run into greatness? To pass Picasso on the street, you’d have known you were approaching a great man. To stand in line behind Kafka at the till, you’d have known you were in the presence of an awesome mind. Will your fantasy life be able to withstand such a shock to the system as when you finally come face to face with true brilliance? Or will the integrity of your fantasy life be undermined and those who you surround yourself with be instantly revealed as what they truly are? Non-artists. Anti-artists, even. Not celebrated creators, but mere manufacturers. Manufacturers of style, of personality, of the very lives they live. Manufacturers without that élan vital. Poseurs, the whole lot.

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