Thursday, July 17, 2008

Anti-Art

Riss did a recent post that got my teeth to gnashing. She did a short rant on creative-types who spend more time talking about their work than they do DOING it.

Yup, everyone out there just thought of somebody. No use denying it, I know you did.

That's because they're everywhere. And the minute they sense the creativity in you, they descend those wraith things that guard Azkabhan, trying to suck the warmth and the life from your art.

These ghoulish creatures have been possessed by the spirit of anti-art.

Some, as in Riss's post, talk endlessly about what their work *should* be saying to people. They'll go on and on (and on-- you didn't have to be anywhere, did you?) about statements made by light and shadow in their poetry, about PostModern Deconstructionalsim and the New Structure in their dance pieces, about hearing forms of visual music in their paintings and about how, really, their work challenges the essence of what we have, until now, thought of as a novel, painting, sculpture, dance, mime, poem, song, pile of crap lying on the floor that you were about to clean.

This is one reason I steer clear of university coffee houses. These assholes are everywhere, but at least at the pub their words are smaller.

As long as they actually, you know, *have* some work to talk about, I find these folks the most forgivable. A certain amount of self-promotion is necessary to pay the rent, and we all prefer an artist who can give a coherent and concise teaser about their work, the 'elevator pitch'. Key words being 'concise' and 'coherent'.

Others love to tell you about the work they'd make, if only it were possible. This bunch usually think they're visual artists of some stripe (painters, sculptors, installationists, etc), though I have known a fair few writers who were only too happy to tell me (at length) about how they'd write this great novel if only
a) they had a computer,
b) the computer was a laptop,
c) the laptop had a more intuitive word-processing program,
d) they had silence in which to write,
e) they had crowd noise around them, people talking and so on
f) the computer didn't make that little hum
g) pens and paper didn't cramp their hand
etc. etc. et freaking cetera...

Once, I thought these poor souls actually wanted to make something. Sadly, it took longer than it should have for me to realize that what they really wanted was to suck me in to their world of slack.

And then of course, there's the garden variety failure. Older men seem to delight in this role, but it's not a closed shop by any means. You know The Failure, you meet him all the time. When I was a kid he'd say, "Painting, eh? I used to paint a bit m'self, even had a picture on the wall in a coffee shop once. No money in it, of course. No, you'll soon come to your senses as I did and sell car upholstery over the telephone."

Now, they usually like to tell me how they had an idea for a novel once. It was going to be about a financial services advisor who lives in a van and solves supernatural crimes. Had a really great twist in mind, too... (furtive look from side to side) (hoarse whisper) the ghosts weren't really ghosts at all. They were going to be these old guys, dressed up in bedsheets and roller skates, pretending to be ghosts!

*sigh*

I joke, but these Spirits of Anti-Art aren't funny. If you allow them, they will derail every last bit of creativity, sucking you dry until there's little left but rattling bones. You'll drift up to that shabby kid typing in Starbucks and say, "Screenplay, eh? I have a fantastic idea, uses shadow and light to challenge the very essence of linear storytelling. I'd write it, if only I could use electronics underwater in a sensory isolation tank. Of course, nobody actually makes a living in movies, that's all just smoke and mirrors and accounting tricks. I should know, been an accountant for..."

Until you see the light fade from that kid's eyes, too...

17 comments:

Riss said...

A-bloody-men sir. Anti-Artists...and I agree, if you have work and you just haven't figured it out yet...that's ok, talk away. God knows I've done it. And The Failures (teehee) are my favorite...they're like a nasty skin rash. And the power they have is really pretty scary. I'm also ok with people who do stuff and realize that it's probably not going to be their ticket to whatever...but they do it anyway. Who are some of your favorite artists? 1 past, 1 present. Go. (c:

And, in the pubs, you just can't understand what they say as well as you can when they're simpering in a coffee shop.

Charles Gramlich said...

I've known plenty of these types. Always an excuse, or just that their work is soooo impressive that no one understands them. They don't "fit" into a genre so they can't sell their work. The academic types don't like them, or the common readers don't understand them, or...well something or another. They sure can be a drain.

Lisa said...

I think I was lucky to have hooked up with a full time painter before I committed to fiction writing myself, because I got an up close and personal view of the characters in the art world -- and they are, of course equally represented in the writing world.

It mystified me at first that he was never forthcoming with strangers about what he does and that when people would find out that he paints and they started asking questions, he would change the subject immediately.

It didn't take long to figure out why. If I had a nickel for every time I heard someone say "oh, my wife paints too", as if being an occasional hobbyist was at all the same thing, and I know it makes Scott crazy, which is why he avoids talking art at all unless it's with another painter that he knows or I'm grilling him about something.

I've found that people who are really writing and who are putting the time into what they do rarely have much to say about it and they seem to take a similar stance when accosted by non-writers or people who claim to be great writers (except they don't actually write anything).

Steve Malley said...

Riss, past: Boucher and Fragonard, present: Jon Foster, Frank Frazetta. Your turn.

Charles, you're dead on. We all know these types, and I suspect that's no coincidence...

Lisa, my favorite is, "My cousin/aunt/postman/etc. can draw, makes it look just like anything. Me, I can't draw a stick figure..." Ugh.

Bernita said...

Yup. Met them.
Thank you.

Riss said...

Oh boy. Ok, lemme think...Past: Caravaggio and Bocklin. Those are easy. Specifically Bocklin's Isle of the Dead. Current...that's slightly more difficult. I would say Karen Jacobs (though i haven't seen any new work in a bit) and Julia Watkins-specifically the 4 robed monks. I have others in both categories but those will do for now. Ok-so here's the question of the moment, is there a specific artist, not one whom you'd consider a favorite, or even really care for their work all that much, that has influenced you and the direction you've taken?

Lana Gramlich said...

You are SOOO right! That's part of the reason I don't like titling my paintings. The image does my talking for me. Same thing for an artist's statement. I'm not here to explain my art to anyone. I produce it--you experience what you will, y'know? But noooOOOooo, the "powers that be" insist on all kinds of flowery words or they won't even consider you work. *snort* WhatEVER!
But I've seriously digressed from the subject, once again. Another reason I should never be trusted with words!
Most of our modern society (at least here in the West,) is "anti-art" in general. In school aspiring artists are encouraged to learn something "valuable" to fall back on, at least. Do we do this to aspiring lawyers, bakers, accountants? At art fairs, the artists pay the fees. At other fairs, the visiting public does. It's so asinine!
Gads...I've digressed AGAIN. See?

Riss said...

Lana, I have to agree with you. It's a lot easier to find funding if you have a "real" event that you're going to be hosting. Then again, I have to say that some credit is due where, well, it's due. I am going to be participating in an art fair out here in Kansas City that while it does have a booth rental fee the things they are providing are all done by the city and most of it for free. And, there's no judging or anything, you just get in. Which is nice. It could be problematic in the end but really, it's refreshing to not have to prove myself over and over again. You're either an artist or you aren't. Also-when you get into the higher level stuff, there's some really great opportunities out there. I recommend checking out www.resartis.org It's artist residences but there's some good information out there, including ones that pay you instead of the other way around. (c:

Riss said...

Lana, I have to agree with you. It's a lot easier to find funding if you have a "real" event that you're going to be hosting. Then again, I have to say that some credit is due where, well, it's due. I am going to be participating in an art fair out here in Kansas City that while it does have a booth rental fee the things they are providing are all done by the city and most of it for free. And, there's no judging or anything, you just get in. Which is nice. It could be problematic in the end but really, it's refreshing to not have to prove myself over and over again. You're either an artist or you aren't. Also-when you get into the higher level stuff, there's some really great opportunities out there. I recommend checking out www.resartis.org It's artist residences but there's some good information out there, including ones that pay you instead of the other way around. (c:

Steve Malley said...

Bernita, you're so productive, I can't imagine you pay them much attention.

Riss, there've been a big old mess of influences on me that way. Every creative-type I meet influences me somehow. As I like to say, I take what I like and leave the rest.

Lana, you're a brave woman. I didn't have what it took to hustle paintings. I know well the BS you wade through to do so, and my hat is off to you.

Riss, still wishing you good luck with that German residency. I haven't forgotten!

Riss said...

Thanks. I got it dropped in the mail quite frantically in true pantser style at like, 5 'til the post office closed. (c: It was great. I had Alex working on getting the printer working and Johannes downstairs waiting until I was out of "moster lady i'm in a hurry" mode trying to get the last things in order and organized...and then Alex and I threw some not PJ's on and drove to the post office...he did the talking. It worked out. Barely. So now we wait. Phew.

Barbara Martin said...

I, too, deal with anti-artists, once in awhile. I've had a couple of people say to me they were thinking of writing....but had never gotten around to it, or, they'd been talked out of it by their significant other who had said many writers don't make any money.

Bernita said...

Productive? Moi?
~falls off the chair laughing~

Shauna Roberts said...

This is the reason I don't talk about my fiction writing outside the blog world and my writers' groups. I'm a little less guarded about my pay-the-bills medical writing, but even that attracts odd comments I'd just as soon avoid.

Lana Gramlich said...

Riss; Thanks for the tip. I'll check that out!

Steve; You flatter me. *blush*

Steve Malley said...

Barbara, 'no money' is one old and nasty chestnut. It just refuses to die, despite evidence to the contrary.

A dinner guest in my home trotted that one out the other night, stating with authority that it was impossible to make a living in the arts, despite the fact that I haven't had a 'real job' in over fifteen years, and that my 'little drawings' paid for the food on the table.

So it goes.

Steve Malley said...

Bernita, your stories show up *everywhere*. You can't convince me you don't work hard...

Shauna, I understand the temptation to hide your light under a bushel.

Lana, no flattery needed. You do a hard job, and do it well...