Art Is Hard
If you've been alive and aware in the world for the last thirty-odd years, you've been witness to a phenomenon. In publishing, TV, movies, art and the music industry, there's been a wave that started fairly small, but is in tsunami proportion these days. Hey, Sony, Warner, Simon and Schuster, NBC, so many others, I know you're scared and you've a right to be. Digital is hurting you badly, but even so, you giants are controlling the majority of what we see and hear. A lot of it is abysmal while the truly original is standing hungry on the side of the road. (Probably somewhere in Nevada.) Cloning what already made $, doing quick buck crap, and sensationalizing mediocrity for easy money is pretty damn seductive, and after all, the bottom line is what really matters. Or is it?
Does what we produce creatively as a civilization define us? Yes, it does.
Visual arts, architecture, philosophy, written works and music are achievements that defy time. Think about what came before us, and then really think about what we are producing now. It's a sobering thought. Three hundred or three thousand years from now, that our current civilization may defined by Star Wars Episode 1, James Patterson, Pit Bull, or Duck Dynasty is appalling, nay, downright horrifying. For a moment, try to forget our politics, social issues, religious differences, educational failures, mannerless millenials, economic difficulties and think purely of the creative. I know, I know, it's the roils and turmoils of society that affect what it produces, but that's about a dozen books that I don't have the time to research and write. For this moment, just look at the artistic side of things and admit we could do better. It won't hurt, or at least only for a minute or two.
It's hard because maybe there's just too much stuff out there. It's impossible to keep up with it all - TV, movies, music, books and art - digital and otherwise -- it's a pop culture cornucopia bombarding our brains, and there isn't enough time in anyone's life to see it, hear it, experience it. But we try and maybe we're trying too hard. People can be easily entertained, but if you think about it, some of the best memories you have are of things that lasted longer than a 2-minute video or a book you read in an hour, things that may have taken a little deeper look or listen. Look harder: radio stations that play indie artists instead of pop; independent reviewers for music, movies, art, TV, writing, like McSweeney's, Paste Magazine, Salon, NPR, Kickstarter, film festivals, art shows. It's out there, buried in the onslaught of what iTunes, Entertainment or the Grammy awards tells you you want.
As Americans, variety is a given and we're told anything is OK and that nobody has a right to censor us and what we wish to artistically consume. While that is a wonderful and true ideal, it also assumes that we aren't psychotic or stupid. I think originally it was also assumed that people would take the time to educate themselves and learn discernment. Oops. There's a lot of wiggle room in those ideas lately.
Fight back. Think for yourself. Remember -- you are served what you will eat. Start getting picky and the fare will improve. Who knows where that could go?