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« DVD Journal: "8 1/2 Women" | Main | Times Arts Frownlines 5 »

September 03, 2002

The Big Picture, Derbyshire Style & TV Into Movies redux


As regards "alternative consciousness" and "art," one small anecdote:

When I was in my late twenties, I was in art school and was working 14-hours a day, seven days a week. (I was also supporting myself via part time work in addition to going to art school full time.) More oppressive than the burden of work or school, however, was an obsessive idea -- almost unnoticed because it was omnipresent -- of being driven to accomplishments that were never quite within my grasp, but were nonetheless urgent, very urgent. Things were not -- and never had been -- just okay with me. I always had things to do, and they all needed to have been done yesterday.

On a whim after classes one Friday, I visited a nearby natural history museum. It was at the end of the day and there were few visitors. I ended up sitting alone in a huge darkened room filled with dimly lit dioramas, listening to the echoing sounds of children shrieking as they ran around thefloors below. (Yes, yes, it was the exactly the echoing sound of childish laughter that is a cliché of the haunted house movie.) As the sound faded -- the only indication of human presence I could hear or see -- I had a strange moment. I was entirely at peace. I had nowhere to go, nothing to do; everything was (astonishingly) just fine. I was suddenly aware of another version of myself, which seemed to me to be my "seven-year-old" self. My seven-year-old self and I reviewed the 20-odd years that had passed since I had in fact been seven, during which I had struggled to
impress teachers, employers, girls, colleagues, fellow students, parents.

It came to me, very peaceably and with great calm, that this had all been a complete fucking waste of time.

What became clear was that in fact, what I had liked and been willing to invest time in at seven was exactly what I still liked; anything I wouldn't have thought was 'cool' or 'neat' at age seven I still really had no interest in. I sat very pleasantly on that bench for another 15 or 20 minutes, and then realized that it was time to go back to my "ordinary" life. I knew I would have to continue to struggle with my own compulsion to impress the world, but that was just the way things were. My seven-year-old takes a very long view of things; the concept of time seems foreign to him.

So what does all this have to do with interest in art? Well, my inner seven-year-old is definitely the part of me that cares about art. What my inner seven-year-old likes is the re-working or re-presentation of some aspect of the world so that it becomes a more meaningful version of itself (at least to me.)

During my tour of the museum, just prior to this unusual moment, I had been inspecting the painted landscape backgrounds of the wildlife dioramas, which had struck me as being quite well done -- a conclusion that had been devalued, simultaneously, by my realization that these paintings would never find their way into any art-history text or museum, that they were outside the social bounds of "fine art." Once my seven year old came out to play, however, he/I realized the dioramas were, in fact, quite "neat" (at least once I had mentally subtracted the rather off-putting stuffed animals).

Looking at them on the way out I noticed the displays' odd hybrid of "sculpture" -- i.e., the three-dimensional aspects of the diorama, the plants and dirt and such -- with "painting" -- i.e, the landscape backgrounds which, intriguingly curved around behind them without creating the necessity of a single viewing point, all of which combined to make a specific landscape setting representative of an ecological zone. This was definitely a technique my seven year old wanted to play with. As for the fact that other people were too stupid to see it as art was their problem, not mine.

Okay, I acknowledge, my inner seven-year-old is no diplomat.

Now, I will grant you that this definition of "art" may well exclude many different and valid art-making strategies, but what can I say -- I appear stuck with it. I recall that when D. H. Lawrence was asked if he believed in art for art's sake or in art for society's sake, he replied that he believed in art for HIS sake. My seven-year-old agrees.

By the way, regarding your discussion of "TV into Movies" -- it sounds to me (without having seen either film) as if those flicks reflect the consciousness of the average twenty-something: someone who is still habitually values the world's judgments over their own, someone who hasn't found their "center" yet, and who can't, therefore, come to any meaningful terms with tradition yet. I suppose they would be better movies if rather than embodying this condition they were outside of it and could comment on it, but, heck, give 'em time.



posted by Friedrich at September 3, 2002


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