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February 02, 2007

Art and Entertainment, Or Maybe Art Vs. Entertainment

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

I ran across this YouTube video showing a talented draftsman making drawings of various YouTube personalities. Fun drawings, fun watching the guy draw. And a fun concept, too: treating YouTube personalities as people-worthy-of-portraits, and then making his own product be 1) the process of drawing, and not just on-paper but as-videotaped; and 2) the YouTube broadcast of the process of drawing. That's a niftier bit of conceptual art than anything I've run across in a gallery recently. But was it even intended as such? Double-fun!

I enthusiastically emailed a link to the video to FvB, who wrote me back this email:

It is a cool idea. And his stuff is pretty interesting. I just spent a couple hours in a bookstore looking at a big art book on Italian fresco series of the High Renaissance-Mannerist era. Quite entertaining stuff from some people who don't have the biggest reps: Domenico Beccafumi , Il Pordenone, Pellegrino Tibaldi, etc.

What intrigues me about it, I think, is that it's technically all about the drawing, and boy were these guys swaggering draftsmen. It wasn't mere realism, although clearly they could have been accomplished realists if they had wanted to go in that direction. It was about "figurative art" -- the nude in action, stylized, anatomized, exaggerated, but always with a sort of goofy energy and lotsa style. They don't have Michelangelo's depth, but they were surely highly skilled entertainers. And, as I saw a year-and-a-half ago in Florence, even slightly goofy stuff can knock your socks off when it covers hundreds of square feet up on a wall -- part of the oddity you get when you look at a book-size reproduction goes away when you see the work full scale and in situ.

Always something to be said for entertainment, no?

Which got me babbling back to FvB about art vs. entertainment thusly:

The aversion that high-minded people have to entertainment always amazes me. Sniff, sniff -- it isn't aaaaaaart. Screw 'em. If I didn't have a weak spot for art myself I'd probably confine my activities (consuming and producing) to entertainment. At least showbiz people like money and sex and glitz. At least they have a sense that (as an actor friend of mine likes to say) they have to "sing for their supper." Art people on the other hand find all that ... well, embarassing. Painful. Humiliating. I kinda like the rough-and-ready, extraverted stuff myself. And I certainly like it much better than sitting around bitching about how vulgar the world is.

As for the YouTube video -- I wonder if this combining-drawing-with-video thing is becoming or already has become a kind of genre of its own. I hope so! I love the lightly-edited videoclip thing generally: a dude and his buds practicing hoops, girls doing webcam stuff, kitty videos, that guy who plays songs by squeezing his palms together ... It's casual, anyone can turn a videocam on, and everyone seems to be doing it ...

The Wife calls it the computer-age version of naive or outsider or primitive or unconscious art. And, like me, she's amazed by how inventive a lot of what gets done is -- and often by people who have no idea they're being inventive. I often adore the vids just for the glimpses of living rooms and bedrooms they divulge. The sofas people buy! The funny skills and interests they have, and want to share! The ways people devise to goof around!

Fun times.

Which prompted FvB to write back, "Fun times indeed."



posted by Michael at February 2, 2007


Your comments made me think of something Meryl Streep once said about Liza Minnelli. Streep said she had sort of protected and husbanded her talent, and then she saw Liza perform live (back, I think, when seeing Liza perform live was something to see, as opposed to what might be a painful parody today). And Liza just gave it all away, just poured it out, no holes barred. And Streep realized she needed to do more of that--more "singing for her supper"--as opposed to retaining her reserve and "only certain projects" and all that. My guess is it led to a number of the comedies Streep has done, at which she is quite entertaining. Streisand mentioned it once, too, that she and Liza and a few others were at someone's home over the holidays (several years ago) and Liza just sang a Christmas carol. No lighting, no orchestra---just sang a Christmas carol live, at the piano, for five or six friends. And Streisand was floored--no hours of rehearsal, no sweating the arrangement. It had been decades since Barbra had just--impromptu-- sung a song. It's reported Babs didn't even sing lullabies to her son, because "singing is what she did professionally, not at home." Streisand and Streep were treating it like religion, and Minnelli was treating it like fun.

Posted by: annette on February 2, 2007 4:07 PM

Drawing's fun. When I was a kid we had a formica top kitchen table. Perfect for drawing. No friction on that perfectly smooth surface for the pencil to work against. Untold the masterpieces I left on that table top, only to be swept away with the swipe of a sponge or dishrag. Ah well -- toujours gay Archie, toujours gay.

Posted by: ricpic on February 2, 2007 10:09 PM

My apologies Mr. Marquis, that should be: toujours gai, archie, toujours gai...whathehell, whathehell.

Posted by: ricpic on February 3, 2007 6:37 AM

All art is entertainment. If you don't find some fine art or lit-fic entertaining, then it's bad art, but still art.

Posted by: Peter L. Winkler on February 3, 2007 4:33 PM

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