Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Cynicism: This Is What I'm Talking About

devore writes:
We're attached to attack, because we're a complacent, conservative society committed to our comfort zones. Your argument that art should or shouldn't be this or that way augments the truth that we're a culture of tribes. For one, I don't believe in high brow or low brow. I spent a very brief period of my career as a food critic (very, very brief). The one lesson I took from it is that I love cheeseburgers as much as I love duck confit or toro sashimi. Culturally, people want to be told what they want to hear. They're not angry, they're petulant. They don't want community, because a community accepts differences, and we're a society that wants to pretend everyone thinks the same and if they don't, if they want to truly buck the status quo, they get screamed at.I have no idea what a serious artist is. I find the notion hopelessly bourgeois.I have no responsibility to anyone but myself, as art is an affirmation of existence, a marker that announces in a thousand different ways "I exist, and this is the world filtered through my heart, my eyes, my mind, my soul."Which is why, friends, the only true modern art form is advertising. It's what museums will be full of in 400 years. It reflects, honestly and properly, our era. And with that, I'm going to go purchase some Burger King chicken fries, and maybe scribble a few notes about a play about a talking Nazi fetus.

Notice the repeated word "they" along with the even more frequently repeated word "I." A combination of disdain for others and narcissism. Combine that with a fashionable nihilism, and you have the recipe for late capitalist consumer society. And "adolescent" is the word that seems to be echoing in my mind at this moment.


Anonymous said...

Should I feel flattered or condescended too, Scott? Honestly, to copy edit and split hairs over "they" and "I", especially in the context of a messageboard, which is by definition a place of casual writing, casts you in a petty light. Thanks for singling me out, though. Do you do likewise to your students? Lord over them with the one-two combination punch of open-hearted bohemian and imperious pendant?

And if you think I'm adolescent, then so be it. While you refer to yourself as “old”, I just think your nostalgic for a time that never existed, some artistic utopia where art was a fire to warm oneself by, instead of a fire that burned things down or at the best, led one out of the darkness. I hope you have plenty of pillows for your comfort zone.

I'm a satirist, and the first rule of satire is that you eat the sacred cows, your own sacred cows being at the top of the menu. I think that applies to “serious” artists. I wouldn’t know though. Not being a “serious” artist.

That said, I will offer that irony has become an end, culturally, instead of a means. Its become a distancing tool, keeping the artist and his or her or mine or yours or their audience at a safe distance from the truth of the world.

Let's not get into what that truth is. Personally, it's ugly.

Scott Walters said...

devore -- would you say my comments are unfair? You do seem cynical:

1. Believing or showing the belief that people are motivated chiefly by base or selfish concerns; skeptical of the motives of others: a cynical dismissal of the politician's promise to reform the campaign finance system.

2. Negative or pessimistic, as from world-weariness: a cynical view of the average voter's intelligence.

3. Expressing jaded or scornful skepticism or negativity: cynical laughter.

It isn't a viewpoint I respect very much, because it seems to combine with passivity, an unwillingness to believe in anything with enough fervor to make a positive difference.

However, if you feel as if I have insulted you, I will remove my post. Let me know what you would like to do.

Anonymous said...

Firstly, what's the point of the web or discourse if you delete posts. Keep it up. Whether I'm insulted is immaterial. I'll get over it. Seriously, if we can't get bitchy, or snap, or defend what we believe in, what's the point?

And ok, maybe I am cynical. But it's just a hard candy shell. I'm all milk chocolate center. Except for the thorn buried deep inside.

I am currently seething/thinking/pondering all of these posts. I mean,I may be slow, but considering art and truth and history takes a toll on my noggin.

Scott Walters said...

OK, now I feel guilty. I'm sorry I whacked you. I look forward to hearing from you in the future.

Alison Croggon said...

Hmm. Is irony the same as cynicism? I can read it both ways, but I tend to think Devore is being ironic. All depends on the performance, I guess...

DL said...

Irony is *not* the same as cynicism. I don't care to take sides here but it is not the same. I am preparing a post about that... Coming soon...

And gentlemen, if you were in a room together, would you treat each other this way ?
Just wondering...
And if yes, then please continue !

Freeman said...

Knowing Devore personally, a word to say he's a big cuddly teddy bear who happens to have a wicked, wicked wit. No harm in it. Well, actually, there can be a great deal of harm in it, and he tends to direct that harm towards the sort of powerful people that need a reality check.

And in Scott's defense, I think he's trying to be as provocative as anyone else. He's just doing it by using posters as examples, which is only bringing hits to the site and raising the ire of those involved. Which I think is, fairly, effective. It's simply not fair to go after those who comment if they speak in a way you disagree with.

We traffic in mutual respect, and we should remember it. I think Devore is hilarious, he's a pal, and he's a downtown theater mainstay that's worked as hard (if not harder) than most people to put great stuff on the stage.

If cynicism or irony or rocket fuel or coffee fuel the work, who's to say its not respectable?

I'd say the best thing to focus on isn't whether or not cynicism in the artist is all that important: let's maybe move the discuss towards actual works (plays themselves, structure, language, images) and their relatives merits. That might keep things from getting so personal and, um, bitchy.

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