State of Art: Afterword

Were a recent single by Brand New about the epidemic of detachment in this technological age, its chorus ("We don't feel anything") would encapsulate.

How often do you witness friends and couples looking at phones instead of each other?

How many play sports compared to video games?

When people do connect, it's over the internet.

Once cognizant and comparatively unafraid of the immense, inexorable responsibility of free decision making, humans are, through absorption in machines, fast becoming robotic.

We don't feel anything.

Yet, in addition to honoring and enlarging artistic achievement, opportunity awaits. Rather than continue exploiting the scintilla of independent fertility, why not problematize fallow ground?

If artists delivered a broadside to mechanical culture, it would fascinate and, more importantly, provoke. Such a movement, designed, like all legitimate and successful, to jar people awake, could surpass anything recent.

Time for art to rage against machines.

State of Art: Part Two

III.

Dylan’s “Hard Rain” is immortal, and would be had Dylan remained obscure.

Yet had people responded less than feverishly, had they not praised this song, had Allen Ginsberg not declared it a “passing of the torch”—had artists not rallied around Dylan—lyrics such as “I’ve been ten thousand miles in the mouth of a graveyard” would have been great, though perhaps not revolutionary.

Sometimes artists create revolutionary work—but the revolution proves innocuous.

If we consider the response to Jeff Mangum’s In the Aeroplane Over the Sea against that of The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, only the music appears comparable. Mangum sells out concerts in less than an hour, but the influence Dylan bestowed on multiple generations is missing.

One could argue Dylan’s superiority as responsible for this discrepancy, but the question is not whether Dylan is a better songwriter. Has anyone since Dylan written better songs than Mangum?

Since Aeroplane was released, seventeen years ago, there has been precious little art of similar quality.

IV.

Mangum’s influence is missing in the ubiquitous “folk music” praised by teenage “artists” living off their parents’ credit and suburban mothers “earning” exorbitant sums, longing for music that sounds “back to the Earth.”

This is emulation: fabricated quasi-art for demographics steeped in formulaic preference. It alone proliferates.

Yet even if artists gain meager support, there is a chance.

If more supported art—regardless of talent—quality would improve.

If art were back in demand, there would be more artists.

More artists (total) would yield genius.

Support art you revere as fully as possible. Purchase, donate, read, write, listen, display, visit; above all, share.

Humans control regression. It cannot happen without our consent. Priorities changed, but they will again.

We are waiting for a masterpiece. But masterpieces have appeared. We praised them yet failed to support.

It would be no less “masterful” to create from prior genius. This broadens the impact of masterpieces. Perhaps it furthers a movement.

Supporting art makes it masterful in the first place.

State of Art: Part One

State of Art

I.

With art today, it’s hard to feel otherwise than discouraged.

I recently told a friend: books that, twenty years ago, would never have been recognized are winning grand prizes, along with stories and poetry I can barely finish reading. Performers do not write their music. They achieve fame based on looks, as if music were a beauty pageant.

One might say humans are quickly regressing.

Is this fair to earlier times?

Has anything rivaled 1960s New York?

Perhaps a few singular works—but as a movement?

Surely there has been nothing philosophically significant since Levinas first responded to Heidegger (mid 20th century), and given that Heidegger dressed his “magnum opus” largely in borrowed robes from Kierkegaard and Nietzsche, it’s fair to ask if groundbreaking philosophical output stopped mid 19th century.

What are we prioritizing? Technology.

That question requires no great “advance.”

Technology governs our world. Why? It makes everything convenient.

Were it not offensive, I would assert (without semblance of disclaimer) that secular, post-modern society has replaced God with convenience.

Why? I cannot answer because technology holds no intrinsic value.

Convenience is external and, by definition, opposes such value.

Are humans regressing?

Technology proves beneficial—in developing medicine, for instance (which ensures life)—but, if convenience is the motive, rewards are accidental.

II.

Where does this leave artists?

I am told art is exhausted.

“No potential for originality. The avant garde in decades past is commonplace.”

This is how people felt before the vanguard produced whatever cutting edge art these skeptics reference.

In spite of disapproval, rejection, squalid living and mortal illness, artists have churned out innovative work since humans became intellectually capable.

It would be foolish to assume this will not happen again, on a grand scale, because it has not lately.

If humans are regressing, art will incite reversal. What else is art’s purpose? Were intrinsic value not designed to reproduce, its “value” would be suspect.

To instill its full impact, art must seemingly arise from nothing. Igniting a movement and summoning followers requires negative comparison.

Drought must precede the storm.

Kierkegaard’s opponents knew his magnitude early, declaring his first major work “a bolt of lightning from a clear sky.” This portrayal signaled more than one hundred years of service to Existentialism.

Without an irruption of monotony, blasting established order, absence of value persists. A righteous battle cannot ensue until shots are fired.

Artistic revolution presupposes an enemy. It has the strongest effect when unique and utterly necessary.

We are waiting for a masterpiece.

We Need Vices!

Last month marked the fifth anniversary of my first publication in a literary magazine.

In honor of this milestone, I decided to resurrect the essay itself.

Click here to read and feel welcome to share your thoughts.

Thanks so much for supporting my work.

30/30

While awaiting a response on my book from multiple presses, I managed to complete my thirtieth work for publication a few days before my thirtieth birthday.

Thanks so much for your continual support.

New essays and stories are coming.