Friday, November 21, 2008

Seven Seconds in the Art World

Thanks to Eileen Tabios for turning me on via blog to Barry Schwabsky’s review of Seven Days in the Art World in The Nation. Especially liked this tasty locution:

“Art is the field that exists in order for there to be contention about what art is.”

He goes on to argue that despite academic theories, waves of Dada-like anti-art gestures rolling through the century, the “umbilical cord of gold” that threatens to turn artworks into commodities pure and simple, and savage doubts about the social role of the museum along with objects it contains, collectors themselves keep coming back for old romantic goodies like uniqueness, originality, visionary struggle—“the revelation of creative selfhood through the manipulation of impersonal materials.”


konrad said...

I actually like best Bob Dylan's answer about why poetry exists. At a press conference taped at KQED in San Francisco in 1965, someone asks what he thinks of press conferences. He says he can't take them too seriously because everyone takes away different images from what is said. Then some wise guy asks "Why do you bother to write the poetry if we all get different images?" and he answers, "There's nothing else to do." The whole room roared with laughter.

Nada said...

There’s no denying the incomparable appeal of the young Dylan in his trapeze-artist/Cate Blanchett phase, especially in his drainpipes and Wayfarers. His answer here is elegant, to be sure. It’s also a little reductive, and I reckon there’s a lot more to say about why one might be tempted to do something so ridiculous as write poetry.

Why, just this morning, I followed this link on Ron’s blog, and got to this wonderful interview with David Bromige.
TMS: What purpose has poetry served in your life, other than as a career.

DB: It's given me my life. It's given me being. It was my entry to being. I didn't know what else to do with my life. I had no idea what to do with my life. It seemed like there wasn't anything to do, with a life, and that in itself is a poetic recognition, I think. I didn't get there as soon as I might have, but I had a very strong "get a job" ethic instilled into me, so I guess I felt the purpose of life was to find a job, and do it as well as you could, and then have all the fun you could fit in, around the edges of it. But when I started to write, then I realized that there was something else that I could do that filled me and was a space I could keep filling with myself.

I also addressed some of these issues myself in a 2003 interview. I might revise some of my answers now, but the principles still hold:

phaneronoemikon said...

matter and consciousness
are still weirder
than any answer so far
to anything

not many get
the ear-splitting
that is our actual

natively derived
thinking matter beings

poetry is everything
in its pure synthetic
dream energy
of oneness' finality

ur s

the mu-sick
sac face



konrad said...

That's a very elegant expansion of the idea that Bromige has there. Indeed that is the expansiveness that poets are known for!

But just to defend my quoting Dylan, he was also being a "wise guy" in return, hence the brevity. And he didn't say there's nothing "better" to do, as if to speak for everyone.

The bigger point i wanted to make is really that when you are a poet/artist looking from the inside out, it's not the things Rodney's quoting about that come to mind at he question "why?"

Everything you do is diverted into that being-a-poet/artist/musican/et al. Not that one doesn't "do" other things besides write poems, but that all things that happen to you are in potential service to that. Bromige gives a nod to this idea, and you do too. Dylan's remark was like the last thing one might say to oneself and the end of a long stretch of self-doubt (which that guy's catty asking of the ultimate question represents), a remark which asserts one's survival.

It's maybe the flip (pun intended) side to the other Beckett's There's nothing to be done.

rodney k said...

"Seven Days in the Art World," the book Schwabsky reviews, is written by a sociologist who talked to a number of persons, most of them not artists themselves, who drive the contemporary art world through activities like collecting, curating, reviewing, etc.

I liked it in part because it challenged me to imagine a similar group of intensely interested "non-artists" active in contemporary poetry. We don't have a market in the same way the art world does, so it's harder to make the "collectors" of contemporary poetry visible. It's an article of faith on my part though that they're out there somewhere, buying new books from the SPD catalog and coming to readings and following these blogs. But damned sometimes if I can see 'em.

That's one of the quirks of the poetry world though: that every private carries a poet's wand in the knapsack.

konrad said...

Well, my defense of the artist was basically motivated by the insinuation that art exists only to navel-gaze.

Don't those time-honored "romantic goodies" apply to poetry as well? Why doesn't that drive prices up to a living wage for poets?

Don't people share writing, more than they collect it? What seems different about the economy of the poetry world is that so many people are both readers and writers.

Whereas the roles of producing and consuming are specialized in the Arts World.