Wednesday, February 16, 2011

I'm out of bed and dressed. what more do you want?

You know, I just watched Exit Through The Gift Shop this past weekend and today when I sat down to write I was gonna kind of expound on my theories about sincerity, specifically in terms of someone who creates art. It seems like something that people find to be particularly important for some reason. Sincerity, it could even be said, can completely validate or invalidate someone’s whole canon in some people’s eyes, regardless of final product. This makes sense when it’s, say a senator who puts out legislation opposing gay marriage on moral grounds but secretly has gay sex with rentboys (or fucks around on his wife, which, it seems, is a greater perversion of the idea of marriage than making it all about wangs…) but not so much when it’s a guy who’s just making something to dance to or to hang on the wall. It kind of seems like the sincerity behind something’s not the issue. The issue is how the piece resonates with the spectator/listener/consumer…right?

Well, no. That’s not how it works at all. As it turns out, we need the people that are creating our art to believe in it 100%, and kind of live it. Otherwise, it’s often argued, the whole thing is ‘fake.’ This seems kind of irrelevant. My friend Tony is a chef. He (supposedly) makes great tasting food. Now, he won’t cook for me for several reasons, most of them having to do with us living across the country from each other and me being a turd that doesn’t go visit him or eat at his restaurants. But if he did cook for me, I think I’d tend to judge the food on presentation and taste, not so much his personal attitude. For example, let’s say he hates salmon. If I order salmon and he makes it and it’s good, is that a betrayal of the sincerity of his art? Of course not. He can hate it and do it well and I can enjoy it, and nary the twain shall meet, bro.

With visual and auditory art, this is different. The main reason this is the case is because artists in general tend to think of what they do as vastly more important than it is, and they tend to be passionate and there’s very little in terms of objective measuring that can be used to evaluate art, and so someone’s commitment, training and unique vision (or lack thereof in all three cases) tend to be given a ton of weight. This is true for music and sculpture and movies and everything in between. WHY you do something is absolutely as important as what you do, and in the case of the judgment of the untalented but passionate (99% of people creating things) it’s often MORE important somehow.

Now, in Exit Through The Gift Shop, there were several competing threads focused on the quest for sincerity. The big one obviously was the motivation of one of the artists in the movie, who it could be said was highly derivative and commercially motivated and generally a bit of a poser (I hate this word a LOT, by the way), but there’s also the question of the sincerity of the whole piece. Were all these artists who they claimed they were? Was the whole thing a sham? Is the ‘subpar’ art really created by one of the other artists? Is everyone in on it together? Is the whole thing (as they say in Britain) a pisstake? Is this just levels of highly sincere, Kaufman-esque insider tomfoolery designed to further insulate the true genius of art from the turdlike minds that enjoy it?

Eh…you gotta figure the answer is yes. That movie is pretty smug. But there’s more to it than that. The thing is, these two competing notions of sincerity are completely opposite. On one hand, we’ve got the desire to believe that our art is made because of a sincere need to create and not because people want to fool you into liking something that comes from a place of self-aggrandizement (fame, money, etc) but on the other hand, if this whole thing is a smug joke, then it’s nothing but self-aggrandizement at the expense of the audience, yet somehow that’s more palatable, perhaps because just seeing that potential outcome lets viewers pretend that they’re in on the joke…maybe. Who can say? The whole thing is weird.

The funny thing is that once things become overtly sincere, they cease to be great art. This is almost always true (I’ve said it before and I’ll say it a zillion more times before I die, Thomas Mann’s Death In Venice is a monument to this notion and it’s something that everyone who wants to create ANYTHING should read). Want a recent example? How about this: Did you watch Eminem’s weird bro-love Dr. Dre worship-a-thon on the Grammys? That shit was highly, highly wack.

Sure, Eminem loves Dre. Dre made a bunch of Em’s favorite records and gave him a career. He’s his mentor and hero and friend. That’s quite a bond. BUT, when Eminem goes out there with a look on his face like he’s in a Mexican standoff, furiously rhyming about why he’s only there because he owes everything to dre, it’s painful. It’s terribly painful. Because it’s embarrassing and dorky and schmaltzy and overwrought and uh…well, it’s too sincere.

See, Eminem made his name by saying things that no one else would say, or at least that’s how he clearly sees it if his self aggrandizing rhymes are to be believed. However, somewhere between the Marshall Mathers LP and now, he traded in his ‘honesty’ and replaced it with ‘sincerity’ which is not nearly as cool. Sincerity, apparently, is cool only in terms of motivation, but in terms of actual output it totally sucks.

This is why it’s such a weird kind of paradox to praise an artist’s sincerity. If they are really, truly sincere, then they’re not very good, but if they’re not, they’re manipulators or something…I mean, it bears mentioning that the very word ‘art’ shares a root with ‘artifice’ and ‘artificial’ and uh…I don’t know, man. This is making me dizzy.

How bout this: in closing, the internet makes art and artistry kind of lame because it enables us to really see who the creators are as people, and that rarely goes well. That shit poisons enjoyment…it doesn’t really work the other way. You don’t tend to find people who say shit like “I thought this guy’s book sucked til I saw his facebook page and now I love it.” It’s a joykiller, this glut of too much information. It gives people too many things to potentially dismiss. And that sucks. I mean, everyone that makes stuff isn’t as totally ball meltingly kick ass as me, people. And that’s a real shame.


Robb said...

Great post. Although I think occasionally it (it being the whole overabundance of available info about everyone in this age) can work the "other" way, in the sense of getting a better idea of someone as a person and thus being able to look at a piece of output that didn't necessarily gel the first time around with a renewed perspective and appreciation. Or something.
Oh and I started illegally downloading Exit TTGS the other week but it was going reeeeal slow so I stopped it and forgot all about it. Thanks for the reminder.

dustyfloors said...

I'm with Robb.
I rest my case with Bree Olsen's Twitter page.

jbody(virtual was my shit!nah!yeah!ah! said...

Man yeaaah,that em/dre shit wuz more embarrassing then when a dad does something silly with some good ass intentions and everybody feels somewhat uneasy about it for a moment!!!!!!baaaah!,yuk, oscar wilde'n out on that twitter huh?!!!

jbody(I'm 6 2,fuck you!) said...


Diagnosis: Perpetual Niggariasus said...

Fuck you mean "this shit again"? You talkin bout meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee cuz I ain' EazyEEEEEEEEEEEEeEEEEEEEEE

skip to the skip/skip to the hop/skip to the hop/skip to the bop lmnao

Diagnosis: Perpetual Niggariasus said...

Awwwww just playiiiiin witcha white booooi! Just parodizin' ubiquitous irrational street jitterbug paranoia

Matty Dean said...

A good analysis, Mr. Sandwich of poor quality. "Art" and "Sincerity", though, are both kind of subjective (as you did mention).

If they're a matter of opinion, it's simply a matter of a) execution and b) perception.

Intent gets lost in presentation, and its this tendency we have to go "hokey" instead of "sincere" when an artist executes poorly and sincerity is lost. Eminem wasn't being insincere, he was being hokey in spite of his intent to remain otherwise.

I, as a writer (which I'm not, but I'm playing one for this example) can write with all of my heart. Say I wrote a play called 'Multiple Lies from the Brain' (if it's obvious I'm referring to SS writing, you're a smart cookie!). Say I dug deep for real, human experiences that caused pain. Now, I need to write a response to the line "Why's it such a big deal?" and out comes, "Because she's dead! I told him that already, she's fucking dead!"

Now, we've seen actors in Community Colleges before. They're all arteests. Or artists, spelled non-phonetically. And so was the writer (me) who wrote the script. The intent was real, born out of a sincere moment- but the actor can't pull the line off. They just can't execute, relate, go back to the pain realistically.

It's in the realism that we neglect or cannot access when needing to replicate the intended sincerity that turns honesty to hokey performance.

It is in the execution- how much you can make yourself believe what needs to be real. Wholly real. Otherwise sincerity is lost.
Believe in the words you sing, or they'll have no meaning. (not that you have a problem with that :-P)

I find myself thinking why my covers of songs end up sounding so differently than the originals. Its simply because the song for me, the song that I believe in and am trying to perform, comes from a different paradigm than the artists. We're singing for two different reasons, so the mood changes slightly, phrasings and certain emphasis change.

One final example, another theatre one: You hurt me so bad my heart aches with no end.

But you honestly can perform those words a million and a half different ways. It becomes sincere when the execution is PERFECT.

Diagnosis: Perpetual Niggariasus said...

If you boys n girlz is reeeeeeal sweet Papa Thelonius just might rhyme about 'Lil' Matty Dean' here later on...

play it cool now!

It's A-Me, Martucci said...

Recently you felt compelled to mention hoobastank and I was thinking hard about why their name always makes me crack a big ol' gayboy grin and I finally realized it brings to mind a cosmetically overweight-but-surprisingly-mobile, sassy, easily excitable black woman saying "who's butt staaaaank??" like, loudly on a subway train to her friend, in that special swiftly-delivered way that they're so utterly prone to. Knowhudimean thelonius? "Dass rasist!"

Seagull Steve said...

You got some good points BK, but I think its a little sweeping to say, more or less, sincerity sucks in art. What about a band like....Propagandhi? Not that they attempt to write all their music from a sincere place ("Hey Chris...that first verse in Supporting Caste is fucking sincere as shit...lets go with that"), but to say that its not sincere seems wrong. Now I need to track down this Eminem clip you speak of...

Owner Operator said...

"and nary the twain shall meet, bro."

word verification: junglyke... you can't make that shit up!

Sean said...

have you ever seen Banksy's intro he did for The Simpson's? It's pretty cool...

Anonymous said...

As a professor of creative writing and a poet, I feel that the biggest driving force behind the creation of a successful poem (and maybe other sorts of art) is not originality, nor is it sincerity. The goal is for the creator to be authentic in their execution and creation. Authenticity is the key, as 100% 'originality' is impossible, and as you said sincerity can be a tough sentiment to elicit (although I don't agree that it is wholly damning as you posited).

That said, I also feel that realizing that your art is NOT going to change the world or that you are NOT doing anything that is groundbreaking-ly special is an important moment as an artificer. Once one has abolished that notion, their creation is wholly more successful and authentic.

It's A-Me, Martucci said...

As a non-professor, I must point out that sincerity is synonymous with authenticity, you stupid retard. LuLz!!

Anonymous said...

Authentic is not the same as sincere.

The truth is in the semantics friend, sincerity is believing in what you're saying is true, while authenticity is something that is in fact true, or genuine.

It's A-Me, Martucci said...

Huh? In a specific context--the ONLY context in which "authenticity" as you use it here makes any kind of sense--the two terms are both synonymous with 'genuine' (here with regard to intent obv). So I'm going to maintain my assertion. UNLESS of course by 'authenticity' here you mean:

a)accuracy - the reliability of the depiction of facts/events in a biopic or documentary, or a photorealistic portrait

b)verifiability of origin - a true original painting vs a meticulous copy

c)execution - e.g. writing a haiku or sonnet in proper form, are you like, suggesting hyper-realistic paintings (or maybe hyper-detailed songs chronicling historical events) are the only forms of output ppl should strive to produce? That folks should double check that their art is an original and not...a copy...of their own art...? That people should make sure they're following proper haiku form when they write...a haiku (indeed!)? I'll give you the benefit of doubt and assume you were referring to sincerity all along. You come off better that way.

Ryan said...

I'm not sure what you're trying to say here? As with your referencing painting, when I prefaced my statement that I was only speaking in regards to poetry, nothing else. Maybe I should have expanded a bit.

Authentic, in the terms that the emotion, feeling, tone, mood, etc of what one is trying to communicate is genuine, or at least comes across that way successfully, is not sincere. As sincere, in these terms, is based on the act of believing that a statement, line, stanza, etc is truthful, from the creator's perspective. Sincere being a belief in a truth, while authentic is not a belief but a thing being a truth. Like I said, it is in the semantics. If you don't agree, then you don't, but
it seems we are talking about different definitions due to different uses and applications, coming from different fields of usage. As you begin to reference painting, documentaries, and other things that have nothing to do with my initial statement.

I'm not too concerned with how I am coming off, but thank you for the consideration.