Re: Steven King's The Plant

From: Jason Joel Thompson (
Date: Mon Jul 24 2000 - 21:52:25 MDT

Well, I'm certain to get tag teamed again on this one, but its far too juicy
to resist.

Lee Daniel Crocker wrote:

> I've always had a lot more respect for artists who actually
> try to understand what their audience wants and provide that,
> than for those who think that art has some nebulous "higher"
> purpose beyond simple entertainment. Shakespeare's greatest
> strength was that he wrote simple entertainment for simple
> folks; he wasn't afraid to go for the cheap laugh of a dirty
> joke or a pun where needed, and his brilliant use of language
> and poetic form wasn't to challenge his audience's mind, but
> simply to entertain them. He juggled the language like a
> street performer juggles torches, as deftly and for the same
> purpose. /That/ is the highest form of art.

Unfortunately art truly -is- nebulous... not because of some sort of hocus
pocus, but due to the simple fact that it is necessarily subjective. The
term 'art' is often and variously described as an appeal to aesthetics, a
reflection or mutation of nature, or a work of the imagination designed to
affect the sense of beauty.

Challenging or appealing to one's sense of aesthetics is a far cry from
simple entertainment. The two needn't be mutally exclusive, but it's a very
simplistic viewpoint to be unable to see the distinction.

'Good' art rarely has mass appeal and the vast majority of what we would
consider to be the great artists of this planet did not achieve critical
recognition in their lifetimes.

In fact, it is in the very nature of innovative thought that it typically
does not receive mass public acclaim. It is fortunate that artists and
innovators do not pursue their work on the basis of your criteria above,
Lee, for surely some of the greatest innovations of all time would never
have taken place. It's nice to have inventors and entertainers making
product that everybody's going to want, but I'd also like to encourage those
people who just say, 'screw what everyone else thinks, I'm going to do 'B,'
who cares if it seems outrageous.'

Understanding what your audience wants makes one a great entertainer, but
daring to produce that which they have never seen is the seed of progress.

What you deride as a 'nebulous "higher" purpose' represents something
fundamental about the human quest-- our thirst for creation, for invention,
for "newness." Suggesting that we should use as a criterion for success
ones ability to cater to the masses is a sure-fire guarantee to select for
material that is good at catering to the masses. But do -you- really care
about that?

I may be a solipsist, but frankly I am not overly concerned over the success
of 'Who Want to Be a Millionaire,' amongst the common person of planet
earth, and the mere fact that lots of people want something doesn't make me
believe that we should have more of it. I'm not suggesting that people
should or should not pursue certain forms of entertainment, on the contrary
I think its very nice that lots of people are pleased by their televisions.

But here's a thought, in art, as in everything, don't we want to also induce
a selection pressure -against- what everyone wants? In this context, you
might think of art as complex noise in a model of increasing fitness. From
a strictly utilitarian standpoint, you might look at it as a good way to
kick oneself out of a negative attractor state.

There will always be lots of people around appealing to the lowest common
denominator-- hey, there's lots of cash in it. Even -they- don't pretend
that that's the highest form of art.


::jason.joel.thompson:: ::wild.ghost.studios::

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