“Historian: an unsuccessful novelist.”
In the dialogue I’ve been pushing, sometimes gently nudging forth, like the prow of a boat being ushered out into the waves, or sometimes like thrusting the tip of a spear, I have attempted to show arts function, when it operates properly as a knowledge tool, is a force against nostalgia, which is really a force against the perversion of nobility. When I say nobility I mean the kind that issues forth remonstrations of fear and charges of imperial power wrapped in the cloth of freedom. Recently I wrote about the invasive species known as hipsterism and the dangers that lurk beneath the surface of seeming innocent adoptions of mustaches and backyard chickens. But there are deeper veins of cultural dissonance rippling through the collective consciousness that is the America of 2014.
It seems to me the reason art persists across millennia is because it has the power to both disrupt and cohere. It is a mimicry of biology as the creative process resembles the zygotic effulgence we and all other living entities arise from. First there is terror, change and disruption and then there is separation, and finally emergence. In mammals there is the rather symbolic penetration of the female by the male, the invasion of the sperm seeking the egg and then the fertilization that leads to the cellular formation—the union of two gametes which inevitably cleaves forming the zygote, the origin of life. In creativity there is the necessity of violence as well. The violence of the idea, the dissonance of mental pleonasm, a mental eructation is the kernel of art. Fusion occurs, mapping idea to experience as intuition and the meandering stream of consciousness draws us toward new imaginings. All that we call progress occurs from this, dare I say freedom, of expression. Today we suffer dearly from a lack of creative violence.
The early works of Picasso are derivative, repeated attempts at stealing the proverbial mojo of his predecessors through imitation. But, where Picasso, and all work of substance differs from pure nostalgic reference is in its Shiva-like destructive power. Picasso had no lost love for his predecessors. He had no interest in basking in their previous glory and paying sensitive homage to their achievements—no. Picasso, like so many great artists copied so that he could conquer. And that my friends is the fundamental essence of what is missing from our culture today. We are copying for the sake of some repetitive joke, not for the sake of conquering. Our television should be soaking up the great landscape of the 1970s so that it can absorb and then destroy it to build something more powerful, more inventive and therefore more meaningful.
Go forth and watch Columbo or Serpico, read Watership Down and look at Jennifer Bartlett or Nancy Graves, and listen to the Talking Heads not so that you can ironically re-reference the work, but because you want to conquer a truly great decade for art. There is a life beyond the cop show, the pseudo-folk sensitive band and the persistence of Warhol-like pop trash. Reinvent the world so the world can remain vibrant. Nostalgia above all is a kind of laziness. It’s the “oh, this was cool when I was young, so I’ll remake that anew for the next generation” shit. Stop remaking and start destroying so you can begin creating. Please. I’m begging you.