Art in Public and Private

“Fandom has always been this interplay between the public and private, between the self-conscious broadcasts of band t-shirts and the quiet, devotional headphone moments.” – Lindsay Zoladz

Zoladz recently wrote a piece for Pitchfork on Judee Sill and digital memorials for celebrities. She goes on to say:

“And whatever a ‘virtual cemetery experience’ is, Find a Grave’s memorial pages replicate that duality; millions of page views a day, and yet you get the eerie sense you’re the first person who’s been there in months.”

In this article, Zoladz discovers a great folk singer and a weird site on the “the other Internet”, but more importantly, I love her insights on the duality of fandom and finding some sort of balance between publicly expressing your love for artists and holding onto those deeply personal moments with the music.

In an interview for Full Stop, Paul Holdengräber, director of the New York Public Library’s conversation series “Live from the NYPL,” also brings up the idea of art in our public and private lives, specifically with literature.

“We begin with the solitude of reading which leads to the necessity of leaking, as it were, the pleasure you have to friends and the people around you, which then leads us back again to going deeper into the work.

Sometimes I think I would say that we should live with these things ourselves, and not in the public realm. But I can’t keep myself from conversation. I urge you to read in solitude, but I also want to pull you out of that solitude and create some sort of dialogue.”

Although it’s in a difference sense than what Zoladz is discussing, it shows an interplay between the public and private consumption of reading books. I love how Holdengräber describes our solitary time reading:

“In the solitude of your own mind, you can wrap yourself up and be enraptured by the great minds of the past, or whatever it is you may be reading, and be alone. Literature is, in that way, a solitary act of being with your own conscience. And yet, reading is also a conversation — it’s a conversation over the ages. You are speaking to the brightest and the best without the cumbersomeness of their presence.”

We add that experience to our lives and use it in a public sphere, to share our thoughts, to glean from others and to understand our world through conversation.

Through those conservations about art and through our continued consumption and creation of art, we do come to greater understanding, and perhaps what we learn can create a better society. Writing for the Atlantic about the Christopher Dorner case, Christopher Wallace says art allows us to look into ourselves, our private thoughts. But, it also allows us to look at our society. He writes:

“But doesn’t the fact that works like Shooter and Taken and Oldboy and Tarantino’s bloody operas are so plentiful and popular indicate that we identify, at least in part, with their protagonists? Doesn’t it say that we know some glimmer of their desperation, their frustration, their isolation, their futility, and their rage? Once we have acknowledged that truth, art can help us look deeper into ourselves, into our communities, and into our culture that so often ends up producing people beyond empathy.”

As we look for answers, we may find that no one man is alone, sui generis, outside of the system we are all building. We may finally learn that men become killers not because they are freaks who have lost the plot, but because they are desperate characters in the broken narrative we as a whole are writing. We may find that to rewrite that story, so that it doesn’t end with Christopher Dorner, we need to read other ones.”

Here are some other, unrelated thoughts on a few things I read this week:

Beyonce and Art

“It’s still a lot easier to be declared a musical genius if you’re playing a guitar than if you’re dancing in heels. And part of it is probably gender.” – Noah Berlatsky for the Atlantic on Why Don’t More People Call Beyonce a Genius.

Unfortunately, gender is still an issue in music, for artists, for fans and for writers. Also, this piece reminded how long it’s been since I’ve listened to Writing on the Wall, and I agree with Berlatsky that the album is better than most of what Bey has done in the past few years, musically at least. Though, 2011’s “Love in Top” is probably one of my all-time favorite Bey songs.

Digital Journalism and Advertising

“If ad rates continue to fall, even websites of that size may not be economically viable. Instead, media companies should be doing everything they can to improve the economic value of their work (which may not mean more pageviews).” – Ryan McCarthy for Reuters on revenue models for online content and the economic absurdity of ad rates.

This article is both depressing and hopeful. It reinforces the idea the majority of people get their information online, but the value of true journalism is falling, because consumers (and often journalist themselves) don’t see the difference in journalism and any online content. But the idea that journalists may not need to focus so much on the numbers since ad rates are falling despite a rise in online readership is a slight upside. Although, I don’t see their bosses thinking the same thing. (related topics on revenue models: New York Times paywall, Buzzfeed, Andrew Sullivan, Maura Magazine).

Hayden and Creative Freedom

“I was on one of the biggest labels in the world in the 90s, and when they signed me after a bidding war, my main stipulation was that I wanted 100 per cent creative freedom. I didn’t have to do anything I didn’t want to do. So right off the top I had this weird power, and I got used to that. I was probably a major pain in the ass.” – Hayden in an interview with Benjamin Boles for NOW Toronto magazine.

Really, I just love anything Hayden says, sings and writes. He can do wrong.

George Saunders and Shifting Realities

“Reading George Saunders’ book heightens this sudden awareness of rapidly shifting reality. Saunders’ stories create the same eerie sense of a familiar world, edged ever-so-slightly into something menacing and strange. In Saunders’s fiction, these shifts might be technological, sociological, even metaphysical. Even so, he renders his fantastical tales in a painstakingly crafted, detailed vernacular that bridges the divide between his wildly imaginative, carnival-mirror realities and our own.” – Robert Alford for Paste mPlayer on the Tenth of December.

I just bought this book and cannot wait to read it, but I’m too busy reading all these interesting articles. Must find more reading time!


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