Uncle Yarv #7: art edition

Rurik from Hanoi writes:

What should an artist be doing right now?

More specifically, what should the kind of artist who finds himself amiable to your writing be doing now?

Even more specifically, in a world where comporting your message with Power is a component of success, what should an artist do who see disagrees with the prevailing vision of Power but who still wants to push his Art out into the world?

A lot of rightish people think that art is just message in an aesthetics wrapper, and they create mostly cringe art.

The best I can come up with is believe that aesthetics proceeds the politics I would want, not the other way around. So I’d start (composer) assuming that most political ideas in my mind are cringe and not try to signal or countersignal anything political. Instead just start with the details and write a piece to discover what it’s about. If a message manifests, fine, but if it doesn’t, fine too. But let the message come from my feeling for the details and structures of the work.

Then ask: 

“What’s going on in my mind that draws me towards these choices?”

And if this helps unify my approach at some point in the process, so be it.

So I summarized it like this:

  • All political themes are cringe now

  • Avoid “messages”

  • Write a piece to discover what its about

  • Stay true to aesthetic sense

  • Develop a feeling for every detail

  • Later asks “what is going on in my mind that draws me towards these choices?”

  • See if that can unify my approach at some point in the process

I figure you can always title or talk about something in a way that’s safe with regards to Power, and if the aesthetics are there, they’ll do whatever it is they need to do.

When I posed this question I wanted to be scientific and guess what you would say.

My first guess is you would have an old book to quote an idea seemingly orthogonal to what I was talking about. And then explain how my concept of aesthetic clear pilling was totally wrong.

Hopefully I can find out! I’m curious what you have to say to artists trying to get by in this environment.

Well, no, Rurik, I’m afraid this is basically exactly right.

When you try to do right-wing art as propaganda, it is always cringe. The left-wing art is cringe too—it’s just embedded in a reality-distortion field so you can’t feel it. Future generations will feel it, though.

Your themes will emerge naturally from who you are. You don’t need to force them and you don’t want to force them. Through any art that is truly expressive and effective, even instrumental music, some sense of personality will emerge—even unconsciously.

I used to think it was impossible for unconscious truths to pass through the author into the content. Then about six months ago I wrote a poem about how my wife was dying, without knowing that she was (acutely) dying—I posted this on a Thursday and she passed the next Tuesday. Now I just don’t worry about it.

Ultimately the strongest emotion you are expressing is just the will to be free from all this garbage. In a way that will—the freedom to be unexpected—is the basis of all art. It has never been easier to distinguish art from propaganda, as the latter is becoming constantly more and more predictable. Which art by definition never is.