Art Is Hell

Ah, Wilderness. Not just an O’Neill play but my cultural home I think. I’m not sure why exactly. My tastes rarely have run toward the extreme or radical, to the extent those words have a negative connotation when it comes to art. And they don’t, by any means. And in truth, some of my appreciations are shared by small but ardent numbers and some by virtually everyone. But generally these idiosyncratic tastes of mine often plunk me down in a place that feels like a sort of wilderness. There’s no complaint here. No dissatisfaction. And I certainly don’t care what you do. No prizes will be awarded and no penalties will be assigned for any artistic admirations or appreciations. Whether I and those with whom I share some sensibilities live on an artistically rarefied plane, or on Gilligan’s Island, I can’t say.

On the other side of the coin, creating art, in and of itself, most certainly is not hell. It’s a reason to live, and possibly the only one. My own experience is that the post-creation period, at minimum, often smells of sulfur. There are a lot of reasons for this in my particular case: laziness, indifference, genetic predisposition to basic humility, though surpassed to some extent by constitutional, aptitudinal defectiveness and gastrointestinal upset when it comes to look-at-me blowing my horn,  system massage, sales, promotion and connection-plying.

But whatever your artistic poison brewing, once you serve it up to the Business of Art Adjudicators, the gatekeepers of distribution and myriad autocrats and other assorted hydrocephalic fools along the way is when the hell really kicks in. I know, I know. I’m hardly opposed to prostitution…only lousy at the business side.

In any case, art makes life substantial enough and bearable enough, and pleasurable enough (perhaps along with supplementation with necessary forms of sensual alteration and physical pleasuring). Beyond that, as the Buddha has said, “Who really gives a flying fuck”?

From “one of the good ones”:

“Art altogether is nothing but a survival skill, we should never lose sight of this fact, it is, time and again, just an attempt — an attempt that seems touching even to our intellect — to cope with this world and its revolting aspects, which, as we know, is invariably possible only by resorting to lies and falsehoods, to hypocrisy and self-deception, Reger said. These pictures are full of lies and falsehoods and full of hypocrisy and self-deception, there is nothing else in them if we disregard their often inspired artistry. All these pictures, moreover, are an expression of man’s absolute helplessness in coping with himself and with what surrounds him all his life. That is what all these pictures express, this helplessness which, on the one hand, embarrasses the intellect and, on the other hand, bewilders the same intellect and moves it to tears, Reger said.”
Thomas Bernhard (Old Masters)

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