Maturity and the Artist

Deborah Kalin just posted a brilliant little piece – Impatience for the New excludes…the New – in which she looks at the manner in which the hunger for art that is fresh is the very reason why that hunger will not be fed.  She nails it, not just the frustration felt, but the root of that frustration.

…we idolise them, not for what they’ve actually achieved, but for their potential. What we think they can achieve. We rush them into celebrity so fast we push them ahead of their learning curve, so far ahead that they outstrip their current talent. By the time their talent has caught up with them, and they’ve digested all their early influences and found a truly unique voice of their own, the advertising/celebrity machine has done its job so well, and saturated every corner of the market with every possible mention of them, that we’re bored.

Somehow, we who are eternally hungry for new voices, have created (or at least participated in creating) a system that ensures the only new voices we get are too young to be anything but derivative — and when those voices outgrow their origins, and evolve into something truly new, we’re so overexposed we can’t hear it.

Has anybody else noticed this?

Is anybody else frustrated to all hell and back by this?

In this particular case she’s talking about the music industry (and having wrangled the name of the artist who triggered this post from her, I’m in agreement), but this is something that I see the publishing industry being just as guilty of.  Not that we can blame the industries entirely; we’re the consumers, we’re the ones with the hunger.  We devour them whole, and the ones who aren’t devoured are left behind as not being worth that first taste.  Not much survives at either end of the spectrum, to speak in gross generalisations.

I’m curious, for those of you who are of a similar mind as Deborah, other than asking those on the delivery end of things to “Please, stop that,” is there a solution?

I like my artists like I like my wine; complex, mature, and with natural individuality.

That’s actually a lie.  I don’t drink wine.

(But saying I like my artists like I like my cheese doesn’t have the same gravitas.)

2 comments on “Maturity and the Artist

  1. I definitely think there is too much hyping and hype sometimes. Promoting the work of friends is great, and we all do it, and encouraging new writers whose work excites us, likewise. But I keep remembering a writer who was one of my instructors in an undergraduate college workshop, who’d been an Iowa fellow and etc.

    She said, be careful, because if you let them, they can take your writing away from you through overhype. She was speaking to precisely this, I think, that artists of all kinds, including writers, need time to mature and explore their own depths and potential before the industry takes them and runs (not that this ever happened to me–I would be grateful for a little more hyping, frankly, but then, I’m no longer a new or a young voice…).

  2. It’s something of a trap – to stay long-term viable in the publishers eyes you need to sell, and so the push to sell well now overtakes any long-term attention you may have, but if you don’t do well now the chances of being picked up later are even less likely.

    Speaking as someone who has not been around long and is not particularly productive, being able to indulge all aspects of my creative self is something I take for granted. That no one is paying attention offers a remarkable amount of freedom, yet I know by not working harder and promoting myself more I’m nixing my future chances, whatever they may be.

    I half think the issues stems from mistaken focus. We’re geared towards seeking, as Deb says, the next Hot New Thing, when, if we really do seek something fresh and surprising, what we should be looking for is the Unknown.

    Which, depending on what you have or haven’t consumed in your life, could be James Joyce or Deborah Kalin, could be several centuries old and a classic or some beginning small press on the otherside of the world.

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