The Artist as Human Sacrifice.
I’ve never been a believer of the starving poor artist, even if I’m well aware of how some of them have suffered enormously in life to gain fame after death. But as we all know, life is indulgence and death is great abstinence - so I don’t see the point of creating stuft for the bottom drawer, only for the pleasure of one's own eyes.
Remember the old saying, do a falling tree make a sound in the forest if there’s no one there to hear it? What’s the point of making a noise if no one can react on it? It’s the same with art, it loses its meaning if there’s no one to admire or be upset by it. Every true artist must sacrifice themself in one way or another to make it, to be there so everyone can see.
There’s two different form of sacrifices, the first one is despicable - and that’s to sacrifice your own art for the sake of giving the audience what they want. Imagine you’ve made a movie everyone loves, or a written a novel everyone hails as genius - or creating that painting that will rock the art world once and for all. Imagine you decide this is what you will do for the rest of your life, because it’s the only way you can make money.
That’s tragic and poor. I get the thing though. Most people love money and fame - nothing wrong with, but if you start selling out too much, then you’ve lost it. Making the same fucking painting over and over again, or creating the same song over again - sooner or later the audience will lose interest and you will try do do the same over again, because in some way you think that’s what the want instead of something completely different. Your art, whatever it will be, will become tired and lifeless and in the end just forgotten, or even up as art in institutions, government facilities or deep down in the dark archives of some museum.
The second, and superior, form of sacrifice is the one where you’ll keeping doing what you're doing even if the audience is getting smaller, or your form of art is getting obscurer and less talked about - but you’ll keep doing it because you love it and still keeps the edge in your creations. It’s a fine line between these two sacrifices, sometimes they merge, and sometimes they go in opposite directions. But as long you keep doing what YOU love and not the audience love, you will sooner or later been a living - or dead - legend.
I recently watched four movies about four very different artists, three of the biographical productions and the last one a documentary.
Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life (2010)
Based on the comic book by Joann Sfar, and directed by the same talent. Oddly laid back considering the extreme life chanson master Serge Gainsbourg, but gives a deep look into the creation of a true individualist, who did what he wanted to do - for good or bad. It’s actually quite nice it avoids the bigger scandals and main events in Gainsbourg’s life, but instead shows the man behind the self hate, drugs and booze. Eric Elmosnino is almost too realistic as Gainsbourg.
A largy forgotten biopic about Pier Paolo Pasolini, played by Willem Dafoe and directed by the uneven Abel Ferrara. Quiet, slow an arty, this is Dafoe’s one man show telling us about the last days in Pasolini’s life, a man who knew what was coming to him and wasn’t afraid to meet it. Interesting enough it ignores the more accepted story about his being an assassination, but maybe it’s for the good. This is not a political movie, this a human drama.
Tom of Finland (2017)
At first I was skeptical, after hearing about the lack of sex and decadence in the film about Touko Laaksonen aka Tom of Finland, the finnish pornographic/erotic artist whose work both is found in the sleaziest sex stores and in the most respected museums and published in fat, expensive coffee table books. The film is a beautiful, low key drama about a very simple man and his path to be one of the greats in gay arts. Truly an impressive and warm movie.
Bloodlight and Bami (2017)
A new doc about Grace Jones and I can’t stop thinking about it. A brutally honest (Ms Jones clearly don’t give a fuck about the camera constantly filming her) and extremely loving insight into her personal life, her family and how she basically is hands on with everything in her whole career. In one moment she’s chatting around with her Jamaican relatives, in the most simple conditions and the next she’s high on ecstacy in Partying like she’s 25. And in between there’s some amazing live performances. What a woman, what an artist.
Serge Gainsbourg, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Touko Laaksonen and Grace Jones all sacrifices themselves. They’re all world famous and respected but always controversial and far from mainstream. Grace pays for everything himself, she’s dealing with shitty agents and people the time, by herself, but still keeps doing it. Like she says, she has no distributor or record company behind her, but that also means she can do the fuck she want.
Let’s do a deal here, sell yourself but not YOURSELF.
Don’t sell the YOU that the audience want.
Sell the YOU that the audience don’t want.
Let’s do it.
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