To Restore Silence : : Open Thread
We've gone rounds and rounds here over whether having nothing to lose makes for better art. As we look to Congress and Wall Street this week and wonder in earnest whether we're about to have a golden opportunity to put that theory to test, I wanted to juxtapose those two thoughts and see if they might not illuminate the more subtle corners of the debate though.
I want to thank the university and the awards committee for the honour you have chosen to confer on me. You must believe me that the acceptance of such honours is as difficult as the problem of where to bestow them.
When I was a younger man, art was a lonely thing; no galleries, no collectors, no critics, no money. Yet it was a golden time, for then we had nothing to lose and a vision to gain. Today it is not quite the same. It is a time of tons of verbiage, activity, and consumption. Which condition is better for the world at large I will not venture to discuss. But I do know that many who are driven to this life are desperately searching for those pockets of silence where they can root and grow. We must all hope that they find them.
"I do know that many who are driven to this life are desperately searching for those pockets of silence where they can root and grow." vs. "To restore silence is the role of objects."
Beckett's observation was offered in a novel by one of his typically monkish characters, in a modest room, with only a few furnishings, while contemplating some relatively minor knickknack (if I recall correctly), not your stereotypical contemporary consumer facing a garage full of barely used or perhaps entirely unopened infomercial impulse buys. Yet, still, if objects restore silence, what brand of silence comes from unbridled materialism? (Perhaps a silence akin to that in outer space, where no one can hear you scream.) And if more objects equal more silence, then shouldn't the consumerism rising during Rothko's day have afforded him bigger pockets in which to root and grow? Surely he could afford a larger studio as his paintings began to sell, perhaps far from the city, and a relaxing, contemplative vacation or two, no?
Obviously there may not be an accumulative effect where silence is concerned. The contemplation of an object that Beckett refers to does seem to imply a solitary, one-on-one encounter, representing a distraction from the rest of the world, permitting the mind to focus momentarily. With bigger studios comes perhaps bigger headaches and competing distractions.
My true concern about the supposed silence and resulting growth that a downturn might afford those driven to the artist's life is how much life in general has sped up over the past few decades. The worst economic crisis imaginable isn't likely to result in the collective rejection of cell phones, the Internet, or other accelerating technologies. Indeed, even as the price of travel may keep us at home, that will most likely only result in more time spent logging on and checking out, I would imagine. Of course there could come a time when even home electricity must be rationed (I was spoon fed on apocalyptic scenarios growing up), but we'll all have hand-held, wireless access to the Internet by then.
I do imagine a decrease in consumerism would bring about a decrease in overall verbiage if only because the cessation of nonstop infomercials alone would likely bring about a noticeable reduction in noise, but can our culture truly become more contemplative? I personally can't imagine it. A decrease in distractions might only result in an increase in the volume of our collective screaming.
I'm not really going anywhere with this post...just batting some ideas out of the belfry of my brain and into the blogsophere.
Consider this an open thread.