The Messiah Impulse
At a very young age, I took that message to heart and, indeed, although I've had many friends and, well, more than two lovers over the years, I have never once (as far as I can recall) ever tried to get someone to change. I accept people as they are and use that assessment alone to decide whether or not I wish to hang around them. I will not meddle, let alone insist upon alterations. Even if I see someone is heading over a metaphorical cliff in life, unless they request my help, the most they'll get from me is some cheerful recommendations or selfish complaints. (If they're heading over a more literal cliff, I will, of course do what I can to intercede.)
I guess I just don't have a messiah impulse. I don't think you can change people, and I certainly don't think you can save people. Either they save themselves or they make mistakes. And to be honest, to me, mistakes are an important part of living. They make us all more interesting, and certainly more humble, as people.
This is partly why, I suspect, despite its flaws, I can't quite understand the folks who feel compelled to change the TV show everyone in the art world seemingly loves to hate: Bravo's "Work of Art." More than just change it, the impulse seems to be to "save" it from itself.
First came the very funny, but still somewhat messianic, suggestions from Art Fag City's Paddy Johnson and C-Monster's Carolina A. Miranda on how to craft "Better Challenges" for the show's next round of contestants. Among the ones the made me laugh the hardest:
EXTREME VIDEOThen today comes a round-table discussion by three of the sharpest wits in the New York art world (all three of whom just so happen to currently write for the Village Voice): R.C. Baker, Martha Schwendener, and Christian Viveros-Fauné. What starts as an admittedly "intemperate introduction" (but again, very funny) then steers into a surprisingly earnest appraisal of the show:
Artistic Inspiration: Dash Snow.
Two teams of artists are each sealed into rooms stocked with a Polaroid camera, 1000 issues of Artforum, a kiddie pool full of malt liquor, a skateboard and a buffet full of tranquilizers. Using these tools, each team must produce a 30-minute video set to music by an unsigned Brooklyn band. Immunity goes to whoever wakes up naked in Berlin.
Baker: I'm enjoying this show, in a bread-and-circus kind of way. Like everything else in our Internet age, it's not thought out. It's built for TV speed. It's prurient, it's voyeuristic, it's sensational. But for all that, it's entertaining. There's certainly no great art on the program. The art is in the conceptualizing, editing, and cutting of the show.The assessments are very interesting. But then, bang, there it is again, that messiah impulse:
Seriously, though, I don't get this.
Baker: But here's a question: Bravo calls you and says, "Christian, you know the art world—help me put together this show." What do you do?
Schwendener: Let's back up, because I thought the question you were going to ask was: "Would you go on?"
Viveros-Fauné: And the answer is, yes, I would have. The real reason I hate the show is that I think they cocked it up.
Baker: Well, one thing you can say is that TV and art are pretty much antithetical. The contemplation, the time you need, the nimbus that is art doesn't play on TV.
Schwendener: Not with this format. Again, Christian, remind me what you hate about the show?
Viveros-Fauné: I hate wasted opportunities.
Schwendener: Got it.
I wouldn't meddle with the show at all. If it's going to be a glorious mess, I say let it. If it's going to be the quintessential evidence that McLuhan was right (as Martha notes, and I entirely agree "It's not about art, it's about TV"), then let it be that.
I mean, here's the thing. It's all gravy. It's not like the world needs this TV show. It's not as if it performs some vital function within the cultural nurturing system (and it's certainly not like I had expectations from the early descriptions that it would). Its greatest potential, as far as I can see, is to be a fabulous train wreck, and as such, simply magnificent to watch in slow motion.
Let it be what it will be, I say.