Is American Art Dead?

4 June, 2008

I’ve called Peter Greenaway my favorite filmmaker for quite a few years now. There was a time, 20 years ago, when he could’ve been Great Britain’s answer to David Lynch. But like Lynch, he has since gone too far up his method and most of his work borderlines self-parody nowadays. His whole thing has always been that cinema is dead and we need to reinvent it, a theory which I half-agree with. He takes it too far by making outrageous suggestions like, “get rid of the camera,” or making polarizing sound bytes like, “Bill Viola is worth ten Scorseses,” which only hurt is cause even more. But if you actually look at the state of the film industry, he’s absolutely right.

In America all the major art forms feel frozen by the corporate control. Films are mostly boring; we now have some talented people making blockbusters like Christopher Nolan and Jon Favreau but little in the way of creativity. Nobody reads novels anymore except for airline pulp like The DaVinci Code. Broadway is completely dead thanks to Disney and Andrew Lloyd Weber. And the music industry? Forget it. It isn’t even worth talking about. Just watch this video of those hacks Maroon 5 bitch about having to compose a forgettable mainstream single and proceed to do it anyway, not realizing they’re part of the fucking problem:

It seems like all the great art still coming out of America is by already established names. I read about the New Hollywood period of the 1970s, the short-lived rise of “independent filmmaking” in the 1990s, and it just depresses me how corporate flunkies are so afraid of art and risk that they’ll do anything to smother it. At least the fascistic moguls of Hollywood’s Golden Age knew what they wanted and didn’t rely on bullshit market research or focus groups.

There is great promise in the internet. There really is. Trent Reznor, the only true pioneer in music right now, is doing what Radiohead only flirted with on their “pay-what-you-want” strategy for In Rainbows. He’s already put out two albums this year on the internet. He helped Saul Williams find a bigger audience than ever would’ve had under a label. But why is he the only one? Is every recording artist really that materialistic and obsessed with their wealth?

What do we have as a result? Two Girls One Cup. That’s what people are doing with the internet. Back to square one I see.

That’s why I can only see a future in art for myself if I get out of this place. Another hero of mine, Jim Jarmusch, has never made a movie with American money (with the possible exception of Broken Flowers). Now ostracized from the US and UK art worlds, Greenaway is doing all of his projects in the Netherlands. Never mind that most of them are rubbish, at least he gets to do them. Americans look down on real artists. They seem them as weird or crazy. People can’t believe that you don’t want to do things for the purpose of raking in millions of dollars just for the sake of it. They don’t understand why that wouldn’t automatically make you happy. So what’s the point in even living here?

So that’s my plan. Unless Hollywood is actually taken over again — extremely unlikely — and unless somebody besides Reznor can make the internet a true breeding ground for talent, I’m off to Canada or France or Holland or somewhere where an artist can live, make the things he wants to make, and get it seen. Is it idealism? Hell yeah. But better to be idealistic about there than here.


2 Responses to “Is American Art Dead?”

  1. yvonne said

    a side note, brian jonestown massacre gave their music away before those other guys thought about it. in 2006 they put all their albums online to download for free and would actually give out records at shows instead of sell them. it makes me upset when people credit radiohead and trent when bjm were pioneering long before and not out of a need for publicity.

  2. Noah said

    Well, when you’re right you’re right. I’ll start giving them credit from now on. I definitely think now that Radiohead were just doing it for publicity, as much as I love them and the album they used it for. But I wouldn’t write Reznor off so quickly. He found himself without a label and ran with it. The fact that he hasn’t had much publicity says something about what he’s doing.

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