From the category archives:

Audience

David Lynch, on wee media formats:

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“For it is one thing for people to tell their stories in their own spaces, and quite another for those stories to be welcomed in this space.”

– Michelle Obama, at poetry night in the East Room of the White House

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From Mark Ford’s review of William Logan’s new book “Our Savage Art”:

Certainly his own critical persona owes much to this model; in his introduction to this book he figures himself as a version of Diogenes, the austere ancient Greek philosopher who lived in a tub and despised all people and possessions. “A critic who does his job,” Logan observes, “must be a good hater if he’s to be a good lover, because if he likes everything he reads he likes nothing well enough.”

Yes — but if he ‘hates’ nearly everything he reads or encounters, which seems like the case with Logan (I have not read him) and was certainly the case with Diogenes, does his opinion tell us anything about the work reviewed? Or just about the distance of the reviewer from human experience?

Or, is the belittling expression of disgust more excusable if it is articulate and sometimes witty, rather than merely frothing?

Or, does it simply arouse the same lesser passions as gossip and social intrigue?

Or, is passion passion, regardless of its sub-type nuance?

I have always felt a nostalgic longing for the sort of passionate art audiences that rioted at the premiere of Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring”…

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A great reminder hidden in Maureen Dowd’s cranky interview with Twitter founders Biz Stone and Evan Williams:

ME: Do you ever think “I don’t care that my friend is having a hamburger?”

BIZ: If I said I was eating a hamburger, Evan would be surprised because I’m a vegan.

Something that seems mundane out of context, i.e. “I am eating a hamburger” gains significance and meaning through pre-existing social context, i.e. “I’m a vegan.”

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From a This I Believe essay by Matt Harding:

My brain was designed to inhabit a fairly small social network of maybe a few dozen other primates — a tribe. Beyond that size, I start to get overwhelmed.

And yet here I am in a world of over 6 billion people, all of whom are now inextricably linked together. I don’t need to travel to influence lives on the other side of the globe. All I have to do is buy a cup of coffee or a tank of gas. My tribe has grown into a single, impossibly vast social network, whether I like it or not. The problem, I believe, isn’t that the world has changed, it’s that my primitive caveman brain hasn’t.

I am fantastic at seeing differences. Everybody is. I can quickly pick out those who look or behave differently, and unless I actively override the tendency, I will perceive them as a threat. That instinct may have once been useful for my tribe but when I travel, it’s a liability.

When I dance with people, I see them smile and laugh and act ridiculous. It makes those differences seem smaller. The world seems simpler, and my caveman brain finds that comforting.

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Kevin Kelly proposed a model for how artists can make a living without striving — and compromising — for a blockbuster hit:

“One solution is to find 1,000 True Fans. While some artists have discovered this path without calling it that, I think it is worth trying to formalize. The gist of 1,000 True Fans can be stated simply:

A creator, such as an artist, musician, photographer, craftsperson, performer, animator, designer, videomaker, or author – in other words, anyone producing works of art – needs to acquire only 1,000 True Fans to make a living.”

In response, Robert Rich explains what a Sisyphean task this can be:

“The sort of artist who survives at the long tail is the sort who would be happy doing nothing else, who willingly sacrifices security and comfort for the chance to communicate something meaningful, hoping to catch the attention of those few in the world who seek what they also find meaningful. It’s a somewhat solitary existence, a bit like a lighthouse keeper throwing a beam out into the darkness, in faith that this action might help someone unseen.”

And references evolution to explain the risks of creating within and for a small community:

“Evolutionary biology shows us one metaphor for this trap of stylistic boundaries, in terms of species diversity and inbreeding (ref. E.O. Wilson). When a species sub-population becomes isolated, its traits start to diverge from the larger group to eventually form a new species. Yet under these conditions of isolation, genetic diversity can decrease and the new environmentally specialized species becomes more easily threatened by environmental changes. The larger the population, the less risk it faces of inbreeding. If that population stays connected to the main group of its species, it has the least chance of overspecialization and the most chance for survival in multiple environments.

This metaphor becomes relevant to Artists and True Fans because our culture can get obsessed with ideas of style and demographic. When an artist relies on such intense personal commitment from such a small population, it’s like an animal that relies solely upon the fruit of one tree to survive. This is a recipe for extinction. Distinctions between demographics resemble mountain ranges set up to divide one population from another. I prefer a world where no barriers exist between audiences as they define themselves and the art they love. I want a world of mutts and cross-pollinators.  I would feel more comfortable if I thought I had a broader base of people interested in my work, not just preaching to the choir.”

A world of mutts and cross-pollinators? Count me in!

Kelly returns with a roundup of what he has heard from other artists, and more doubts. Is the number 5000? Or does it start creeping back up towards stardom again?

“Micro patronage has always been an option, and indeed a part of, most artist’s livelihood. What is different now is the reach and power of technology, which makes it much easier to match up an artist with the right passionate micro patrons, keep them connected, serve them up created works, get payment from them directly, and nurture their interest and love.”

No definitive conclusions, but all worth a read…

(A hat tip to whomever added the original link to the cre8camp Portland page.)

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Tilda Swinton, remembering Derek Jarman in a keynote speech at the Edinburgh International Film Festival in 2002:

“Yet, then, as now, the myth prevailed that there was only ever one mainstream. We were only too happy to know that our audience existed and to hoe the row in peace. Nobody here paid that much attention to us, that’s true: no one ever thought we might make them any money, I suppose.

What grace that constituted. Not to be identified as national product:  the intergalactic BFI; ZDF in Germany; MIKADO in Italy; Uplink in Japan.

This was our nation state: this was continuity. We snuck under the fence, looked for – and found – our fellow travellers elsewhere.

Here’s the thought: slice the world longways, along its lines of sensibility, and not straight up and down, through its geographical markers, and company will be yours, young filmmaker.

Company, continuity, identity.”

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