Sunday, July 31, 2016

C U Anon

Still From a Riot, Kodakotype by Pants

I had intended to write about an assemblage I've been making but it stubbornly refuses to come together. The assemblage, I mean. On reflection, I think now that the piece will be more suited as an illustration to my

Tenth Anniversary Post on August 17th.

Don't miss that. I may even have solved my current design problems by then. Meanwhile, if you're itching for some Pants art, you will find last week's effort here. Or you could just scratch.

In lieu, please find this hastily thrown-together post on the subject of anonymity. A year or so ago, I discovered quite accidentally, that some of my early writing had ended up on line. This is going back nearly forty years to the days when I wrote record and concert reviews for my university paper. Even then, I used a pseudonym. There was no reason to disguise my identity. Neither is there now. It's just so enticing to be someone else for a while. It was interesting to read some of those old articles again. I was astonished to note that my writing style has changed little. Not sure if that's a good or bad thing.

Why do some of us desire a cloak of invisibility for our creative pursuits? Ted Gioia explores the subject in this recent piece for The Daily Beast. He discusses the careers of Banksy, Elena Ferrante and Daft Punk, among others, and wonders why anyone would shun fame like that. Banksy's publicity shyness has an obvious basis in the certainty that he would fairly frequently get arrested for vandalism. I've read all of Ferrante's Neapolitan series and I wonder if her identity obfuscation may be precautionary as well. The portraits of the mafia Solara family are not particularly flattering. As Gioia points out, plenty of people have disdained the more onerous trappings of fame - like being asked the same stupid questions over and over again. No one would welcome that.

What about those of us for whom boring old celebrity was never likely to be a problem? Why does someone like me decide to slip on the balaclava before picking up the pen or paintbrush? My on-line anonymity turned out to be most useful a few years back when I ended up working for a bunch of arseholes who would have loved any excuse to get rid of me. The redundancy payout was almost worth the pain. They could easily have found me had they gone looking. But they were stupid as well as nasty.

The growing culture of cuntishness just about everywhere is another good reason to keep mum if you're planning on doing or saying anything controversial - and for the record, just being a woman, or gay or black is controversial in these intellectually straitened and progress-challenged times. Just look at what happened to Leslie Jones for daring to be black, funny and a woman in a film franchise where only white guys are allowed to be funny. It may be my instinct as a woman, not to mention my gift for premonition, that has led me to err on the side of caution. I've never been trolled and am never likely to be. Why would anyone bother? Trolls seek notoriety. I'm not on Facebook - I'd need an actual face for that - nor Twidda. I don't even allow comments on my blogs. That's as belt'n'braces as it's possible to be.

I don't discount as motivation my tendency to be subversive either. I'd rather not follow the crowd, thank you very much. If everyone else is seeking attention, well, that's the last thing I'd want. Gioia has this to say,

'In an age in which engagement with artistic works has been displaced by gossiping about celebrity artists, the anonymous innovators have forced us to return our gaze to the creative product. That can’t be a bad thing, and we would be wrong to consider it as a mere trend or passing fad. Maybe we should adhere to that same way of contemplating art even when we know the artist’s identity.'

That would seem obvious. To truly enjoy art, it's helpful to be able to form your own opinions. Anonymity is not the discretion of the viewer or consumer, it's the act of the maker. It's the assumption of control of one's exposure. I'm not convinced that this choice is made primarily as an avoidance strategy. If so, it's not effective. Banksy and Elena Ferrante aren't exactly anonymous. It's just that we don't know their real names. They're just as culturally visible as any famous person whose real name is public knowledge. They're still targets for criticism. If the public doesn't like their work, they'll get to hear about it soon enough. They just won't have to deal with aggressive media interrogation and being photographed in sleazy bars looking tired and emotional. And Ferrante will have to ask the judges to FedEx that Nobel Prize.

I've written before about 'not caring' being the most potent power a woman can exercise. Caring too much about what others say can be debilitating and you certainly don't want that. I like what Agnes Martin had to say,

'To live truly and effectively, [as an artist], the idea of achievement must be given up.'

And that means doing what you do without seeking the approval of others, and especially not the vast, arbitrary ratings system that comprises the virtual world.

So long for now. Don't call me. I'll call you...