Thursday, October 14, 2010

It's all been done before

Commentary from Kiel Bryant, from a terrific essay by Michael Heilemann, on the origins of Chewbacca:

I’m dismayed by the cult of originality — it sets up impossible, false expectations which fail to grasp what art is. Innovation is good, exploration is to be encouraged — they build on what’s gone before — but more often than not it’s enjoyable to simply experience an idea well-conceived, regardless of that idea’s source or its “originality.” And in the final analysis, were Star Wars [or Raiders of the Lost Ark] ever intended to be wildly original? No, they’re pastiche — valentines to the swashbuckling genres of yore. Kids, especially millennials, make a simple and honest mistake borne out of youth: they see Star Wars before they’ve seen its inspirations and assume it came that way fully assembled, direct from Lucas’ head. They witness result, not process. Then, growing as artists or cinephiles, their awareness gradually enlarges, the supporting armature begins to show — and because the film wasn’t what they’d originally dreamt (a total creation, which is an impossibility), they decide George Lucas isn’t worth the praise they originally foisted on him. Absolutely circular, and absolutely pointless.

The idea that people could "fail to grasp what art is" -- this is one of my concerns, too. It seems vaguely unhealthy to me. In fact, it's one of the things that drove me to revise the book that is giving me grief as I ready it for consumption by a general audience. (Hence this brief period of infrequent blog posts.)

I don't know why it bothers me so much that people would fail to see art in all of its exploded, humble glory... but it does. Many artists want you to ignore the trajectories of influence behind their work, but I think these things are vitally important. Because when it comes to our own self-importance as "creators," we're all faking it, to some extent.

[Photo credit: Vinoth Chandar]

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