Tuesday, August 12, 2003

A review at Pitchforkmedia got me thinking, something I've been trying to do more of lately. Here is the line that sparked me. It is basically about the terror of blinking and (consequently) missing the presence of genius among us:

as Rene Ricard succinctly put it in a 1981 Artforum essay called The Radiant Child, "No one wants to be part of a generation that ignores another van Gogh."

A good quote. So good that I checked out the entire essay it was pulled from. In context, Ricard was actually saying that the fear of looking the wrong way while something special and unique walks by, is not only distracting and embarrassing (behaviour on the part of many) art critics, but it's also ridiculous, since the conceit of "the unrecognized genius slaving away in a garret" pretty much lived and died with van Gogh (hmmm, Beethoven?). In other words, it happens so rarely, and is so unlikely to recur in our modern world of "professional" artists as to render anxiety over such an occurence pointless. Or as Ricard puts it:

"There is no great artist in all art history who was as ignored as van Gogh, yet people are still afraid of missing the Van Gogh Boat."

So, do those of us who write about music do this (Chris Ott, the Pitchfork writer here, charges Greil Marcus with it, in the latter's constant championing of Laura Logic)? Me, I'm not sure. The closest I've been to this feeling (as far as I know) is the small frisson of vindication when a piece of music I've avidly championed suddenly seems to catch alight elsewhere, in the hearts and minds of others (recently, this happened for me, to an extent, with Broken Social Scene, and also with the Califone spin-off Sin Ropas). But I can't say that such instances have really involved "genius". Neither did I set out to "discover" something unique or precious or special. Perhaps the problem lies in those concepts themselves -- that ideas about genius, or unique, or precious, or special, are in themselves flawed.

But thanks to Pitchfork for helping my brain rise above the usual murk that swims around the parapet of my cranium, even if only for a short while.

And to balance the Pitchfork props (since these two entities seem to be in oppostion so much), here is a great "revived" thread from I Love Music (ILM), which makes me wonder if I got to ILM too late (only discovering it earlier this year). A thread about the Smiths which became pretty much focused on one song, "Panic". It's brilliant, as my compatriots used to say (and no doubt still do).

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