Sunday, September 9, 2007

The Library of Babel and the Death of Art

Recently, I've been spending a lot of time talking with IPLv70 about writing. As one of the many coincidences we have in common, we both were in the process of writing trilogies when we first met. IPLv70 has been writing hers much longer than I have been writing my own story; but we have eerie similarities in our plot and character constructions. Anyway, we spend a lot of time talking about books and our own writing; and a topic that comes up quite frequently is the poor quality of most modern fiction...

It's something I've noticed everywhere in the last few years: photography, painting, writing, research publications, web design are all being inundated with crap. Having spent a few years shooting photos, working in mathematical research and attempting to write my own fictional trilogy and mathematical textbook, I've experienced first hand the challenges of creating something that is worth a damn. It's not that I think my work is awesome; it's just that I know the things I create come from me; they are a true reflection of who and what I am, as pretty or ugly as that may be.

Back in the day before the ability to write, take photos, paint, etc etc wasn't immediately accessible to everyone on the planet, creation in these mediums gave a truer reflection of the artists than today (on the whole). The fact is, in history, those who create, had to fight to do so... they had to believe in it and be idealistic about it as the means to create weren't readily obtained or came at a high social cost. Today, almost anyone can get a book published, buy a digital camera, or paints, clay, whatever. Art is a hobby today... most who proclaim to do it either do so as a hobby, do it for money, or do it for the novelty of having the label 'artist', 'author', 'scientist', whatever. There is no ideal and no desire to project oneself in a creative way for 99% of the people endeavoring to create something. Painters and sculptures today become famous due to their PR work and not their actual creations. I mean when shit in a can from the 1960s can be literally proclaimed as art and sold for over $140k a god damn can, you can't tell me that the world of art is about creating... it's about fucking PR.

Art is a very emotional and cerebral thing. It's supposed to make you think and reflect. Unfortunately, the ability to think on any level deeper than the utterly superficial is severely discouraged in society. After all, it's easier to control a mass of idiots than a mass of thinking people. Thus drivel proclaiming to be art is embraced by the masses (i.e. Transformers the movie, the DaVinci code, and most modern works of fiction). Case in point, there is only ONE movie made in the last twenty years that is in the top 50 of all time (the lord of the rings). It has been admitted by many publishers that works like "War and Peace", "Moby Dick", etc. could NOT get a publisher in today's market. It's not even an issue of the general public embracing crap; they also reject quality because it takes more of them mentally to see it's value, as it's not superficial.

It is said, that if you give an infinite amount of hillbillies an infinite number of shotguns and roadsigns, you'll eventually get a replication of the Mona Lisa. A similar saying has been around relating monkeys, typewriters and Shakespeare. These come under the idea of the Library of Babel; a library whose books represent every combination of letters for a particular language. All the knowledge is there, but how does one find it in the mountain of jibberish? You can't; you will go insane trying to do so. That is my worry about all the creative subjects in the world subject to the whims of those who don't give a fuck about art actually being art. Art is made to be seen and appreciated (notice I'm not saying acknowledged)... how can one do this when the art is buried in a sea of shit?