Thursday, August 04, 2005

New, Original Post! Never Seen Before!

“Shall we forever make new books, as apothecaries make new mixtures, by pouring only out of one vessel into another?” Laurence Sterne asked in Tristram Shandy. “Are we forever to be twisting and untwisting the same rope?”

I do sometimes bemoan what seems like a lack of originality in the arts these days. Like many others, I can’t decide if the problem is with the artists or with the stricter and stricter rules laid down for who gets to use the microphone.

The most worn out sentence at the moment seems to be “If (artist, band, writer, painter) came along today, they’d never make it,” the implication being that the delivery systems as they are now leave no room for innovation, experimentation, or personality.

Is it true?

We live in paradoxical times. At the same time that the communications companies continue to consolidate into corporate monoliths, the Internet has opened the world up to countless artists who can express themselves in unlimited ways. The question is, does it merely foster a private club atmosphere in which the same 4 or 5 people congratulate each other for being on the cutting edge, or is it an illusion that never really grants anyone an opportunity to break out onto a world stage?

The actual meaning of the word “originality,” like that of “genius,” seems to have been lost through misguided overuse. There’s a commercial for the new film Sky High running on television at the moment that features blurb reviews, one after the other. Right after they emblazon the quote “Totally Original!” across the screen, the next one reads “Spy Kids Meets Harry Potter!” as if the irony is completely lost on them. One can’t help but wonder if they remember what the word “original” actually means. Perhaps its meaning has changed after years of witnessing companies achieving their greatest successes by recycling the familiar.

I went to the movies yesterday and saw two films. One was a sequel and the other was a remake. Before the remake they showed a preview of an exciting, upcoming remake. It’s depressing. Where is the individual voice? Where is the willingness to challenge or surprise the audience? Is everything such a high stakes game anymore that those qualities are now seen only as poor investments, a game of blackjack that doesn’t assure the same returns as putting the number 2 or 3 after a shopworn title does?

Is the onus on me to dig deeper and try harder to unearth the new and exciting?

Perhaps there’s nothing new under the sun and it’s too much to expect an endless supply of inspiration to be paraded in front of us. Or maybe culture is stuck in a rut that it will eventually break out of, revealing vistas we little suspected.

It wasn’t until quite a few years later that the hidden joke in Sterne’s quote came to light: namely, that he had actually plagiarized it himself from his favorite bedside book, Robert Burton’s The Anatomy Of Melancholy. So perhaps it’s not originality we should prize so much as the way the human story is remolded by every individual.

Maybe that’s the best way to look at it. After all, we’ve got a long ways to go yet.

Special Note for Trainspotters: Imagine my surprise when, in the middle of one of those two pictures, I was greeted by a surprise cameo from The Star, he of the 4-part Drama Class story. It was great to see him again, but a little eerie after having just related the tale of our steel cage grudge match.


Anonymous javahead said...

1) I love you
2) The word "Original" and the likes, is not lost on Hollywood Execs. It is lost on us.
3) Original. Can youimagine how much future generations are going to have to learn?
4) Wasn't it pitiful that even the soundtrack in SkyHigh was a bunch of reamde 80's hits?!

Saturday, August 06, 2005 1:51:00 PM  
Anonymous javahead said...

I will preview my next posts and make corrections, because that last post of mine sucketh ass.

Saturday, August 06, 2005 1:52:00 PM  

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