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Repost: Faux artists

You know, I have a problem with non-artists. You know the people of whom I’m thinking; maybe you even admire them.

They’re bands like KISS. They’re storytellers like Stan Lee.

They’re the artists who create immensely popular stuff, perhaps for niche audiences, knowing that it’s perhaps not “high art” but it still appeals to innumerable fans.

They’re the artists who could have been contenders, something more than they are, but who’re unapologetic about not being more.

I have a problem with them because I understand and admire them even while sneering at their pretension.

Sure, perhaps their artistic output doesn’t impress me as such; I don’t think I’ve ever heard a KISS song and thought to myself that there was music there that really had the power to do more than stun the listener. (“I want to rock and roll all night” isn’t exactly a grand statement… and none of KISS’ output really can be described as more “relevant” than that. Pink Floyd and KISS are not the same. A Pink Floyd topic is philosophically incompatible with a KISS topic.)

But at the same time… KISS is popular. They make a lot of money. They’re unapologetic about it; they’re honest about their role in the music industry. They’re not pretentious about it.

I may not care a lot about them as artists, but I definitely respect their recognition of a goal, and their pursuit of it.

Stan Lee is the same way. He had a laser focus on telling stories and making money out of it; sure, he followed the zeitgeist (sometimes fairly closely, such that he could be described as being part of it, or leading it) but that was part of his process and method.

He’d find a topic, and “hey, let’s tell a story about it so we can be seen as relevant” – all the while recognizing that the relevance was a mantle around the story, that the story was still the thing.

Sure, the output wasn’t really art per se – but the process sure was. It’s deliberate. Aimed, calculated, machined within micrometers of perfection. Sure, it didn’t work sometimes, but that’s okay – the process was working even if the choices made by those using it were not always right.

The result is that sometimes there’s a lot of winking going on, when it comes to the produced material. “Sure, it’s created by frauds, but it’s a great story!” — never mind that the “created by frauds” part invalidates the “great story” part.

We’re used to this sort of thing; we see it in politics, we see it on TV, we hear it on the radio, we read it in books.

Yet we know the process is working, because whether the writing in Harry Potter is simple and the plot’s largely inane, we enjoy it nonetheless.

It has value for us, because the process used to create it, no matter how cynical, works.

Thus: my problem with faux artists is that I see them as false. The problem is me. Their process is nothing more than their process, and in the end my life is better for it.

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