The Meta-Aesthetics of Artists

A quick thought for the evening on this strange relationship I (and hopefully others, so I’m not alone) have with the appearances of artists and other creative types. Specifically, it’s so very easy to develop the idea that what in my more sober moments I see are fairly superficial characteristics of talented people are actually fundamental and, really, causal.

That is, you see a picture of Jackson Pollock smoking a cigarette and looking intense and you think “smoking and being super intense are part of what made Jackson Pollock the artist he was”. And then, worst of all, “if I were to start smoking and being all intense then I would increase my ability to create great art”. And worse again if we begin with “Jackson Pollock was an alcoholic and frequently an awful person to be around”, so…

Actually, I don’t tend to look to Jackson Pollock for these things, but more toward the jumble of stimuli that is always hurtling towards us, information on what X does, or how Y behaves, whether X and Y are celebrities or admired friends or something else.

Haruki Murakami gets up early in the morning and goes for a jog before sitting down to write – should I?. Talented friend Chad seems to stay up almost every hour of the day –  could I go with as little sleep? Benjamin Franklin used to check up on his successes and failures at virtue every day – should I?. Some internet dude is monitoring his every minute of time usage to optimise his life – would that help? The main character in Dahlgren writes poetry in a strange kind of trace – could I induce such a trance? Doug of the Copenhagen Game Collective is extremely social and excitable about his game design ideas – is that the secret?

I admit to being heavily swayed by these pieces of correlation a lot of the time. I start getting up early, or try staying up late. I try to be more passionate or dispassionate about the things I make. I try to be a particular kind of person, effectively to re-represent myself to myself so that I will do better.

But as I said, in my more sober moments I feel I can see that this is toying around with the aesthetics of creation and not the creation itself. Yes, I could program games in a leather jacket or while smoking a pipe, and it’s oh so tempting and desirable to think that would make a difference, but if we’re being honest… it won’t. Literally the only thing you can do scrap the meta-aesthetic move, and buckle down to the boring old move of… making things. As your boring old ordinary self, preferably, simply to avoid wasting time on retooling your image, whether to show to yourself or others.

Make something, make something else. Whether you’re wearing a waistcoat and plus fours or not is spiritually (if not literally) immaterial.