Lunchtime Chat with Arnold Kemp, Larry Krone and the members of Hand2Mouth Theatre.
‘POP, CRASH, BOOM’! Who could ever come up with a better title for a talk on how popculture interacts or clashes with the conceptual strategies of today’s contemporary arts. Or better: How the low crashes into the high… or otherwise…
I expected a discussion on the dynamics of culture, how contemporary culture became hugely informed by late capitalism over the past couple of decades, (Frederic Jameson, Walter Benjamin, Guy Debord, blablabla…) and how the invited artists coped with these ideas, this tendency.
Instead the discussion turned out to become a whole other monster. Not a thorough artistic and intellectual reflection upon today’s culture and entertainment-society seemed to lay at the bottom of these artists’ interest in popculture. No, the most common heard motivation was… nostalgia… teenage memories…
As a European ├╝berconceptualist, sceptic toward and horrified by anything too ‘emotional’ (that’s the way we are today in Europe) this totally took me offguard. I never ever expected such blatant self-expression from an artist… I was lost!
As the discussion evolved, the logic that was laid out by the artists only drove me further away from my own principles. Both Arnold and Larry began to defend the fact that the high arts should try to reach as many people as possible, should be ‘accessible’, giving them another good reason to use ‘popular’ music. My second European art-dogma -’never take accessibility as a goal’- was beaten to death!
It wouldn’t take long before the third fatal casualty incurred. If you want to reach a lot of people for your art you got to have a reason to it… And what’s the talk of the day today? Indeed, the war in Iraq… “As the mainstream media and -music don’t take the lead in the anti-Iraq movement”, so explained the artists, “we have to clear the job! It’s our duty to create the awareness with the people that it’s been enough”!. Principle number three -never try to be a missionary as an artist- was buried alive…
Not that I am the single ‘pro-Bush’-European around… It’s not me, they still have to find him… But I really put serious question marks to the artistic logic these artists follow today. Reflecting upon the current political situation (and even giving a very opinionated view in your work) is one thing, but actively trying to convince as many people as possible of your ideas is according to me not at all the role of an artist.
Of course my critique maybe kinda gives a quite unnuanced view of the chat and could make you wonder what artists such as Arnold Kemp, Larry Krone and Hand2Mouth theater -if they’re really that bad- are doing at TBA (… or what I’m doing on this blog)…
Well, for those of you, I’ll have to say that the whole chat was more of a long freewheeling talk with a lot of really interesting sidestories. It was just the general implicit line through the chat that puzzled me. I can also imagine that I just interpreted this whole chat in a different way others did -or wanted it to be interpreted. I definitely had my conceptual European background against me… Moreover I have it to admit that I only judge the artists on what they said. I haven’t seen any of their work so far, but will do so today and later this festival, so if I change my mind I’ll definitely let you know…
Posted by Wouter Bouchez