DISPATCHES FROM THE CULTURAL FRONT
dispatch 1: by way of introduction...
I find it curious when I hear collaborators remark, ‘We’re
not defusing bombs here,’ in reference to the time and
effort that everyone within earshot is committing to
whatever artistic endeavor at that moment. I’m always
tempted to yell, ‘Fire in the hole!’ and dive for cover.
Sure we are! Of course we’re defusing bombs! ...when not
constructing them. We’re signing up volunteers right now –
an outlaw band of detonator specialists, heedful that even
the most trivial entertainment is not approached
carelessly! Self-determined! (as we would wish); Selfjustified!
(as we must always be); We snip the wires on 10,
9, 8, 7...
And you will hear:
Art is dying! Art is dead!
It’s commoditized! Commercialized! Marginalized! Dulled!
Undervalued! Unsupported. Censored. Unappreciated...
To that we say:
So be it! Entitled art is dead art anyway!
Unappreciated? Uncertain? Unknown? These are not cause
for head-drooping, foot-shuffling supplication. Apology
and lament. Self-pitiful simpering. NO! These are the
very foundation of our necessary work, motivations for the
work we willfully undertake! Defusers/Constructers of
bombs, all! We work from here.
Our work must be our contribution to the human
conversation, our answer to the plainly absurd condition of
life. To futility. To oblivion. To meaninglessness.
My personal commitment is to contribute vitality – to
listen closely, sensitively; to think hard; and to create
boldly. But, as a class, all we artists must take
ourselves more seriously (by which, I do NOT mean
humorlessly). Post-Beckett, post-Camus a conscious person
may be able to “live without appeal” in the sense of
disregarding the obvious sophistries institutionalized in
the past. But what now? What replaces them? Enter the
artists... ADVANCE GUARD!
Form must proceed from Content! This is demanded if we are
Dead must be the preconceived structure. The expected.
The understood. Whatever the discipline, whatever the
previous achievements, tradition cannot be our guide.
First must be the themes, the images, the dialectics. From
these, the form emerges. From these, we venture into the
unknown, allowing our curiosity, our study, and vigilant
intuition to lead us to unique and original expression. To
surprise. (This is not to say that all convention is
abandoned, of course. That would not be possible.
Convention. Expectation. These are what something
“unique” is defined from, to which uniqueness refers. Our
challenge is to use convention, not be bound by it.) The
subject of our inspiration will determine the form of its
expression. This is a guiding principle. This is an
It is not enough to ask these questions and vaguely pursue
these goals. Artistry requires, not only interest,
inspiration, and will, but craft, discourse, guidance,
challenge, diversity of opinion and encounter. These lofty
ambitions and questions must be grounded in practice.
Seeking artists of similar aspiration, other
defusers/constructors of bombs! Report for duty with all
abandon and haste! Timers are ticking... 3, 2, 1...
I work as a playwright, producer, videographer, video
editor, actor, author. And my work is informed enormously
by my avid viewership and (personal, un-credentialed)
critical appraisal of arts, politics, architecture, media,
philosophy. This column is to be my report. A collection
of my responses. An assemblage of tangents. An outlaw
record of subversive opinions. A self-appointed, selfjustified
ministry of culture.
My first column, above, gives you some idea of my aesthetic
prejudices, goals, interests. But a column is a different
field of expression – obviously, not purely artistic. I
promise to take license. I promise to have fun. But the
content will be primarily analytical. With your feedback,
I hope to add to the roiling cultural discourse, to plug
into a wider correspondence and conversation.
More dispatches forthcoming...