Tortured artists aren't mythological, but neither are tortured plumbers, tortured dishwashers, or tortured particle physicists. What's mythological is the notion that the majority
of great art was produced by madmen and depressives who suffered so greatly that they ultimately died young and that artists are, on average, not only unhappier than a random sampling of the general population but that their unhappiness is the very thing which allows them to create their art in the first place. Yes, some people are more unhappy after drug treatment for a mental disorder, but certainly that's not true for everyone. So perpetuating the notion that you have
to be unstable to produce great art could well be preventing some people from seeking treatment which would ultimately be beneficial to them. Because another perspective for someone with a psychiatric disorder would be that they create art in spite
of their problem, not because of it. Their art might be the only thing keeping them sane, as opposed to being a product of their psychosis.
snoqueen wrote:But one of the provinces of art is poetic expression, and if you cannot accept the attempt of this speaker to use poetic language and historical references to describe the experience of creativity, you're cutting yourself off from trying to appreciate a big, big area of human expression.
1) The problem with the historical references part is that it's little more than supposition. It's literally impossible to know what the mental state of a long-dead artist was and it is often difficult to distinguish between a real mental disorder and someone who was simply Bohemian, especially given that artists have long sought to set themselves apart from non-artists in myriad ways. This is sometimes true for living artists too, of course. Do pop stars do outrageous things because they're mentally unstable or because it's exactly what's expected of them? Was that insane thing they just did because they can't help themselves, or was it a calculated move to perpetuate their carefully constructed mystique? There is no clear-cut answer that is true for all artists. Heck, they could all
be true for an artist at different points in their career. Because of this, I don't think much of value can be gained from assigning mental disorders to artists from the past.
2) Is Gilbert being poetic when she says the shift from "people referring to this or that artist as being a genius rather than having a genius" was "a huge error"? I wouldn't think so, as that sounds pretty literal to me, but I've already completely misread her at least once (and thanks for the correction by the way, bdog.) I have no problem with poetic expression, but I read her comments as actively calling for a return to a mild form of magical thinking, something which I strongly oppose because I am an unabashed humanist. I have contempt for any idea I feel is attributing to some outside influence anything for which the human mind rightfully deserves credit. (And arguing that a simple change of semantics is somehow killing artists seems like an awfully gigantic leap to me. Doesn't it to you?)
snoqueen wrote:I know you dislike religion and neither of us has much use for it in our own lives. Still, it is possible -- I know from experience -- to accept and appreciate some people's religious thinking without personally buying into the underlying belief system.
I absolutely agree. But there's a big difference between expressing your spiritual beliefs through your art -- I loves me some kick-ass gospel music, doncha know -- and giving a lecture wherein you entreat people to reject what is true (that art is a product of the human mind) in favor of an outdated belief which is false (that art is at least partially received from a source outside our brains.) Perhaps I'm still getting Gilbert's message wrong, but that's what it sounds like she's saying (at least from bdog's selective quoting.)
snoqueen wrote:I don't have to believe in daimons or muses to know what it's like to find myself in a strange and enjoyable frame of mind where everything seems to make sense and ideas feel as though they are arriving in a stream through an open window.
I am not a stranger to this sensation, so you don't really need to sell me on it. But when the feeling has passed, I'm quite aware that it originated in my mind. There's certainly no evidence it originated anywhere else, and you seem to agree with me on that point. So why encourage people to believe it does?
snoqueen wrote:If you can't loosen up and accept that kind of messing with reality as a gift in its own right instead of an annoyance, I think you're missing a lot.
Some of my favorite art is completely disassociated from reality, so I'm unsure what you're getting at here. And I'm also unclear how any of what you've said about how art is created (which again, I think has been pretty dead-on, not to mention vastly more interesting than any of the quotes from the TED talk) is related to Gilbert's speech, which I don't see as art at all. Should I consider any kind of lecture an artistic expression? There's nothing inherently wrong with that position, I suppose, but it's not one to which I am naturally inclined to subscribe. I think there's value in delineating between artistic expression and an educational talk, and it seems to me that Gilbert's shooting for the latter here. I could be mistaken and I'm open to hearing why you might think I'm wrong, but I just don't see her presentation as being artistic. I have seen some TED talks which seem clearly intended as a sort of performance art -- Amanda Palmer's being the most obvious -- but this doesn't sound like that to me. I suppose I'm gonna have to watch the damn thing now to see for sure, since that wouldn't necessarily be conveyed by printed words alone. I'll watch it after I've made some dinner.