WHEN EVAN SHINNERS APPROACHED ME, DESIRING AN OUTLET TO RANT, I KNEW WITHOUT ANY HESITATION THAT MY ANSWER MUST BE YES. WHEN EVAN SHINNERS ASKED ME TO EDIT HIS WORK, TITLING THE EMAIL “FEEDBACK WANTED”, I KNEW PREMATURELY THAT THERE WOULD BE NO FEEDBACK. BECAUSE EVAN SHINNERS, THOUGH TRULY INSANE, HARBORS RADIANT TRUTH. WITHOUT KNOWING WHAT TO EXPECT, YET KNOWING EXACTLY IN WHAT FORM TO EXPECT IT, WHAT I RECEIVED RATTLED EVERYTHING THAT MY COMMUNITY STANDS UP FOR. WITHOUT MORE WORDS, I PRESENT TO YOU, WITHOUT A SINGLE EDIT:
by Evan Shinners
my defense is my insanity, which was prodded out by these ‘artists,’ these ‘creative types’ – the new hip thing to be in the world. i simply blurted out what came to mind- dangerous today- and it came at the price of ruining the delicate balance these ‘artist seminars’ or ‘workshops’ are, these gatherings which seem so important for us artsy types:
a young man with a guitar, unshaven yet shaken, sits surrounded in the living room of an apartment- a walkup building like those i used to climb in washington heights- tonight i am in brooklyn, a ways into eastern parkway, and part of the crowd.
everyone is attractive, young-ish, but we have passed the truly immature party days based on a few of us balding or wearing wedding rings, its also only nine at night, not three hours later.
the host of the party introduces the guitarist, who makes a graceless introduction apologizing for not having performed in a long time. dreading what is about to happen, fearing i should leave immediately, i humor my host (to whom at this moment i apologize should you discover this little rant dingus paid me handsomely to write. i dont mean to offend you, only the evening!), and i stay to hear this man play his guitar.
but he is rather proficient! somewhat of a virtuoso at times, a troubadour i could even say! he began his performance with an apology? after he plays, the host and his cherie proceed to ask him questions about his work, he seems as if he has no answer. the host continues to probe, no answers. then come the suggestions! from the public! the guitarist proceeds to deflate himself by excusing the suggestions slightly or nodding politely in timid agreement. finally, after a wholly capable musical display, the artist is dead in this room, we killed him with suggestions and the ‘artist workshop’ setting.
miles used to judge musicians based on how they took the instrument out of the case; how am i supposed to judge musicians who subject themselves to this death? what is my generation of musicians doing groveling in front of a living room full of “creative people”!?
i think, “if i am here, surely this means i could give a suggestion too” but ive never seen this man, never heard his work and any quibble or articulate analogy i could pull out would be just that- pulled out. crap.
perhaps at this point you have defended the party, the host, the guitarist, you have seeded yourself against me exclaiming this is a case of championing a shy performer too timid for the larger stage… et cetera… you dont want to lose his music… et cetera. i answer you by asking, what is the next performer doing? i know him personally to be a truly accomplished performer! something more sinister is going on here! it has more to do with the listening public than the musician. ah!
“a pubic space in which to try works in progress” or “feeling out new work in a constructive environment” -euphemisms. i believe we wish it represented something deep and meaningful, but the truth is this is a place for everyone to offer their personal version of what is clever. the invited becomes the artist. everyone is an artist now, everyone. and with everyone an artist, no one is an artist. it ceases to be a creative environment, it is counter productive. the spectacle has vanished, the stage is lowered to the public where art can not only be touched, but remolded by banal suggestions and whims.
the discussions range from telling musicians what we thought of the title:
“strange you call it autumn, i could see spring”
“mmn.” someone agrees.
are these insults?
they proceed a point with, “i am not a musician, but…” and then something they perceive as profound, “i could totally see this with a story being told at the same time.”
“okay, thanks, ill try that” whispers the guitarist.
will he really? the real artist would reply:
“go fuck yourself! who the hell are you? why are we pretending to listen to your point?”
after a lengthy improvisation from a percussionist, i hear,
“it may be just because i have been attending ballet more frequently, but it made me feel as if i wanted to do this:” she moves forward into the room with a dance move.
but no one says, “so dance!” instead she talks about how she wished for an excuse to dance. how miserable, how desolate! a place where people would rather express desires to dance before dancing! of course no one says, “youre full of shit, you just wanted to talk about ballet class.” do people sense this but hold their tongues? of course. it would ruin the fragile ‘workshop’ environment.
before you think i channel a distaste for the public, first understand the distinction between public and others who think they are above the public. these “creative types” who elevate themselves to the level of artist are the most dangerous to listen to. the person who thinks they know is the person who knows least. know too, there is an art to withdrawing feedback from an audience, and every good performer knows this. but when an ‘artist’ takes a suggestion from a person he has never met, let alone can scarcely trust, where else is he getting ideas?
the idea of works in progress is also disturbing. if a work is really in progress, wary should we be of the artist who goes to a party of strangers to look for advice. we used to struggle through depressing series of letters, through coffee and alcohol, through late nights discussing theories with our closest friends. we had to build up artistic relationships and only after years of establishing trust would we open up about the problem of form, or orchestration.
do not put the workshop in public! the artist should hide the craft, or else stealth is lost. workshops are scams no true artist attends. when the true artist seeks advice, the true artist steals from other artists, and the true artist feigns from labeling himself ‘artist’.
genius is natural, it can not occur any other way. if there is discipline behind the genius, hide it. here, where everyone can touch and pick freely at the artists, genius is not possible.
and how we love to talk! to hear our voices try to articulate our opinion the very moment we are forming one. it seems all for the ceremony nonetheless. i sense even after an opinion is shared, the suggestion givers at these ‘seminars’ couldnt possibly hold to the belief that the artists go back and apply the suggestions. yet who knows? how far does this unmerited sense of artistry lead astray?
our people are historically tame, we dont applaud between movements at a symphony, we dont react to artwork with outbursts. we earn reputations through the skill of subtle bullshitting. intellect in our culture is the symbol of intellect, it utilizes little original thought, it is worn like fashion. the lofty and sublime is treated mildly. defiant opinions which once shaped the world in every craft are becoming harder and harder to come by, and grave opinions which need years of forming and developing are expressed casually.
no more explanations about art! show us! do not tell us, do not resort to polite silence, do not trust anybody with opinions. the moment the art needs to be explained is the moment the art falls short. become brash! but please, brashness after hours of miserable discipline. the formula is discipline + inspiration = art. inspiration alone = garbage.
miles punched ornette in the face! bach pulled a knife on his bassoonist! lee morgan was killed on stage! @evanshinners