Procrastination Nation

Things that Robert is thinking about that keep him from accomplishing anything.

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Tuesday, December 30, 2003
Meta Artistry
I'm procrastinating on a paper that has to go out the door on Wednesday, but I thought typing this random thought up would get my juices flowing.

Over the break I went to see an exhibit at the Corcoran Art Gallery in Washington, DC. I'll fill in the title info later, but basically the idea is that a modern sculptor/artist has created three-dimensional vignettes based on famous Impressionist paintings like Monet and Van Gogh. If you stand in one location, the vignette looks exactly like the original painting, but as you move around you gain perspective on the events, which perspective is provided by the sculptor. For example, if somebody has their back to viewer in the original painting, walking around in the sculpture space you get to see what expression is on the character's face.

While procrastinating previously, I was flipping through Roger Ebert's movie reviews and clicked on the Girl with a Pearl Earring review. This movie is based on a book that imagines the circumstances by which a painter came to paint one of his houseservants.

This all got me remembering such recent work as Alice Randall's The Wind Done Gone, in which the Tennessee author re-imagines Gone with the Wind from a houseslave's perspective. If I had more time or energy, I think I could come up with more examples.

I was impressed with the work involved in the Corcoran exhibit, and I'm sure that Scarlett Johansson does a wonderful job as the houseservant in Earring. My girlfriend interviewed Randall when she was being sued by GWTW's author's estate, and she says the book was pretty entertaining, if slight.

What I am curious about is, is this really art? Parody is a comedic art form, but there's something still slightly unsatisfying about it as Comedy because it's based on a template. It's the same reason that short-form improv is pretty unsatisfying. The formula does too much of the work (e.g., let me guess what super hero I am; now I'm happy, now I'm angry). It's mimicry, which is amusing but not gust-bustingly funny (though some super funny folks, like the Guest-Levy team, manage to get beyond the formula). The artists in the cases described above provide something novel and interesting, but because they're ultimately derivative of the original's creative impulse should we think of them as Artistic? I guess painting and literature are merely catching up with music, where artists have stolen licks and lyrics and beats for decades.

I don't know, maybe I'll flesh this out some more this week.

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