Saturday, October 22, 2005

The Unbearable Weight of Cultural Memory

In an art gallery today we got talking about artists and their challenges. One thing that came up was the trouble of dealing with centuries of Western art. This is not just in the visual realm. How does the author have an original idea? Or the composer?

There are so many different threads of expression out there in every discipline. The 20th Century has only accelerated this phenomenon.

At one point in Crime and Punishment, Raskolnikov despairs that the man (Raskolnikov says "man") with an original idea is truly rare, maybe one in a million.

Try and do something - anything - that's truly original, and you will push up against this very fast. I can't count how many ideas for prose or painting or what-have-you I've abandoned once I realised that I was rehashing someone else's work. I suppose that I could take solace in the notion that some themes are universal and wrap myself in the warm blanket of the collective unconscious. But then there are those one-in-a-million people, able to create something original. And you know, you know that you can do something original, if only...