Paradox and "Misery"
by Joe Woodward
the contemptuous eyes of madness and delusion
the artist rages, imploring some personal
conspiracy of shadows
to uphold that tenuous balance on the
high wire to extinction
between the challenge of personal
exposure and public recognition
And it must
life, normally lurking uncontaminated and hidden inside most people's
existence, becomes highlighted and drawn into sharp relief through a
work of art. Any art. But most obvious through the ancient art of
theatre performance. So how strange that contemporary theatre finds
its own existence so problematic as it searches through the paths of
economics and the Harvard Business School for its spiritual life
blood and inspiration! How strange that theatre organizations are
constantly heralded for having laudable management expertise on their
boards, well presented brochures and marketing plans, while their
audiences decline and while performances and spaces become leeched of
any semblance of the shadow inhabitants lurking within cultural and
psychic personas! How strange that the sacred ground has given way to
the fluorescent ghosts of well meaning committees and ailing
once-upon-a-time artists "alone and palely loitering"
through memories of some romanticised doyen of idealized theatre
practice ... mostly dated around 1975!
is a case of the once-upon-a-time-radical becoming self-conscious and
now kneeling with the power-dressing ones with the cactus smiles
bowing beneath the sacred cow of purchaser/provider rationalism. And
as every student of the arts knows: artists have always grovelled
beneath the conceits of egocentric megalomaniacs and the self
aggrandisements of disdainful benefactors in public office ... from
the Pharaohs to the Medicis to the present.
whinging "wankers" or commercial / "sell-out"
populists seem to proffer alternative views. But even the commercial
/ "sell-out" populist can be caught in the spiral of
demands created by the purchaser of his/her effort. Take Paul
Sheldon, the fictional hero of Stephen King's MISERY: A
popular writer of schlock romance novels, only to have his foot cut
off by his "number 1 fan".
become very successful and adept at working his market. All is well
until he has an accident and has to face Annie Wilkes who has over
the years purchased everything he has written. But now, Wilkes is not
happy with what Sheldon has provided in his most recent manuscript.
So much so, she forces him to write the novel just the way she wants it.
artist's paradox is clear. The need for public recognition,
acceptance and support (even nurturing) is often warring with those
very urges which drive the work. Massive personal / psychological
resources, self trickery and ego are essential ingredients to frame
any work before presentation to the public.
contemptuous eyes of madness and delusion the artist rages, imploring
some personal conspiracy of shadows to uphold that tenuous balance on
the high wire to extinction between the challenge of personal
exposure and public recognition. And always, there is the question:
"What right have I to show this? To do this? To be?" And
how far can one be seen to struggle, before Annie Wilkes cuts off
both legs at the knees?
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