Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Newest Thing

Fran Lebowitz talks here (about 3 1/2 minutes into the clip) why there is so little that's new in current culture.
“There’s nothing new because the culture is soaked in nostalgia. I believe that must be caused by people my age. I mean, that cannot be caused by 17-year-olds. . . . If you’re young, everything is new to you. So if you go to an exhibit of a young artist, everybody says that this is amazing, and you look at it and you think, `This is surrealism. This is a hundred years old.’ But you have to first know that. Otherwise it seems like a new invention. But there is an endless recycling of the culture of the last thirty years that is really death-dealing. I think it’s just horrible. Really awful. That is the sort of change I would like to see. That is the job of people that are young. That’s your job. Do something new.”

I wonder about the idea of "something new" in music and art (or in "non-popular" culture). When I hear something old that I have never heard before, it is something new to me. Maybe my experience might be like the above artist for whom 100-year-old surrealism is a new medium of choice. The Picasso exhibit at the Art Institute in Chicago is loaded with all sorts of pieces by Picasso that were new to me when I saw them last month, but they were works he made a long time ago. The excitement of that "newness" is just as exciting for me as discovering new works by a young artist who is not as well known as Picasso and is currently making art. Unfortunately I tend to find that "something new" more often in works by older people or people who are no longer alive than in people who are young (though art by young children nearly always feels new and exciting to me).

"Something new" doesn't have to be presented in a totally abstract way. Something new happens every time a baby is born, every time two people fall in love, and every time that winter gives way to spring, and things begin growing. "Something new" happens every time a piece of music is played by a living breathing musician (no matter how old the piece might be, or how many times it has been played). "Something new" can happen in a piece of newly-written music that uses instruments in much the same way they were used 100 years ago. "Something new" can even be made of the same kind of harmonic material that composers used over 100 years ago.


Michael Leddy said...

Emerson: “Perpetual modernness is the measure of merit in every work of art.”

Anonymous said...

I didn't know much about her, and so went to Wiki for an overview. She seems more important than I wager she will be seen across time. Her complaint seems like all aging "artists" that there is something new that we, other artists in general, are not creating, and we, the unwashed masses, are not finding and supporting. It seems there is much new, and she is just showing her own aging in an unflattering light. As to Ralph Waldo, the notion of modernness is odd, glib and perhaps without real meaning. If not, what is the definition of the word "modernness" as applied to Lebowitz' slur of surrealism done today? After a cursory look into an author I knew little about, I have concluded that with so much else to explore and so much more to create, Ms. Lebowitz will remain with one less fan. She won't notice.