Brilliance Under the Radar

I've been thinking recently about some of my favorite writers, favorite artists, favorite musicians — and how some of them have never "made it" in the traditional sense of the phrase. They are not renowned; they do not make money directly off their art. Most not only don't make money from their art, their art costs money to make.

If I write an essay about the films of Wes Anerdson, people may read it. If I write an essay about the films of Marc Lafia, no one gives a shit. If I quote Lafia in an essay I'm writing, the citation carries no weight; if I quote Deleuze, then I must know my shit.

But are these people any less great than the well-known, well-distributed, and well-paid? There is an alarming prejudice that declares that for something truly to be great, it must be well known. It must receive accolades; it must have the imprint of capitalist, popular success.

And yet many of my favorite artists, none of whom will likely ever be so imprinted, have changed my life in profound ways. Because they are fucking brilliant.

I am thinking of the great poet and writer, Lisa Robertson, who's written the downright devastatingly brilliant, The Weather and Occasional Work and Seven Walks from the Office of Soft Architecture (whose title alone is an entire pedagogy and is so smart it makes me want punch myself in the face out of joy). She performs a new kind of knowing, a phenomenology, a way of going that is at once physical and affective and exquisite.

And of my excellent friend, Marc Lafia, who's been making short films, long films, images, and experiences for 30 years and whose work has taught me what vision is and what technology is. He operates in this incredible space that always already considers the form of something, engages the form of something, while articulating it with an incredible intelligence and beauty.

And of my fellow rhetor, Lohren Green, whose Poetical Dictionary is one of the greatest contributions to literature imaginable — at once shifting the very terms of knowing, of speaking, of writing and doing it with the utmost grace and eloquence.

Or my favorite band, now disbanded, Here Are The Facts You Requested,who take on the entire history of pop music to create what they call avant-normal — incredible songs that interrogate the very nature of a song with every note.

Now I imagine writers, musicians, artists like this all over the world — this entire strata of outrageous brilliance hovering over this globe, a strata that rarely moves, that does not enjoy dissemination but that persists out of diligence and passion. When I imagine this, I am at once inspired and saddened — inspired by the thought that despite the overwhelming stupidity and ugliness of the world, there are these flares of brilliance everywhere; and saddened that I, and you, will never know them.


Ruby said...

The internet disseminates those ’lesser’ valued works to people who really will value them: you mention Loren Green and someone else in another part of the world looks it up and he might use it in class and the student might be a genius leading to a run on his favourite books – it’s unlikely and takes a long time but even so, the chances of being caught up in a value-frenzy like Jonathan Franzen seem more remote and have less substance.

drip said...

there are these flares of brilliance everywhere; and saddened that I, and you, will never know them.. Maybe not all of them, eh? But enough to fill some time. Since you like directors named Anderson, (so do I), check out Lindsay, most especially, O Lucky Man!. You see, its just sampling the world, tasting what might be, that keeps us going. I'll give the band a listen.

69959e5a-57e2-11e0-a3a5-000bcdcb2996 said...

I disagree. Snookie is on a popular television program and gets paid to get drunk and act as a cretin, so it's fairly obvious she must be good at writing literature. Why else give someone so inherently talented a book deal?

jay said...

Dude, I don't think you can blame everything on capital (as much as I'm sympathetic to this critique). Renown has functioned to confer authority, long before capital. I cite God as only one example. Also maybe Aristotle and Shakespeare. I guess capital makes it worse though, takes it to an absurd extreme, wherein renown is all that's necessary. Anyway, your point is well taken.

It's not just renown though. It's also the problem of the "best seller." Capital wants to channel renown through as few objects as possible, since it's main function is to concentrate wealth (people always forget/ignore than an economy is not just a mechanism of innovation and production, but also of distribution). So the "best seller" phenomenon excludes most people through it's need to have "only one" authority rule them all.

I also think capital is indifferent (rather than hostile) to brilliance. If a genius happens to sell well, great! If an idiot sells well, that's great too! The quality of the object is not important. All that matters is appropriating the value for the benefit of others.

Pierre said...

fame is a feeling so widespread that it can't be honnest.