Master Of Fine Arts

For fun I google E.M. Cioran: “We are all deep in a hell, each moment of which is a miracle.”

A Tumblr page contains the line, along with other solemn notes. It’s the work of a woman—a tender soul/MFA candidate professing interest in:

poetics, critical theory, semiotics, poststructuralist philosophies, anti-essentialism, misanthropy, pessimism, introversion, & solitude.

YOUR PLACE OR MINE?

This gem, under “about”:

“I had always been aware that the Universe is sad; everything in it, animate or inanimate, the wild creatures, the stones, the stars, was enveloped in the great sadness, pervaded by it. Existence had no use. It was without end or reason. The most beautiful things in it, a flower or a song, as well as the most compelling, a desire or a thought, were pointless. So great a sorrow. And I knew that the only rest from my anxiety—for I had been trembling even in infancy—lay in acknowledging and absorbing this sadness.”

— Hayden Carruth, Reluctantly: Autobiographical Essays

I’M HARDER THAN LIFE ITSELF—A TREMBLING INFANT.

I pen suggestive lyrics with her in mind:

a hummingbird
with nectar lungs
I catch her tears
upon my tongue

***
my head is crowned
for sweet repose
her highness perched
atop my nose

In a dream I lie beneath her feet, absorbing sadness.
“They won’t come clean,” she says. “See what you can do.”

Critical Theory

I find myself attracted to art that might be labeled “depressing.” Sometimes I fear I’m simply indulging my illness, looking for verification of the thought: “Life sucks and then you die.” In my sadness, the theory goes, I long for the sadness of others. Perhaps I’d be better off listening to Joel Osteen or binge-watching Little House on the Prairie.

At the risk of sounding like a fuddy-duddy modernist, I believe that art can change the world. This doesn’t mean paint puppies, rainbows and butterflies. Authentic art depicts things as they are, exposes them as being socially constructed rather than natural, and suggests alternative paths to freedom.

A big part of my depression involves my tendency to be self-critical. I’m always looking to improve, sometimes to the point of exhausting myself in the mythical pursuit of Perfection. My internal critique extends outward, into social and political spheres. I’m not content with accepting things at face value. I ask questions and search for inconsistencies between what people claim to believe and how they act.

I’m attracted to “depressing” art not because I’m looking for an alibi for my sadness, but instead because I’m unhappy with the status quo and want to uproot entrenched cultural assumptions. It goes beyond my depression or the somber nature of contemporary art.

It’s life that’s tragic. It’s life that’s unkind.

Did You Find Everything OK?

A man wants everything but has only wishes that never come true—that can’t come true—because Satisfaction is insatiable. He is never happy with himself. At his peak he yearns to extend the climb. Climax portends disappointment.

The Super Bowl MVP celebrating his victory declares he’ll return next year for another title. On the surface it appears he wants to improve, to secure fulfillment, to activate hidden potential. But this is a humanist viewpoint in need of a consumerist perspective.

Mankind has advanced to the point where artificial needs are introduced to us, enlarged to show texture. Manufactured desires, fabricated passions: with many of our basic needs met, we’re left with suggested servings and product reviews. Energies spent, our solution is to Spend.

There’s no transcending the marketplace. It’s no longer a matter of Good versus Evil, but excellent versus poor credit. Besides, Utopia would get boring quickly. There would be no drama, no free shipping, no need to clip Groupons.

Consumer-man is a fretting optimist. He has faith in a culture that assumes he’s never good enough. Discontent is built into the system. There’s a market for every deficiency and each cure restores his health in time for the nausea to settle in again.

The purchase fails to soothe me. At the point of sale I look to exchange my choice, guilty for the price I’ve paid. But I’ve misplaced my receipt. Out of line, back in line. Every day a step closer to checkout.