Art is not natural. Art is created, changed, edited. Art is not what happens normally and everyday. You don’t find guitar chords in nature, people don’t speak in iambic pentameter and the Mona Lisa was not etched in a rock face by a river.
Before you get all hot and bothered, back off the keyboard for a second and let me finish…Of course we find beauty and wonder in nature, that’s not what I’m talking about. Art can be beautiful, but not everything that’s beautiful is art. Got it? Art is the result of deliberate action on the part of it’s creator. Even “found art” has to be found and made notable, somehow separate from the rest of the world. You can be inspired by the experience of nature, but you still create something out of it, you change it. A poem inspired by the purple mountain’s majesty is not natural, it is created by the author. It takes action and intent to create art.
In that vein, I find it so refreshing and inspiring when I come upon an artist in any genre who is willing to take the act of creation to it’s logical conclusion. To take the artifice to dizzying heights of strangeness and absurdity. Really, weird is only defined in contrast to the normal, everyday, the natural. It takes extreme effort and dedication to take a genre so far out of it’s comfort zone that the audience can simply gasp in astonishment at the audacity and originality of the content. Performance art seems to be on the cutting edge of this, but one can find examples in all forms of expression. From Monty Python to Picasso to Frank Zappa, people have been asking “Is this art?”
We limit ourselves so much. We live the lives that are given to us, the day-in-day-out that our peers and supervisors demand of us. The lives our parents lived and fought and struggled to pass down to us. Things can be so different. It’s commonly said that Salvador Dali wondered why, when he ordered a lobster, someone didn’t deliver a flaming telephone instead.
This isn’t to say that the everyday life is worthless or meaningless. People find great contentment in it. There is nobility and happiness in being “just a fill in the blank However, without vigilance, that contentment can too easily slip into stagnation and mediocrity. Without the people at the edges, the people who say “What if?” and “Why not?”, the people who covet the strange and are brave enough to live with the consequences, the rest of us would never be open to the important changes. “The way we’ve always done things” is a powerful narcotic. Useful at times, but too much is lethal.
So here’s a toast to one of the few, the brave, the bat-shit crazy innovators and free-thinkers who showed us worlds that could be, Klaus Nomi:
For the classically inclined, Purcell’s aria “Cold Song”
What power art thou, who from below
Hast made me rise unwillingly and slow
From beds of everlasting snow?
See’st thou not how stiff and wondrous old,
Far unfit to bear the bitter cold,
I can scarcely move or draw my breath?
Let me, let me freeze again to death…
Video Cover of “Lighting Strikes”