Thursday, June 30, 2016

I Love The List of Ziusudra by Scott Dean Taylor

Dear readers, as you know I'm on vacation this week! Hurrah! During this time I've decided to feature the thoughts of my friends. Hope you enjoy and don't forget to leave a comment! - Arcadia

I love The List of Ziusudra. It’s five hundred years older than our first poem, and one thousand years older than our first story. 
Ziusudra, the first essayist according to D'agata
D’agata calls it the first essay:

“it’s a mind’s inquisitive ramble through a place wiped clean of answers. It is trying to make a new shape where there previously was none.” 

I like to believe art has an infinite number of definitions. If you have to ask if something is art, then art it becomes. If you believe in a god, then nature is art. When I am analyzing anything, these beliefs are never far from my mind. It’s important to note that these statements keep me in a constructed view of reality that presumes every thing I sense is art.

Everything I experience is elevated and more fulfilling to analyze through this lens. Everything is art; not everything is great art.

And but so now, we live in Wichita, Kansas. 163.59 square miles and 382,368 people. It’s the 48th largest city (by population) in the US. We have local art. Painters, musicians, poets, writers, directors, and actors have worked and will work here forever. What is the point of this local art? Kansas City (36th on the list of Largest Cities) is only 3 hours away. Oklahoma City (27th) is even closer. With the internet and cheaper traveling costs Chicago(3rd), L.A.(2nd), and New York(1st) are easier to access than ever.

We don’t need to create.

 From their couch Wichitans can comfortably consume wonderful works from world class artists in L.A, New York, and Paris instantly. We don’t need to create. Maybe we shouldn’t. But wait, we have good art here. Don't we? 

• A Goldbarth essay. 
• Samuel Ramey’s voice. 
• A Bodo show. 
• Anything the Love family does.
 • Maria Elena’s voice (and her guitar player).
 • A Dale Black bass solo. 

So, great art is made in Wichita. These people prove that. Now we just need to nail down the point: Why should we, in Wichita, create art?

I could quote a million great authors with answers to this question but David Shields, in his great collage book Reality Hunger: A Manifesto, quotes Nietzsche as saying,

“It is my ambition to say in sentences what everyone else says in a whole book — what everyone else does not say in a whole book.” 

Wichitans should create art for the same reasons 
everyone should create art. 
1. To raise the consciousness of humanity. 
2. To find an objective good. (or, you know, see god).

 Art is here for us to find freedom together. It is our greatest tool for achieving universal enlightenment together. We might be able to see god together. But only through great struggle and friction. “We live in difficult times; art should be difficult.” - Shields himself this time.

There is the key. In this instance, struggle and friction manifest themselves through criticism. We owe it to our community to have multiple analytical conversations about every artistic venture carried out in this town. Most of the time this will mean talking shit. Bad is out there; it’s recognizable (sometimes even more than good).

Critical thinking (and speaking) creates filters for artistic development. An artist that is critically analyzed is forced to stare in the face of that censure and make a choice about future creations. Whether the artists says, “That’s bull shit. That analysis is way off,” or, “Well, there is merit to that analysis.” the artist is required to make a decision in order to move forward. The more decisions like this - and they add up fast - the better the art is.

Wichita deserves a rigorously scrutinized art world. We deserve the one and two star reviews so we can get to our five star reviewed work. There is a lot of positivity for positivity’s sake in the weak world of Wichita art and culture reviewing.

I mentioned Ziusudra’s list earlier to show how people commented on society in the list form at the beginning of recorded art. Making a list of the “25 Reasons I Love Wichita” is a warm (cheap) and polite (pandering) way to get some likes on a blog or status update. It gives pride for a moment, then we move on. Where Ziusudra’s list “is trying to make a new shape where there previously was none,” lists of the best things about or in Wichita just comment on the shape of things that have always existed and will always exist in almost every town on the Earth.

We also have “critics” who pump out positive thoughts about local art under the guise of support. This does nothing. It might get some people out to the art gallery, or out to a concert, but positivity without negativity is meaningless. Wichita is in desperate need of shit-talking. So, here is what I hope for.

I hope English grad students get off their 6th floor Infinite Jest hideout and start wrestling with Goldbarth. 
I hope we start having positive and negative conversations about the state of local writing in a public way. I hope more music students put bands together and start playing non-paying gigs of original music so we can make them suffer through our criticism. 

I hope someone starts bravely publishing reviews of local art shows.

 I hope we all grow up to be critics some day.
 Through struggle, to beauty. 

Curious about Scott's other thoughts? Check out his interview and leave a comment below!

1 comment:

  1. Love the comment about English grad students--6th floor is so right! But, you'd be surprised how many Engliah majors hang out and go to shows. I was.


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