April 4, 2011 § 4 Comments

Bebe Zeva...or Baba Yaga. Whatever.


I just don’t know. I wanted to share this link with you precisely because I don’t have a sense of what I want to say. The interview turned my stomach, like bad tuna or watching the girlfriend of the dude you’re sleeping with walk right in the door, and I wasn’t able to shake it. I like some of Tao Lin’s writing and am not a hater of his particular flat-affect shallowly descriptive declarative style. I’ve never read the writing of his woman but am predisposed to like it because she seems intelligent and thoughtful. I’ve also not seen this documentary, not even online clips, so why? What’s bugging me?

I just don’t know. I think this guy, a commenter on the Rumpus, gets closest to articulating my nausea (he also links this topic nicely to the n+1 article from a few days ago….thanks, guy!) –

“In fairness, Tao Lin is only as self-absorbed as (uh! blasphemy!) Jack Kerouac, but it lacks that majestic “burn, burn, burn”, the sense that they were going somewhere, that they were–to quote the Blues Brothers–on a Mission From God. I don’t get that sense from many modern writers. Instead I’m left with the unpleasant flavor of Warholian what-the-fuckism, a sense that if we just do whatever comes into our heads it’s important because We Are Artists. And the Internet feeds that and feeds off of that. And while we all skip from here to HTML Giant to LitDrift to The Millions to Maud Newton somewhere people on beat laptops with dead batteries and no wireless are furiously typing, trying to find the incantation that will remake the world and if they don’t have a book trailer on You Tube we will miss them.”



§ 4 Responses to

  • J. says:

    1. I am deeply upset by the fact that Bebe Zeva was born in 1993. 1993? 1993. I think I just got arthritis.

    2. On a more relavent note, I also feel deeply weird about this–like the girlfriend of the dude my friend is sleeping with just walked in the door and I’m trying really hard not to make a face that betrays how weird I’m feeling. It makes me think of last night’s Colbert Report and a segment in which James Franco (yes, yes, where other people could quote something from some philosopher somewhere, I look to Steven Colbert-probably compromising my own argument but please, bear with me. I can’t do it all.) appears as his twin brother Frank Jameso, giving Steven advice on how to take down the suddenly ubiquitous James Franco. Frank Jameso suggests, “Ask him this–does he think he’s a renaissance man, or is modern America so intellectually bankrupt that anyone pursuing any cultural enrichment tof any kind makes him seem intellectual?”
    I’ve also read about, but haven’t seen, Tao Lin and Megan Boyle’s movies “MDMA” and “Heroin” in which they film (or will film, not sure if they’ve done “Heroin” yet) themselves on the drugs of the movies’ namesake. When asked by the interviewer what inspired them to make these films, Tao Lin and Boyle’s answers were respectively something like “Because I wanna” and “I dunno.” (It was an interview with NYU, so maybe they didn’t try as hard–Boyle articulates her ideas much better with the Rumpus, admittedly.) But then, what makes that art? It doesn’t seem to be trying to do anything other than say “haha, we’re funny on speed.” So I definitely agree with you, Mister Rumpus Commenter. This just seems to be a terrible wank-fest in which everyone gets their own “I am important” happy ending because they are either “An Artist,” “A Subject,” or identifying with this “post-ironic” alt-culture sphere where simple stand-ins for intelligence and culture (big glasses, “people carrying Infinite Jest” also comes to mind) are enough to substitute for the real thing.

    • M says:

      See, you rock! Who needs to quote a philosopher when you can work it out with Colbert and Franco? Which is also sort of the point – I think you’re absolutely right that there’s this growing insta-culture where you only need the props (the book, the glasses, the fixed-speed bike, whatever), and you’re in and whatever you do or say is important and worthwhile and, whoa, art. As opposed to these same people actually doing the work of reading, thinking, creating, synthesizing, trying to make something that makes sense and is larger than itself, that speaks to and with us rather than just for us, that can break through the brick wall and make its own way. Because that, that sort of actual work, you can’t do in a bar or while being filmed on speed or endlessly solipsizing your own existence. To do that you might actually need to watch the Colbert Report with a cat on your lap (another living thing that isn’t you but that you care for?) and with a brain tuned towards something more.

      But I don’t know. I just went on a date and it was fun and my brain is mush. Sorry.

      • Z says:

        Pardon me while I barge in without reading the aforementioned link or without knowing the who fuck the subject of the conversation is, but, I agree with your comment M. There are artists and then there are “artists”. The former are the people who, as you said, take the time to craft something from the nebulous areas of their minds and do so without any sort of sense of self-importance. The latter are often self-promoting blowhards who over estimate their worth to society while getting caught up within the “art scene”. I saw plenty of both back in art school.

        I have a pretty liberal sense of what art is and what art isn’t. If I had to sum it up, I’d say that art is defined by the intent of the person behind it. Whether it’s a shit statue of Jesus or it’s a home video of oneself high, then I suppose it’s art. Though, the latter for some people is simply a fun Saturday night. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good art.

  • Z says:

    Ok, I just read the interview. Yep, I think I’m going to stand by previous remarks. Interesting, though, it gave me a chuckle. Thanks M.

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