Creating art is fun. It’s fun to be completely free creatively and express yourself openly. It's fun to be authentic to oneself and be able to alchemize something abstract in the tangible world. But then releasing that art to the masses leaves you open for criticism. Which begs the question, how much say should the consumer have in the creation of the art?
Personally when I consume art I like it when the artist doesn’t care about what I think and is just completely true to the craft. I like artists that go against the tide of what's expected of them and instead remain true to the process of creation. But whenever you’re creating for an audience there’s still that feeling that you have to make something that appeals to them, something that fits in with the current landscape or panders to a specific group. And that's not just in art, that's in life. There’s a level of self censorship that we do to achieve some sort of appeal, even if we don’t do it completely consciously.
We all want to be liked. The desire for approval, appreciation, and acceptance by others is a normal part of being human. And although some people may care less than others about the opinions of their peers, on some level everyone wants to be liked. So we mold ourselves in the image of what gets us the most approval from the group. And that has benefits but it also has setbacks.
Jean Paul Sartre once said “Hell is other people” The line comes from a 1944 existentialist play by the French philosopher called No Exit. In the play, three people are trapped in Hell — which is a single room — and ultimately, while confessing their sins to one another, end up falling into a bizarre love triangle. The confinement of the characters extends beyond their physical holding room: they are trapped by the judgments of their cellmates. That's why one of the characters says, "Hell is other people" — because of how we are unable to escape the watchful gaze of everyone around us. "By the mere appearance of the Other," says Sartre in Being and Nothingness, "I am put in the position of passing judgment on myself as on an object, for it is as an object that I appear to the Other."
If you’re in a park alone, then you are only the observer, the park presents itself to you with trees above your head and a chipmunk running around, but once another person enters the park, you are now an object, forced to react according to how you want to be perceived, which ultimately isn’t your completely authentic mode of being. Art is a place where you can explore and express that essence. When you are able to truly create from within you are able to find shrapnels of that original essence that Plato would call “the form”.
Plato supposed that everything in reality is essentially or "really" the “Form” and that everything is a mere shadow mimicking the Form. Plato believed everything is a momentary portrayal of the Form under different circumstances. He believed that Form was a distinct singular substance but caused many representations of itself in particular objects. Form is that unchanging singular thing you remain and remains in you and everything throughout life as the world goes through changes. But when you begin creating for the observer then you can lose touch with that essence.
Creating is my favourite thing in the world, I use my creativity as a form of therapy. But ever since I got an audience, I have found myself pandering in terms of conforming to the style of my era or saying things for mass appeal, or even abandoning certain jokes or ideas to avoid backlash, and ultimately that ruins the original fun I found in the process. If you look back through my site you’ll see that my first article that I wrote when I was 19 about a Tupac conspiracy theory ends with a joke about Bill Clinton and cockroach rape. It wasn’t meant to be a statement because I didn’t think anyone was reading. It was just me in my room, having fun. But as I began to write more and my audience grew, and my friends and family began reading what I wrote and listening to my music and podcast, I began censoring myself. I began censoring my expression and it started to drain me.
All of my favourite artists just go out and do their craft. People like Bill Burr, Kanye West, Andy Kauffman, Lenny Bruce, Quentin Tarantino, Earl Sweatshirt, Patrice O'neal and George Carlin. I fell in love with these artists' work because of their non conformist attitudes in their approach toward their crafts. These are people that went against the norm and what was expected from them. Bill Burr had a set in Philadelphia in 2006. Bill Burr came to Philly as part of The Opie and Anthony Show's Traveling Virus Comedy Tour. He was joined by the likes of Tracy Morgan, Bob Saget, Dom Irrera and Patrice O'Neal, among others. For some reason, it all went horribly wrong.
The first guy to go on got destroyed by the afternoon Philly crowd. Tracy Morgan dipped out after about seven minutes. Saget and O'Neal apparently did great, but Irrera got mercilessly booed almost from the jump—and Burr was up next. Bill Burr went out and began getting booed but instead of just leaving, Burr trashed the crowd, the city, state, sports teams and wished death, cancer and aids on every individual in the crowd, and it was fucking awesome. He won the crowd back and got a standing ovation because everyone could feel he wasn’t conforming to what they wanted. He was just being authentic and funny. And that authenticity if channeled into the art form can make some great stuff.
Kanye West's 'Yeezus' was globally panned by fans and critics alike when it first came out. Kanye's whole point of creating the album was to go completely left of everyone's expectations of him and create something new and true to himself and his angst at that time. And that album is now hailed as one of the most influential albums in music of the last decade. That nonconformist attitude in the process of creation can be the spark of globally relevant movements, mark new terrains of creativity and expand the observers mind and horizons.
Your art is yours and the only way it can remain that way is if you are true to yourself. Cause there are ideas, concepts and references that nobody else could come up with because they haven’t seen the world through your eyes. Our culture can make us feel like a bunch of numbers in a demographic but we are all 1 in 7 billion. Nobody in the world can match the specifics in your circumstance that only you can reflect. I have felt myself creating to appeal to my friends from high school, people who email me criticisms, my family, and everything outside of myself, but that's not why I started doing any of this. I just love sharing my thoughts with the world and hope that my ideas can help make a difference in the world.
Most great art is panned during its time. Artworks like: The Last Judgment by Michelangelo, Jimi Hendrix, ‘Are You Experienced’, Nirvana, ‘Nevermind’, N.W.A ‘Straight Outta Compton’ and even the Eiffel Tower were all panned by critics and peers during the time of their release and it wasn’t till years later when people looked back and realized how iconic those creations were. Now imagine if N.W.A began creating albums to appeal to Anthony Fantano's criticism so they can get a "strong 8".
I think creatives should stay true to themselves. That doesn’t mean don’t take constructive criticism and better your art. But don’t pander to the masses. Part of your job is to take people to some place they’re uncomfortable and unfamiliar with and guide them through it. Some things are acquired tastes. It’s not always gonna be fast food, we have to be taught what to like and how to like it. The homogeneity in our mundane lives can keep us closed off to new experiences and only give us a certain set of limited experiences, and so a lot of times when we critique stuff we aren’t really critiquing it with an understanding of the context of the work, we are critiquing it in comparison to what we already know or are used to. So teach people and maintain that essence that made you start creating in the first place and makes you, you. And sincerely, fuck all these niggas and their opinions.