It is axiomatic in Hollywood nowadays that "the talent controls the industry." Thus Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt on their "talent" alone can market an existentially bad piece of shit like Mr. & Mrs. Smith -- premised on their characters’ wanting to off each other through every recycled bad car chase and machine gun battle -- at a cost of millions and millions, employing thousands to the benefit of nothing and no one. HBO plays the thing over and over again. Suckers in Third World countries buy into this cynosure of USA Kultur, and Tinseltown laughs at, with and for us: the audience, the sponge.
The contemporary art world has, alarmingly, come to mimic Hollywood. For production budgets and divas such as Julianne Moore, check Gregory Crewdson. For recycled shock and schlock, whose only "horror" is the amount of wasted money and critical attention, I give you Damien Hirst and his dancing skeletons. For sanctimony bordering on kitsch wrapped in a diamond-studded all-day sucker: Jeff Koons. For whining auteurs going over-budget and threatening to shutdown production, take any installation artist junking up a watered-down magical mystery tour.
What’s ultimately destroyed in this cine/art hubristic is the eternal recipe of true creativity: humility, perspective, restraint, respect for one’s audience and the understanding that leaving out and sometimes stopping all together to reflect is the essence of the muse. There’s a film from the 1950s, The Mystery of Picasso by Henri-Georges Clouzot. It’s in French, done in long takes, in black and white, with a rear-projection setup that requires Pablo to paint from behind in reverse -- kinda like Ginger Rogers dancing backwards with Fred Astaire. Picasso works fast and challenges the camera operators to make him do more and more complicated things as the filming progresses.
Occasionally the camera catches him, hard, bronzed and distilled like a Brazil nut, but most of the time images appear as if out of the air with no artist behind them. What would Hirsts be without the braying craw of Damien and his legion of monied sycophants? Is kissing Angelina just another suck on a skull?
Whether it’s art or the movies these days, the Big Time rises from a heap of silver ashes and falls on our heads like a golden shower of shit. Pay it no mind, while, and if, you can.
CHARLIE FINCH is co-author of Most Art Sucks: Five Years of Coagula (Smart Art Press).