Wednesday, December 29, 2010

To be cool IS to conform!

Oh the boxes we seek to fit ourselves into...

Ever since I was young, people have tried many ways, even violently to force me into their little models of conformity.  I remember back in the 70's, the teevee show "Happy Days" was very popular, especially among my elementary school friends.  We all especially loved the high-school dropout loser thug who called himself "the Fonz."  You remember him, don't you?  He was the 20 something gear head who hung out with high school kids all the time who in turn adored him.  Sometime in the 80's, I met many a "fonzie" type, with their muscle cars (usually a trans/camaro of some sort or a rustang) and their mullets who liked to cruise up and down Noland road and pick up high school chicks.  Somehow, cool was not the word to describe them.  So, later, in my love affair with punk rock, I came up with this saying -- to be cool IS to conform.  That didn't seem to go over so well.  It seemed many of my so called punk rock anti authority friends actually really loved to fit into other peoples ideas of what they should be.  I always felt it was stifling to my lifestyle and personality to have to obey other peoples arbitrary rules.  I find great irony that when I am involved with groups of people who pride themselves on being different, that the less open they seem to really be to divergent ideas and people.

I take from wikipedia some definitions...

The sum and substance of cool is a self-conscious aplomb in overall behavior, which entails a set of specific behavioral characteristics that is firmly anchored in symbology, a set of discernible bodily movements,posturesfacial expressions and voice modulations that are acquired and take on strategic social value within the peer context.

Cool is also an attitude widely adopted by artists and intellectuals, who thereby aided its infiltration into popular culture. Sought by product marketing firms, idealized by teenagers....

The only standard is who you know

Cool cannot be simply put into words as it has many meanings.  The meaning that sticks with me it the one used more or less for social control.  Like, when somebody says you are un-cool, meaning you'd better get in line with the group think and find your place in the pecking order or you will be outcast.  One think I find interesting in the art world, and the Kansas City art scene is the idea that it is not what you are doing, but who you are that is more important.  So, in other words, to be a cool artist, you have to have cool connections with other artists and some sort of rep.  It is often repeated that art is completely subjective, and therefore, up to the eye of the beholder.  So, if some artist, for instance, wants to throw a pile of trash in the corner of the room and call it art, then it is his or her rep or coolness that determines the value of the art -- not the intrinsic value of the objects themselves.  In other words, because a certain person touched the object, it is now expected to bring in lots of money.  No wonder many in the public do not understand art and are not impressed.  This art scene seeks to rebel against the establishment by first seeking to break all the rules of the establishment without any regard to standards of style or design.  It now sounds like I am saying the opposite of what I intend to say.  Not really.  I mean, we all exist in a universe of physical rules and limitations -- those that are not really set out by human beings.  So, if you sketch a five minute sketch, don't expect it to bring in thousands of dollars.  If you pour work, sweat, love, effort and thought into something and don't expect a cool factor to kick in, then maybe your work is worth something.  But what is interesting to me, is that people who believe in standards in art, that not all art is subjective, are very open in general.  In other words, they won't deny you a showing, or access to an event because they don't know you and you are not cool enough for them.  It seems the ones with the velvet ropes up all over town are the ones who say all art is subjective.  In other words, too often in the scene, it is who you are bong buddies with. 

It didn't happen 'til we got here

How many times have you run into this attitude?  All of a sudden, people show up at the party, and then it is like the party was not even happening until they showed up.  I know about an argument between two musicians.  The gist of it was that the younger one said that nothing was happening in the music scene until he and his buddies showed up with their genius to change it.  Just because you are a narcissist doesn't mean that the world didn't exist before you and your friends came into it.  The world will exist long after you are gone too.  Great people have a sense of history.  Stupid people only have a sense of themselves. 

The speakeasy 

There is an unintended consequence by some very good people to try to protect the intellectual property of some of the creative class in Kansas City, by making it into sort of a speak easy club.  The unintended consequence is that the very people they seek to keep out are crowding the creatives out of their own scene and taking over so that eventually being creative will be a mark of the un-cool.  Art is often best expressed by the deep expression of the heart of the artist, usually in the quiet confines of their soul.  However, in our scene there is more invested in the performance aspect and the public display and less in the actual work.  One time, I went to an art show that was also a performance piece.  I thought it was a shame that the performance outdid the art which hung quietly on the wall, ignored.  

The drug war

The real war it seems, is not the feds against the drug culture, but really, the drug culture against itself.  I mentioned before the bong buddy.  When I was in high school, I was considered uncool because I didn't drink, smoke or do drugs.  As an adult, I find in many instances that hasn't change.  I'm so glad that I do not feel a need to fit that level of conformity.  I stick with my individual choice proudly.  I do not wag my finger at other people and their choices.  However, in the more traditional American sense of the word cool, the drug culture prevails, and many find themselves excluded if they do not fit in.  In other words, I find it quite destructive to the efforts of the creative class when they find they have to partake in order to be accepted.

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June 4, 2009 at 8.06am PDT
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