Saturday, February 19, 2011

"Still Had the Idea Though": Mindbarf on Power and Art

Reacting to the news that rapper Rhymefest (best known as the co-writer of "Jesus Walks" / early Kanye supporter) is pulling a WB Yeats and running for political office after a life in art. Onstage at his benefit, an MC said that "politics is the 6th element of hip-hop" - the word made flesh - Obama as a hip-hop president the way Kennedy was rock-and-roll the way Bush was country. Leopold Senghor, the first president of a free Senegal, was also its poet laureate. What happens when poets rule the world? Plato's philosopher kings? Maya Angelou with a scepter. Elizabeth Bishop Desmond Tutu. Hitler wanted to be a painter. School picture with novelist Thomas Bernhard.

Thought: is part of Obama's problem as a President that he stopped writing poetry, fiction, memoir? Yeats kept writing - "Among School Children" came out of like a campaign stop. "A sixty year old smiling public man." I would love for Barry Obams to cancel some official WH reception because he's got a killer story he's been working on. Might be good for our country for him to do that. Creativity as a means to imagination. Creativity as a check against selfishness and linear thinking. Creating something, writing a story or a blog post or a poem that you don't care if no one reads. Writing with no ulterior motive, writing not to get published, writing not to get something out of it. Writing for the sake of saying some real shit, writing out of obsession, out of a need to make sense of one's own existence. The thin but important line between emailing this to a friend (Hey, what up, dude) and posting it here (Hey, maybe I'm on to something).

Sorry Brunt.

Perhaps a reason why Obama's talk about "innovation" as the savior of our economy feels a little empty at this point. The reason it falls flat maybe because it's not tied to Obama's moral vision. He hasn't made the connection explicit yet. The great heroic selflessness of the American people that Obama forever references as being powerfully linked to our national creativity. The selfless prolificacy of the artist: Miles Davis Box Set. Infinite Jest. Joyce Carol Oates. Lil B's 700-song mixtape. The thin but important line between selflessness and narcissism. The narcissistic creativity of Facebook: a lesser form of art. Titillation as the new false prophet. Why write poetry in this day and age? Facebook ain't a rubric for innovation: what the fuck did Zuckerberg innovate? False profits. Internet rich. James Joyce stopped writing poetry because Yeats existed. I stopped writing poetry because of Twitter. Is the internet antagonistic to literary forms: why everything feels flat online. Except for music. My novel is now an album. A mikstape. (Narcissist.) Facebook's evolution = a dude at a party in the Bronx talking over a break beat = keeps talking.

Power-conscious politicians and Hollywood producers forever misunderstanding creativity and innovation. The eternal struggle between power and art. Publisher and author. Businessman and inventor. "The man who invented them things just some sad ass at the basement of McDonald's." They see hip-hop or they see social networking, and they say, "Those guys in the Bronx and at Harvard: geniuses." While they knock the paintbrush out of their kid's hand and tell him to become a lawyer. You create art, you talk over a beat, you code a program, you work on a novel - in a room somewhere - alone - alone and broke - not to have history and the stock exchange validate you. Your well-timed obsession. Zuckerberg's example makes it hard for the followers of the Church of 21st Century Capitalism to justify bootstrapism and the logic of the market. Accidental billionaire. Who's an intentional billionaire? Who's an intentional genius? How do you create value? Simple: by changing the definition of the word to mean "whatever it is I'm doing." The accidental billionaire not so different than the toobroketodoanythingaires.

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