nature of the artform

Inside Out

by j jackson


Snow accumulates. Neighbors continue to go to work.
I congratulate myself, for getting to this point.
I have finally decided, I don't have to hire myself
out as a stooge to some authoritarian asshole,
living the life I want, to live, watching traffic pass
down an icy road, precariously testing brakes,
to hope it can determine not to slide off the side
into a snow embankment, a sight from a window
in the warm. There is a being, fate, but it can be
overcome via responsibility, a Mensch.
I am a far better person when I don't go out
to work every day, but only stay inside my cocoon.

Benny Hill's real name was Alfred Hill. [Alfred Hawthorn before his mother remarried.] He took the name Benny from Jack Benny, because he had always wanted to be a comedian. He pursued his life with a single-minded purpose, his art. He hated the responsibility of everyday life, choosing to live in a minimally furnished rented apartment so that he could minimize the busy work of an affluent lifestyle. Except for a few yearly vacations, his entire life was devoted to his work, and at home, to watching the telly, looking for ideas. He had no use for the trappings of success; he was an austere person, keeping everything he owned so long as it continued to work, never trading stuff in for newer models or fashions.

I'm not a journalist because my words are too valuable to me.
I never trade them in, nor do I attempt to fashion a style.
I report on inner states, what I am, and others. I'm either,
like Benny Hill, obsessed with my art, excluding others, or
I am floundering, in responsibilities, I feel, I must, take care of.

My schedule system is my compromise with the world (including the microcosm within): I don't actually intend to accomplish anything on it (although I do intend to set out, at least briefly, in that direction), but it makes a good appearance, for my own self, as if I am in control, productive--vestiges of the old production-me I can't quite seem to get rid of. I'd like to be, more carefree, but I am, much the same as I always have been: a schizoid mix of accomplishment and laze.

The early bird gets the worm,
but the early worm gets gotten.
You can be too slow. But you can be too fast too.
I postpone action, as I am able, preferring patience,
which some people think is laziness. And maybe it is,
a rationalization. I wait for things to happen, to me, so
I can act, according to events as they flow around me.
Reacting is a better word. I am not proactive, any more.
I have been burned, hurt, taken advantage of, yeah, I
know, boring. Overdoing anything is asking for pain.
Some say I don't, but I know to come in out of the rain.

How The Caterpillar Feels

Winter is settling into me. It gets so hard, to be
forgetful of the cycle, coming around only once
a year, reminded only by the fact of it, after it's
passed, unable to adjust in advance, prepared
to meet each ripple face-to-face: only spring
announces itself with such contrast to previous
cold sunlessness that it demands attention.
But hidden agendas diminish spring's brilliance:
structural pain (each season's curse), caused
by warming timbers; a worsening (expecting
the opposite effect) of affective ennui and angst,
a turning outside requiring readjustment to
a different kind of social life where to be seen
is, for the most part, more obvious, physical,
whereas in winter, it is more or less surmised,
felt, intuited, when you are hidden within folds
of social superstructure. Opening-up is trauma.
Spreading out in summer, after testing wings,
the true measure of a worth of winter waiting,
is, the essence of a being dedicated to its life
according to the dictates of its nature. Soaring
so that when the fall begins, or slightly ahead
of it, predicting by season's subtle signals of
sad promise, the flyer starts descent once more.
And cold announces, too late, winter's arrival,
which even though it will not settle in, still
it will be so gradual as to be stopped enough,
progress deterred, determination stultified, to
the point of frozen purpose, when it seems as
if life itself will not go on. Why should a year
repeat itself? Is advancement season's myth?
Life dies. To live again, as birth, in someone
else's warm cocoon, is, without doubt, value.
But when the cocoon is your own cold self,
metaphor is broken. But the feeling remains.

It's a Free Universe
Steal This Software

Words, art, should be free: art should be available for mass consumption. Only the corporations who charge for it should have to pay for it. This is the function of a burgeoning world net connection, to make available that which is traditionally unavailable except by intermediaries. Okay, let intermediaries try to continue to make a profit over the distribution of art, et al. But make the electronic transmission of data a free zone. Intellectual property rights are dying, and well they should. [Except for mine, of course. (That's a joke.)] It's an outdated concept. (I admit that the death is going to be a long and painful one, centuries perhaps, even millennia.) Let the intermediaries have to compete with free access. They're so into competition. Let's see how they handle that kind of competition.

An immediacy of freedom is our destiny.
The world's history is that of the march toward freedom.
As the march progresses, it speeds up.
Development of technology exponentially increases speed.
People decry the fast pace of today's lifestyle. Get over it.
"Catch up, cat's and kittens. Don't get left behind."
The future will only bring more and more of it, the speed.
Computers get faster and faster. Processing speeds.
Soon we'll compute with molecules, then atoms, then quarks.
This is nothing new, this is what we already do, in our brains.
Humans will become redundant as computers take over, speed.
Consciousness evolving, we are, creating our replacements.
Computers design computers, even now, their own masters.
"Wilder. Wilder. Faster. Faster."
Cosmic energy, Masterblaster.
We will not, inevitably, catch up.
Off into the void, at the speed of light.
Or we may, yet, slow back down, regressing again more fast.
Until the Big Crunch.
Microwaves cook my meals, more quickly.
The point is: immediacy, where we are always heading.
I want it and I want it now. Free art. It's here. Why pay for it?
There is no reason any more.

"It's a free country."
No it isn't. It's never been free. We've always paid.

But it's been freer than most, and it's getting freer all the time, despite the Republicans, who say they want freedom, in the name of less government control, as long it's their values and opinions controlling it.

"It's a free world," now.
It's not, yet. But we're getting there.
The Internet is freeing us, despite ourselves.
Corporations are participating, because they have no choice.
They try to capture it, but they cannot. Those damned borders!
Nationalism prevents ultimate control.

Funny, isn't it? The very forces that would control the Internet work against the very thing that would bring its control to them: world government.

"Free writing," like free MP3s, is a New World idea. The advance of capitalism since the industrial revolution has brought into clear focus the incompatibility of business and art. Yes, you can make art into a business--or you can make a business out of art, and the art will survive (if by art we mean that residual product created by artists), but most often, the artist will not. It takes an exceptional artist of impeccable character to survive the capitalization of her art. But art is not, ultimately, the product of artists. That is only the evidence of art. Art is the process of the artist, and its true definition, like all good definitions, is circular, defying reason's delimiting factors in the best tradition of Zen: art is that which is engaged in by artists; artists are they who engage in art. In order that this definition remain truly universal (i.e., not specified), both the artist and the process must remain free. But business binds the artist and the art. It prices art, so that the art is no longer free. The Internet has held out the promise of potential for true freedom and democracy1 But watch out. The capitalists are trying to buy it up. For a while I thought they were going to succeed, but I see a little light in the distance. E-commerce is beginning to have a bit of a rough time. But businessmen are tricky. A favorite tactic is to give stuff away, hoping to lure you into buying "better" stuff. Go ahead and fall into the trap if that's how you are, easily led around by your nose. But there's a better way. Buying art is not necessary, and many web-surfers know it. Take what's free and build a whole new world with it, and leave the other stuff alone--unless you really need it. And even steal it. Remember Steal This Book? (Probably not. Even if you're old enough, you may not have been a part of that lifestyle.) Well, anyway, Steal This Software. Steal these MP3s.

(Buy necessities. Steal luxuries.
Unless you consider art a necessity.)
MP3s are art, and all art should be free.
Words are, or can be, art.
There is a proliferation of good, free written art on the net.
And images.
Get a good screen capture program.
I got one, as freeware. Get it here. (Only 212K)

It's all in the public domain, which used to mean that publishers could print it for free and sell us the books, as great literature. But we need not be a slave to that mentality any longer. As artists, we have an obligation to provide free work to the public--and we do. Writers, visual artists, and musicians are increasingly posting their work on the web. We do it out of a vested interest: to become known. But we do it. And we should continue to do it even after we develop the ability to sell our work. We should do it in order to encourage true world democracy. Now that we are no longer tied to the established art world hierarchy (especially to that of the printed word--my primary concern), we can be more free. No matter what they tell you, publishers and fat cat artists are running scared. What will happen when a true one-to-one network becomes available, when every person has Napster-like software installed in her own hand-held pc connected to the web via a wireless uplink? How will they enforce laws to prevent the exchange of pirated properties? The world is becoming freer, and the Internet is responsible. It's breaking the hold of the corporations--and they know it! We are at the point where we consume ideas as much as products, and it's getting harder and harder to control ideas, to license intellectual material, which is how the rich and powerful have always controlled the world. But America was founded as a rebellion against this kind of tyranny.

It used to be a free country.
Now, it's becoming a free world.

I now have the right and ability to distribute my material without the necessity of interference from publishers. I highly value this right. Don't take it away from me by forcing a commercial system into the Internet and choking out it's freedom.


Click on footnote number to return to that respective point in the text.
1. An e-mail I sent to an e-book author on this subject:

4 Dec 2000 18:40:49 -0500
RE: e-books survey

There's one very positive aspect of e-books (and their like) that I haven't seen mentioned anywhere: the impact on (true) democracy. It's true that as e-books, e-publishing, and related mechanisms begin to proliferate, markets will become glutted with material produced in various degrees of quality, much of which will be far lower than the current paper-published standard(s.) However, there is a plus-side trade-off: a far wider range of ideas. Less and less will we be tied into the homogenizing effect of the corporate structure. Diversity is the key to a true democracy. We are not so democratic if we are free to adopt only those ideas that exist within the narrow bandwidth that current (corporate) publishers allow to exist. Often, in the name of "quality," the more progressive ideas are filtered out. I'm not necessarily accusing the publishing industry of Big-Brotherism. It's only natural that it would act to promote the corporate-capitalist way of life through a choice of appropriate material. (Fortunately, we still have the university presses, although more and more they too are submitting to the "necessities" of the marketplace.) No, I'm not promoting communism or any other form of idealism--except perhaps democracy. For a long time our culture has been equating corporate capitalism with democracy, even as the connection has been becoming more and more tenuous. But there is a place within the corporate system for alternate opinions and values. We can make money, even lots of it, and still aspire to higher principles of society and culture. But we can only do this if we remain apprised of advancing thought. And as the corporate world manages to successfully narrow the scope of thought down toward mere money-related matters, it endangers our freedom to think in expanding and truly advancing (in human rather than merely technological) ways. To this end, e-publishing promises to be enlightening. Although the ideas produced with the new media may not be so well-stated (it will be far easier to circumvent the methodology of the standard print publishers and may lack much of the "proper" grammar and presentation that high-class editing provides), they will be far more diverse. Alternative authors will more easily be able to get into "print" and, in conjunction with the internet, they may become more widely read. Typically, print publishers do not want this competition, unless they can harness it to their current money-making systems. I envision a world with thousands and thousands, even millions, of Drudges writing and being read in every discipline. Democracy is thusly served.

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