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white stripes

Post #115 • September 25, 2003, 8:53 AM

I teach computer animation students, who I wish would understand that their technical expertise isn’t worth a bag of sawdust if all they know how to do is run the machines. On the other hand, with creative energy and willpower, all you need to make a compelling animation is a ton of Legos and/or a single camera.

The White Stripes understand this. Substitute ‘song’ for ‘animation’ and ‘two instruments’ for the Legos-camera bit and you have their musical MO. You could train a horse to play Meg White’s drum lines and Jack White’s voice cracks like a 13-year-old on a growth spurt, but they’re perfect. Virtuosity would harm their music.

I’m a big fan of skills, but they’re not everything. The skills must serve a feeling, and it’s feeling that I see lacking in art. The lack of skill I can live with; sometimes it’s appropriate. What’s intolerable is art that’s ‘about’ a long list of subjects without making you care about any of them. Making you care requires a edited arrangement of emotional energy. When it doesn’t happen, either the editing or the emotional energy is deficient. It is appropriate to be left cold by such work. It is not appropriate to talk yourself into liking it because it has a theory attached to it, or because it’s about something. And while ignorance is nothing to be proud of, neither is the ability to think your way through an art-viewing experience, bypassing the heart and viscera.

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