We all figure out the world through the prism of our own story. The reason I rage against formats so much is because I don’t fit in any.
Modern America is the king of labeling. It is impossible to get through to the public interface without learning how to squeeze yourself into one of the predefined shapes, leaving the least possible amount of torn raw flesh and blood at the knives of public perception.
What kind of music do you play? What race are you? Who did you vote for? Are you with us, or are you against us?
The interface pulses and dances to the beat of the dollar (primarily) and peer pressure, and it evolves with time. But the principle of the Holy Algorithm remains.
It didn’t start here and now. It started a long time ago, when ‘social morality’ lost its deep roots. Complex people have the ability to figure things out and don’t need any pre-labeling. People whose senses have been curbed by culture, need aids. Forced ‘moral behavior’ was the first steel bandaid applied to a damaged soul that used to know where it came from, but then was beaten into oblivion and self-betrayal. It was an act of spiritual rape, a strange experiment, and we’ve never been quite okay since.
Today’s algorithms for those of us who are lucky to live in the developed countries, are murderous in much subtler ways.
In American politics, for instance, you can be a Republican, a Democrat, or a crazy conspiracy theorist, ‘one of those people.’ You need to have a barcode on your neck, you need to choose your flavor. If you step out of line, it won’t matter what you did five days ago, you will be relabeled.
And in the world of art….. oh.
It is ALL about the brand. It is ALL about the brand. Let me repeat. It is ALL about the brand. Art, the thing that exists in the natural world to help people understand themselves and to heal the spirit, has been definitely put on its knees and made into a branded sex slave. The rare souls that go above it, still have to squeeze themselves into some kind of a larger ‘representation’ angle. And while it makes perfect sense that art exists for the people, ultimately, and should ‘represent’ the people and serve them, there is a big difference between representing and #representing. A big fucking difference that I feel with my skin and that hurts my lungs with every breath.
I never thought about my demographic in a larger American context up until a few years ago. I have been living my life, in my own way that might or might not be a pain in the arse. I have a million stories, my experiences are unique to me, and my ancestry is also unique to me, and I honor it with love. I don’t have a barcode on my neck. I don’t even have room for a barcode anywhere on me because it’s insulting to the spirit.
The other day, I was at the Grand Central train station, and there were three drummers playing. The beat was perfect for me but I chose not to dance to the sweetest drums that spoke to my body strongly, because I didn’t want anybody to film it and then possibly gossip that I dance outside of my demographic (to quote R Kelly who actually said it, ‘she is the only white girl who can dance…’ I am flattered but it’s silly, I am definitely not the only one… ‘white people’ have legs, thighs and hearts just like everybody else… sweet prejudice). I am never afraid to dance, alone or in public. Never, never, not even a little bit. It is my soul. But algorithms made me feel private. I didn’t want to deal with the prejudice.
People dance their state of mind, not their demographic. In fact, back back in the day, when musicians were trained to use music for healing vs. distraction, they would watch dancing people and ‘diagnose’ them, and help them be better by guiding them with sound. Dancing and singing are very powerful medicine, they bleed from servitude.
Speaking of dancing one’s state of mind, I watch people dance sometimes, and more often than not, people ‘perform,’ not dance their soul out. Even when the music is very, very good. It’s our culture. We need to be liked with such desperation!
All my life, I have felt a strange feeling about both classical piano music (I played classical piano all my childhood, I even had a few glorious moments), and the classic genres of American music (contemporary blues, jazz, etc.). I liked both of them, I did, they sounded beautiful, but something…. something… I couldn’t explain it. Something felt like less than what my soul wanted.
I understood what was missing from the piano music when I heard a piece by Bach played in its original tuning for the first time. I almost cried. It suddenly sounded full and completely alive. The modern tuning stole the soul out of it–and all these years, I didn’t know what was missing!
Similarly, I stumbled upon what was missing from the classic American genres when I became a little bit familiar with some of the traditional African music. I suddenly saw the trajectory that smeared a fat ’entertainment’ filter all over something that was fully alive, complex, and absolutely free. A powerful, uninhibited expression of soul adapted for commerce and escapism. It still brings you joy, it certainly does–but it is missing that piece that my soul knew about even if though my mind didn’t.
The role of an artist in our culture makes me livid. Welcome to the clownsmanship. And yes, ultimately, a true artist helps the people where the people are, and I am coming to understand it. But maaaaaaan….. the translation between the interfaces is murder.
And now, the main reason for this speech, the idea of a woman.
Story #3, and diving deeper into numbered lists
What public interfaces are there in the American culture for womanhood?
You can either be pretty and create visual pleasure and no disturbances of context whatsoever (it means you are ‘happy’ and ‘successful’), or you can be a childish (and clearly ‘unhappy’ and ‘angry’) rebel, or an entrepreneur and a visionary who fits into the public idea of how visionaries talk (hello, TED!), or an ugly loser.
The best winning strategy for the likes is #1. The best winning strategy for the soul is #2. The best winning strategy for the wallet is #3.
I see a lot of people who have chosen the winning strategy for the likes, and their online presence is glorious… but happiness? Dunno. My inner peasant is very suspicious of this kind of bait.
And here I am, scratching my head. I look okay (I hope), I am happy, I like people even though people are sometimes ridiculous, I totally am a rebel and ‘one of those people’ because I have opted out of the algorithmic lobotomy, I am building my business, and in every aspect of my business I want to make the world better, not dumber.
I believe art to be sacred.
My perfect hashtag would be, #fuckhashtags.
Good luck, Tessa, you’ll need it!!!
Photo credit: Victor Zamalin