Tuesday, June 22, 2010

David Byrne weighs in on art vs craft debate....

For the most part I really liked this article...
BUT then he said:

"A song is not better because it has more chords, and it certainly isn’t better because I labored over it longer...odds are, that extra labor might mean it’s simply overworked."

With all due respect to one of my punk rock gods, this made me quite angry as I see this response to labor, skill and technique as the knee jerk post modern de rigueur elevation of intellect which implies that it is somehow a separate process from hand work. Bad punk rock man!

Second of all, the relationship of labor to results is not so simple. I have often really struggled with work only to have the really easy ones be the best. NO KIDDING. But does this mean I should stop doing that? No way! It just means that some are easier. More importantly, I assume the intense labor from the hard ones informs the easy ones. Or at least gets me to a new level...

Sometimes more labor improves a piece and sometimes it does not. I feel very strongly that teaching restraint is a HUGE mistake. Overwork things, then edit. Seeing how far you can push things is way more informative that seeing how good you are at stopping. Overworking leads to discovery. Restraint, not so much.

But to say "odds are ..its overworked" is ludicrous. The odds are that most people are lazy and don't put enough work into their stuff. Occam's razor. 99% of people are in NO DANGER of working too hard!


Anonymous said...

His whole article was inspired by his kid going to art school. Last time I read about Byrne, or his kid, the kid's placenta was in his fridge awaiting ritual burial.

No shit. It was in Rolling Stone about 18 yrs ago.

I then moved Byrne's punch card to the "ignore" file.

--Miss Fidget

Judith Schaechter said...

holy moly! Placenta? Ritual burial?
Gracious. But then again, how often do you get to use those two terms in the same sentence.

His kid likes glassblowing. Muhahahaha!

Jx said...

Same as it ever was. A huge part of David Byrne's appeal is his readiness to embrace and express his own wankiness.

Karl Wunderlich said...

Hi Judith,
it really depends on the genre one is working with, methinks.

For his own stuff David Byrne is probably absolutely right.
I guess its not a matter of to much or to less work, its just a matter of the right amount of work and skill on the right spot at the right time.
Sometimes one have to build a cathedral on another occasion a simple fingerprint says it all.

Btw. I really enjoy your work.

Chris Whetzel said...

Hi, I have to agree with you. That is, if you are saying that all of our experiences of overworking past pieces will lead us to know when to restrain ourselves on future pieces.

In a bizarro way, maybe that's what Byrne means, too. I mean he is speaking from the point of view of someone who's had that past of overworking tons of pieces, and at his current state, maybe he doesn't have a hunger anymore; maybe longer hours (for him) are "overworking" and not progression. Maybe he sees himself as someone who doesn't have to discover or explore; perhaps he has a formula that he sees as working, and any additional effort doesn't improve upon it. Some people think they get to a point where they don't have to (or don't want to) progress, and that's a sad place to be if you ask me.

That's settling for "good enough." And we shouldn't be advocating such lessons.

Unknown said...

I think that those that "get it" art-wise are making a connection with the work on a subconscious level. It may not be clear what the message is or where it comes from, but it connects to something fundamental nonetheless. I think that Byrne's concern is that overworking risks destroying the essence of this communication.

But I would agree with you that skill, craft or even the time put into a work don't necessarily destroy this connection. Certainly more skill can aid in the ability to get the message across (take the dictation), and some mediums just can't be "coughed up" spontaneously like a punk rock anthem. Also, I think that a more cerebral artist can understand the essence of the message well enough to not destroy it in the rendering process. Your work is a clear counter example to Byrne's argument.

Heidi said...

Ah, alas, I wrote a good comment regarding you piece on Beauty, but it didn't go through because I either don't have a Google acct. or because the electric went out in my building. I can't recreate it, so I'll just say "hi." I was assistant manager at Beaux Arts Video, we are both cat mothers, and in addition to your own cats you take care of strays. If none of this rings a bell, I completely understand. Do you currently have a show in Philadelphia? If not, when is one coming? Sincerely, Heidi George

Judith Schaechter said...

Hi Heidi--
I remember you!

No shows coming up here, I'm sorry to say....I wish!

so sorry you comment got deleted arggh!

Anonymous said...

Hey, guys, leave Daivd Byrne alone. The man's a genius, you know, and he's an honest artist. I think that comment he made was taken a bit out of context by most of you. Plus, what, are you going to rip him a new one just because he said something silly in an interview, years and years ago? Take it easy on Byrne, and his kid.