Wednesday, April 24, 2013

OK, Amanda Palmer, You Win the Internet, but Let's Have a Chat

My feelings about Amanda Palmer, and her concept/concepts about funding art, and herself, are pretty well documented. Today, however, we move past that.

On Sunday, April 21st, 2013, Ms. Palmer published a poem on her blog, called A Poem For Dzhokhar, which I like. I found it a nice little meditation on the events since April 15th. I don't read it as "pro-" or "anti-" anything. Simply a series of random thoughts an comments that came to her as this drama played out around us.

Good for her. If I HAD to apply some sort of larger "concept" to the thing, it'd be "pain is pain" (for lack of anything more clever coming to mind). That everything that confronts us, be it the crisis of the past days, or the supermarket only offering 2% milk, are all painful. They're all things to be overcome.

But that's my interpretation. Yours may vary. Everyone's will vary...because that's the nature of "art." If you, as an "artist," want to put this sort of creation out there, 6 days after such an event, you better be willing to take the proverbial slings and arrows that come with the passions that are running high.

In fact, I'd have to guess that's EXACTLY why Amanda Palmer did it. Her concept of "asking" for funding is predicated on staying relevant and in the public eye. Just like every internet-based business, she lives and dies on site hits, and the more people who view the page will increase the number who'll hit that "donate" button. Both to The One Fund, to aid Boston victims, but also to her own fundraising site.

So, Ms. Palmer, once again, you win the internet. Your self-promotion continues like a unstoppable freight train. I have to admit, I admire the determination and seeming laser-focus you are able to employ.

And, y'know, good on her. You create something, you put it out there, and set up a way for those who admire it to support the victims, and yourself. Well done, and I mean that sincerely.

Then...things get hinky.

Of course she received criticism. It was inevitable. It was predictable. It was unavoidable the second she hit "post" on that blog. The instant you picked that title for a piece that, literally, could've been called dozens of other things ("millions" Palmer says). Of course, those other titles wouldn't have guaranteed the same kind of search engine responses, would it?

I think the people who criticized the poem are idiots, frankly, but there are a ton of them in the world. There's nothing there that's truly incendiary or awful...and, in fact, most of it seems unrelated to the Boston bombing/manhunt, at all. So, Amanda (which seems presumptuous of me, but whatever), I like your poem, I think most of your critics are overreacting.

Then, however, you committed one of my few cardinal sins...You didn't just let the work speak for itself. You wrote another blog. A blog in which one of the major points is that her poem was "misinterpreted."

And, y'know what? That's bullshit. It's utter and bald-faced bullshit. It's not bullshit because of the poem, it's bullshit because Amanda Palmer decided that her poem didn't say enough, that it had to be explained, at worst, or the reader had to be guided, at best. In either case, you've just ripped the heart out of your creation, your "art" and stomped on it.

This all connects to a thesis I've long held to, in that creative people, such as Ms. Palmer, and myself, need to fucking stop calling ourselves "artists," and what we create "art." Why? Because we don't get to make that call, our audience does.

What we create? A poem, a play, a song, a book, whatever, is not art until someone else calls it such. Until that point, it's, for lack of a better term, a thing. It can be a very personal thing, with huge gobs of ourselves in it, but unless that communicates to someone else, it ain't fucking art. I feel like calling our work "art" just gives us an out to make indulgent bullshit. It gives us an out to make impenetrable crap that when people don't understand it, we can't step back and excuse our lack of success, our lack of communicating something, because "they just don't get art."

That's bullshit. It also generally means that every creative endeavor is art, because someone, somewhere, is sure to get something out of it. Thing is, what they "get" might not be what we intended, at all. As a creator, you have to be prepared for, and accept that.

The most annoying thing in that entire second blog, for me was this moment:

many people – even the people who loved the poem – thought this poem was directed “at dzhokhoar”.

as in: you, you, you.

read it again.

No, no, no, Amanda, because after you put your creation out into the is no longer your place to tell people how to read or interpret it (asking to be paid for it, another matter). The fact that you're out there trying to guide people in, like the dude with the flashlights at the airport, just makes me feel like you are not confident in your creation.

Oh, and the "happy national poetry month" as a sign off? Way to be passive-aggressive. Big turn off.

If A Poem For Dzhokhar doesn't say what you want it to say, all on it's own, frankly, take it down. If, as I suspect, it does..then leave the whole damn thing alone. Let your creation stand on it's own. Live or die, succeed or fail, on it's own merits.


  1. "After you put your creation out into the is no longer your place to tell people how to read or interpret it (asking to be paid for it, another matter). The fact that you're out there trying to guide people in, like the dude with the flashlights at the airport, just makes me feel like you are not confident in your creation." - George Lucas.

  2. I feel obligated to like Amanda Palmer, but I just can't. I hate her. "Your self-promotion continues like a unstoppable freight train." - is a spot on assessment of her entire career. Her expression is "Amanda Palmer" what she has to say is "Amanda Palmer," my memories of her work are not of what she has to say, but that she herself did this or that or Amanda Palmer's tits. Her work never leaves me with any memories for myself. And what's worse, is that I suspect she doesn't even realize it and believes truly in her heart that she is a freedom fighter for individual self expression. Fuck that noise!

  3. TL;DR She's no Marina Abramović, that's all I'm saying.

  4. Truer words never written, Drake.