Paul Butzi has a provocative series of posts on Musings, in his typically thoughtful style, about the necessity to seal himself off from influences, particularly the media. I have great respect for his thinking, but I offered a different take in a long comment on his recent post. I’m appropriating myself and posting it here.


As I understand you position, you’re saying that in order to protect the integrity of your experience, you have to deliberately isolate yourself from stimulus that might become a mediating influence, because it deters and inhibits the sense of being in the moment.

My retort is twofold, one about artistic influences, and the other about mass media (we won’t talk about the intersection of these two sets, which is an interesting arena that a lot of artists use to make some important work, and always have). I contend that isolating yourself from other artistic influences is a big disservice to one’s own process.

My feeling is, that the more I know about what has gone on before me, the more roots there are to feed my own work. I visit museums and galleries whenever I travel, and I make it a priority. I have arenas of art work that I like to look at and that I respect, and large swaths that I pretty much ignore. But I don’t prohibit it from feeding my process. Even work I argue with grows me.

Allowing Italian Renaissance art into one’s process is one thing. Mass media is harder to defend. But much of the art I adore was the mass media of its era. I am writing this while I am watching my guilty pleasure, “Dancing With The Stars.” I’m working on a dance project. I’m interested in the popular culture take on dance, and I love that this show highlights and rewards a kind of (well, vulgur) virtuosity. Because I make a living from my artistic process, I pay attention to the trends and patterns in how the media mediates our culture back to ourselves.

I don’t like a lot of what I see, of course. That’s beside the point. Anyone with a lick of self respect is going to be majorly frustrated with the culture we live in. The way I inoculate myself from the media onslaught is to pay attention to it. I deconstruct how it works, what it’s trying to say, and the meta messages within it. But sometimes the production values speak to some of the best artistic output of our era. Or at least, it informs me about what is the visual vocabulary of our time.