Is there art without death? Joshua Oppenheimer and I have been discussing this with artists, as part of an idea for a film.
Artists want to feel art is eternal. A way of achieving a symbolic immortality deprived to the flesh. But what if the flesh is eternal, and art if transient, of its moment? Many artists I know feel the opposite way: I was just debating this with a painter and a composer. They both feel there is no art without death. I cannot accept this.
You can pick any year, any performance and any movie and I almost guarantee you that the Oscar winning performance of the actor was due to their ability to prove to the audience, critics, etc, that their suffering was real. The revenant is the most recent example of this. Heightened human suffering can be found in film, music, literature and in all mediums were as a human being is sharing an emotion with another. Our common emotion shared as human beings has been suffering.
We’ve joked you and I, about my love of action cinema and I fully admit to it. The films I absolutely love from the 80’s, 90’s and 00’s are so full of human carnage and torture that it actually is comical to enjoy these films. I mean, I can just throw on the movie “Heat” and I’ll love it every time. This is a movie about criminals, heists and for the most part, everybody dying. How can I possibly justify that movie to my radical life extension values? I really can’t, it just is.
I’m a huge blues fan and that genre essentially gave birth to my musicianship. Hearing those African American artists and feeling the realness of their pain / soul was a revelation for me. It took a hold of me and didn’t let go. I couldn’t put my guitar down or stop my singing exercises until I knew I was feeling that soul or suffering too. But here’s what is real, I’ll never know that amount of suffering. I’ll never truly feel it like that. I’ve never been shot at or lynched. I’ve never been physically abused or mistreated. I’ve shot quite a few guns and rifles but I could never shoot someone. I would actually never want to experience that kind of suffering at all.
So in conclusion, I’ve been an artist locked in the fantasy of suffering. I’m an artist who doesn’t need to feel the suffering to experience the beauty. I feel, for myself, a maturity is needed in art that has never been before. An art free from the shackles of never ending pain. An art of feeling the pain but seeing what’s after.