Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Speak of the Dave

Yesterday, my guest writer Sarah discussed a book of essays by critic Dave Hickey (pictured at right, a long time ago). I happen to know that another good friend of mine is also a big fan of his. And after Sarah's post went up yesterday, I found this interview with him in the brand-new issue of The Believer. It's highly entertaining, so I recommend the whole thing. But here are some of my favorite nuggets. Early on, Hickey has this exchange with novelist Sheila Heti, who conducted the interview:
DH: Art and writing come from somewhere down around the lizard brain. It's a much more peculiar activity than we like to think it is. The problems arise when we try to domesticate the practice, to pretend that it's a normal human activity and that "everybody's creative." They're not. Honestly, I never sit down to write anything without thinking, This is a weird thing to be doing! Why am I sitting here writing?

SH: So if it's the kind of thing that comes from the lizard brain and is not this gentle, political thing people do at all, then this idea of working hard, which is a very Protestant, American value... I mean, going to the studio from nine in the morning to five at night—it sometimes seems like there's such a professionalization of art-making. Is it commensurable with this activity that's—

DH: Well, let me put it like this. I think that if you don't like it and it's not easy, you shouldn't be doing it. You know what I mean?

SH: If it's not easy you shouldn't be doing it?

DH: I mean it's work, but it's not labor. You have professional obligations like any adult, but it's fun to solve problems. It's fun to sit there by yourself with no one telling you what to do. It's fun to nuance things that no one will notice except in their lizard brains. I enjoy doing it, and it's easy for me, but there are a lot of people out there who are working too hard at it. [Big laugh]
Then there's this description of critic as goalkeeper that I like:
SH: OK, so what are the supposed art magazines interested in hearing about, if not about art?

DH: They want touting. In twenty years we’ve gone from a totally academicized art world to a totally commercialized art world, and in neither case is criticism a function. We’re all supposed to be positive about art. Nobody plays defense! I mean, my job, to a certain extent, is to be in the net. My job is to mow stuff down.
And lastly:
SH: Do you think humor's a very important element of art?

DH: It would be if anybody could take a joke! Alec Waugh proposes "seriousness" as a form of infectious stupidity. I agree.


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