Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Over at Don Hall's blog is a post that I find small-minded and upsetting. In the interest of positivity, he has also posted this image, which I think is wonderful:

Okay, on to the unpleasantness.

Hall begins by creating a new analogy (because blackjack = theater has been working ever so well) and this one is based on arcades, which I know well from my youthful visits to the boardwalks on the New Jersey shore. He says there are people who play games like skeeball, which my mother kicks ass at, either for the pleasure of playing, or for the tickets that can be used to buy toys, geegaws and gadgets.

Hall's analogy in this case is flawed even before he connects it to theater—there are in Hall's world, for example, no people who play boardwalk games for both the simple pleasure of playing them
and the equally simple pleasure of seeing what weird things one can buy with the tickets. You have to choose one or the other.

But in addition to there being a strict black/white division, Hall also passes judgment on the different systems:

"My nine year old niece likes to play for the tickets. In fact, her fun is almost dictated by the number of tickets she accrues over the course of her time there. I don't judge her too harshly - she's nine and my niece, so her young, carnivorous capitalism is sort of funny in a Lord of the Flies way, I guess."

This is obviously pejorative, so we can understand that anyone playing for tickets is "wrong", or at least as guileless as a nine year old. That's the bad one.

"I'm the sort who likes to play the games and often, if there are tickets involved, I have to be reminded to get them before I move on to the next game. My fun is about the experience of battling pixelated monsters and assisting the digital police as the hostage saving sniper cop."

We now know which one is the "right" one—it's this one.

But let's call a spade a spade—this is really about Crass Materialism versus Pure Art For Art's Sake. In Hall's universe there are two ways to work in the arts—either you're in it for Money, or you're in it for the Experience, and the two apparently don't meet.

This is where it starts getting personal and ugly.

"Mike D. thinks that the analogy of the Theater Artist and the Poker Player is "dumb.""

Yes, yes I do.

"He thinks it lacks any illumination of the world he lives in."

I was considerably more absolutist than that—I think it doesn't illuminate
anything compelling anywhere in the American theater, far beyond my own experience. I think it's a deceptive piece of jingoism, not because it doesn't "speak" to me, but because it FEELS true while not actually BEING true.

Hall, if you want to address what I said, reread it carefully
here and here.

If you want to keep writing about my positions, go through and address the arguments I made which systematically explore why your analogy is full of shit. I don't want to hear any more summarizing of my position until you've addressed what I've already put forward.

"He is probably right as his defining characteristic as an artist is that he plays for the tickets."

Really, Don? Please, tell me more—explain to me how I've become Enchanted with Crass Materialism. Explain how I am no different than a nine-year old niece who loves buy shiny crap at the boardwalk—I would love to hear this.

So far as I understand you've never seen my work, so the odds of you understanding what kind of artist I am is slim. I have never seen your work, but you'll notice that I've never passed public judgment on your work's value—because that would be shitty.

You're doing worse than that—you're actually questioning whether there is any heart in what I do, and accusing me of doing it for money alone.

"Certainly, I think it is safe to assume that Mike plays for the fun sometimes, but his work and his words indicate that for him this game is about the tickets."

I see—so, if no one is paying me their filthy money on a given night, perhaps then it can be Fun, but the rest of the time it's about accumulating those worthless tickets.

And you know this from my work...which you've never seen. It must be very revealing, this work you've never seen but know so well.

"For Mike and Scott and a lot of others, the games are about the acquisition of tickets rather than the experience of playing. I have no doubt whatsoever that both will deny that this is so, that they both feel that the tickets are just a much needed element that is missing from the game but remember that the types of games are different."

I do not understand how the fuck I get lumped in with Scott, who is a tenured professor, when assessing how my art works.

I also can't believe the infantilism at work here—"tickets" aren't missing from some "game", it's fucking fair wages and support for people who give their lives to an art form.

"Those of us who play the non-ticket spitting games have the choice to play the ones that provide us with plastic reward and choose not to play them."

Right—all those who "play" for Experience *could* be playing for Money, but they've chosen the righteous path and wouldn't lower themselves to that filthy level.

"I realized, while going from game to game with my niece, that trying to explain to her that it wasn't really about the tickets or the stuff was a task as great as trying to convince Myra that live theater was just better than the movies. She will either figure out that for herself or she won't - the best I can do is to keep playing the games that bring me pleasure and when she gets tired of plastic crap, she might try it my way once. And she might not like it and decide to no longer play games at Dave & Buster's and go do something else with her money and time."

The translation is that trying to convince me to ignore the precious tickets is as fruitless as trying to convince the nine-year-old, because that's how rational I am—I have, after all, chosen Money over Experience, by committing the sin of being a person who makes a living creating independent art.

"And then Mike could write an article in The Stranger about her, too."

And now you connect the death of my good friend's career, after years of her selflessly devoting herself to the American theater and being highly lauded for that work, with a nine-year-old deciding not to play skeeball anymore.

Fuck yourself in your eye with a knife.

4:49 PM