Thursday, February 2, 2012

On Mike Kelley's death

Here, IOZ questions the sellout soul-crushing that may have led to artist Mike Kelley's suicide.

Nutellaontoast comments, "It's a little known fact that the original Sistine Chapel was painted on the underside of a bridge..."  I.e., "Michelangelo sold out, too."

Indeed, many (most?) artists remembered by mainstream history are nothing but that; the best ones, who weren't willing to sell out their talents and souls to religious this or lordly that, are vanished, so far as it appears from here.

The question then is, does recognition--current or historical--hold the only value?  Should you give up (or at least despair) if the Pope isn't paying you to churn out absolutist propaganda, or if you aren't at least subcontracted into the art direction department to spruce up the new-model GM vehicles in Transformers III--or to lend your brush to bring color to the latest orcs v. humans battle story or video game to teach basic resource allocation tactics to the next generation of low-ranking military officers?

Or, is this all a trick on the lot of us?  At the end, will everyone on the A-list and in your 8th grade history text end up in Hell, and everyone who refused to sully the world go to Heaven?  Maybe Kelley realized the truth and redeemed himself at the very end.  Suicide as art, a la Hide.

If you do end up in Hell, your punishment is an endless lecture series chaired by Jackson Pollock, in which generations of great thinkers explain, one after the other, why Leonardo da Vinci's anatomical sketches and military blueprints were the crux of human civilization at the time.


  1. alternate theory: life had become too easy.

    i think we each realize (on a subconscious/ supraconscious/ extraconscious level) when we are living an appreciative life. when we suffer but then overcome, we appreciate, because we've earned. (the glass of water that tastes better when we've put in a tremendous effort.)

    and same token, when we have not suffered and yet receive, we don't appreciate but rather self-loathe. unfulfilled (not achieving human "perfection", aristotelean sense) > depressed/self-destructive > suicidal.

  2. puppylander, both in response to this and to your many postings on IOZ, your lack of anecdotal experience and statistical review does scuttle your theory (although this one does enjoy the mechanics of the theory itself).

    Suicide is actually very high among unsuccessful, struggling populations, such as concentration camps (1940s Auschwitz or 2000s Gaza), the "first-world" homeless, or just poor kids. People often enjoy blaming the middle class for cutting or taking pills, but remember--when a suffering class exists anywhere without help, we all make the mental calculation "there but for the grace of God go I." And we know that it could be just around the corner for us or our loved ones.

    As long as we're in the jungle, no one will ever feel safe.

  3. not surprising for me to be off.

    "As long as we're in the jungle, no one will ever feel safe."

    suggesting there's anything but jungle? or acknowledging that part of existence is learning to accept the jungle?

    i think what i'm finding so attractive about peterson is a kind of embracing of our humanity--defined in terms of what it is to be human--and not what we want it to be to be human.