The Hybrid Artist
More poisonous to the idea of art, even, than the owner of a musical act kindly thanking the nameless composers, is the executive who actually becomes the artist: the mutant creature that acquires historical credit for a finished product. While the Renaissance princes directed their artists to paint, paid for their assistants, gained public credit for the entire process, and owned the final piece of art, they did not yet dare to claim to be the artists themselves--to unseat Leonardo and his students and helpers and aides, and claim to have been the creator. King Francis the First, for example, did not try to claim that he had painted the Mona Lisa.
Although the commissioners of art had long claimed credit for having funded it; for having suggested the setting and pose; for having hand-picked the subject; for having critiqued the artist(s) during the process; although the princes had long done these things, they had not actually claimed to have been the artist, no matter how many adjustments to the final work had been made at their direction.
That stage of arrogance took until later to be accomplished. A rich man may learn some computer jargon, hire some programmers, tell them to improve upon an existing product, approve of aesthetic design version #84, and years later, be credited as a genius for having designed an operating system, a telephone, or an mp3 player. The handful of crucial technology breakthroughs from the geniuses, or just hard workers, that actually made the project work--they fade into the background. Those reactionary pathetic hacks got their salaries, didn't they? Stop rocking the boat.
The owners of a musical brand may ask for a certain type of track, suggest a revision to some of the instrument samples, ask the tempo be increased slightly in a few measures, and then, become named the artists and inventive geniuses on par with, if not completely ahead of, the grunts who did the mere "creating."
Financiers have always swallowed credit for the art they purchased--the family of the rich countess spurns their employee, Beethoven, as beneath her. The proceeds from the great works have flowed out to the elites who controlled, herded, and gave market access to the real artists. But the artist's name remained attached to the work.
Now, financiers swallow up credit even for the art itself. By participating in the design process, those who hum a tune become the lead composer; those who pen a line become the lead author. Those who accept the approved script from the studio and tell the camera operators to point the camera become executive artistic directors. Endless levels of finance and administration separate almost all of the remaining artists from any viable credit for what they have done, while history records credit in the name of the buyer.
And these hybrid "artists," who are so "intimately involved" with the projects they play with--they would all like to thank, from the bottoms of their hearts, all the staff and helpers who aided them in polishing up their creative vision. You might say they couldn't have done it without them.
"In September 1987 Karen Berger phoned me up and asked me if I'd be interested in writing a monthly title for DC. That was how it all started.
Karen was already my editor on a book called BLACK ORCHID, and was (and is) DC's British liaison.
She rejected all my initial suggestions (sundry established DC characters I thought it might be fun to revive from limbo), and instead reminded me of a conversation we'd had the last time she was in England-a conversation I'd almost forgotten-in which I'd suggested reviving an almost forgotten DC character, "The Sandman"...
So I did. A year later the first issue of SANDMAN appeared in the stores. Put like that, it all sounds so simple."
Mr. Gaiman goes on to discuss how, after a period of reading old comic books from that publisher, he was able to--in concert with the managing editor and various other DC contract-workers--come up with the idea of how to re-publish the characters and settings from the old book. Some of DC's managers were able to farm out a rotating cycle of visual artists to draw, ink, color and letter it, to much commercial success and literary acclaim.
Big money from big backing; no surprises here. If you're not familiar with that particular brand, check here.
Recycled plots; fawning audiences; big money. Gaiman, the wealthy son of a Jewish family in England, used friendships with industry insiders to launch his semi-independent career, eventually becoming, like Tom Clancy, a "brand" in and of himself, where he can attach his name to old stories as part of a group project, under the guidance of writers, editors, authors, and under the managerial direction of executives who know what projects this year needs to see sold. In that, he's lucky: he's a managerial, yet "named," figure--a hybrid of both "executive" and "underling artist."
And he is, in so many ways, exactly what audiomachine is: thanking those who helped him "write" a story. Even on a story where a team of visual artists handles all imagery, and an editor manages the plot, the hybrid can't do the writing all by him- or her-self. That would be too much heavy lifting for one person alone. That would be like asking audiomachine's owners to compose music without composition assistants. More from Gaiman:
...a few words of thanks and gratitude to the rest of the Sandman clan: ...thanks to our guests Michael Zutti, Chris Bachalo and Steve Parkhouse, for lending their skills and unique vision to the story...
The ellipses at fore and aft represent many more names; far more than the included trio of pinch-writers.
Music? How many big acts, now, involve the singer just singing by her- or himself? Band frontliners record all their tracks with their own voice overlaid on themselves, sometimes four or five times, to add the lacking depth. What a shock it is when artists are caught lip-syncing at public appearances.
Humans once used to sing together; Voices, That's All. Barbershop quartets, religious choirs, and streetside African-American groups have been almost wholly supplanted in a culture that demands bands formed with a single lead, because a single lead/name is more easy to market. It's a lucky chance when a group that genuinely sings together, and wrote its music specifically for those members to sing together, makes it anywhere.
Writers? How many assistants, editors, language consultants, fact-checkers and test-readers are necessary per screenplay to polish it up to acceptable levels, before the dialogue coaches, director, screenwriter and producers add or subtract to what's remaining?
Makeup? Well, obviously. Or is it?
The visual artists of film are relegated to the nether regions of the extended "making of" bonus featurette on the special edition DVD release. That can't be helped; all the enchanted swords of all the hobbits of merry old England can't be made by the same guy. The full sensual blend of movies will, necessarily, include collaboration, and of course collaboration should never be discouraged.
However: the credit-stealing, recycling, money-controlled way that tales of word, image, or note are being slain are profound. Buying artists and their output has evolved to becoming the named artist; to being the managerial head of a team of artists who does the actual imagining, creating, and crafting, and who are then thanked for "contributing" to the brand on the cover. It is not a very short step from that to eliminating artists from consideration entirely: from further integrating the factory system into that aspect of the charade, and giving Owner an artistic achievement award for helping coordinate the guys who hired the actors, who told the camera guys roughly where to aim, who told the tech guys what kind of transition to use, and who hired the guys who wrote Pieces 1 through 8 of the script.
Now Joyce, you sit here...you choose the hair color...you're so good at choosing hair color, dear...when the conveyor belt brings the canvas by, you just decide which color is in your heart, and, and there's your brushes, as many as you need. It'll mostly be short hair, today and Tuesday, but then we start the Monroe project, and they didn't stipulate length, they didn't even care abou...I think they all have to be redheads, or something, but length is all up to you. Oh, no facial hair on the guys; it's some kind of college, or maybe Army?--yeah, Army--Army thing, hold on, I left the paper over by Barb...yeah, and she'll be setting the facializer for 'butch' today, haha, so just keep the hair short, all right? Fifteen minutes per all right? I know you can do it!
Now Frank, we need a scene here where the guy, ahh, what's his name? Yeah, Jason. Jason. Where he breaks up with his girlfriend, has a fight with his dad--throw in some violence--and then contemplates suicide, but doesn't actually do it. And he should be staring at a bottle of Corona, all right? Be sure to mention it at least...three times. Yeah, three. And each a page apart from the other, you know? And it's a Nick Roguely book, so remember: 'write Nick'! Haha! None of that artsy, uhh, words you used for that hospital show last week. Yeah? I know you can do it, Frank. Nick really appreciates it. Oh, and we're gonna need you on Saturday, next week--is that cool?