Design Drama

documenting the delicate dance of design

Every Artist is a Cannibal April 30, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — Beth D @ 5:22 pm

There’s been a lot of hullabaloo over the Miley Cyrus photos, and I’ve decided I’m on the fence on this… at least until my Vanity Fair arrives in the mail.

I read a couple of blog posts on the topic and there was one comment on there that made me think about the big picture where art was concerned. This commenter (named “NM”) raised a point that the photo of MC in the sheet reminded her of David’s “Death of Marat” and how the photo, if the lipstick was removed, looked like a corpse. She was right, and I then realized why the photo had a familiar quality to me.

Did Leibovitz do this intentionally? Who is to say except the photographer herself, but it’s an interesting underlying commentary, whether it’s about how Hollywood eats it’s young* or the fact that these young girls today are dancing a dangerous jig on a precipice while in the hot lights of the media glare and everyone’s thinking “jump!”

Anyway, the whole conversation surrounding these MC photos started another thought process on whether there’s really anything new in art. The title of this post is me ripping a line from U2’s “The Fly” in which the lyric goes “… every artist is a cannibal, every poet is a thief…”

Today, it seems so many visual, musical and lyrical artistic statements are a reaction to something that has come before. When I listen to Tom Petty’s latest album, Highway Companion, I constantly hear guitar riffs that are snippets of some of his earlier work. At least he’s ripping off himself, though.

Looking back on the artists of the ’80s — Keith Haring’s dancing man icon, is reminiscent of heiroglyphs… Warhol painted and displayed mass marketed consumer goods and turned them into pop culture icons:Campbell’s tomato soup cans, Brillo boxes, etc. Jeff Koons has done sculptures of blown up plastic Easter bunnies and a life size scaled knick-knack of Michael Jackson and Bubbles for display in museums and passed both off as art.

The best example of art in day to day life being reprocessed and repackaged is in the fashion we wear. Remember the panchos and gaucho pants from a few years ago? Yeah, I’d like to forget those too. It was all a little too Annie Hall for me. Seems like every year, fashion designers go back 20 years for the inspiration of what was done before. Right now, the ’80s are back – in fashion photography, handbags, and album cover design (See “Be Your Own Pet – Get Awkward”)

Is there nothing new? Or are we a society so saturated in constant media that we are forced to look at everything that has come before and are intentionally or subliminally forcing this into the work we produce?

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*Personally, if she was going for the whole “eat the young” thing, Goya’s “Saturn Devouring His Son” would be a great image to knock-off. It would at least be a photo even creepier than the photo of MC sprawled across Billy Ray.

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6 Responses to “Every Artist is a Cannibal”

  1. Kat Coble Says:

    I think much about that Leibowitz photo was intentional–far more than many people in the public realise. I think there were several commentaries being made by the photographer, and I think you and nm are dead-on about the Death Of Marat reference.

  2. missbethd Says:

    Thanks Kat, but I can’t take credit for the Marat thing, NM pointed that out first… she’s the one with the great eye.

    Leibovitz is well versed and does nothing by accident. I’m dying for my VF to show up… I want to see how the photos are juxtaposed with the article.. MC made some reference to being embarrassed by not only the photos, but the story as well. Should be interesting.

  3. Monroe Mojo Says:

    I had a Keith Haring SWATCH. I wish that I still had it.

    Hopefully, in this new 80s resurgence, I will get to marry Belinda Carlisle or Molly Ringwald. We’ll see…

  4. missbethd Says:

    I still have BOTH my Swatch watches, circa 1985. I rock them on an every so often basis. I still have my Coca Cola watch too. And all of my jelly bracelets.

  5. […] Beth at Design Drama weighs in on the Miley Cyrus thing that has been dominating tweendom recently. I read a couple of blog posts on the topic and there was one comment on there that made me think about the big picture where art was concerned. This commenter (named “NM”) raised a point that the photo of MC in the sheet reminded her of David’s “Death of Marat” and how the photo, if the lipstick was removed, looked like a corpse. She was right, and I then realized why the photo had a familiar quality to me. […]

  6. nm Says:

    In art, there has never been anything new, at least not since the first bone carvings and cave paintings. Everyone is influenced by what came before (David’s painting of Marat itself was shaped by centuries of iconography of the Deposition). The question is whether the influence is followed slavishly or taken, internalized, twisted, and turned into something new.


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