The DJ Makes us Think

Forgoing FaceBook, Head Transplants, and Art versus Entertainment

I ran into a good friend of mine yesterday who told me she was forgoing Facebook for a spell. I’ve been tempted to do this myself, but I feel like I’m already disconnected enough from the world at large, and if I dropped my main artery of information I’d be floating in a farm and wine-induced void—maybe not such a bad thing.

Facebook almost blew my head off this morning. Heavy eye-rolling, a few clicks of “I don’t want to see this,” and one serious, heavy moral conundrum left me sputtering around on the floor and lurching for my coffee mug. It’s all reminding me of the quote from Banksy in the film Exit Through the Gift Shop wherein he explains that he used to encourage other people to make art, until he saw the horrific results. Of course there are terrific people out there doing terrific things, but for some reason my Facebook feed has decided to filter out the good stuff and condense all the contrived, pretentious, and muddled crap into one viscous black ball, and then inject it right directly into my brain.

Maybe it’s time for one of those head transplants I’ve been reading a little bit about.

The internet and the social media revolution have been a boon for aspiring artists and entertainers. Suddenly anyone can publish, anyone can display, anyone can share their work. In the past there was a definite structure in place that had to be penetrated in order for an artist to be exposed, and oftentimes the barriers were arbitrary at best, and systemically unfair—i.e. sexist or racist—at worst. Those impediments are not gone, but they are breaking down in substantial ways. This is a good thing, but it leaves us as the viewers with a tremendous amount of information to sort and sift; to evaluate.

Arts and Entertainment; Art versus Entertainment

It becomes natural to fall back on what we know—the cover night, the tribute show, the DJ spinning our favorite records, the play we’ve seen a dozen times and already know by heart. This is entertainment, and that’s fine. Lord knows we need entertainment. Life is a pressure cooker and we need to unwind, to dance, to party, and to relax. We need to open the vent on that pressure cooker in our head and let off some of the building steam. There is a definite place for entertainment.

Too Future

To my way of thinking though, more than entertainment, we need art. We need work that raises questions and challenges the viewer. We need to expose ourselves to ideas that make us squirm. This has nothing to do with the medium. An artist is an artist regardless of whether they play an instrument, paint on canvas, or spin records. Art has to do with intention. An entertainer intends to create a good time, an artist strives to create tension and upheaval. DJ Shadow once got kicked off stage because the set he spun left his vapid, hyper-privileged, bubble-dwelling audience feeling confused and disappointed.

God forbid the DJ ever makes us think.

Bob Howard has been living, working, and writing in Northern Califonria since he moved to Chico in early 2000. In January 2011, he and his wife Trish relocated to Los Molinos, 30 minutes north of Chico, where they are the proud proprietors of the Double Happiness Farm. There they grow organic food, ornamental plants and trees, and generally work to enjoy the beauty of this great region.