Artists are vulnerable to the fantasy of self-destruction as the ultimate badge of authenticity. The work is so pure, so intense, so transcendent (so the familiar narrative goes) that its conduit burns out like an overloaded fuse. The young innovators whose creations triggered paradigm shifts in their media as they themselves succumbed to self-inflicted martyrdoms seem to us as tools which the hand of god used briefly, too forcefully, and then broke. With maturity we learn to recognize this as a fiction, written to rationalize senseless death and pain. Once you’ve been or loved an addict, for example, the idea of addiction loses its romance. But even when we should know better, in certain personalities the desire to give one’s life to something greater, something noble and true, in this case an artistic vision, persists. For them, Nikos Kazantzakis wrote this prayer: “I am a bow in your hands…. Overdraw me, Lord, and who cares if I break.”
My second Symbol Reader column, “Internal Combustion,” was published on The Comics Journal website earlier this week. In it, I talk about comics where self-destruction facilitates self-discovery by Grant Snider, Sophie Franz, Eric Haven, and Luke Howard. And as always, if you wrote a comic, posted it online, and still aren’t sure what it’s about, you can submit it to the Symbol Reader blog and I’ll take a crack at explaining it to you.
Otis Redding - Sitting on the Dock of the Bay
Russian Soldiers on the steps of the Reich Chancellery looking at German medals that would never be awarded. May 1945
Ok, but was this not the ultimate aesthetic?
the slow days are unsettling
I think I forget to bring myself with me