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There’s no business like show business (for gazing at its own navel).

February 20, 2015

Just a thought. From someone who cannot claim to have experience of being an artist.

Omphaloskepsis.

But before I proceed, let’s just note three glorious things: first, that (inevitably) someone thought it necessary to come up with the word; secondly, that The Source Of All That Has Been, Is, And Shall Be Known has a page for it; and thirdly, that everything you need to know about it is proved by the fact that there are 12 different versions of this composition by Roy Erzinger. I give you Omphaloskepsis no 1).

So, omphaloskepsis. Let’s say it just once more: omphaloskepsis. Navel-gazing. And in this context I have in my mind Art about Art:

  • Shows about showbusiness (viz loads of musicals about song and dance acts).
  • Plays about the theatre.
  • Films about the movies (The Scarlett O’Hara War).
  • Books about writers.
  • Poems about poetry, written to be read by other poets.
  • Songs about singing (I Write the Songs, to which I link more out of a sense of courtesy than with a recommendation).
  • And to be completely consistent I suppose I ought also to include self-portraits by painters. Though that’s somehow different.

Let me say immediately that I completely absolve performing artists from complicity in this. They have to make a living, and they can often offset the essential self-indulgence of the creation. (But, contra, I mention that singer-songwriters who write and sing about being singer song-writers may be the most guilty of the lot.)

It isn’t that the works produced are without merit. Far from it in many cases. Some of the best rock ‘n’ roll songs have been about good ole rock ‘n’ roll. As AC/DC point out, It’s a long way to the top (If you wanna rock ‘n’ roll), so if you’re on that journey your output is probably going to be introspective to some degree.

Nor is it the 20th and 21st centuries alone where this phenomenon can be observed. Mozart’s The Impresario is a show about recruiting for a theatrical company. And that’s a work certainly full of marvellous music, such as its delicious finale.

Although it is tempting to say that if Mozart did it then it must be ok, I nevertheless hold fast to the principle that the creators of art should really exclude themselves from being their own subject matter.

Or at least from pretending that art about art is the same as art about real life.

ps I borrowed Gregg Tavares’s photo as it appeared on Wikipedia: I hope he doesn’t mind.

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5 Comments
  1. Anne-Marie Hetherington permalink

    On the other hand, there is little that is so fascinating to the artist than him or herself. I may speak from experience here…

  2. Fiona permalink

    have you seen hellzapoppin?

  3. Is the Selfie an example of 21st century navel gazing? Or aperture gazing.

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