Life isn’t a support system for art. It’s the other way around. –Stephen King
Although not yet completed, I’m proud of The Anti-Film Tarot Art Project. If Reality TV were really real, it would look something like these videos. There’s no framework to the exchanges save the Tarot cards, but the videos have nothing at all to do with Tarot. They’re about people, unique individuals, and their struggles, successes, and phantasms.
To this end, I am amazed at the bravery of the participants. They actually say what they think and feel, about themselves, others, their interactions, and expectations. It’s amazing! And it also makes for a mesmerizing watch. Upon viewing a reading that didn’t concern her own life, Georgia, over at shrinksarentcheap, exclaimed of the project:
It is extremely interesting, like stumbling into the middle of someone’s life. It is kind of like a movie that unfolds as more and more information and self-awareness from the “character” comes out, and your insights are eerily invaluable.
I agree. For anyone who enjoys people watching, you couldn’t ask for a more addicting series of videos.
But that’s not what I anticipated. I expected it to be, at worst, exhibitionistic and boring, and at best… well, I had no idea… I figured it was worth a try. Now I see it as an exercise in joint storytelling and confession made public, which is as it should be. These videos seem to suggest to the viewer: Your life looks something like this, and if you were to see it from the outside, you’d realize how remarkable it is. It’s a snapshot of the quotidian, a Realism for the Digital Age that isn’t exploitative or pushy. It’s Courbet by way of Google Hangout.
Courbet’s notoriety, in the mid-1800s and onward, had at least as much to do with his politics as with his technique and artistic vision. Or to put this more justly, his artistic vision and subject matter was overtly political. Courbet was part of Realism, an artistic movement which chronicled the new living and working conditions spawned by the Industrial Revolution, and which saw a curious heyday for the novel (Balzac, Zola, Flaubert – Oh, my!), all dealing with the mundane and un-famous. Known for his working class and petit-bourgeois subjects, Courbet’s tableaux were “unprettified,” reflecting dirt, squalor, and the uncelebrated life. Quelle horreur! Courbet also participated in the Revolution of 1848 and was a key figure in the Paris Commune. This should be no surprise to you, as he was an all-around badass.
Well, what should be so revolutionary about a “Days of our Lives” without all the glam make-up and soft-lighting? Maybe the fact that it does not yearn for a softer light and a painted grin. It makes me think of my initial reaction to Gayatri Spivak’s “Can the Subaltern Speak?” Of course, they’re speaking, but not to you! The Subaltern speaks to one another, whispering ceaselessly in foreign tongues about your own overthrow and downfall, and if you can’t hear or understand them, it’s because you don’t care enough to listen. Courbet cared enough to listen.
Considered vulgar in its day, Realism neglected classical myth, history painting, and portraits of la noblesse, in favor of the peasant and the work-a-day. Suddenly, s/he was enough. Suddenly, s/he was a historical subject. Approximately 50 years later, the “talking cure” would take off in Vienna, spread to the US, and all those dirty, little case studies would be published by Freud. Coincidence? I think not.
Of course, psychoanalysis has been repackaged and used against us in the form of advertisements, junk sitcoms, and an endlessly repeatable reality TV which showcases the same clichés over and over and over. Our media is not so much about people as it is about stereotypes. But this fact gets me back to the Anti-Film Tarot Art Project and why I love it so. The participants talk back to culture.
Of the four participants in the Anti-Film Tarot Art Project, each spoke to varying degrees about pop culture – Sam talked about refusing to live up to people’s expectations of perfection, Will talked of an affinity he feels for a certain celebrity and what that means to him, Georgia spoke of an internalized pressure to live up to a Betty Crocker ideal of motherhood and her consequent desire to fly from it, and Daisy spoke of her struggle to overtly shift the ideals of others – from global icon and the self to the local, marginalized, and indigenous other. As Daisy says, “that’s where it’s at.” I agree with her. But I also think that new media permits us to create our own culture that is not bounded by nationality, history, and warfare — and I find that immensely compelling.
The Anti-Film Tarot Art Project is just that – it is about you, your friends, your sensations, and the immediate sector of your universe. And despite my preface at the beginning of each reading, it is like private Tarot readings, a fact which is astounding to me. For 40-50 minutes, you get to hear a dialogue concerning the mundane travails and fantasies of one person, only to discover that it is remarkably unique, relatable, and anything but mundane. This project reveals how together we are in our own alienation and frustration. And unlike the typical YouTube video, we aren’t reviewing a recent film, a celebrity, or a new way to apply makeup, we’re reviewing what it means to be alive and temporal, to be historical subjects. That’s cool!
If you have yet to watch the videos, I think you’re missing out. You can correct that error and watch them here. They seem to be getting better as the project progresses… probably due to my increasing comfort level with the fact that I’m being broadcast. ;) I nervously touch my face like mad in the first one!
And if you’re interested in participating, you can find info on that here and here. I have no idea how I will proceed once I finish the first wave of readings, whether I will do a new wave with each Equinox or keep the project going with each completion of a set. We’ll see!
And again, thanks to Sam, Will, Georgia, and Daisy! I utterly adore this project!
When I am dead let this be said of me: ‘He belonged to no school, to no church, to no institution, to no academy, least of all to any régime except the régime of liberty.’ – Gustave Courbet