Where has all the Art Gone?

The Revolution introduced me to art, and in turn, art introduced me to revolution - Albert Einstein

From remake, to "based on a true story", to repetitive and uninspired imagery, to hallow lyrics and over produced melodies, to unscripted drama and melodramatic plots, it seems that originality, creativity and imagination have taken a back seat in the world of mainstream art.

As I pulled up to work this morning, Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody blared through my speakers and I thought "What a song." The variety of melodies and instruments, invigorating and the thought-out, heartfelt and authentic lyrics, captivating. Though I don't know exactly what inspired Mercury or what went through his head as he penned the words, I couldn't help but feel a connection with the artist, as he bared his soul for the world to see. However, when I switched off my blutooth, the radio went on and some irritating, pointless and repetitive noise spewed out of the speakers; what the song was, I couldn't say, to me it sounded like every other hallow drawl which had been "created" over the last decade or two.

In fact, it has been proven that over the last fifty years, the quality of popular music has been in decline, manufactured groups and recording artists are the accepted norm and the self made singer/songwriter is increasingly rare but going from bad to worse, the creative decline has slowly seeped into literature, television and film as well.

The Golden Age of Film
There was a time when films meant something, where the creative film maker could delve into their imagination, where they weren't afraid to try new techniques, where ideas were unique and styles inspiring. There was a time when the quality of the story and quality in which it was told, was what mattered, rather than how much money could be made or who's profile could be boosted.

Unique and original ideas no longer exist in mainstream cinema as we have been bombarded with reboots, remakes, prequels and sequels in recent years and anything worth a watch is simply based on a true story. We've got Suicide Squad, Captain America, Star Wars, The Jungle Book, Batman v Superman, Doctor Strange, X-Men, The Magnificent Seven, Assassin's Creed, Jack Reacher, Jason Bourne, Ghost Busters, Star Trek, Cloverfield, Resident Evil, Tarzan... and that's just the reboots and sequels of 2016, the list continues into 2015 with Jurassic Park, Mad Max, terminator, Peter Pan, Poltergeist, The Fantastic Four, yet more Star Wars, Mission Impossible... and we can continue into the previous year with Robocop, About Last Night, Godzilla, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Annie... and the list just continues back through time with Batman, Spiderman, Superman, Hairspray, True Grit, The Departed, Arthur, King Kong, Let Me In, Insomnia, 3:10 To Yuma, Ocean's Eleven, Clash of the Titans, Four Brothers, Get Carter, Taxi, Psycho, Planet of the Apes, Fame, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Wicker Man, Conan, Alfie, Indiana Jones, Cape Fear, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, Battleship, Carrie, Dawn of the Dead, The Italian Job, Footloose... the list goes on. I'm not saying whether or not these films are good, it's a mixed bag to be honest but what I am saying is that every one of those movies, is based on somebody else's original idea. Someone else had felt the creative spark and nurtured and developed their idea, with time and care, to create the story which had built in their imagination. Some of the original movies had been classics, their stories needn't have been told again.

Frankly, as a cinema goer, I feel cheated that my choice of films are limited to already familiar storylines of renowned characters or of a real person's true tale and from an artist's perspective, I think reboots are nothing more than self indulgent; a means to realise a fantasy, in which the latest filmmaker had conjured the original idea.

If you feel inspired by a piece of art, terrific, go out and fuel your own unique creativity with that inspiration, don't just take somebody else's masterpiece and make it your own.

Channel Surfing
Alright, I will throw my hands up and admit that television has never been considered the most artistic medium. It was always more of a place to unwind, nothing to intricate with the plot; and the characters, not too complicated. Of course there were always exceptions to that with The Wire, Breaking Bad, and The Sopranos to name a few but over all it was always a great place to find humour, drama, romance and news - a nice mix which catered to many tastes.

With an array of current affairs, soaps, comedies, dramas, documentaries and cartoons, television had always retained a sort of medium balance - it was never considered to have an abundance of quality, nor was it ever considered entirely pointless either. With maybe 1 in 10 channels offering something to watch, we were assured we could always count on TV to offer a nice balance... but then came July 5th, 2000, a date which would shape the future of television as we knew it, a means to give the ordinary man 15 minutes of their own. I'm of course talking about when Big Brother first aired in the UK.

Dubbed a "social experiment", Big Brother promised an intriguing peek into the social psyche and claimed to be unscripted entertainment like no other. From the get-go, however, I had some serious misgivings about the genre. First, I didn't understand what was so entertaining about watching perfect strangers hanging around a house all day and secondly, I sincerely doubted the authenticity of the character's actions: that's all they were after all, characters who were cherry picked by the roles required within the Big Brother house. I reasoned it would be impossible for this experiment to work in the name of science as nothing was real about this reality TV. The character's weren't randomly chosen, the drama within the house was manufactured and precise editing gave the whole experiment a plot and a structure of sorts. It was a means only to make cheap TV - and I mean that in every sense of the word. Despite how little substance was actually in this show, people were hooked and craved more, fantasising of their own 15 minutes of fame.

People wanted, so the networks bestowed. Soon our screens were flooded with fame hungry wannabes all trying to sing/dance/skate/bake/cook/renovate/judge/pawn/fish/drive
/date/fight/hunt/offend/cheat/provoke/lie/sex their way to the top and we lapped it up, devouring a character's humiliation or emotional anguish like some sort of feral mongrel. Now this scourge is everywhere, from your aspirational home renovation shows, to your mockumentary housewives, to your traditional sandbox closed quarters, to your vocational pawn-crab storage war, we've even come to a point where, we as a society, revere a woman only made famous by a "leaked" sex tape.

It saddens and worries me but it seems the days of carefully and intelligently scripted television are becoming few and far between.

Review > Thesaurus
As a writer, poorly written yet highly successful books really hit on a personal level for me; not just books with a high readership but the ones which become immortalised on the silver screen, which only add further to the uninspired and unimaginative world of film.

The most poignant example of late has to be the Fifty Shades series. First, I want to make clear, I'm not a prude, if bondage and leather whips is your thing, then go for it and have fun. My gripe with the book isn't so much with the themes but is with the actual structure, style (or lack there of), dialogue and imagery. I gave up on the book only a couple of chapters in - if I had to read just once more how she bit her lip, my eyes were going to stay rolled at the back of my head permanently. The characters were dull and generic and the use of synonymous, lacking. To me, it read like nothing more than a first draft, the bones of a story in a monotonous and undeveloped universe.

Music, film, television should all begin with good writing but when we lower the bar in literature and accept poorly written books such as 50 Shades, that is going to have a ripple effect within the other mediums. Good writing, good film, good television and good music aren't easy to create. They require patience, passion and perseverence. When you aim to create good art you also strive to become better at it than when you began, you should be pushing your own boundaries, reaching for heights greater than what you thought were of your own capabilities. When you've dedicated yourself and expressed yourself in the most authentic way that you can, then you've created art.

Give your audience some credit, sit down over your first draft and take out your thesaurus.

What's that Racket?
I make a point to not listen to the radio, I'd much rather be immersed in silence than have to endure, what is dubbed, popular music. Much like film, the music industry is ruled by how much hype can be generated and how much money can be made along the way. Mainstream music has become a hallow industry which lacks soul or originality. Very few popular songwriters write with authenticity and as a result can only produce repetitive lyrics with little very little substance.

Scientific American conducted a study to track changes in pop music over the last half-century. Measuring timbre, pitch an loudness within an array of popular songs, it was concluded that there has been a decline in tone quality and in the variation of chords, which has resulted in music only becoming generic, monotonous and louder - the high volume, disguising the lack of variety within the song.

Just as with film and television, despite any real meat, the lure of this monotonous and generic style of music is baffling. In one sense, I understand that it's easy listening and its repetitive nature is a good means to drift away and drown out any boredom but it is entirely counterproductive in an artistic sense; as it is in those moments of boredom that we should be exploring our own thoughts and imagination, searching for that unique spark of inspiration in the entirely ordinary and it's incredibly difficult to find a spark of inspiration when we are consumed with thoughts of not minding Ed Sheeran being crazy for some handmade love, girl, rather than to trying to find the answer blowing in the wind or wandering just why, he put a gun to someone's head?

To the Revolution
Something which inherently links the decline of film, TV, literature and music is not by any means a lack of talented artists or original ideas and is not because creativity has fizzled out. Fear and greed has warped the purpose of artistic expression through music, film, television and literature. Going back to our most primal instincts, man was always made to, if not fear, but to at least throw some caution at unfamiliar situations. As audiences, we fear trying new experiences and as artists, we fear failure. The producers, they simply fear loosing money and as a result of all this nonsensical fear, artistic integrity is removed from the equation.

The most despairing factor of all though is greed - the desire to create art for the sake of glory and fortune rather than a desire to create art for the sake of art; because it's a passion, a need, a true and unadulterated form of expression.

A Masterpiece

Lenny Abrahamson's Frank has got to be one of the most original films that I've seen of late. I think what appealed to me so much about this film is that not only is it pure imagination but it deals with the topic of talent and artists and explores the difference between hallow and authentic creativity. Starring Michael Fassbender, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Domhnall Gleeson, it's a must see; outstanding directing, wonderful acting, captivating story, meaningful plot, genuine characters and quirky humour... It has it all!

© Sarah O’Regan

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