So I was wallowing and wandering in my archival attic as I put off my daily line C2020-703 learning session, and I came across a theme that might do nicely to hold together some of our ongoing Lichtenbergian concerns: Â Everything from the challenges of self-representation to seeking out criteria for artistic credibility can find a lip tickle orbit for discussion. Â It’s a link. Â Go there: C2040-408
So as we continue with our current assignment, I thought it might also be rewarding to riff on this theme of the Ape.
As far as your original question goes, i.e., “is aping a necessary step in artistic vision,” I think yes. It’s like the Renzuli model we use at GHP: Phase I is when you teach the student explicitly; Phase II is when you invite the student to mimic classic models/strategies/techniques; Phase III is when the student designs the problem and solves it.
So, in the sense that we might try on Richard Burton’s performance style just to see what that tool is like, and then proceed to use that tool (or not) for our performance, then yes, aping is essential. But if we try on Richard Burton just as a rough skin to hide inside, and just “do it as Baudelaire,” then apery is not art.
For our current assignment, it might be interesting to take some famous artwork/photo and mimic it as a self-portrait. I call dibs on Diane Arbus.
I only started reading the Lacuna blog after the formation of the Lichtenbergians, so I was never privy to this post. However, I love this idea. I can’t wait to read/see the essay, Marc!
This line most fascinates me:
“Is aping the necessary first step on the road to some authenic embodiment or position…”
I think that aping is very much a part of finding one’s self as an artist. I can’t think of a single comedian I know that didn’t start out mimicking, if not the actual jokes, at the very least the tone and style of his favorite comics.
I have spent probably 30% of my professional career as a performer impersonating Groucho Marx, either literally in various productions where he is a character or by slipping into that “Groucho” persona when doing my own act. It took much time and personal evolution before I realized that I could do that fast-paced impromptu audience banter without the greasepaint or simply recalling his lines.
The latter half of the question is relevant, too, though:
“…or just ever-empty display of difficiency that only merits our scorn, laughter or tears as the case may be?”
I think if you never evolve past the ape stage, then this side of the coin shows itself.
I believe one of the key factors in failure to evolve is money. Examples: “Thoroughly Modern Millie was great and made a ton of money. What old movie can I turn into a stage musical and capitalize on that?”
“People seem to love Will and Grace, we should make more shows centered around gay characters.”
“That ‘Stuff White People Like’ blog made that guy super rich and famous, I should make a weird funny blog like that.”
And on and on. How many Harry Potter knock offs are out there? Super hero movies? Procedural Crime Dramas?
Why is this? With money comes exposure and with wide exposure evolution stops. Put 10 birds on a small island and they will evolve very quickly. Put 10,000 birds on a large continent and there is next to no evolution. Likewise with so much exposure and so many artists try to be like the few most successful, the artistic gene pool becomes stagnant.
I’ve gone on long enough, but I like this topic.
Dale must have typed his comment while I was typing mine because it wasn’t there before. Had it been I would have simply written: “Yeah, what he said.”
And yes, the irony is deliberate.
Anyone here remember “Zelig?”
Marc, this sounds like it has potential. Mike I’m glad you posted rather than just affirming Dale’s statement. Your post is much more than that. I love the money analogy- especially the 10 birds and 10,000 birds piece. It may be why some refuse to recognize evolution. They are in the 10,000, ever aping (pun intentional).
Dale’s idea of mimicking some famous artwork/photo as a self-portrait presents a real challenge to me.
And Jeff, don’t you think Zelig was Woody Allen taking Dale’s stage two to it’s ultimate showing where it leads without the final stage?
Dale’s reference to aping Richard Burton is interesting. Were you aware of the recent Wooster Group production which presented a complete aping of the Burton/Gielgud Hamlet, basing it on a film document of the production that was released recently on DVD? A instance of an actor consciously carrying out an exercise in hiding in a “rough skin.” From what I’ve read of the production, it seems one of the goals was to complicate any easy “either/or” bromides which might be dispensed ahead of time on the nature of art and imitation. And yes, as Dale might mention, we would need to experience the result for ourselves and then modify judgements.
The analyst in me loves how talk of apes leads us naturally to select evolution as a related topic.
I find myself having an ape-ish good time writing on our blogs. I can pretend to be a nimble wordsmith, a man of letters, a cultural mind of the moment manque, an executor of linguistic derring-do. But my reality is closer to the character Alan Swann in the film My Favorite Year, played by Peter O’Toole, based somewhat loosely on the actor Errol Flynn, known for his portrayl of heroic swashbuckling figures like Robin Hood, etc. Aping all the way down.
I never got around to watching the Van Zant “aped” version of Psycho.
Yes, Zelig. Haven’t seen it since it came out. Wow.
Didn’t see the Van Sant either.
Another film association might be Kagemusha.
I was reviewing the memory that originally inspired thought of The Ape (and the so far unrealized essay) and I might unpack it here with an eye toward getting back into those thoughts. It’s going to require my taking another look at Blau’s The Eye of Prey–Subversion of the Postmodern. I tried to be a “postmodern” ape throughout the Eighties.
Everyone be thinking of Ape activity to include in our theatrical essay.