Thursday, February 18, 2010

Playing Operation with the World

My tweets from last night;

Bread insulates sandwiches from the void.
You can't have fewer forms of leaves, just more.
New haircuts shouldn't make you paranoid.
Telepathy's from a salon's back door.

I've been pencilling all day, so I've only just now gotten more or less up to speed on the Evelyn Evelyn Internet clusterfuck Amanda Palmer seems to have gotten herself caught up in. I first heard of the project yesterday, I think, when Palmer retweeted something the album artist, Cynthia von Buhler, said and I decided to follow the artist's twitter. Her blog has a fascinating video of a two faced cat and a photo of Evelyn Evelyn themselves that looks remarkably like a pair of images of Amanda Palmer, though I didn't notice at the time. I wasn't then or now bothered by a concept album about the rough life of some conjoined twins.

Amanda Palmer has a nice digest of and response to the uproar in this blog entry, which is in response to another of her blog entries that rather innocently presented Evelyn Evelyn as persons who may or may not be real but who have a definite aesthetic in any case. Personally, I'd have assumed they were real people if I'd read that entry before anything else, which may mean I'm gullible, or possibly that I just wasn't paying close attention, which is often the case with my internet roamings, even regarding people and things I care about.

Anyway, I wouldn't have expected a backlash. I'm not sure if people are angrier about being duped or about the portrayal of conjoined twins as socially awkward or the presentation of Evelyn Evelyn's sexual abuse as apparent fact. That last bit reminds me of how Howard Stern and his people were recently planning on prank calling Oprah Winfrey's radio show with stories about how they were molested as children. I wondered if I should look at this as Amanda Palmer pranking her audience, sort of Andy Kaufman style, but I doubt Amanda Palmer would see it that way.

I kind of did see this coming, though. This thing with the internet community that Palmer and Gaiman are trying to do, to sort of become everyone's friends, something Palmer seems to have pursued especially aggressively, was kind of bound to hit a hitch like this when so much of Palmer's art is intended to strike nerves. I'm contemplating a reality where Marilyn Manson sat down with a community with concerns about offending anyone with his Smells Like Children album.

Though, of course, this whole thing actually reminds me more of The Cure's "Siamese Twins";

Which is a song about Siamese twins in a wretched existence, which, according to this blogger's reasoning, would seem, "designed to keep people like me — real people with disabilities — out; this is not a new thing, considering the attitudes that folks in our culture hold about people with disabilities and their acceptable social roles."

The blogger also says; "Representing Evelyn Evelyn as variously inspiring, freakish, weird and a 'wonder' just reinforces existing stereotypes about PWDs."

You know, those happen to all be facts. This isn't like the myth of the happy black slave, content with his lot. Conjoined twins are weird and wonderful. Most people aren't joined by flesh to other people. Some people are born categorically weird--it happens, and no propaganda campaign is going to change that.

Initially, my feeling was that it was a mistake for Palmer to even address the outcry, because it's not likely to have any effect on most of the aggrieved. But this bit from Palmer's blog changed my mind;

this is something i’ve had to learn to live with.

to get clear, i always have to stop, dig deep within myself and ask:
were my intentions good? could i really stand behind them? was anybody really harmed?
if i’ve actually harmed someone (and the harm isn’t just a drama in their heads), have i owned my responsibility?

when i quiet myself down and find the answer within myself, that’s the most important one.
it speaks louder than the voices outside my head and the anonymous voices on the internet.

it is to this voice you must listen, or you’re FUCKED.

i know a lot of younger people read this blog and i have constant contact with teenagers who are always asking me:
“how do i get brave?”

a lot of that answer lies in situations like these.
when you are forced to sit down, reckon with a situation, listen to people screaming that they hate you, take stock of what you’ve done, look everyone in the eye, tell them what your intentions are, and know that they will either hear and understand you or they will walk away.

and then your job is to not run after them.
your job is to stay calm. your job is continue on with your work.
and the hardest thing, sometimes, is to continue on with your work in a spirit of love, without letting other people’s hate and anger getting the best of you, and turning you into bitter, angry and jaded fuck.

it’s so easy to be afraid. to do nothing. to not make your art, to not follow your calling, your passion, your impulses, to not take any risks for fear of people cutting you down and misunderstanding you.
most people are CONTROLLED by fear, because they’re convinced they’ll do the wrong thing, say the wrong thing, write the wrong thing, sing the wrong thing.
those fears are founded. you can see that, here, now.
shit happens, you can upset people.

and you need to do your work anyway, because the world needs you to.

I can see a lot of people rolling their eyes at the implied message, "The world needs Amanda Palmer!" from Amanda Palmer herself, but I think what she means is that the world needs artists to be artists. This, in my opinion, means that difficult and strange straddling of Not Giving a Fuck and Always Giving a Fuck. Not unlike, I'd imagine, a pair of Siamese twins.

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