Double Chin

Saturday, May 13, 2006

retreat of the manchild (and womanchild.)

My latest musings, theories and generalizations about society, contemporary culture, and the art world, in an attempt to develop some understanding of the endless stream of information and opinions I'm continually consuming.

A theory on the growth of art inspired by naive art, cartoons, outsider/folk art, children book illustration, and "world through the eyes of a child" art.
Many young artists of my generation seem to seek a simplified, childlike view through art, because we hate/can't understand this complex, contradictory and cynical adult world. In the past few decades, "issues" (economic divides, racism, cultural intolerance, religious intolerance, corporations/consumerism/worker exploitation, [insert society's other ails]) were thought possible to combat and cure, through education, research, political correctness, therapy, government programs, etc. But in this new century, we've had brutal reminders (terrorism/war, corruption scandals, intense liberal/conservative divides) that we're not as progressive as we thought we were. Hatred, intolerance, corruption, prejudices... they run deep through the foundations. Maybe mankind's problems can't just be 'goodwilled' and 'reasoned' away.
Oh, and all that expensive education suddenly isn't a sure ticket to a job. There's no social security anymore. You're probably gonna have to work for 'the man' whether you like it or not. And, you are probably a racist. Just like everyone else.
"Solutions' feel inadequate, "one-person-can-make-a-difference" now feels silly. So by retreating into a child's world, we (and by we, I refer to many of the 20- and 30-somethings of today) find our best way to survive through this. By reviving that aura of magic, make-believe, and anything-is-possible-in-our-minds, we can get away from the big, crazy, complex adult world with all its problems. We can't fix anything. So instead, we'll daydream, watch cartoons, smoke some pot, take our pills, eat sugary nostalgia childhood cereal for breakfast, follow a guilty pleasure like the OC, collect toys, and tuck ourselves in at night. Go back to a time when a sugary novelty fixes everything. Safe and secure.

Ok, that dealt with mostly with why a childlike lifestyle is popular. But I think it's pretty easy to connect that to the appeal of such a style in art, and the draw of naive and folk art as well. The current strength of surrealism makes sense, too: this world doesn't make sense, it's irrational, it's surreal.

All this thinking is a lot of work. I'm not sure if I explained that all well enough, but I sure am tired. I guess I'll reward myself with some candy, and go take my nap.


  • Haha, I like your last sentence, how ironic ;).

    This all makes a lot of sense really. However, while I too identify with that trend, I think there's a small voice in all of us who knows, deep down, that we're just pretending. But then again, other more "adult" trends are also pretending, only in a more dramatic "consequential" fashion.

    I like to read your essay in an objective view, is it the way you intended it to be? Cuz yeah, all those "issues", are they really issues, or just plain realities of the world? There's as many realities out there as there are individual minds to make them up, I guess issues only arise when such realities clash and can't tolerate each other...

    This could go on into an endless string of philosophical theorizing, but in the end what difference does it make? We humans have made our lifes complicated enough by now in our current societies, but really life is just as complex as you decided to let it be. I like the childlike minds of our generation. They might not be able to singlehandedly organize and manage populations of over 30 million people, or save the world from famine and disease, but at least they're peaceful and try to see beauty in things. I think.

    I guess I'll stop this blabbering and go draw some pretty drawings.

    By Blogger Guillaume, at 1:52 PM  

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