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The difference between a loose cannon and a free thinker

Posted By Joe Weil On December 11, 2013 @ 10:00 am In Arts & Society | 1 Comment

I have often been called a loose cannon: disorganized, lacking structure, etc. I don’t think this is true. I think I disrespect power–my own or anyone else’s, and like to circumvent the maze in which they would have me find the cheese, and if that’s a loose cannon, so be it. I always think: trust me, and not only will there be cheese, but some wine, to go with it. They never trust you.

To me a loose cannon is someone who doesn’t show up for the event he is in charge of, who creates havoc or a spirit of ill will. I always show up early. I often bring my own equipment, not trusting in other’s stuff. I am personable and kind. I delegate, and get others involved. What I am is creative and improvisational, and that’s enough in the rigid structuralism of the arts to get you branded a loose cannon.

I don’t like being controlled and I hate controlling people. I don’t like being held down so rigidly to a plan that I can’t have any wiggle room to change up if necessary. Everything in the arts now is booked a year in advance. Everything marches to the tune of grant requirements, and stipulations. It’s been this way for a long time, but now it seems to be this way everywhere.

Institutional art is an oxymoron. It’s like fat free sausage. Why bother?

Post structuralism means pure structuralism: structure for its own sake–no real reason to the rhyme except that control becomes the god of those who feel their world is spinning out of control. I find no peace or joy in it. My biggest flaw is that I can’t hide my hatred of being “processed.” Yet, in all of this,

I’ve had some high art moments lately–usually when alone, but not always. Let me count some:

1. I had the privilege of leading a writing workshop for a staff of an art newspaper. My structure for the workshop? I had them come to my house. I got pizzas. I made bolas. I looked at their former articles and had them cut the articles in half. I talked about the importance of visuals, of cutting to the chase, of economy–but with a personal voice. They really loved the bolas–which are red wine and diet cola–fairly common in Spain. Their editor-in-chief was happy with what we accomplished. I didn’t get paid, but I met some terrific people in the music and art scene, and I think this led to me getting a music gig later that more than paid for the pizzas. The wine was left over from a graduate party. So it’s a win/win: no grants. No outrageous prep. No elaborate materials, and this is exactly why I will be disparaged: because I didn’t cost some grant body or institution hundreds of bucks, they couldn’t claim me as proof of their and I had fun doing what I do well: editing, teaching, and drinking bolas

2. I had a student do a presentation on erasures–a currently popular technique in contemporary poetics. It went well. We erased an excerpt from a Virginia Woolf short story. Some really wonderful poems ensued. We had been talking earlier about gender, sexuality, queer theory (this is my advanced group). Someone brought in munchkins. I took the empty bag and shredded it and cast its shadow on the projector wall and improvised a dance to the erasures. We decided the erasures were so good, and the conversation on sexuality so good, that we would combine the short story with Ginsberg’s Howl as erasures, add music, and art, and videotape it with quotes from various theorists on gender identity and sexuality. We’d call it “Woolf Howl” (for fun). We are going to do it. We will use shadow puppets during certain segments. All of this came out of improvising on the elements we had in class–a structure made from high play.

3. A former student came over and we started to jam. He had never heard of the song “Black Coffee.” Now he has. I never heard certain versions of songs he played. We improvised, we noodled. We came up with a fifteen minute set–a good one, based on our willingness to enter play.

Art institutions could provide me and other artists with a place to do what we do. They won’t. Not without a lot of paperwork. In my case, I am considered a loose cannon, yet they are paying millions of bucks for research on creativity and overpaying so called creativity experts and specialists on game theory and play. They care more about the frame for the painting than the painting. So it goes. Again, someone give me 4 million bucks!


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