Birdman and Notions about Art


Morning conversations today linked the creative process with the definition of art whether the medium was painting, dancing, writing, acting, filmmaking, or even blogging. I enjoy movie buff critic, Dave Crewe, who posted a review and grappled with the theme of art in the film Birdman. I encourage you to read Dave Crewe’s review.  Another conversation occurred with Diana who writes on A Holistic Journey where we chatted about the topic of artist as writer. She recited Katharine Hepburn’s quote, “Today everyone is a star – they’re all billed as ‘starring’ or ‘also starring’. In my day, we earned that recognition.”  To which Diana added, “Gee, she’d have a cow if she saw this truism taken over the top in the digital age of self-publishing…and blogging!”

We’re all bloggers of our passions. Our need to create posts and self-express our personalities with hopes an audience will reciprocate with a reaction and the gratification which comes with the exchange suggests we are artists. Who would of thought ten years ago we’d have virtual friends, and we’d be sharing our creative efforts via photographs, stories, and articles? Is blogging a new art form? Maybe Andy Warhol was right when he said, “Art is whatever you can get away with.” 

Oh, too many questions abound. For instance, what is a work of art? A shiny red Porsche convertible? The Taj Mahal? A dress designed by Coco Chanel? Neil Patrick Harris in Hedwig and the Angry Inch? Now consider Edward Norton’s electrifying performance and line by his character Mike Shiner, “popularity is the slutty little cousin of prestige.”  Does art have a hierarchy? Is Citizen Kane better than 12 Years a Slave? Who decides what is art and why are they right? What about blogging–do you feel like an artist? When followers comment, do you feel like you have a platform? Let’s extend this to TED videos, you-tube videos and self-published books.  My friend Diana remarked about the powerful potential of blogging and commented, “A recent guest writer said she felt like a celebrity on my board, amazed at the response.”

If art is about eliciting a response and your efforts have created a discussion, perhaps you have crossed over into the nebulous world of the artist. Finally, are bloggers, self-published authors, unrecognized actors, filmmakers without a screen, painters without a gallery, bottom-feeders?

Birdman has a great shot at winning top awards this season because of the issues raised about popularity vs. prestige. Everyone creates something and everyone needs validation. It’s what humans do best. Create. Birdman is a film one could watch many times and find something new to appreciate. That’s art.

28 thoughts on “Birdman and Notions about Art

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  1. Great post for discussion, Cin (right….because you named me =) ). I’ve in fact written about 2000 words on precisely this question. I think I’ll repost Part 1 of that miniseries sometime in the next few months. Readers had a whole lot to say. Here’s a clip:

    “What is art? To what extent is achieving harmony or articulating the essence of something the goal in your dance, your sport, your music? What is it about your painting that begs visual utterance? Do you find you’ve been in pursuit of ancient and timeless virtues?…I’ve said in The Writing Process, Part 1: Color that the darkness is an easy way in through the door of inspiration. But I now feel great art is more than bleeding all over the page.”

    It’s an endless discussion. There is a marked difference between blogging, writing, and artistry; and there is the glorious overlap. My ambitious goal is to be doing all three together – though not necessariy in every single post. Your take seems to be that the response (enjoying an audience) helps validate us as bloggers. That makes me wonder and assess my art. I in fact think I was the artist I am today the day I crossed the threshold and put out my first post on WPress with zero readers. But the overwhelming response (that is in fact that adjective I originally had in my comment about my guest writer before changing it to “amazing” at an attempt at modesty :P) takes my work to another level and get this, brings the art into readers’ lives, helps them incorporate it into their own story.

    Would you kindly change Diana at Holistic Wayfarer to “Diana who writes on A Holistic Journey” since that is my site name? Sorry for the trouble and many thanks for the warm mention, C.


    1. I like your image that art “bleeds all over the page.” I think of it as the perverbial onion with layers. An onion can look ugly at first until each layer reveals a different texture, a different color. The deeper you explore the art grows on you. I believe the artist’s advesary today is time. There are too many voices to be heard. There is too much art and too many books to read. We skim instead of savor. At least I do.

      In the end, it’s not the audience or the award. Like dying, one can only do it alone. Creating art is ultimately an individual pursuit where the action of it is all that matters not the end result.

      1. Love this, Cindy. You do realize you wrote me a post here. =) A convincing rationale for the onion – I love how the art grows on us. And yes, time is precisely what I talked about in Part 2 of that miniseries on art. But you remind me of the problem of saturation that is ours today. I think in centuries past, it was more an issue of recognition, learning to appreciate what was avant-garde at the time, as with the baroque. We do have that at present with modern/contemporary art, but it’s the dizzying feast of choices that calls for discernment more than anything else on the part of patrons. “Like dying, one can only do it alone.” Exquisite thought, my friend.

        Delicious give-and-take.


      2. Cindy, this is exactly Camille Paglia’s position in her beautiful book ‘Glittering Images’, where she argues that we are so overwhelmed by the constant onslaught of visual images that we are in danger of losing our capacity for contemplation. Art, Paglia says, is a discipline that can help us retrieve the necessary stillness that can “realign our senses and produce a magical tranquility.”

        1. I am glad Camille Paglia and I share a common position. I am chuckling, Malcolm, because I have felt the magical tranquility when I wrote my first novel. I was fortunate and allowed to retreat to the Green Mountains in VT and march through paths of snow, surrounded by black Hemlocks to the campus library where my only care in the world was to put words to paper. The silence and the space was a springboard for creating. My senses were aligned and the book flowed out of me. Now, three years later, most every waking moment is spoken for. I have a pretty view and supportive family, but I lack the silence and space. My second novel tiptoes along but I don’t feel the least bit tranquil. 😉

  2. Fascinating article. Speaking for my own site I often think “it’s just a blog, nobody cares about what I post.” But people keep showing up and that means something. The fact we write our posts and we read and comment on other people’s stuff, that stands for something. I think blogs are important because they fill a gap. The people who read this and the people who write similarly personal blogs. I think we write because we enjoy having a place to share what resonates, and finding people who feel the same. And when they don’t agree, it’s because different things resonate with them. But we’re still here, together, finding these little, personal places that feel like home. That’s why we blog.

    1. 🙂 Paul, well said. It’s fascinating that bloggers, invisible people, should take root and become “real”. You, for example. Haven’t a clue what you look like, what you do for a living, your family, your personal life, etcetera. But if I were visiting England, I’d think, “Oh, I should give Paul a call and see if he’d like to have a pint and talk about movies.”
      How many times have I read a post only to have the resonance follow me throughout the day? How many times at the book store or watching a film do I think, “He/she would love/hate this.” Blogging. An alternate reality? A part of a community? The virtual world becomes as real as the tangible world? Yep.

  3. This is an excellent thought piece. As a blogger I’m not sure if I think of myself as an artist but I would consider myself to be a “creator”. I think at the heart of it all bloggers are creative people and we want to make something. Actually maybe that does make us artists… I don’t know… sigh. Anyway, the reason I keep reading and commenting on people’s blogs especially when it comes to cinema is that I find the opinions of bloggers to be so much more real and varied that the mainstream media which is so coloured by the interests of the studios and who is paying who to say what. It also creates a sense of community about a passion I have that doesn’t cross over with the people I know in my physical life.

    1. Oh, Abbi, you said a mouthful! I especially like the ending thought–it’s a vehicle for connecting people with similiar passions “who don’t cross over with the people I know in my physical life.” That aspect is key. I like your blog, however, because it’s not restricted to films. I consider ecclectic blogs to be more of virtual magazine. You share a lot of yourself and that makes your blog memorable. Your recipes, your travels, books–I like that. That’s not to say specialized blogs, like sites devoted to films aren’t interesting. It’s cool to see the nuances of filmmaking that touch everyone in different ways.

      1. I like that our blogs can be whatever we want and need them to be. Mine has evolved so much over the years. At one point it was really more of a journal than anything else and who know where else it will end up but I love having a kind of chronicle of my life and my voice to look back at. I think we are fortunate to have that in a way that the generations before us never did.

        1. I agree. I’ve only had my blog for 2 years, and the guidelines I give myself are one-two posts a week, rotate topics from film, personal opinion, photo, etc. and that seems to work okay. You are right about the chronicling of one’s life. It is a journal of sorts, a record of us right now. I think it will be fun to reread them in twenty years.

  4. Great post, Cindy. I seen Birdman the other night and I’m often a big admirer of film’s that are self-referential or stories within a story. Birdman manages that brilliantly and I reckon it’s always brave and tricky to tackle the very medium that you’re using to express yourself. Superb to see Keaton and Norton excel at sending themselves up as well.

    1. Welcome, Mark. I’ve read the Shakespearean “play within a play” didn’t work so well for others and a collegue yesterday thought the Magical Realism fell flat for her. I thought the whole thing refreshing and intellectually stimulating. Very happy Keaton was awarded the other night as Best Actor and very glad Norton is reminding me more and more of his formal self.

  5. Great question Cindy! I think as an art form, Birdman is brilliant as it blends fantasy & reality, drama & comedy in a way that can be both deep as well as entertaining. It’s a really rare combination and add to the fact that it’s so wonderfully-acted all around, it’s definitely one of this year’s best (and maybe even of the decade).

    Now as to your question about whether I see blogging as an art? Well, I wouldn’t call myself an *artist* necessarily, though there is undoubtedly an art to blogging, just like anything else. Like you said, it’s a form of expression and the level of artistry obviously varies from blog to blog.

    1. Hi Ruth, thanks for commenting. I’m glad Alejandro González Iñárritu won last night as well as Michael Keaton. You certainly have a platform and a grand following. Some bloggers take their sites very seriously and consider them magazines. Back in the 1900s when McCall’s and Cosmopolitan began, no one considered the magazine as a work of art. Now, of course, they highly valuable. We are creative non-fiction writers using the format of a blog. It’s art, although as you say, some are better than others. 🙂

  6. I love this piece! I’ve never actually considered blogging to be an artistic endeavor, but the way you describe the relationship between writer/blogger and their audience most certainly suggests otherwise. Guess Iv’e never really slowed down to think about what blogging has done for me. I have definitely generated audiences, both locally in town and far away. It’s so great. You can even think of the gigantic sprawling space of the Internet as our collective easel. Very quaint thought. And something that will prob be on my mind for awhile.

    Hmm. A blogger as an artist. I like that a lot.

    1. Hi Tom, it’s food for thought, isn’t it? The photographer bloggers, for example, share their creative expressions all the time. The creative writers post short-shorts and the philosophers write essays. It’s quite an unusual way to receive information and the posts become an adhesive for the head and heart.

  7. Very original again. Just to add one extra dimension….what about animals? Apes and elephants can paint and some birds make fantastic nests. Do termites express themselves?

  8. Very thoughtful and thought-provoking post Cindy. Art is such a subjective thing especially in movies. It seems that in painting (for example) I tend to be far more lenient in what I call art. In movies I tend to be a lot more closed minded. That’s why I rarely talk about the artistic side of cinema. I truly believe there is art in cinema, but due to my close-mindedness towards some types of movies (an obvious flaw) I tend to be more critical. But then again, art is subjective so what makes my opinions right?

    As for blogging, I think there is a unique form of artistry behind a lot of the blogs I read. These people are great at what they do. But personally I have a hard time seeing myself as an artist. In fact I don’t see much art in what I do at all. I’m constantly criticizing my own reviews, features, everything. Perhaps another creative flaw of mine.

    1. Hi Keith! Thank you for your comments. Well, my friend, you are too hard on yourself and the fact you want to put out a high quality product demonstrates why your blog is endearing to many. I am curious about your admonishment that you are artistically close-minded, a flaw. I think you are qualified to explain why a film is moving. The form of the piece, the narration, the beauty and cinematography–. HHmmm. Perhaps the films that cross over your personal ethics won’t be artistic to you when others rave how great it is….Whatever. You have a voice and I enjoy reading your posts. Cheers!

      1. Cindy you’re too kind and I appreciate your encouragement. I think you’ve touched on why I view myself as a little close-minded. I look at some movies like the raunchy comedies which use all sorts cliche vulgarity, body part gags, and fart jokes and cannot bring myself to consider them artistic. I fully understand the subjective nature of it but is Hangover 3 or Jack and Jill art. Maybe it is and I’m too stubborn to see it as so. I don’t know.

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