On Death, Art, The Digital Age, & David Bowie

David Bowie never stopped creating: even when the cancer hit him; even when he knew he didn’t have much more time. Nearly a year later, I’m still stuck on the fact that cancer took Bowie from us. Not aliens. Not an initiative to build homes on Mars. Not some random intergalactic beam of light. He was killed by something so painfully human, something we’ve all lost a friend or relative to. Maybe that goes back to the fact that our heroes are human after all, which is something we are often so reluctant to admit.

Someday, Paul McCartney will die. Someday, we’ll lose David Lynch. Someday the people we’ve spent our entire lives listening to or obsessing over won’t be physically with us anymore, but we can take comfort in the fact that art is forever. (Well, except for silent films that existed before the ’30s. 75% of those are gone.) Music, film, television, books – they’ll always be here for us. That’s my favorite part about the Digital Age; this golden age of information, the Interwebz, our obsession with social media. I am discovering and re-discovering art every day. I am connecting with people who worship art the way I do, who share the same idols, who want to mail me half of their DVD collection. The art will never die, not with millions – or billions – of us keeping it alive.

And for those of us who identify as artists, it’s up to us to put out as much content as we possibly can while we’re still alive. Write the poem, the novel, and publish it. Write the play and perform it. Take your photographs or paintings and hang them in a gallery. Use your resources. Make the shortest film on the smallest budget and put it on Youtube. Put your poem on a blog. Submit your story to a contest. Take a snapshot of your sculpture and put it on Instagram. Share when you’re ready, of course, but don’t hoard your art. Don’t keep it hidden from the rest of the world.

It’s easier said than done, of course. It’s hard to start, let alone finish. But when you’ve poured your heart onto a page or thrown it at a canvas – what if the world doesn’t love it? What if the reactions aren’t quite what we anticipated? Bowie once said in an interview that “the only way to break new ground is to be prepared to put an awful lot at risk.” In other words: Just. Do. It. And it’s not about the fame or recognition, either. It’s about contributing to something bigger than ourselves. Although, I will say that I like the idea of being someone’s Bowie, or McCartney, of being an important, artistic influence to someone younger than myself. Of maybe even being perceived as something a little more than human, so much so that my only plausible cause of death could be via alien abduction. I like the kind of power that art has; the cycle of inspire, create, inspire, create. I like the idea that we make art because we have to. That our need to create keeps us up at night, no matter how desperately we need our rest.

 

— Lauren Milici

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