I want better art

Monica Byrne (Wellesley ‘04) did a pretty great interview with Playboy. A short selection below, but you should read the whole thing.

Is your hope to change mainstream sites like Wired? Or would the ideal new mainstream have different institutions and magazines and sites, rather than altering old ones?

I don’t care what Wired does or doesn’t do at this point. Or the Academy or Broadway or other monolithic institutions. They’ll have to change, or they’ll die.

For those of us who remain, it’s possible that the attachment to a single “mainstream culture” is, itself, the problem. But even if one remains, here’s what I want: to drive its equilibration with the actual human race. Not “diversification.”

The word “diversify” centers white experience as the permanent default, but whiteness is actually very rare and exotic, statistically speaking. “Equilibration” implies—if you’ll permit me to get scientific for a second—a natural process of diffusion across all boundaries. In other words, “equilibration” implies that the array of art that gets made will finally reflect the array of people who live under its influence.

Comedian Aamer Rahman and writer Ayesha Siddiqi recently talked about how “pop culture is basically the normalization of fantasy.” And my fantasy—what I get off on, as an artist, a writer, a lover, a human being—is the sheer infinity of things. Like, lying down in the grass and looking up at the stars and going through the Drake Equation and thinking how many trillions of civilizations there are out there, how many beings, how many stories, how many kinds of art, how many ways to sculpt meaning from the universe. Let alone how many ways there are, just on Earth.

But whiteness rules this planet now. The “freedom” I experience is fake and conditional, and every white person knows that, on some level. Some wake up to its unnaturalness and work to dismantle the damage it does. Others repress it, and it metastasizes into fear, blame and paranoia. So the recent terrorism at Mother Emanuel AME? That. And European Islamophobic satirical cartoons? That. Systemic police brutality? Boyhood up for an Oscar and not Selma? White girls with bindhis and dreadlocks? All of those are the result of white supremacy.

Whiteness fast-tracks the art that serves it and blocks art that doesn’t. And so, millions of lives go to waste, and we end up with a pop culture that’s not only deeply unnatural, but—speaking as an artist—boring as fuck.

That makes me mad, both on a moral level and an aesthetic one. I want everyone to be free. And I want better art.

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