02 December, 2010

2 Dec - Steve Martin voted off the island

LAUNCHPROJECTS - on Tuesday I blogged about French theorist and philosopher Jean Baudrillard's essay "Hyper-realism of Simulation" in which he asserts that the use and abundance of media, signs, and symbols has so bombarded our culture that reality itself vanishes within a media-dominated contemporary world. Reality TV is the primary means of this "hyper-realism," effectively replacing actual experience, becoming more “real” than reality itself. In the words of Baudrillard “everything is therefore right on the surface, absolutely superficial. There is no longer a need or requirement for depth or perspective; today, the real and the imaginary are confounded in the same operational totality, and aesthetic fascination is simply everywhere.” (1019).
This blurring of reality and dumbing down of experience was highlighted again on Monday at the 92nd Street Y on the Upper East Side of Manhattan when Steve Martin and art critic and New York Times Magazine writer Deborah Solomon engaged in a dialog about art. Halfway through their discussion a representative from the Y walked onstage and gave Solomon a note directing her to steer the conversation away from art and to focus on his early slapstick acting career. The art conversation was just too boring for the audience. In the words of Mary Elizabeth Williams for Salon.com:
"Blame it on "American Idol." Or maybe "Gladiator." If there was any doubt left that American audiences now believe they have the right to vote on how their entertainment unfolds, that notion was thrown to the lions Monday night, when actor/author/comedy legend/noted aesthete Steve Martin did not amuse the audience gathered at New York's 92nd Street Y to watch him in conversation with art critic and New York Times Magazine writer Deborah Solomon.
The tip-off that the event was taking a Sean-Young-on-"Skating With the Stars" turn came halfway through the evening, when a representative from the Y walked onstage and handed Solomon a note directing her to steer the conversation away from art -- the subject of Martin's new novel, "An Object of Beauty" -- and more toward his long and often hilarious career. Martin told the New York Times Wednesday that viewers around the country who were watching the interview on closed-circuit television had been e-mailing the Y to complain about the conversational subject matter.
Solomon told the Times Wednesday that "I think the Y, which is supposedly a champion of the arts, has behaved very crassly and is reinforcing the most philistine aspects of a culture that values celebrity and award shows over art." And Martin, after describing the Y's action as "discourteous" in the same story,tweeted late Wednesday that "the 92nd St. Y has determined that the course of its interviews should be dictated in real time by its audience's emails. Artists beware."
The Y sent out letters of apology to each of its 900 audience members stating "we acknowledge that last night's event with Steve Martin did not meet the standard of excellence that you have come to expect from 92nd St. Y. We planned for a more comprehensive discussion and we, too, were disappointed with the evening. We will be mailing you a $50 certificate for each ticket you purchased to last night’s event. The gift certificate can be used toward future 92Y events, pending availability." The Y is refunding the audience's money because a conversation between two members of the art community focused too much on art and bored its attention deficit entertainment seeking audiences. The audience members paid to hear a conversation about art, and then whined when Steve Martin failed to appear with a banjo and a bunny suit. The fact that the Y reinforced and pandered to this behavior is abominable. 92nd Street Y, you're fired.

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