What would be lost if we knew nothing tangible about the lives of authors, not more than their works tell us? Or about painters, composers - all types of creative artists or people of any description? In my opinion nothing would be lost, but something would be gained. Today's focus on the person shadows the work of art itself. If you require biographical details about the creator in order to appreciate what he has done, something is wrong, either with you or with the work. The result of creativity should be able to stand on its own merits and contain everything that is needed for its interpretation. If it does not, it is poor art. Details about the creator often generate prejudice, which disturbs proper understanding of what he has created.
If I hear a piece of music or watch a painting, I can like it or dislike it based entirely on musical or artistic standards, I don't need to know of the creator's ethnic background, religion, sexual preferences, criminal records (if any), family life, gender or age – or by all means if he or she is a dog or a hyena. Indeed, knowing this might blur my view of the art. If the creator is something I happen not to like, perhaps I never give his work a chance. Indeed, this has happened frequently during history; the German Nazi ban on Jewish art comes to mind, but that is far from the only example.
Unfortunately, the modern media world stimulates an unsound interest in the private lives of other people. Creative artists are extremely exposed. This makes room for a special form of parasites: inferior artists living on the exposure of an eccentric and sometimes disgusting private life. Their art, if it is worth that name, would not survive many days on its own. Public interest is upheld entirely by true or fabricated details about their lives.
These infantile media clowns would be harmless, were it not for how they affect serious artists who often feel compelled to adopt the same foolish pattern. If nothing else, so to get their own art noticed. And so art declines...
A crucial problem here is the distinction between private and public. There is no such thing as a public figure, only public aspects of a certain person. That is what he makes public himself, by his own free will or by his work. Everything else is, or should be, private and sacrosanct. A politician, for instance - or an artist or a sportsman, to mention a few - is public in his work, but everything outside of this work is private. That is, unless he actively chooses to make it public.
Another problem is associated with the freedom of the press. (This reasoning applies to other journalistic media too: radio, television, etc.) Do you think this freedom is handled in a responsible way? I am not in favour of regulation, but of balance. A press free to print everything they want is irreconcilable with a society where privacy is made illegal. Journalists must be seen as the worst form of terrorists when they disturb or destroy the lives of private individuals. The press should monitor public affairs, not private; and if people are not allowed to protect their privacy as they see fit, freedom of the press needs to be limited at this point. The best for everyone involved, however, would be if all private information could (and were allowed to) be kept as private as the concerned parties wish. Even, should they so desire, to the extent of some people becoming informational black holes. (Absorbing everything, emitting nothing.)
(This article is based on material previously published in Meriondho Leo.)
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