I am greedy when it comes to art. Very greedy and very curious. If I like something I always want more. This presents itself in what can only be described as gluttony. I will devour everything the artist has done. Be it paintings, books or songs. I want to take it all in. I am not a collector in the sense that I need to own it all, for me it’s all about the experience. I don’t mind if I only have the music as mp3 or if I borrow the book from a friend or see a painting at a gallery. The important thing is that I do get to experience it somehow. All of it. Particularly when it comes to music and literature, my two biggest passions. There I will get completely obsessive. I will read all the books and listen to all the recordings that exist. I will dig my way through the entire body of work. Passionately. But not blindly. When it comes to art I don’t believe in unconditional love. Even the most talented people will do things that aren’t brilliant. And people develop. Sometimes in a good way, other times in a not so good way. Very few people manage to present a body of work that’s amazing all the way through. There are some, but they are not many. And of those, most are dead.
Death is always a tragedy when it strikes someone you love because it’s the end. When an artist dies that tragedy also lies in the end of the work. Nothing new will ever come. It’s the end of the art that person is creating. Yes, I know all about immortality through art and yes, it’s true, but that’s not what I am talking about. What I am talking about is new stuff. More. Stuff that hasn’t already been done. More art. To satisfy my greed. And this is especially true with those artists that died young, before they had a chance to do even a fraction of what they could have accomplished if they had been allowed a longer life. That actually upsets me. For real. I truly and honestly get very emotionally uncomfortable when I think about that. A mixture of rage and despair. And just like when someone I love dies I almost I wish I wasn’t an atheist because then I would at least have a target for my rage. Yes, I know it sounds melodramatic, but that’s what I mean with greedy. I can’t get no more and that hurts. There’s no guarantee that Ian Curtis would still be making amazing music if he was alive today. But I will never know. And that’s the point: I will never get to hear it. And that’s what’s riding me. A curiosity, a greed, that can never be satisfied.
And that’s why I don’t feel the same kind of despair when artist I like start creating inferior art. It annoys me but it doesn’t pain me. I suppose it has to do with hope. Even though the person in question seems to have completely lost it there’s still the chance that they may find it again. How ever unlikely it may seem at least it’s not made impossible by death. So I am pretty fine with Trent Reznor doing strange things these days, he did do “The downward spiral” and he’s still alive, so who knows? But I am not fine with Janis Joplin being dead. Or rather, I am not fine with her dying before her time. I am actually perfectly ok with Herman Hesse being dead. Not only because he would be ridiculously old by now, but also because he actually managed to get a lot done. There’s not that sense of forever lost unfulfilled possibilities with him.
And that’s where the tragedy lies. All that art that could have been created but that will never happen now. The fact that they were not done. When I heard Mare Kandre had died I actually cried. I don’t think I have ever loved anyone’s writing as much as I love hers. Her words are magic. The kind of language that just rips you into another world. Words you can emerge in. Just like magic. And it pains me that it’s over now, no more of her words. No more books. Never again. And she was really one of the exceptions. One of those people who never did anything that wasn’t amazing. It’s all amazing, just some books are more amazing than others. She never got to finish her last one, but at least she managed to write a good few of them before she died.
Because there are those that just leave with a teaser. Like Jeff Buckley. One album. One. That’s desperately tragic. And with him what makes me even more upset is that I only discovered him after he was already gone. When he died I didn’t even know he existed. When I first heard his music that made me feel very strange. This absolutely amazing musician, this demonic voice, didn’t exist anymore. He was dead and he had already been dead for ten years when I discovered him. That album was all he ever made. I felt cheated somehow. He wasn’t done yet! All you have to do is listen to his demos and you hear he wasn’t done. There was more to come. And I want to hear that. But I can’t. Because he’s dead. My greed can not be satisfied. Jeff was no Mare. He didn’t only do amazing stuff. But that’s ok. His amazing stuff is amazing enough. So I will forgive him for “Everybody here wants you”, after all no one knows if it would have ever made on to an album, but I will not forgive him for drowning. That he really shouldn’t have done. Because I am missing out on what he could have done if he hadn’t gone swimming that night.
Of course I am thankful for the great art that these people have left behind, but it doesn’t really make that feeling of having been cheated on something great any less prevalent. And it is indeed true that the art lives on, but the body of work remains as it is. Nothing will change. Nothing will be added to it. And we can only speculate about what would have happened to the fragments, the unfinished pieces they left behind. But I would have preferred to have known. To get to experience it. To satisfy my greed. And my curiosity.
I am sure there’s a lot of truth in the theory that dying young does increase your fame and recognition potential drastically. A dead artist can’t make any mistakes or object to our projections. The art is all that remains. And if there’s not that much of it the significance obviously increases. The mystery. And there’s no risk of weird detours. An icon is born. A symbol. Frozen, preserved, static. Sure the art is still amazing, but that does very little for my greed. Offers no satisfaction for my curiosity. Because I just can’t stop wondering what would have happened next. What they would have created if they had only had a bit more time.