There’s No Need To Atone

Posted: January 20, 2012 in Uncategorized

A Remake Chronicles Extra by Adam-Troy Castro

I just read an internet comment by someone who wanted to know whether a certain artist with decades of work behind him will be able to “atone” for a somewhat disappointing work from 2011.

Never mind whether it was a writer, a musician, or a moviemaker. It’s a name you’ve all heard of, and the only reason I don’t provide it here is that I don’t want my point sullied by specific arguments over this guy’s work. Insert your own big name.

The answer to the commenter is: you’re a real asshole.

It’s not about atoning. This artist committed no sin. Every work is its own separate nation. Artists try different things and sometimes fail; they sometimes achieve things far beyond their usual level and struggle in vain to achieve them again. They sometimes hit those heights again, and sometimes don’t.
This particular artist has masterpieces in his past. This time out he tried something ambitious, more driven by personal vision than formula or the marketplace, and did not achieve greatness — but he tried, and didn’t make an absolute fool of himself; he simply disappointed you.

In trying for masterpieces at an age when others would coast, in not quite achieving one this time out, the artist in question does not deserve the same level of scorn as those with aspirations no greater than the gutter, who either deliberately produce garbage because they think that it’s what the audience wants, or were raised on garbage and honestly cannot tell the difference. Ask yourself: how many forgettable and disposable works were there, in 2011, that had no ambitions beyond distracting us for five minutes? The very least you can say, looking at this artist’s not-quite-failure from 2011, is that he didn’t pitch a lowball. He went for distance. And claiming that he needs to “atone” doesn’t just insult him; it insults the artistic impulse itself.

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