Comparing Experimental Art Forms
Danielle Dutton, from an interview at BOMBLOG:
Anne K. Yoder: Culturally, are people more open to experimental approaches in other art forms?
Danielle Dutton: On a very basic level, my best guess is that writing asks something different of its reader than listening asks of the listener. Same goes for looking at a painting, even one that might perplex or upset us. To read, to connect words in a difficult syntax, like Stein’s, or make sense of seemingly simple sentences within a maddening paragraph, like Beckett’s, or piece together a narrative that doesn’t seem to add up in a familiar way, like Gladman’s or Woolf’s, the reader has to pay close attention, has to work. I’m not saying that experimental writing is all slog slog slog, that it isn’t rewarding or entertaining, because obviously I think a lot of it is, but that we’ve been trained to think that language itself should work in one way, should be clear, and linear, and should instantly reveal meaning, so when writing confounds those expectations it’s perhaps easy to feel cheated by it, or to chalk it up as wrong, bad, pretentious. I’ve had students who were very open to talking about cubist paintings, for example, but who became furious over Gertrude Stein’s Tender Buttons. We’re taught to read, after all, and perhaps more importantly we’re taught to write (the subject-verb agreement, the five-paragraph essay, the rhyming stanza), whereas no one actually teaches us a particular way to hear or look, and rarely to compose or paint, which maybe, ultimately, means we’re more open when we listen and look. Maybe?