Commonplace

“Art, in my view, doesn’t really concern itself with ‘old’ and ‘new.’ These terms are important to people who buy and sell art for a profit, but not to artists themselves. If something is really good it will stand up over time and feel new for centuries to come. It may go in and out of fashion, just as Bach’s music went into an eclipse for decades after his death, and Melville’s novels lay unread for decades after his death, but those with ears and eyes will rediscover it later. When you go back to listen to Bach today, or read Moby Dick, you have an experience that is immediate and that has nothing to do with ‘new’ or ‘old.’

Most serious artists—and especially the innovators—are very preoccupied with the work of earlier artists in their forms. Usually it is the minor artists who are most preoccupied with seeming ‘new.’ True innovators, like Dante, or Picasso, or Arnold Schoenberg, are obsessed with the history of the art form they practice, and their work can be read, in one way, as a series of arguments with the work that came before. Of course, arguing with something is not the same thing as disregarding it. You can’t have a meaningful argument with something that doesn’t exist for you.”

—Tom Piazza, in interview (2005)

About Walter Biggins

Walter Biggins is a writer based in Athens, GA. His work has been published in RogerEbert.com, Bookslut, The Comics Journal, Salon, The Baseball Chronicle, Jackson Free Press, and Valley Voices: A Literary Review. Follow him on Twitter (@walter_biggins), and check out his bimonthly newsletter (https://tinyletter.com/Walter_Biggins).
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