Often but not always I am a fan of the selfindulgently extravagant or audacious or obnoxious gesture in art; it’s why I like My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy so much, and The Crying of Lot 49, and the naming conventions of the Fast and Furious franchise*, and the second season of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya and it’s why I wish I liked Death Grips’ NO LOVE DEEP WEB more. It’s not bad by any stretch but when a group spend months of major label time and money recording an album that they then guerrilla-release for free with a Sharpie-scrawled erect penis on the cover; well, I end up wanting to like it a lot. Instead, after adoring the actual-major-label release The Money Store I find NO LOVE DEEP WEB just a little disappointing and – weirdly, considering it is in some way less abstractly noisy than The Money Store – kind of tiring. The obscene bellowed nonsequiturs are less convincing. I wish somehow that the audacity of its release was audible on the record.
But it isn’t, obviously; its audacity is totally external to – it’s after – its status as a work of art. And works of art stand on their own, don’t they?
– all I’m going to say about how good NO LOVE DEEP WEB is: it’s quite good. Best cuts are “Lil Boy” and “Lock your Doors” –
This stuff gets messy. It would I think be some sort of madness to declare that NO LOVE DEEP WEB is a great record because it pissed off Epic Records and because it has a penis on the cover, hilarious though both those things are when taken together. But then why like Haruhi Suzumiya so much? Sure, the audacity of giving over two-thirds of your season’s run to a single trapped-in-time plot that apparently requires that you repeat the same episode eight times in a row is a more internal kind of audacity than NO LOVE DEEP WEB‘s; you can see it as it happens; but if we’re going to be hardcore anti-intentionalists about this then praising Haruhi Suzumiya for its audacity (or ostentation, or bullheadedness, or whatever) still seems problematic. Even if the audacity is internal to Haruhi Suzumiya it’s difficult to see how we can describe it as such without grasping for some kind of authorial intent.
Well okay, not intent in terms of meaning, necessarily. I don’t really know nor care what the creators of Haruhi Suzumiya were trying to pull off with the “Endless Eight” cycle. They mostly succeeded in annoying a lot of anime fans. But even where the indulgent and audacious thing is present in the work – unlike in NO LOVE DEEP WEB – you’re still appealing to some fact external to the work if you choose to praise it on that basis: someone somewhere is being audacious and indulgent. The work isn’t indulging itself. The work is manifesting someone’s audacity and indulgence. In my head this is a problem; audacity just sounds intentional.
- moreso a problem than irony and allusion, the issues often brought up to combat anti-intentionalism, which can be disposed of with the assertion that I can experience what I like in your work of art, and allusion further eliminated because allusion is rubbish, a crutch for bad writers and worse readers -
One of the arguments occasionally pressganged into the service of what people like me call the intentional fallacy is that of the posited author, which basically claims that while it is of course completely ludicrous to care even for a second what an actual author with like organs or whatever thinks about their work, one can still do a sort of intentional analysis on the basis of what the work suggests (er, posits) about its author’s intentions. It is I guess a sort of demilitarised zone between intentionalism and anti-intentionalism: you’re still saying that some sort of non-subjective meaning can be gleaned from intent, but it appeases the anti-intentionalists to some extent by denying that that intent can be located in an object wandering around meatspace somewhere. Describing Haruhi Suzumiya as audacious seems to be positing an author in just this way; the image it creates is of some creator somewhere giggling before a computer screen livid with apoplectic comments, going home fundamentally and unstoppably pleased with themselves; and this image delights me. Nowhere in NO LOVE DEEP WEB does it posit the author that will enrage and subsequently be dropped by Epic Records, though when listening it’s quite hard to imagine why they were ever signed in the first place.
So the posited author lets you make intentional-sounding claims about things, use intentional-sounding words like “audacious” and “extravagant” without worrying about what some idiot with a pen or a copy of Adobe Illustrator actually says. But it’s not quite the panacea it appears I don’t think. The relationship between the posited author and the actual author troubles me. Things that don’t exist can’t be intentional; so what happens when the creators of Haruhi Suzumiya come back and say that our posited author is wrong? If they deny that they’re being audacious, it seems difficult to argue that some part of the work is independently manifesting audacity; again, because audacity just sounds intentional. It might be safer to stay away from such words entirely, lest we end up becoming intentionalists by accident. But it’s difficult to imagine enjoying the “Endless Eight” without considering how hilarious it is that someone actually did it; all those things are all tied up in the work. That they’re visible is part of the joy; but that they point to something outside is undeniable.
I don’t know how to solve it.
*The Fast and the Furious; 2 Fast 2 Furious; The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift; Fast & Furious; Fast Five; Fast & Furious 6.