I don’t care much for opera. And I don’t know much about Richard Wagner, either. But I do know that back in 1849, Wagner was thinking a lot about opera and about art, and how to convey the human experience.
The Ancient Greeks got it all right with tragedy, he thought. A thousand years ago, all the art forms were fused together. Now, we’ve screwed it all up, and music, art, and theater are separated from each other! But Opera…Opera has the potential to fuse them all back together again…
So Dick started scribbling in his notebook, and came up with the essay, “The Art-work of the Future.” In it, he came up with a word, and the word was “gesamtkunstwerk.” (Like most German language, it sounds to me like a sneeze.) The word means something like “Total Artwork” or, “a synthesis of the arts.” Wagner was certain that the future of the arts was the integration of all forms, into something like a Mega-Opera.
Some people think that what Wagner was on to is what we now call multimedia. It’s safe to say that the dude was a little ahead of his time.
Matthew Barney might’ve gotten along with Wagner. I saw his CREMASTER CYCLE exhibit at the Guggenheim museum back when I was a sophomore in college. What Barney had done was make up a bunch of worlds out of sketches and sculpture and film. Some people called it a “gesamtkunstwerk.”
I like Barney because I think the greatest thing that an artist can do is create his own world: a place or geography that resembles the interior of his imagination, and all you have to do is drop in through one of his books or films or photos to get to it.
Yesterday I bought a DVD burner. Today I made a DVD of some home movies I’ve shot over the past couple years. With a DVD, and also with the internet, it’s so easy to fuse all kinds of art: film, literature, comics, music. I thought that maybe my goal shouldn’t be to put out a book at all, where I could only put words or a few drawings, but to put out a DVD or a website. Then you could drop in and see everything.