Art, Awards & Other Nonsense

By | Friday, July 03, 2009 Leave a Comment
Weighing in on the Harvey Awards...

All awards are bunk. Yes, recognition for a job well done is always a nice ego-boost and, potentially, provides additional attention (i.e. revenue) to whatever person or project they're celebrating. But ultimately they're pretty meaningless, I think. Doesn't matter if you're talking Harveys or Eisners or Oscars or Emmys or Grammys or some trinket award that's only relevant in any capacity to the dozen or two people in your department at work. Awards don't mark achievement; they only mark recognition.

Are any of the Harvey nominees the unqualified, absolute best in their respective categories? No.

But NOT because they're not great works, but because it's a false question. There's no such thing as an unqualified best when it comes to art. You can't measure quality in a quantitative fashion, so any measurement that IS done is inherently subjective. Basically meaning that what I think is the best isn't necessarily what you think is best. We can both be right and completely disagree. It's all just opinion. The Harveys (and any other awards) are just a way of providing a nice "thanks for making something a number of us liked" to the creators.

Those receiving a Harvey should only imbue as much worth in it as they would imbue on somebody telling them they did a good job.

Me? I clearly don't care about awards or wide-spread recognition. I do what I do for one of two reasons: 1) for my own creative expression, and 2) for the money. In the case of the former, a job well done is its own reward and my pride stems from what I did, not what other people tell me they think of what I did.

Which isn't to say that a "nice job" isn't welcome. Definitely a pleasant ego-boost. But if I feel the work I'm being congratulated on is sub-standard, then no amount of praise is going to make me feel better about it. If I'm praised for lackluster work, I'll just assume that the person(s) providing the praise clearly doesn't know what the hell they're talking about, making their opinion valueless. But if I do like the work, and I'm praised by an individual (not some un-named collection of people) whose opinion I do consider valid, then sure, I'll take the kudos. But because of the connection I made with the individual.

I've actually tried to make a point over the years of telling people how/when/where their thoughts and expressions mattered and made an impact on me. I've written letters to old school-teachers, and sent emails to old friends I haven't talked to in 20 years. I can't speak to them, certainly, but I know I'd prefer that kind of response than a trophy or plaque with no emotion attached to it.

On the subject or art versus Art, anyone making the argument that the Harveys are clearly worthless because Nascar Heroes #5 is a nominee, their arguments are bunk. I haven't read Nascar Heroes but it's every bit as valid as anything else that was nominated. Regardless of how much of a forced commercial endeavor it may have been, it still took some measure of creativity to produce. Art is no less art when it's specifically being requested from an outside source. Michelangelo was paid to paint the Sistine Chapel, you know, and there are anecdotal reports that state he even argued with the Pope about receiving payments in a timely manner. The Sistine Chapel is NOT a work of divine inspiration, it's a piece of commercial art.

Just like Nascar Heroes.

You can argue that Michelangelo's work transcended his commission, or that his mastery of the craft marks his creations worthy of the title Capital-A Art, or whatever you want. But the bottom line is that the Pope came to Michelangelo and paid him to paint his ceiling. His success, relative to Nascar Heroes, can be debated but, as before, it's wholly subjective and neither can rightly be defined as necessarily better than the other.

Should the Harveys be changed or discontinued entirely? If someone wants to keep running them, more power to them. If no one cares about them, and they fade into oblivion, so be it. If I or anyone I know ever wins, that's just peachy. But if I and everyone I know NEVER wins, it's no skin off my nose. I know the quality of work I'm doing, and I know the quality of work others are doing. If I think you're doing a good job, I'll tell you myself and not hide behind a collection of ballots.

I haven't read all of the works nominated for this year's Harveys. The ones I have read are certainly praise-worthy, and I wish their creators good luck on all their current and future endeavors.
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