On why the desire for fame is inescapable

 

I know a young man from my town who is also an artist, aspiring to make something out of it, but I find myself in dislike of him and, most annoyingly of all, I find myself envious of him. No matter what I base my principles on, I am envious of him because he is ‘going places’, in terms of success in an industrialised society; he is getting more publicity and recognition, far more than I.
First of all, perhaps it is best to explain him, and his situation, and then me, and my situation. This young man is an artist who adores the situation of the celebrity artist; he adores that presence, culture and the act of making bold attention-seeking art – which often seems to be more about gaining reaction and exposure than of the expression of something that one feels passionate/concerned about. He also supports the Tories (The UK conservative party) a vote that is in favour of all that is Capitalist – individualism gained through materialism and free market policies, which always lead to gaping divides in a society and, in late capitalism, a guilt-free idolisation of the celebrity figure.
I, on the other hand, make art as a result of a feeling of misplacement due to the late capitalist society, and as an epxression for a want of a change in society and the world. I am verging on having Marxist principles directly because of the negative affects late capitalism has had on me and, especially, on the planet.
Logically I want rid of the culture of Celebrity, yet I crave the attention that he (the other artist) is getting – all be it, only in a local newspaper of late. Why is this so? why do I crave to acquire the same things as a person who has arrogant and rude personality traits which I associate with a person who aims to achieve the wider recognition, which equates to fame? I believe the answer is: the desire to be famous is endemic and inescapable in the modern world.
Hundreds of years ago, before we had experienced industrialisation, most of us would have lived in small communities, which would have been largely separate and independent of other places. In these ‘smaller communities’, there would have been limited access and knowledge of the rest of the world’ our interactions with people (our piers) would have been solely based within the community – a relatively small number of people. We would have still had the desire to be recognised, respected, and possibly adored, but only by the small number of people in our horizons. In view of this; recognition on a larger scale would have been seldom desired.
The industrial world of today is very different from this world of past times. In Walter Benjamin’s ‘The work of art in the age of Mechanical reproduction’ he writes “When Marx set out to analyse the Capitalist mode of production, that mode of production was in its infancy”. I believe that Walter Benjamin was possibly urgently referring to the time he was writing in, the 1930’s, as a point at which the “mode of production” had much more fully realised itself; a lot of “The work of art in the age of Mechanical reproduction” focus’s on the recent technology of Film with sound. Although I found the ‘gist’ of the book very hard to explain in a linear fashion, I am starting believe that I am realising one of main points made, whilst writing this essay: the consequence’s of the completion of the capitalist-industrial-machine’s take-over of our lives – which when Benjamin wrote his essay, was through the mass projection of film with sound – were that we all, in industrialised nations, became imprisoned subjects to the desire to be recognised and respected by the entire population of the industrialised peoples; we all now had the desire to become what is now known as a celebrity, and many had no choice but to become the artist in the ‘looking glass’.
It is inescapable. In fact I believe that a strong resistance to it results in only a distorted version of the desire to be recognised – through the same ‘looking glass’ but trying to be rejection of it. These people, who become Marxists solely by their resistance to this Capitalist machine, are doomed to fail in their resistance, and are destined to be swallowed up by the machine and become, what we now call, a commodity themselves. I – even if I never reach this kind of recognition – am one of these people, and for this reason maybe I am a fool for proceeding with this resistance, and the artist whom I opposed in this essay, maybe he is the one with the intelligent approach?
None of us can escape the desire to be in the ‘looking glass’. No matter how hard we try to shut our eyes to the protruding celebrityism, there will always be at least one celebrity figure whom we desire to be in position of – for each and every one of us.
Presently, we are all now ‘enveloped’ into the latest process of the capitalist industrial machine: The Worldwide-web. I have tried to explain before how I believe that the industrialisation process, through what it forces the individual human being to sacrifice to become part of, is equal to Totalitarianism (I do not think that this parallel is overblown, as none of us are free or completely happy in an industrialised society unless we have adapted our minds and body’s to the ethos of industrial Capitalism, which, in effect, de-humanises, therefore making one into nothing more than a number, and this transformation into mere numbers is what typifies a totalitarian society) In this new advancement (the worldwide-web), resistance is, yet again, futile in the long term. On the Worldwide-web the real transformation has been through the creation of social networking sites. On these sites our inescapable desire to have to be recognised, is as close as t can be to being fully realised.
Social networking sites force us to feel that we have prove ourselves to a global community by notifying others on our existence, and the importance of it, through the application of updating our daily thoughts and the constant ‘badgering’ to acquire more friends to our community; The social networking site rapidly speeds up or inescapable need to be famously recognised. The current dominant networking site Facebook – through its mechanical thirst for growth – understands that resistance to the position from were we have to fight for the right to be recognised is completely futile, which is why it constantly ‘badgers’ active members to get their non-line friends to sign up, or ones already sign up to ‘be active’; this is evident currently, as on my account Facebook is constantly telling me to encourage my ‘least active’ network friends to ‘be more active’ – It will win in the end.
Anybody who currently isn’t on the dominant networking sites DON’T WORRY – one day soon you will be; just in the way that we are all subjected to constant television screens now, but we weren’t 70 years ago. The process in inevitable, unless something, such as climate change sticks a spanner in the works of it.
So, although my principles are of ‘Non publicity, non-celebrityism’, the reality of living in the industrialised society means that I crave the opposite; and I cannot escape this craving because it is a natural human want, to be acknowledged and respected by one’s surrounding community; it’s just that this community has now gone global. In a way, my beliefs/my principles prevent me from getting what I cannot help but crave, which is why I feel so envious and resentful when I see this other young artist – who’s beliefs and principles run fluidly along with this machine – get more recognition than I do.

About John Ledger

A visual Artist, eternal meanderer and obsessive self-reflector by nature, who can’t help but try to interpret everything from within the tide of society. His works predominantly take the form of large scale ballpoint pen landscape drawings and map-making as social/psychological note-making. They are slowly-accumulating responses to crises inflicted upon the self in the perplexing, fearful, empty, and often personality-erasing human world.

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