Voice-over: And now Des Mean After School Specials proudly presents the tear-jerking third and final episode of “Iowa Art Crisis.”
Scene: A grubby but comfortable East Village bar in the shadow of Iowa’s Capitol Building.
Fade in with piano music and singing over credits:
Making your way in the arts today
Takes everything you’ve got
Taking a break from all your critics
Sure would help a lot
Wouldn’t you like to get away?
Sometimes you wanna go
Where everybody knows your name
And they’re always glad you paint
You wanna be where people see
Artists are all the same
You wanna go where everybody knows your name
Bode P. Chatsworth, COO of Cardinal Mutual Casualty Company, walks in.
Lovilia (polishing a glass behind the bar): How’s it going there tonight, Mr. C?
Bode P. Chatsworth: Not too bad, Lovilia. Quite a day at the office, helping out some traumatized artists. My bunions are killing me again. But it’s good to be here.
Terry Branstad, Governor of Iowa (dressed in a postman’s suit, stands up, wobbles over to Bode P. Chatsworth, sits on the stool beside him): That’s good, Bode. We’re all glad to be here. Let’s chat about our favorite Emerson, Lake and Palmer albums to get your mind off your bunions.
Lovilia (Slings towel over shoulder): I tell you what, y’all keep chatting about E.L.P. all night and this bar’s gonna get shut down real quick.
Rufus Dunn Leakey, D.Phil., Voice of Wisdom (from a table in the corner): Aww come on, Lovilia, let’ em talk about what they want. I personally don’t care for E.L.P., but it’s a free world, and learning a little bit more about stuff we don’t think we like might just make us better, more tolerant people when all’s said and done, right?
Bode P. Chatsworth: That’s what I think, Rufus. (Sips from beer). Ah, nothing like sipping back a cold one and criticizing E.L.P. albums with pals.
Terry Branstad (increasingly wobbly): Yep, their third arlbum wars tha’ one ta have. Hic! It’s er, eh undeniable. Hey bahrkeep, how’s about parrin’ me anather one?
Lovilia: Just a minute there, Governor B. Hey, Mallard, why so glum tonight?
Mallard Meservey, Art Critic (in sports coat with beard): Oh I don’t know, Lovilia, I suppose it’s just so unreal, isn’t it?
Lovilia (Leans against bar): Well how d’ya figure that, Mr. M?
Mallard Meservey: Well, it’s the whole idea of criticism and community these days, I suppose. I mean, here we are, in a public space, similar to the way it used to be, talking about Emerson, Lake and Palmer albums. Some we like, some we hate. We explain our reasons why, people nod or shake their heads, and Lovilia pours us another beer. Simple! However, on another plane it’s completely different than it used to be, since our minds are all really far, far away, as we slyly check our phones under the bar for tweets about the latest art and music happenings elsewhere that we’ll never actually experience, or excuse ourselves to sit on the crapper with our pants up behind a closed stall door to read real time criticism from people we don’t know, with no training or qualifications, sitting in places we’ve never seen, anonymously savaging artists we’ve never heard of, about work we’ll never experience. And then we flush and Lovilia pours us another beer. Fifteen years ago, Putman was right, we were “bowling alone.” However, now, we’re not even actually bowling (and nor are we, I might add, in virtual reality helmets, literally). We’re just clacking away, 140 characters at a time, in public, privately. The least effort possible short of watching television, yet this is the proverbial and current public sphere!
Lovilia: What are you getting at, Mr. M?
Mallard Meservey: Oh nothing I suppose, nothing. It’s just depressing is all.
Rufus Dunn Leakey, D.Phil. (from a table in the corner): I hear that.
Terry Branstad (Raises glass): Hic! Tahr dahpressions!
Barflies (All raise glasses): DEPRESSION!
Mallard Meservey: Don’t understand me too quickly, people! I’m talking about atomization, the individualistic, privatized tendencies of man gone too far! I’m talking about alienation, and anomie only against one’s self, the cause of that depression! I’m speaking of ennui, a lack of feeling, a numbing of our emotional senses, caused by a lack of real, public interaction, that can’t help but leave one feeling empty and unfulfilled in the end! I’m talking about the ways in which criticism comes easier than craftsmanship, and how bullies no longer need playgrounds to wreak havoc on the souls of those who are judged weak and wanting! Most of all, I’m talking about the fact that I’m pretending to be talking in public while I’m actually typing in private, and yet all of this private scribbling and sniping and clattering is, in some surreal sense, considered public discourse! And that’s acceptable to us all!!
Barflies: AWKWARD SILENCE!
Bode P. Chatsworth (Turns away from Mallard Meservey and towards Terry Brandstad): Yeah, so that third E.L.P. album is definitely the one to have. You know, the one with the giant armadillo tank on the cover?
Terry Branstad: Hic!
Fade to black over piano music.