As the rapper Jidenna tweeted, “For those who are so woke that their compassion is asleep, remember this…if Malcolm X was killed at the age of 20, he would have died an abuser, a thief, an addict, and a narrow-minded depressed & violent criminal. So, I believe in change for the young.” His point is not to equate XXXTentacion with Malcolm X, but to put some perspective that young and lost souls can sometimes evolve into something greater given the opportunity. Whether XXXTentacion would have made good for his wrongs we’ll never know.
XXXTentacion may have spent his career trying to convince his most ardent young fans that they’re worth more than they believe, but his legacy—of trauma endured and seemingly unrepentantly inflicted—reminds us that worth has never been distributed evenly.
This intersection between our experience and fractals may run even deeper than Taylor’s evolutionary hypothesis. “Any act of creativity is an act of physiology,” Goldberger says. “The extent that we are fractalized in our essence makes you think that maybe we would project that onto the world and see it back, recognize it as familiar. So when we look at and create art, and when we decide what to take as high art, are we in fact possibly looking back into ourselves? Is creation in part a re-creation?” “It wouldn’t come as a shock to me if consciousness is fractal,” Taylor says. “But I have no idea how that will manifest itself.”
Every time I get back into the editing room, I feel the wonder of it. One image is joined with another image, and a third phantom event happens in the mind’s eye – perhaps an image, perhaps a thought, perhaps a sensation. Something occurs, something absolutely unique to this particular combination or collision of moving images. And if you take a frame away from one or add a couple of frames to the other, the image in the mind’s eye changes. […] This “principle”, if that’s what you could call it, is just as applicable to the juxtaposition of words in poetry or forms and colours in painting. It is, I think, fundamental to the art of cinema. This is where the act of creation meets the act of viewing and engaging, where the common life of the filmmaker and the viewer exists, in those intervals of time between the filmed images that last a fraction of a fraction of a second but that can be vast and endless. This is where a good film comes alive as something more than a succession of beautifully composed renderings of a script. This is film-making.
At an international art symposium called “Fail Better,” held in 2013 at the Hamburg Museum in Germany, Nagy and Barger discussed the idea of teaching the public a new way of looking at art. “We don’t object to seeing time’s toll on classical art,” Learner said in a phone interview. “We’ve come to expect the pretty green patina on Donatello’s ‘David.’ We like it.” And perhaps it’s time to see the same thing in modern art, Barger says. “Will brittle latex and yellowing plastic ever seem classic and dignified?” she asks. “Maybe we need to accept this.”
In the end, Barger decided to show “Aught” in the 2002 exhibition after restoring it in the least invasive way she could. She applied laminated cheesecloth using methylcellulose—a synthetic liquid adhesive—to strengthen the brittle parts, keep the latex from dripping, and to give the exterior more loft. The piece became a star of the three-month exhibit. Degraded and imperfect as it was, it succeeded in challenging the public to consider the temporality of art, and of their own lives. Johns recalls how Hesse once looked at the discolored latex jungle of cables that “Untitled (Rope Piece)” had become, and described it as “my chaos.” “She gloated at the transience of it,” Johns says. Not long afterward, Hesse gave an interview to Artforum. Asked if she worried about the impermanence of her materials, she responded, “Life doesn’t last, art doesn’t last.” She died three months later, at age 34.
With contemporary art having become an important investment vehicle for the superwealthy—a profitable and fun place for the rich to park their money—collectors are no longer necessarily connoisseurs. Gouzer is disdainful of the novice client who shows no interest in an artist’s catalogue raisonné, and who wants to know only if the piece he is buying is considered to be in the top ten of the artist’s works. “It’s very much an Instagram way of buying,” he grumbled to me this spring. “You see an image, and you make a decision.” Yet his approach could not be better calculated to appeal to such consumers. Last November, a colleague at Christie’s brought to auction a Modigliani painting of a voluptuous woman, “Reclining Nude,” which had a presale estimate of a hundred million dollars. Gouzer posted an image of the painting on Instagram and offered this unscholarly observation: “Difficult to say which you would want more, the painting for a lifetime or the model for a night?”
That evening, we went to George’s, Iowa City’s Qasabji: a dim, narrow bar of perpetual darkness. We met friends who still lived in town and drank and talked late into the night. “I think now, in Syria, we have a very new idea,” Khaled told me. “Now I’m writing my new novel. I have been writing for four years. But now, I will rewrite it, because I feel it is old writing. We have a new time, and new ideas, not just for writing but for the people too. Now we can understand our people. We are talking about this with young writers. What will be the future, I ask. You must be better. Because after the revolution you have new ideas about writing and about all art. We will have new ideas.”