The Cinema of Transgression & The Self
I have been exposed to a wide variety of ArtHouse films and documentaries as of late. And as it has become so, I was fated to watch “Blank City” (2010), a documentary about the prominence of low budget independent films that surged out of Lower Manhattan in the late 70s through the 80s, and the lasting impression it’s left on independent films to this day.
The documentary put the magnifying glass on the Cinema of Transgression, commandeered by director Nick Zedd, who also wrote a series of essays which outlined the manifesto for the movement. This part of the documentary is what really got my attention. The visual pushing of the envelope was never so uninhibited in form; such disregard for the status quo which created an egregious reaction that in turn happened to be the initial aim of the director. That too caught my attention.
Thinking about the notion that what you love as an artist, your creation in its rawest form was made only to be hated, sullied, ratified as “vile and decrepit,” then considering the job complete and an ultimate success is an interesting spin on viewing creation. People hated this shit, and that was the beauty of it. Films like “They Eat Scum” and “Fingered” enraged critics who saw them as nothing more than anarchical weirdo films with no hope of appreciation, with their brute nihilism, extreme sexual content, and stark imagery. As immoral and offensive as the images were, it almost seemed like they came from a pure and holy place from directors like Richard Kern and Zedd. It wasn’t made to pacify the aesthetic hunger of the critics and film enthusiasts at the present time (if anything it might of turned some of the stomachs of the weaker willed viewers). No, it was made to leave a message, whether understood or missed, that voiced the plight of the wasted youth during that era. It became a form of expression so deep rooted within the confines of personal motifs, that sometimes the creator could only understand the premise of the final product. The creator and the gods of course.
This leaves a lingering atmosphere of self-gratification when it comes to summing up reasons for the craftsman even exerting the effort to create in the first place. With negative reviews expected and often welcomed with open arms or with third fingers from the thumb held high towards the opposition. It was obvious that the creator was either in denial and real good at hiding the discomfort of humiliation, or fucking proud of what was created and had a visceral connection to the work. Convinced that it is the latter, it would be a breath of fresh air if this attitude was adopted as the modus operandi for all artists and regular joe’s alike. This could dissipate the fissure between commercialism and pure genuine expression. You’d only yearn to please yourself when creating what you created, and be satisfied with just that result.
I’m really re-wording the whole philosophy of not “giving a fuck” when looking at it in scope. Artists, if you created without any care for the reactions of your audience but rather for the sake of creating the work itself, out of love for the craft, what would it do for your well being? Model citizen, if you lived in nonobservance of the superficial callings you were forced out of restricted permutation to live up to, think about its implications on your spirit, how would that make you feel?
Whatever the case may be, the ideology behind looking outside of self for more things readily found in self than not is, in my personal opinion, an act of self-deprivation. It’s obvious that all hardheaded introverts with their enigmatic ideas had something going for them when they refused to take no for an answer, or as in the Cinema of Transgression’s aim, took “no” as the reason for perpetuation. From Jackson Pollock and his reconfiguring of conceptualization and basic structure when it came to creating art, to Kanye West and his public assertions of being the fucking man and his own at that. Neither of these individuals could find these approaches by listening to the critics or asking the next man what should they do, only if the next man told them: “I don’t know bro, you should ask yourself.” It’s that same introspection and disregard of outside forces that has made the Cinema of Transgression into a source of inspiration for raunchy avante-garde indie films and earned it some good show on a cool little documentary about its roots. And also, its that same introspection and disregard that makes one great, in their own special way, whether people care or not.