Rob McMahon responds to Patti Smith (Art and Location)

Facebook is a funny, fickle creature. Some like the easy social platform, some see it as an infringement on ones privacy or a place of rampant frivolous oversharing…I haven’t made up my mind yet. All I know is that it serves as a bulletin board when I have a gig or a political, artistic, astronomical tidbit I think others might enjoy. The inherent problem being that damnable ‘Like’ button (a button one can press which registers as a thumbs up, for my readers who don’t use facebook)…it’s a really lazy way to concur without having to elaborate as to how or why you might “Like” the same thing as the person posting and also when you’ve posted something you think the world should embrace whole-heartedly and you only get 1 or 2 “Like”s it’s a letdown. The “Like” button is like a highschool trap, who is popular? Whose post is most clever or hilarious and are we all more secure about ourselves because a whole slew of us agree on the same thing? Now, I’m no better, I enjoy “Liking” posts and having my posts “Liked” but I do wonder about these cavalier connections. That said, I posted or rather re-posted something Patti Smith had said about NYC and a friend, fellow open micer, musician, Rob McMahon had a strong, insightful, reaction which I’d like to share. It went down like this:

Patti Smith’s advice to young artists: Don’t Go To New York

A couple of years ago, rocker, Patti Smith was asked if it was possible for young artists to go to NYC and find the path to stardom that she did.

Smith responded, “New York has closed itself off to the young and the struggling. But there are other cities. Detroit. Poughkeepsie. New York City has been taken away from you. So my advice is: Find a new city.

Rob McMahon: Fuck this! I moved to Portland in 2001 and stayed for 4 years cause I thought NY was over. Then I lived in Brooklyn for 4 years under the pretense that that’s where shit was happening. Right here, right now I’m indicting both of those places, Patti Smith, and myself on 4 counts of aggravated bullshit!!! Artists should make art where ever the fuck they are, and stop buying into the hype that it’ll be easier to make art somewhere else. Making art asks a lot of us who make it. To really do it demands a strong commitment to a process of repeated ripping your own heart out and holding it up in front of a bunch of strangers who may or may not give a shit about your latest parlor trick. Not everyone has the stomach for that, but that’s not the place’s fault. Do what you do where you are, or shut the fuck up. Make art. No excuses.

Rob McMahon: I know I’m preaching to the choir here Lynch. Not sure who this angry tirade is directed at but certainly not you. And with that the prosecution rests.
Saturday at 10:52pm · Like

Philip Lynch: HAHAHAHAHAHAHAH excellent Rob !! Couldn’t agree more man. I do dig and respect Patti though and NYC is super expensive I think that may be all….hm mayhaps I’ll “blog” about this heh
Yesterday at 7:50am · Like · 1

Rob McMahon: Word. I was just reading some of your blog yesterday. Yeah I’m not down on Patti and NY is expensive but last time I checked Frank Sinatra hadn’t recorded any songs about Poughkeepsie!! But seriously, I think this line of thinking is a trap. And it underestimates the effect of changing location on art making. I went out to Portland to write a novel. While I was there I wrote very little, did lots of ensemble theater, stacked a bunch of rocks, and came up with a bunch of conceptual art pieces. I wasn’t even able to work in the same medium. And when I left I dropped all that and started writing songs. It’s naive to think that you can just pick up your whole life, move it somewhere else, and finish the chorus of the song you started 3,000 miles from here. Or it was for me in the past. But maybe i just hadn’t found my medium. Now i think I have…Alright, Fuck it!! I’m goin’ to Nashville!!!

As Stan Lee (Marvel Comics) says: ’nuff said!
Thanks for tuning in this week, thanks Rob for your candor and participation. Here’s his excellent tune, The Mariner (Shores of the Heart)


3 responses »

  1. The place where art resides is not a geographical physical location. As such is not dependent upon those factors. Philip and Rob both speak the truth as artists are supposed to do. Now where is that like button when I need it?

  2. I’m a huge fan of Patti’s. But I don’t think she could have less to say about what a struggling artist would encounter in 2013. I read “Just Kids” and it IS a different time and place than then. But isn’t it always. You make what you make where you make it. I did not move to NYC to become famous. I moved here to be surrounded by people who value art. It might not be as easy or accommodating as it once was. But maybe it is more in other ways?

    • Yeah Eric, me too, Patti is amaaaaazing live. That’s as good a reason as any I suppose to move here. I was born and bred, part city/part upstate and yet somehow feel less welcome. Meeting good, inspired musicians such as you and Maria really make it worthwhile. We’re fighting the good fight, of this I have no doubt.

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