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26/05/2020 The Communication Science magazine

Fragmented Arts: Reggie Watts

Isabella dives into the world of fragmented arts in this opinion piece about comedian and musician Reggie Watts.


What do you think about when you think of art? 

Do you imagine Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa or Michelangelo’s David? Do you hear a guitarist playing in the middle of a crowded square, keeping his anonymity on the same level as his talent? Do you feel an improvised speech? Do you see García Márquez, Hemingway, or Bukowski?

Art is what leaves us a little confused and uncertain

Maybe not. Perhaps my questions have nothing to do with what you consider art. This is precisely its nature. It can be everything for some and nothing for others. It can be everywhere, from museums to looks. The important thing is art’s peculiarity and irreplicability. A wise comedian once said, art is what “leaves us a little confused and uncertain.” Art is digressive. It spreads. I wonder,  has it always been like this?

The twenty-first century is full of changes. Not only digital or the “default” change of society and generations, but adaptive responses to these. As philosopher Marshall McLuhan commented, “art at its most significant is a distant early warning system that can always be relied on to tell the old culture what is beginning to happen to it.” The human being now tries to adapt to the technology he has created, and with all his strength he also tries to understand how he is being affected by it. 

Human beings have migrated from imitating their reality to trying to interpret it in their own way, to look inward and try to decipher the language of thought. There are some authors who have tried to simulate conscious thought with the flow of consciousness technique (Saunders), or some pictorial artists who have become experts in automatic art, such as Pollock. Now, as always, art is in constant metamorphosis, becoming more and more unconscious, more unrecognizable, more embedded into mainstream media. Art is no longer a sedentary identity waiting patiently for visitors inside a museum, art is now behind our screens, accessible through them… anywhere, anytime. 

Throughout history, art has served as a deep source of information about how the human experience worked. It seems to me that it’s getting more and more confusing. How do I now appreciate the beauty of a painting, how am I inspired by a figure that I do not recognize as real? How do I try to make sense of my life with an installation that lacks all meaning?

My temporary explanation, or rather survivalist, is that art does not try to make sense of things. It is only a reflection, even more illegible and confusing than the existence of the soul itself. It is a message best read between the lines, a dialogue that seems subject to hallucinogens, a metaphor for life and a synonym for media. It’s what you make of it. 

Matta became acquainted with my dreams. Camus fitted in with some of my existential doubts. Nabokov opened the door to the complexity of thought. Nolan introduced me to a new world, an internal one. Chambi taught me how to be a witness, Cortázar to be logically irrational, Ribeyro to free me from my political correctness, Sabina to let myself go. And today in particular, Reggie Watts taught me the relaxation of confusion, the entertaining in the illogical, the eloquence in foolishness.

And here among my box of artists I include Watts, a comedian, beat-boxer, vocalizer and musician, among great artists, because he has also taught me to visualize human thought in a time of hyperstimulation. Most of us no longer learn by reading a book and taking notes in class. Most of us process information through visual, auditory thinking: what we hear on TV, what we read on Twitter, or the memories that a song brings us. Our brain internalizes information drops and turns them into one or more clouds. We can experience virtual reality or think about pudding and philosophy at the same time. We can be everywhere and inform ourselves of everything, nurture ourselves from everything, diversify in every possible way.

Could the human mind have been so scattered in the past? Will cognitive processes change with the digital age? Maybe the answers are already published on the internet, and here I am on pause, futilely trying to adapt to something that has already become something else. I got stuck somewhere trying to understand it. But Watts seems not only to understand it, but has managed to get to the point of imitating it, as much as a medieval portrait artist, illustrating the very unreal situation that now absorbs us. He seems to reach nirvana when he’s on stage, to be photographing consciousness and showing it to his audience.

Here I paint him as an intense guru, but Reggie is a simple man. Part of his appeal is his uncontrollable afro. He wears a diamond-patterned sweater, simple pants and shoes: an appearance worthy of a retrograde grandfather. He gets on stage. He seems to have perfect control. Speaks eloquently with meaningless sentences. Inserts philosophy into his jokes, not the other way around. Creates romance between satire and pseudo-scientific speech. Is he mocking, not mocking? No, he just flows. What he says is not important.  It is how he sounds, what he inspires, the resonance he causes. Says what he thinks. I laugh. It seems ridiculous, but his nonsense makes sense. It is digressive. It spreads. It’s relevant, it mirrors. “The mind does different things in performance, and conscious thought sometimes takes a backseat”, as he would elegantly put it. I cannot wait for his Netflix Original, coming up on December 6th. 

Here I have tried, perhaps, to imitate his disorganized style. My thoughts are scattered. My text is digressive. It spreads.  I have tried, maybe, to mimic his improvising.

And you, what do you think of when you think of art?

Cover: Depositphotos

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