Agamemnon Yawns

Do you see what I see?

In fact, what do I see, and how do I know if anyone else is seeing it? What if no one else is seeing it?

That would be impossible. There is always someone else that sees what I am seeing. How do I reach her? What if I never reach her?

These are questions that artists have been asking for millennia, and still ask today.

"Liking" has become an obsession in today's social media world. Many, too many, art sites online ask viewers to pick what they "like" and award prizes based on the responses. Who goes to these sites, and does this predetermine what they choose? Is this a contemporary version of the high school yearbooks of old: "most likely to succeed"? Popularity in social media awards you only the intense focus of advertisers, who would like nothing better than to sell more of what they think you like, based on what you think you like.

I am a screen junkie. In elementary school I was an image junkie. Images took me to dream worlds. They held out the plum of exotic lands where elegantly clad damsels and posturing gentlemen blotted out the cigar-mouthed men and mean-spirited women that lived in my real world. When a friend was brutally slapped in the face by her anger-bloated mother, I could escape to those color-filled lands. When my parents thought they had failed to produce the perfect child of their dreams, the library with its exotic illustrations filled my imaginings.

I recently began sessions of Reiki. The question I am asked most frequently is "what did you see?", "what were your visualizations?" It reminds me of thirty years ago when we had no graphic programs for the computer, so I wrote to the National Supercomputing Center in Illinois and bought a program on thermal heat properties. I knew nothing about thermal heat properties, then or now. I simply entered irrational numbers into the equations to see what would happen. Mostly nothing happened, but occasionally a gorgeous graphic would appear that I could work with. My software engineering friends wanted to know the equation: they were dismayed when I told them I had destroyed it. They wanted to see what I had seen: I wanted only to see more.

As choreographer Bill Jones has asked, "Was Picasso exploring planar geometry in his paintings and taking apart the face because it's good for us to look closer?" I don't think so, and neither does Jones. He says we have voices, and we speak out, without knowing if anyone even gives a damn about what we are saying.

But what if the things I envision are seen by no one else? Is my goal to be popular? Maybe not, but it sure as hell helps when others respond, or want to see more, or offer exhibits, or dangle the possibility of collecting what I produce. Do I have to worry about being "collectible"? T. S. Eliot tells us that "Agamennon cried aloud". Is that better than Agamemnon snickering? What if some modern Agamemnon neither laughs nor cries. Maybe he's actually bored, but agrees to see what critics and media tell him to see. Are the non-selected artists rendered invisible?

Because no one wants to be invisible. The invisibles are the discarded in society, the homeless, the returning war veterans whose psyches have been shattered, the battered wife, the neglected child, the tortured sex slave, the kidnapped child soldier.

"See me. Want Me. Choose me" is what Meredith Grey pleaded on an early episode of "Grey's Anatomy".

"See me. Want Me. Choose me". Or at least give a damn. Is that what artists are saying?

c. Corinne Whitaker 2012