The Beautiful Losers Who Do(n’t) Care

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Why do you create?

There’s no qualifying degree for the job. You don’t go get your BFA or MFA to get a spot among this group. Beautiful Losers is a documentary about a band of “do it yourself” styled artists centered in New York City in the early 1990’s. Their art springs from early 90’s hip-hop, skateboarding, graffiti, and other sub-pop cultural influences.

But as far as art goes this group doesn’t have many influences… or at least not of the academically acceptable sort. When asked why he made the type of art he did, one artist responded that he made videos he wanted to watch. He had looked around and couldn’t find anything that interested him so he made the films he enjoyed.

Seemingly this is where the DYI art culture comes from. Built on the desire to create and an ambivalence regarding recognition, these artists’ lack of self-awareness is refreshing; in many ways the opposite of how things are created in pop culture today. For this group of artists, their art is not created for an intended effect or for an intended audience, but rather because these artist simply could not NOT create. They wanted to experience the art they saw in their minds, and no one else was doing it yet.

The idea that might sum up this movement the most clearly is a quote from one of the artists:

“I think as a child you’re always drawing, coloring, doing crafts and this is totally normal and seems to be what you do as a kid. And I think kinda the weird tragedy is that when you become an adult you grow up and lose that, you stop creating, you stop involving yourself in the joy of coloring and creation…. I just feel like I was lucky enough to never really lose that. “

The tragedy comes towards the end of this film when self-awareness seeps in and this group of artists implodes from the realization that what they are creating is valuable. They lose their innocence in creating. But every time I watch this film, I can’t help believing (or wanting to believe) that this type of creation is still possible. While the self-awareness that breaks apart their art is always possible, does it have to be inevitable?