Artsy Fartsy Night

There we were, standing around in this very cool new art gallery in the middle of Berlin admiring the photos by, among others, our friend Werner Huthmacher and going elbow to elbow with a packed roomful of his other admirers, when Andi the Graphic Genius turned to me and said: "I know what you're thinking"

"No you don’t, you presumptive, arrogant know-it-all."

"Artsy-fartsy," he smirked.

He was right, of course. As a card-carrying American Anti-Intellectual, I am almost obligated to think that in such a surrounding. But don't think I mean it in a bad way. Watching the people was almost more fascinating than the photos themselves. Each one of them was a little work of art in themselves. They were clearly artists, art students, art journalists, art scene hangers-on. Art was in the air, art was in their clothes, in their wine glasses (why it is always white wine at these things?) in their hair.

It was most obvious in the way they dressed. There was the girl in the pin-striped suit. There were many women in men's coats that looked like they were from second hand: the black and white plaid of another era. Some were simply dressed down, so consciously so that they were making a statement. If you are an artist, you have to pay a lot of attention to their outfit. It has to look like you don’t care about fashion - in fact, you have to make it clear that you are anti-fashion – but everything has to look unique. Thus all the other-era-second-hand stuff, full of irony and, well, individuality. The necessity of being an individual, of being different from the others – there is nothing more important to an artist. But why? What is it about these artists that they have dress so individualistically that you can tell they are artists? What do they have to prove?

Then I figured it out: It's the Second Son Syndrome.

"Second Son Syndrome" comes from the Middle Ages and is best described in the opening chapters of Wolfram von Eschenbach's Parzival. It's when the first son inherits the entire kingdom and all the sons thereafter, from Second Son on, are either dependent on Older Brother or they have to go out on adventure and seek their fortunes. (This is where Errant Knights come from – they're seeking their fortunes because their Older Brothers have everything they father owned.) Wolfram von Eschenbach, I am sure, was a Second Son. He's the guy who never gets noticed when he does something interesting. He's never as smart, interesting, beautiful, strong or motivated as the First Son. He needs another way to prove himself.

So he gets into art, or literature, or culture, or something like that – the part of society that is prestigious but is "left over" by the others who got the good parts of society first. "No one else wants to do this," they say to themselves, "Then I will – if there's no competition, I can do it." So they become artists, writers, filmmakers. They leave their small town where no one understands them anyway and they go to the big city and they are careful to do everything that other people don't do, to show that they are individual, not of the masses. And they hope against hope that they will be noticed.

These guys were all Second Sons. I recognized them because I am a Second Son, too.

(His show is still on, by the way, at the Loris gallery in Berlin, Garten Strase 114: see www.lorisberlin.de)

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