AdHoc Issue 5 drops today, featuring art by Nate Young of Wolf Eyes and pieces on Lil Ugly Mane, Alex G, Björk's collaborators, the economics of cassette culture, Austin's hardcore and noise scenes, and Suicide's third album, A Way of Life. Purchase the issue or subscribe. Here is this month's letter from the editor.
Auteurship is a popular topic in these early months of 2015. Memes comparing the relative artistic merits and technical aptitudes of solo artists Beck and Beyoncé have flooded Facebook in the wake of the Grammy awards, and a recent Pitchfork interview lent Björk a forum to air her vexations regarding the media's portrayal of her agency in the songwriting and production processes of her music. That interview inspired us to run an article this month investigating what we can learn about Björk's signature style by analyzing the disparate panoply of her collaborators.
“Auteur” is a term that gets thrown around by the music press a lot today, often used to denote an artist who works alone and has a unique style. This is a misuse of the term, and ultimately one that does a disservice to the artists who truly deserve the tag. As Miguel Gallego points out in that piece about Björk's collaborators, “auteur” comes from the film world. Specifically, it was coined by the filmmakers of the French New Wave when they were still just critics writing for Cahiers du Cinema, and imported to America by film scholar and Village Voice writer, Andrew Sarris. In his formulation, auteurs were directors who could transcend the inherent chaos of making a film—a collaborative enterprise, with the script, camera, editing, and innumerable other tasks the responsibilities of discreet individuals—to give that film a distinct mark. In so many words, Alfred Hitchcock films feel like Hitchcock films; Martin Scorsese films feel like Scorsese films; David O. Russell films, on the other hand, have no distinct feel.
The fact of the matter is that the media dialog surrounding Björk is tonedeaf to the culture at large—be it her countless obsessive fans or the curators at the Museum of Modern Art—seem aware of: her status as auteur. Paradoxically, even though auteurism was introduced by cultural critics, auteurism is not a concept that the lay person needs a critic to decipher. Instead, the artist radiates that talent, projecting it to the world.