While Ram V and Anand RK’s Blue in Green, as I discussed in my previous post, examines the ways that we use memories to create life, it also looks at the ways that pain and suffering impact creativity and the ways that the pain that the artist uses to produce a work of art remains, long after the artist’s passing. This is a theme I’ve been struggling to wrap my head around, specifically since a lot of what we consider “great art” stems from pain. However, the pain that the artist endured gets subsumed and consumed once the art enters into the public realm. Following the artist’s passing, it serves as a medium for the audience to seek catharsis in their own lives, but is also serves as a way for the audience to seek absolution for our roles in seeing their demise yet still constantly consuming their works of art. I still haven’t fully wrapped my head around this yet, but today I want to look at how Ram V and Anand RK present it at the end of Blue in Green.
At the end of Blue in Green, Erik Dieter sets his mother’s home on fire, seeking to purge the memory of the house and to kill himself. He does this because of the being that torments him, the same one that tormented his grandfather Dalton Blakely and partly led him to burn himself alive as well years earlier. Inside the burning house, Erik confronts the being, and they ruminate on pain and artistic creativity. The being tells Erik that Dalton blamed him “for all his choices” and set the fire “in an attempt to escape something.” Once the flames consumed Dalton, the being “ate him” and “consumed him” in order to stay alive.
The being eats the pain and suffering, as if it’s a heart, and Anand RK’s image shows the being bursting open, expelling from his body what looks like intestines as flames circle around him. He tells Erik, “I will outlive you, like I did your grandfather and so many before him. I am the music. I am every extraordinary choice. I am that which will persist long after you have ceased to exist. I am the only thing of value that you will leave behind.” The being is the artistic production: the painting, the song, the novel, the poem. He remains while the creator perishes. Unlike memory, as I discussed in the previous post, reviving individuals, the being points out that the pain that led to the creation of art and killed the creator remains, forever present in the works that we consume.
Erik pushes back against the being, telling him that Dalton started the fire, not to escape the being but because he found out about his daughter Alana. “He did it,” as Erik says, “so it’d end with him. . . . He did it so she would be the one good thing he left behind.” For Erik, Dalton killed himself so that Alana would not have to suffer with the same pain that he did. However, his act caused her pain, continuing the existence of the being. His art, as well, did the same. While he died, it remained, moving throughout the world, in Alana’s mind and elsewhere, highlighting the pain and suffering he endured.
The being counters by asking Erik if he really thinks that Vera will keep the baby that he and her conceived. Erik replies that his mother tried to terminate her pregnancy, and he continues by telling the being. “She knew. She had understood in her search for her father, that people only remember names.” Here, we see Erik’s narration stretch the length of the page, with a black background, as he continues, “We care for nothing beyond that which was created and that which was consumed. We remember their work, their art with such fervent romance so we may absolve ourselves of their deaths.”
In this moment, Erik points out that when we think about the past, when we remember those who came before, we “only remember names.” We know that individuals existed. We know they walked the earth. However, we create, through our consumption of their artistic produce, images of the individuals that differ from how the individual viewed themselves or from how those closed to them viewed them. We construct our own narratives that we consume, and we do this in order tom as Erik says, “absolve ourselves of their deaths.” We make the individual fit within our own construction of the world, and we see this point driven home by the references in the next three panels, to Vincent Van Gogh, John Coltrane, and Kurt Cobain, artists whose pain and suffering led to the creation of their art.
For me, Cobain stands out in this sequence, specifically because of the impact he and Nirvana had on me during my adolescence. I never met Cobain. I never knew him intimately or personally. However, I felt like I did. The music, with all of its angst and alienation, connected with me, and it served as a conduit that caused me to feel like I had some sort of connection to him, even though I didn’t know him. I only knew what I consumed, what I took in from albums, books, videos, and other forms of production. I created an image of him in my mind, and that image, more than a mere name I’d argue, is what remains for me.
Likewise, I think about my relationship with someone like Lillian Smith, whom I refer to as Lil. She died twelve years before I was born; however, she has had an enormous impact on me over the past few years. I’ve read her work extensively. I’ve spoken with people who knew her, and through them I feel like I know her. I’ve inhabited the space where she lived and worked, and I’ve walked the ground where she tread. I feel a connection with her, an intimacy that stems from the work I do. She has become, for me, Lil, an appellation that those close to her used. I remember her name, but I remember so much more as well.
How do we remember those whom we knew and those whose work we consume? How does their memory carry on over the years? How do they remain alive? Mortality is a fact of life. It comes for all of us. At some point, we will die and leave those who loved us behind. Yet, will we actually die? Does death mean the end of our existence on this planet? Religion works to answer that question, but this discussion is a little different. Here, I’m thinking about solely about memory, not about one’s soul or spiritual being. I’m thinking about how those who remain, and the ones who come after them, keep us alive through their memories and the stories they tell. We continue to exist, in some form or another, and to paraphrase Ollie, we become the ghosts once those who remain start looking for us. What we do as the ghosts, well, that’s up to those who search I guess.
What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments below, and make sure to follow me on twitter @silaslapham.