Court Attention At All Costs
This idea in Robert Greene's "The 48 Laws of Power" keeps coming back top of mind.
There's a few things at work here:
1) It's the job of the artist to court attention at all costs.
People are more isolated, lonely, and suffering from cripplingly low self-esteem than ever before. Psychologist Michael S. Levy gets into all the facts & stats in his extremely interesting book "Celebrity & Entertainment Obsession: Understanding Our Addiction." But for now, let's take for granted that's a fact: People are more desperate for connection than ever before. This, in our contemporary 'connected age.'
The entertainment industry supplements our loneliness, isolation, and broken self-esteem.
Draw attention to yourself by creating an unforgettable, even controversial image. Court scandal. Do anything to make yourself seem larger than life and shine more brightly than those around you. Make no distinction between kinds of attention - notoriety of any sort will bring you power. Better to be slandered and attacked than ignored.
People WANT their artists to be larger than life, to do the impossible, or the crazy - simply because they can not, and they envy that.
Remember, all we need to ensure success is notoriety. Everything is judged by its appearance; what is unseen counts for nothing. Never let yourself get lost in the crowd, then, or buried in oblivion. Stand out. Be conspicious, at all cost. Make yourself a magnet of attention by appearing larger, more colorful, more mysterious than the bland & timid masses.
People WANT to vicariously experience the good life through you - the artist.
Once people's eyes are on you, you have a special legitimacy.
For P.T. Barnum, creating interest meant creating a crowd; as he later wrote, "Every crowd has a silver lining." And crowds tend to act in conjunction.
If one person stops to see your beggarman laying bricks in the street, more will do the same. They will gather like dust bunnies. Then, given a gentle push, they will enter your museum or watch your show.
Give them what they want (just not how they expect it.)
To create a crowd you have to do something different & odd. Any kind of curiosity will serve the purpose, for crowds are magnetically attracted by the unusual & inexplicable. And once you have their attention, never let it go.
To be a "low-key" artist is not to be an artist at all.
At the beginning of your rise to the top, then, spend all your energy on attracting attention. Most important: The quality of the attention is irrelevant.
2) It's the "free" way to add value to your enterprise.
If you're born with no opportunities, cash, or social connections... you always will have your energy & enthusiasm. The best way to transmute this early in your artistic career is by courting attention at all costs.
From P.T. Barnum's vantage, ATTENTION - whether negative or positive - was the main ingredient of his success.
Go after a big fish who otherwise would never notice you. Do a big scandalous thing. Fail in a spectacular, public way. All of these experiences will begin building your name instantly. There's no need to wait for permission, or to get all your ducks in a row, before you start courting attention.
If the courtier happens to engage in arms in some publioc spectacle such as jousting... he will ensure that the horse he has is beautifully caparisoned, that he himself is suitably attired, with appropriate mottos and ingenous devices to attract the eyes of the onlookers in his direction as surely as the lodestone attracts iron.
Don't have any art to your name yet? It almost doesn't even matter. Build a lot of hype around a project, spout a lot of bullshit, stick yourself in the middle of the conversation & re-frame it.
Burning more brightly than those around you is a skill no one is born with. You have to LEARN to attract attention. At the start of your career, you must attach your name and reputation to a quality, an image, that sets you apart from other people. This image can be something like a characteristic style of dress, or a personality quirk that amuses people and gets talked about. Once the image is established, you have an appearance, a place in the sky for your star.
This is not only the JOB of the artist, but it's the easiest & cheapest way to add high value to your entertainment adventure.
It is a common mistake to imagine that this peculiar appearnce of yours should not be controversial, that to be attacked is somehow bad. Nothing could be further from the truth. To avid being a flash in the pan, and having your notoriety eclipsed by another, you must not discriminate between different types of attentionl in the end, every kind will work in your favor. Barnum, we have seen, weolcomed personal attacfhs and felt no need to defend himself. He deliberately courted the image of being a humbug.
3) Only positives arise from courting mass attention.
Of course, this immediately calls to mind the times huge scandals have brought down public figures. Mark Sanford & his mysterious disappearance in 2009, or Milo Yiannopoulos bragging about wanting to fuck young boys, arise from recent memory.
In my opinion, this all could have been resolved (and usually is resolved) with a bold march forward over the corpse of the accusation.
Society craves larger-than-life figures, people who stand above general mediocrity. Never be afraid, then, of the qualities that set you apart and draw attention to you. Court controversy, even scandal. It is better to be attacked, even slandered, than ignored. All professions are ruled by this law, and all professionals must have a bit of the showman about them.
Because, truly, only positives arise from courting mass attention.
The great scientist Thomas Edison knew that to raise money he had to remain in the public eye at any cost. Almost as important as the inventions themselves was how h presented them to the public & courted attention.
Perhaps this one requires more stable team work and long-term strategy than the other 2 principles, but consider. The more scandal, the more varied, the more attention - the higher one's brand valuation rises. If something bad happens, you either ignore it, apologize, or bold through.
From observation, ignoring or apologizing tends to make the monster of negative public perception grow. But to bold your way through life exhibits character to your audience & gives you the opportunity to re-frame the debacle. It seems like the right thing to do.
And more often than not, like Wayne Gretzky, you make the shot. People forgive, forget, or love you even more. Be comfortable with this thought and attention could be your friend.
To be an artist is to do public work.
To be an artist is to be a public figure.
It's like riding a lion. You can't get off it... because when you do, you'll be eaten alive. Sweet.
In the beginning of your rise to the top, you must attract attention at all cost, but as you rise higher you must constantly adapt. Never wear the public out with the same tactic. An air of mystery works wonders for those who needs to develop an aura of power and get themselves noticed, but it must seem a game, playful, and nonthreatening. Recognize when it goes too far, and pull back. Never appear overly greedy for attention, then, for it signals insecurity, and insecurity drives power away. Understand that there are times when it is not in your interest to be the center of attention. When in the presence of a king or queen, for instance, or the equivalent thereof, bow & retreat to the shadows; never compete.
Only positives rise from mass attention.
More people hear about you, people hear about you in general, you leave a trail of accomplishments, you add value to your name, you titillate your current audience, you radicalize your fervent followers further.
An air of mystery about an artist makes his or her artwork immediately more intriguing, a trick Marcel Duchamp played to great effect. It is all very easy to do - say little about your work, teease & titillate with alluring, even contraduictory comments, then stand back and let others try to make sense of it all.
Captivating even 18% of total attention is a VERY HIGH conversion rate indeed.
Only 25% of America was needed to make Donald Trump the president.
The Limelight. The actor who steps into this brilliant light attains a heightened presence. All eyes are on him. There is room for only one actor at a time in the limelight's narrow beam; do whatever it takes to make yourself its focus. Make your gestures so large, amusing, and scandalous that the light stays on you... Be ostentatious & be seen... What is not seen is as though it did not exist... It was light that first caused all creation to shine forth. Display fills up many blanks, covers up deficiencies, and gives everything a second life, especially when it is backed by genuine merit.