Greil Marcus


    NEGATION IS NOT NIHILISM. Nihilism is the belief in nothing and the wish to become nothing. Its perfect depiction is in Larry Clark’s Tulsa, his photographic memoir of ’60s youths spiking themselves to death with speed instead of becoming what they already look like: local Charley Starkweathers and Caril Fugates. Negation is the act that would make it self-evident to everyone that the world is not as it seems—but only when the act is so implicitly complete that it leaves open the possibility that the world may be nothing, that nihilism as well as creation may occupy the suddenly cleared terrain.


    POPULARITY—DIFFUSED, INCHOATE, BUT INTENSE response—transforms a work. As Laurie Anderson is finding out, the “mass audience” is less an abstraction than a new art space. Mass popular response can bleed a work dry, break it into once-invisible component parts, make its composition seem obvious and pandering, make it impossible to see the original except as a version of its imitations. Mass response exposes. But it can also turn the mystery of a work (why do we respond?) into a different mystery: why does our response continue to build on itself? How does the response become part of the work,