Sunday, April 26, 2015

Idea map 3: True Detective, artist-investigator.

This is the central idea I'm working around for this project. There's not a lot on this page; that's because it's on the other eight idea map pages.

The inner ring:

For Chambers, the artist is primary, and the artistic sensibility the primary motivator to action. His protagonists in The King in Yellow are largely artists--even though some sections of the text are more flash fiction than traditional narrative, such as "The Prophets' Paradise"--whose exposure to events external to their artistic lives become a form of contagion. More on this in a bit.

The artist-investigator is a mediator in the same way that the priest and the investigator are mediators. The priest mediates between the community and the transgressor/sacrifice, performing functions that purify the community with the capture and despatch of the transgressor-as-sacrifice. The investigator mediates between society and the criminal, performing functions that purify society with the capture and despatch of the criminal. The artist mediates between the artistic vision and the viewer-community, becoming the translator of the vision to the community. Without the artist, the vision cannot exist, and its meaning cannot be comprehended. With the artist, the community can understand the significance of the vision and feel connected to others in the community through mutual understanding of the artist's work. This parallels the religious tropes of detective fiction, and in Chambers, the trope of concealment/revelation aligns itself with the trope of the artist-investigator:


Thus, the criminal is also an artist, a notion that is handled with grace and delicacy in True Detective. It is part of the philosophical foundation for Gilbough and Patania's belief that Cohle is the killer. Hart, who develops a criminal streak during True Detective that may well have precedent in his personal narrative prior to the beginning of the series, mediates between Cohle and Gilbough/Patania, thus putting himself in the position of both criminal and artist. 

But there is an element of craft, as traditionally opposed to art, in all this. Investigation is an art, at least in True Detective, and Cohle is a practitioner at the highest level. Procedure, on the other hand, is a craft, and although the other investigators are portrayed as clay-footed primates, Hart's skills make him a practitioner at the highest level, too. Both of these elements are necessary for Cohle and Hart to solve the murders and catch Childress. 

Throughout True Detective and other detective fiction stories, the idea of contagion drives the narrative. The detectives must catch the killer so that his actions do not harm the community any further, yes, but also so that he does not inspire similar behavior in others. The priest must sacrifice the transgressor so that the community's conscience is relieved, but also so that other potential transgressors see the consequences. The artist must interpret the artistic vision for the community so that the community can see it and feel united in their understanding of it, but also so that the vision is presented with the purity of the artist's inner sight, free from the contagion of opinion.

Interestingly, in True Detective, contagion is still present because the rest of the perpetrators are able to hide behind their political connections. Like a blanket of original sin, this contagion remains to inspire other criminal-artists to breathe deeply and follow it.

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