A research study has concluded that contrary to the belief that great art is often born from intolerable mental suffering, deliberately torturing an artist can actually lead to a marked deterioration in the quality of their output.
‘We all know the stories about alienated and unstable geniuses such as Vincent van Gogh producing exquisite works of art,’ said lead researcher, Dr Lionel Miller. ‘But to our surprise it turned out that inducing that degree of anguish using enhanced interrogation techniques failed to produce the masterpieces we were expecting. So we’re back to the drawing board on this one – or we would be if we hadn’t smashed it over a subject’s head trying to coax a poem out of him.’
The experiment began when a randomly selected group of painters, poets and composers was brought together by scientists in the UK, then handcuffed, blindfolded and flown to an undisclosed location under cover of night. The artists were then subjected to a meticulously planned programme of random beatings and food, light and sleep deprivation before having pens, paper and paints shoved into their cells and being told ‘to express themselves’.
‘Initially we had great hopes for the effect of waterboarding on the creative process,’ said Dr Miller. ‘But I think it’s fair to say that during the weeks of ‘hydro-therapy’, the artistic merit of our subjects’ work definitely took a backward step. Plus their paintings got really wet. On the positive side, though, they all developed a talent for holding their breath for several minutes at a time.’
And it was the same story with the composer who had the ‘Barney’ theme tune blared deafeningly into his unlit cell every 30 minutes. ‘All we got out of him was this arrangement for a vocal soloist consisting of a continuous high-pitched whine. It was very avant-garde.’
However, researchers say the study served to reinforce a number of stereotypes about the socially awkward artist. ‘When they arrived they seemed pretty normal,’ said Dr Miller, ‘but over time it seems that these creative types are prone to depression, withdrawal from society, self mutilation and suicidal feelings. Maybe the cliché is true,’ added the bespectacled, wild-haired virgin.
16th June 2012