Controversial NYC artist Dash Snow died of a heroin overdose at the age of 27 Monday night, which was an unfortunately predictable end to a life spent celebrating and glamorising debauchery and drug use.
For the most part, even his enemies - and there were a few - are paying their respects online with surprising politeness, with one notable exception: DJ/producer and recovering addict Tommie Sunshine, who spent much of Tuesday Twittering about the responsibility Snow's friends, colleagues and curators share in aiding his untimely demise.
Here's a partial transcript of his online reaction:
- you know what is cool about heroin? nothing. http://tinyurl.com/nnqy2u
- Dash Snow was a heroin addict, he died and people are sad. kinda like being upset that when the sky is full of clouds, it rains.
- one more thing, everyone in NYC who ever got high with him or were friends with him you should feel partially responsible that he is dead.
- ...and of course I feel for his family and child. they had to watch his demise and the pain they must feel is intense.
- if you know an addict of any kind and you care about them, try to help them before their addiction consumes them.
- "Death needs time like a junkie needs junk." - William S. Burroughs
- hoping I can inspire some loud voices to speak up and tell the truths they feel strongly about also.
- final thoughts: early death is a shame. no one deserves to die. hopefully he will inspire others not to make the same mistakes. R.I.P.
At first glance, his ranting sounds a bit like a holier-than-thou elder lashing out inappropriately about someone who wasn't lucky and/or strong enough to escape his demons, and seems like bad-timing and poor taste. However, we have to admit that Sunshine got us thinking.
Do some research on Dash and you'll find that just as much was written about his hard-partying ways as about his actual creative output. Born into the art world equivalent of a royal family, Dash seemed like he'd rather be known for running from the police and destroying hotel rooms (as well as his body). Of course the art scene ate up that myth, and encouraged him at every turn.
As one unimpressed reviewer wrote last September:
"...it doesn't seem that anyone in his immediate circle of friends, promoters or collectors is ready to say ‘no' to Snow just yet - at least not while the attention he receives remains focused on his lifestyle rather than his work. As one blogger aptly put it: ‘Snow - you're a cliché, but no one will tell you that because they're gonna make a bundle on you first.'"
All of this makes me wonder about the role those of us in the media play in romanticizing addiction and mental illness. It's all too easy to tell funny stories about famous fuckups, but aren't we reinforcing the misplaced idea that insanity breeds genius? Or even worse, the concept that creativity can come in powdered form?
Not only can this make it difficult for junky entertainers to imagine a sober life ("will they still think I'm cool if I live like a square?"), it also builds up this popular mythology of the addict-savant in the minds of aspiring creative types. The entertainment industry (and I'm including art in this) is an extremely permissive environment to get high in, and there's never any shortage of people willing to facilitate it, especially when you're their meal ticket.
Maybe Tommie Sunshine is right in thinking that we do have a duty to be honest to drug abusers, and that when we play it up for cool points that we're at least partially guilty when they inevitably crash and burn.