Joker – Meditations on a Story

Framed and Preserved Joker Pancake Art

This is a pancake art rendition of Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker, from the 2019 film of the same name, directed by Todd Philips. This art pancake was made by me, Daniel James Drake, in advance of the film’s release as both a creative challenge and as content ‘to feed the algorithm’. The process of creating and preserving this piece, though, surprised me in a lot of ways, and I feel as though it represents an important time of personal transformation in my life. It is also the first art piece that we are attempting to auction.

I’ve written about this piece before, and an argument I had with Dana helped me bring more of myself to bear during its creation, which…well, perhaps it was that uncomfortable confrontation that brought me here now. The photo set I posted to my personal Instagram feed included some of my thoughts on the piece’s subject matter, and where the film seems to fit into contemporary society.

It would’ve been easy to simply slap on some useful hashtags and wash my hands of it but, hell, if you’re going to spend 2 hours crafting a piece of art, you might as well spend a few minutes talking about it. 

I re-watched “Stranger Than Fiction” with my partner Hannah, right before sitting down to write this. If you haven’t seen it, it’s a 2006…drama? Comedy? starring Will Ferrell in a rare dramatic role as an IRS agent who begins to hear an author narrating his entire life. Hannah had not seen it, and I remembered liking it back when I was still a teenager, so we fired it up. It has aged exceptionally well. 

While we were watching I felt myself start to well up, and instead of holding back I tried to let go of that tightening that wanted me to control myself. I cried, and then I laughed, and I noticed what an enormous sense of release accompanies them both. I didn’t have anywhere else I needed to be. I didn’t have anyone else I needed to be. I’ve found, as I’ve gotten older, that I tend to cry a lot when I watch films or hear stories that touch on the real beauty of life.

For a few minutes after the movie ended, I played around on social media and procrastinated on writing this, an obligatory blog post. Once I started, though, it clicked. I turned to Hannah during this, who’s reading ‘Good Omens’ to my right, and expressed to her, “That was a really good film.”

“Yeah, I liked it a lot.”

There’s a lot of conversation going around right now about the film that this piece of pancake art is drawn from. People are concerned that it’s going to inspire violence. They’ve got misgivings about the director’s attitude. At the same time, it’s being hailed by reviewers as a tour-de-force and a cinematic masterpiece. It’s a perfect storm of buzz and our post-truth world makes it hard to tell if it’s cynical to believe the hype is all manufactured.

But it’s just a story. And there are lots of stories. If we’re present for them, and they say anything true about what life is about, then I believe they are good stories. And if they don’t? I suppose we’ll always have “Stranger Than Fiction.”

View and bid on the auction of this piece here.

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