People with the money to commission artists (or engineers, or anybody else that works creatively) often ask for things they don’t understand and which, even with the most talented, creative minds there are, and infinite time and money, can’t actually be done. They don’t know that what they’re asking for can’t be done, because they don’t understand what they’re asking for.
Rather than face the fact that they don’t understand what they’re talking about and bombastically insisting upon, they will, instead, attempt to distort reality and accuse the creative person of having a lack of talent and of being obviously inferior. They imply, often insultingly, that if this creative won’t do the work, they’ll simply find one that will. In behaving this way, they gloss over the fact that there is no creative anywhere, in the known universe, with the laws of physics that apply uniformly, throughout the cosmos, who can make what they have ignorantly asked for. They don’t care about that. They just want what they want. “Don’t present me with technical obstacles, just do it”. That’s their mantra, as if you’re just being wilfully difficult.
There’s no reasoning with them. Presenting them with hard evidence, facts and proof doesn’t work, either. Their opinion always outweighs your facts. If you were as smart as them, you’d be as rich as they are; they believe, so just shut up and listen.
We can imagine taking a trip in a time machine, but that doesn’t mean somebody can actually make one for you. In our imaginations, we can travel faster than light, but not in the real universe. I’ve heard it said (to me) that nothing is impossible; you just haven’t thought of a way of doing it yet. That may or may not be true, in the abstract, but for the immediate term, what they’re asking for is practically impossible and even more so, with the derisory budget and insufficient time often proffered to do what, to the requester, must be trivially simple and routine, because they say it is.
Ego and ambition is a funny thing. Some egos are so large that they have their own micro-climates. A powerful, relatively wealthy individual commissioning in ignorance, wanting a creative to do the impossible for next to nothing, would rather shoot everybody in the room dead, than admit to the terrible, yawning gap between their megalomaniacal, delusional specification (a.k.a. wild demands) and reality. They won’t allow themselves to look stupid, at any cost. Yet, the truth of their stupidity is abundantly obvious to all that do understand what this person is asking for. They’re stupid. They have no understanding of what they’re asking for. That’s a fact.
I used to try to guide these people toward realistic solutions, to do a large part of what they want, which was a feat in itself, rather than provide everything they asked for (because it wasn’t possible). I learnt that this tactic is futile. They will look at your outstanding creation, something that perhaps has never been done before and which required extreme skill, application, sacrifice, sweat, stress and talent to produce, at the price they want to pay and in the time they allowed, and adjudicate it as wanting. They’re not satisfied. They’re not happy. They asked for something else, but all you gave them was this. The fact that it might be amazing only confirms, in their minds, that you were holding out on them, all along and denying them the equally amazing (but impossible) thing they asked for.
There is no pleasing the ignorant.
My advice, when confronted with an ignorant commission, which clearly isn’t grounded in facts, objective reality or reason, is to run, not walk, to the nearest exit. The commission will only damage you and your professional, artistic reputation and they won’t accept what you produce, no matter how good it is, because it isn’t the thing they stamped their feet to have, which they demanded in a flight of sheer tantrum. They might not even pay you and certainly won’t pay you well enough to make it worth the grief you will encounter. Let them find another creative to do their bidding.
We live in a time when the wealthy are increasingly unaware of how technology works or even what it takes to create something of artistic merit, from nothing. Consequently, their demands are growing in their absurdity and impossibility. It’s a combustible mix, in Carl Sagan’s prophetic words, that is liable to blow up in our faces. For creative people, it frequently already does.
You’re far better off making nothing, than trying to create a Quixotic hallucination that occurred in the irrational mind of somebody psychotic, but infinitely ambitious, who happens to have an open cheque book. Sure, they can dream, but you don’t have to be the creative artist scourged in order to try to bring into existence something that can never be made manifest. I’d rather have my teeth drilled by a trainee dentist, without anaesthetic.
The old adage applies, when it comes to ignorant commissions, to create complex impossibilities, demanded by egotistical maniacs: You can’t teach a pig to sing. It can’t be done and it annoys the pig.
Leave them to their mania.