Friday, November 7, 2008

The State of our Arts

Over the last few months I've seen a lot of 'Art': film, theatre, paintings, advertising, and almost none of it has moved me in any way. It isn't that the art was bad, it is simply that the 'Art' was unfulfilling. Art, at least at its best, holds a mirror up to the world and allows us to see that the emperor isn't wearing any clothes. It warms our heart, chills our soul, and ultimately brings us closer together making us more human. Somewhere in this instant society we have lost the purpose behind Art. We now only create small letter 'a' art. This art simply access our pleasure center, jerks us off, and then makes us pay ten dollars for its time. I have to wonder when Art changed to art and who is to blame. I am not saying that some good Art isn't being made, but if an Artist masturbates in the forest and there is no one around to see it, is it Art? Somewhere along the way 'Art for Arts sake' lost its audience and then the artists took over.

Before I go much further let me define artist. An artist is someone who attempts to create Art without actually understanding any of the theory behind what they are doing. The understand the tools of the trade and are actually extremely competent in utilizing them, but they do not know why this makes an audience feel a certain way. The result of this is audience experiences the thrill of art without actually gaining any of the deeper insight of Art.

The question that then needs to be answered is what do we do now. This is up for debate, and I will offer my thoughts in a moment, but first let me say what we must not do. We cannot blame the audience. It has never been the audiences mandate to dictate Art. Instead, it is the Artists responsibility to bring the audience into the world of ideas that they wish to discuss. To often have I been to shows where this simple fact is forgotten. I believe that many Artists feel that as soon as an audience walks into a room they sign a contract saying the Artist can do whatever he or she wants. This is wrong. As the audience beings to experience the Art before them the contract begins to be drawn up. In short, the Artist needs to prove their worth before the contract is signed. The contract essentially stipulates the rules of the world for the duration of the work. As long as the rules are followed the audience will follow the Artist anywhere he or she wishes to take them. This is where the true Art takes place.

I'm sure some people will argue that this approach to Art slows the avant guard as it does not allow for Artists to take giant leaps forward with extreme risks. I disagree entirely. I think this approach allows more people access to the world of Art, and thus widens the avant guard by stretching it laterally as well as forward, creating a higher overall area of Art. To insist that the avant guard be inhabited by a select few is not only elitist but also seems to defeat the overarching goals of Art to hold a minor up to the world.

Art is a unique form in that is it not only how we make it but also why we chose to make it. In the end, both of these ideas need to be working in harmony for it to be successful. Success is measured by each person individually, but if the goal of Art is to help change the world then it is much more likely to reach that goal if it plays to a full house.