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asleep at mal 9/09
a post on art of various forms 
10/13/09 19:38
asleep at mal 9/09
so posts from people who create art of various types that i enjoy have had me thinking a lot about where the artist in america stands in today's world

in particular, an exchange with n8zilla (reposted w/ permission - thanks!)

N8: art is a lot like music... some of it is profoundly amazing, a whole lot more of it is crap. no one feels bad for putting down music which they think sucks... it's too bad the art world establishment has made having an opinion other than theirs into such a bad thing... i really believe it's the reason most people see art as some strange, esoteric thing that doesn't speak to them. if you don't like the music on the radio, you change the station (or pop in a CD of something good)... looking at art should be the same way.

ME: agreed; i think the other problem with how people approach art at least in the US is that we don't teach kids about or expose them to art in the same way that we do music; art is not a part of daily life like music is

ramble about growing up exposed to lots of art, and how lucky i was ...

but anyway - the market for art that doesn't match what the art world is promoting this week is unfortunately narrow, in a large part because people are intimidated by art, afraid to form their own opinions and unable to think critically about the work being viewed - but we're seeing many of the same problems with performed artforms - symphony, opera, theatre, ballet, etc - once again, not being exposed to them and taught to think about art in its many forms has lead to a dumber audience, and one which is often unwilling to try new things or unable to find a path to enjoying what they are seeing/hearing/etc

and the continued budget crunches and no child left behind mandates at our schools means that art education is getting worse, not better - which is a bad thing for the future - not just of the arts but in general - if the next generation doesn't learn how to be creative and how to think for themselves we as a nation are pretty well doomed

when coupled with the ongoing furor over various artists asking their fans to directly support their work (through donation sponsored writing a la http://shadesong.livejournal.com/tag/wind+tunnel+dreams) or greygirlbeast's monthly Sirenia Digest (which is awesome; you should absolutely subscribe if you like creepy, sometimes erotic, always beautiful short stories) or amanda fucking palmer (go read her posts http://blog.amandapalmer.net/post/200582690/why-i-am-not-afraid-to-take-your-money-by-amanda and http://blog.amandapalmer.net/post/212321239/virtual-crowdsurfing) or the non-traditional distribution and funding of "film" projects such as doctor horrible and the guild or any of a million other examples

anyway - it seems to me that there are two major issues

the first being the lack of any meaningful exposure to art in many of its forms in our education system and the ongoing battle against art (that is obscene in my eyes; pull funding from the arts council) that seems to continue even as our society has access to unlimited amounts of pornography on the web and elsewhere

the second being the behavior of big hollywood, music lables, theatre and concert venues, etc - they take a huge percentage of the earnings (so the artist earns pennies on each sale) or charge exhorbitant fees (raising the cost of the ticket to see a live performance beyond affordable)

and if the artist can't earn enough money to continue to produce art, or if the family can't afford tickets to see a play or go to the symphony or the monet exhibit at the met, or if the dance company goes dark because the grants supporting them were pulled with thousands of others when our government voted to de-fund the arts programs, i think we all lose both individually and as a society
(Deleted comment)
10/14/09 4:23 (UTC)
i think that is probably true for children of our generation (at least in urban areas - not so sure about the really rural ones even in the 80's though)... but younger kids, particularly those just starting school now, get so much less of that exposure (art class once a month if they're lucky?), let alone anything teaching them how to appreciate art

but i agree with you in that exposure does not equal the ability to appreciate art, and that is something that we are probably not teaching anywhere except in private/charter schools, specialty programs and college classes - and developing a critical eye/ear is something we need to learn and to teach to everyone, and to start much younger than we do now (critical thinking and creative thinking seem to be pushed further out from our school's curriculums every day)
10/14/09 4:59 (UTC)
the idea of elitism is a tough one for me - i think the fine art community is sometimes rank with elitism, and i know that looking back on some of my favorite artists of the 80's the work that still hits hardest was often ignored by the "art world" or put down at the time, and some of the best theatre i've ever seen was on a tiny stage at umbc and ran for three weekends to almost no audience

otoh, there is also the fact that everyone feels qualified to judge film and television and pop music because we're exposed to it continually - and that results in really good films that never get wide distribution because hollywood doesn't think they'll sell (and instead we get transformers or another jason movie), and crap tv shows that never seem to get cancelled

and i'm aware that it's not just films and tv that are playing to the lowest common denominator - one of the artists i hated in the gallery area where n8 was showing his work was http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Todd_Goldman ($10,000 for paintings based off a mass market t-shirt?!), and dan brown's new mess is selling like mad...

so somewhere we've pretty much failed to instill a love of art, music, dance, performance, the written word... nor have we cultivated the ability to think deeper than "hey that's cute" or "hahaha he's toast" or "ewww; that's gross and we need to ban that book"
10/14/09 5:38 (UTC)
one place where fine art has really been let down has been people who look at what folks like Picasso and Pollock did without the associated understanding of why and how they did what they did, and decide that they can just be sloppy or not bother too much to hone their skills and expect people to bow down to the obvious greatness of their creations.

making art is a serious investment in learning how to see, and learning how to most perfectly capture your vision with the materials you choose. when people forget that, when they treat art making as something that is infinitely more about how great their mind is than how well they can use their chosen medium (and get paid well for their laziness); it doesn't surprise me at all that a large number of people would be turned off to the whole thing.

i blame late modernism and the accepted academic movements that followed almost as much as i blame a lack of art classes. (of course, people who encountered art in the less-stratified environment of a typical art class might at least become interested enough to seek out art that didn't insult them...)

the thing that kills me is that the people who paved the roads for the mediocre, self important Art World denizens of today were folks who faced withering ridicule for doing something different than what was the accepted style of the art world of their time.
10/14/09 5:50 (UTC) - also
modernism's all important focus on novelty of mark making as the utmost important factor in artistic value also probably doesn't help people who never went to art school to understand, appreciate, or even enjoy a lot of what counts as approved Fine Art...

i mean, which matters more: whether someone did something in an utterly new way or whether someone did something that looks cool? i use oil paint with brushes on canvas to make pictures... is what i do worth less because people have made images that way, before? that seems like a ridiculous conclusion to me, and i *did* go to art school.

i'm not saying that people shouldn't care about making unique images (they should... why bother speaking if you're going to just use someone else's words?). it does seem that the Art World has probably taken things to extremes, in this regard, by denying the validity of "old" techniques...
10/14/09 6:42 (UTC) - Re: also
i think you've hit the nail on the head with regard to fine art in many ways; although i don't think art school is required to appreciate modern art, i do find that a basic understanding of art history or a friend who's willing to take the time to give context helps (and i suspect you've probably read this, but i loved kirk varnadoe's a fine disreagard as a view of modern art - although it's totally out of date now that we're past modernism, his writing gave me that perspective i needed to actually get it)

and the lack of appreciation for traditional techniques isn't limited to fine art; look at photography and film and music - in some ways this may sound like a bit of a throwback, but in the digitalization of these media it sometimes seems like we're losing part of the hands-on aspects of creating and we're also losing some of the depth - of sound, of an image in creating in these new mediums (a prime example for me of something that lost when translated from film to dvd is the peter greenaway film "the cook, the thief, his wife and her lover - i saw it 3 or 4 times in a month when it came out in theatres because the cinematography and his use of color was so incredible; but i've watched it on dvd and the richness is gone, even on a hi-def widescreen monstrosity)

i think one of the things i miss most about art school was having unlimited access to the film/photography/printmaking labs and being able to create (albiet haltingly and often without the final result being what i wanted) a finished piece solely by the work of my own hands and eyes; no machines more complicated than an enlarger or a litho machine or a film editor - and that machinery was always controlled (or not) by my hands and eyes - if i couldn't manage to get the perfect print or photo it was because i lacked the skills, and there was no computer program to fix my mistakes

it's not that i'm knocking the digital forms as bad, just trying to work out in my own head how to reconcile the differences in process and how that impacts the end result - and wondering if the new media aren't sometimes given a bit too much power over the old and what the next new media will be (i am very intrigued by the three-d printers that we're starting to see works from, but i don't think right now that is the next big thing) - and art movements? i lost track when i graduated film school in 1988 - where are we now? post post-modernism? so much of the current stuff i see getting press fails for me (conceptual art is interesting in theory, but in practice? i'm not getting it most of the time)
10/15/09 2:28 (UTC) - Re: also
i am so looking forward to the day when a 3D printer can be bought for the price of a high end 2 D printer, today... but that's a whole 'nother discussion (will people stop selling things and just sell "recipes" that can be printed? etc)

i hate reproducing my work. hate it. it never looks right. i can spend hours color correcting a photo, and it *still* won't look right... pigments suspended in linseed oil can not be adequately represented any other way. even high-end print reproductions fail. i'm hoping that once the novelty of digital reproduction wears off, people will see that it's not the answer for everything. painting, live performance and film still have a valid place.

i'm not sure what they cal the current -ism. i think its a bit like how we never seemed to settle on a name for this decade... the ____ies. i've actually paid much less attention to the "serious" NYC centered art world since moving here... the "underground" is so much more fun (well, except when people start ripping each other off).