Is this where we are now? Intriguing essay on the general public’s mass perception of the artist.
We’ve done away with the ridiculous Outsider Saint. But we’ve replaced him with a Servant whose primary task is to make us feel good about ourselves, either through the work itself, or through the way the work (or the artist’s personal life) allows us to grandstand. She must make art that reifies our core assumptions about the world, lest it be found problematic, and thus bad. He must not leave questions unanswered or uncomfortable realities uncomforted, lest the work’s unsettling nature be taken as a formal weakness. And if she stands up for being paid for her work and/or treated with a modicum of decency, she is, of course, “difficult.”
I’ve felt a degree of this most recently after stepping down from a position this summer in which I essentially worked for free for the theater community for five years. And perhaps I am imagining it all and projecting false convictions. But it seems there has been a subtle level of rejection in the wake of that work. A feeling that the contribution was not enough. That moving on to other work now might be a failure of sorts. I was only worthy, only valuable, as long as I kept giving selflessly, with no concerns for my own artistic interests.
Art doesn’t have to be about the community, but it’s always better when it matters to them, when it has some universality in its appeal. A project I’m drafting a plan for right now is about making art ordinary. Not unlike kids putting on a show in the back yard… a neighborhood happening “marketed” door to door like politicians and restaurants that deliver that will bring people outdoors to an abandoned lot or other open space in which they can share an arts experience, a creative event, and hopefully a positive one, rather than fighting over parking spots, shoveling snow, or watching an ambulance take a neighbor/stranger away.
It’s not about me and it is, to a degree, about public service. Hopefully I will be able to find others willing to sacrifice themselves to such an experiment. 😉