The other day, I had an epiphany. A really big one. The "life changing" kind, where everything fuzzy about your life all just comes sharply into focus all at once. And now, I have a direction for myself. Well, sort of.
Anyone reading this, who might actually read my entries when I enter them, should know that I define my life very heavily by my artwork. The problem is, and was, that my artwork never really had a creative drive. I never had a muse. I never really had an artistic philosophy. I've had leanings, and under explained feelings. I've always felt that good art is more than academic. Good art should have some greater application than to merely "be art". The only guy who could adequately get away with that philosophy was Marcel DuChamp, (who I've been ruminating upon a lot lately) and that's only because HIS art served the application of rebellion. Since then, things have been falling down the hole in the art world, as contemporary art moves further and further into conceptual abstraction, labeling things "art" when they are merely stunts, while at the same time, dismissing the most populous applications of artistic techniques because their motives are commercial.
So what if art serves commercial motives?! Do you really think that the Pope commissioned Michelangelo to do the Sistine Chapel purely out of patronage? It was propaganda. It was a display of the wealth and power of The Church. The Medici's commissioning of great artists and artisans helped to solidify the dynasty's name throughout time, and they did such commissioning with a very calculative hand. This sort of patronage for propaganda continues even to this day, but God forbid the patron be Nike or McDonald's! God forbid the artist be a lowly and reprehensible illustrator or graphic designer!
It's big pile of shit. I've been looking at the art world as an artist on the outside for a long time, and the conclusion I've come to is that art, and the system that holds sway over it, is nothing more than an exercise in forensic science. Even the vaunted term "movement" is given ironically. Movements are nothing but the muscular seizures of a corpse, and they aren't recognized and studied until after the seizures have stopped. The motion must be long past. The artists must very often be dead themselves. Haring, Basquiat, Wojnarowicz; all three names being dropped more and more often, as working class hero artists of a new generation, all three dead by the end of the Eighties. The Eighties is really the newest identifiable generation in art? We can love current work now, but won't be able to study it, label it, categorize it, and otherwise lend credence to the work until the artists start dying off? Have I really chosen such a morbid profession?
Of course, in truth, I have. Academia has never been very good about studying live samples, in real time. Evidence must calm down, and settle on the bottom of the jar before a good look can be taken. And yet, art itself, as an act, doesn't work that way. It is a living organism, which can morph itself into whatever shape is needed to have an effect. Like some kind of a virus, it is at its most effective when passed from person to person through intimate contact and gestation. In other words, it works best when people look at it, think about it, and talk about it, together, as it happens.
True artists know this. The greatest of artists knew this. Some proclaimed that knowledge outright, and wrote great manifestos on how they would use their knowledge of the truth to change the being of art. Others were savvy enough to just work on changing it without proclamations. These days, though, it seems that perhaps idealism is easily turned to cynicism, and savvy is easily twisted to greed.
I feel no REAL sense of community amongst artists, especially those coming up behind the current generation. It's all so much about defining their work as their own property, not creations to be shared with the world, amongst the whole of people. It's all so much about perfecting techniques that might one day get them exhibited or hired. The world, the people, means nothing to artists these days. It's all selfish grasping. I find myself asking what art would look like if De Kooning snatched his soon-to-be-erased drawing from Rauschenburg's hand, screaming "MINE MINE MINE!" I find myself asking what art would look like if Campbell's or Brillo, or Elvis sued Warhol over his work.
Perhaps it would be better in quality, more learned, more practiced, more polished. I doubt it, though. Advertising puts the greatest value on such things as study, practice, and polish. It isn't any wonder why the "fine" arts strive to separate themselves from the "commercial" arts. Art loses it's most basic power when it's used to sway a person's decisions, rather than challenge a person's thoughts. For all of its disconnect from society as a whole, the fine art faction can at least recognize the commercial art faction's great disconnect.
We live in an age of easy technology. We live in an age in which a person can press a button or two, and his expressions are flung far across the globe, and broadcast to the reaches of space. Yet, with all of this technology, we see art, either cloistered in a crumbling ivory tower with a million men bearing magnifying glasses, or flung onto the street as a whorish shill for products and ideas that are too useless to sell themselves. We're lied to. We're told that art is for special occasions, and art must be protected and studied and explained to be appreciated. So, they just disconnect from it. People walk through the wings of great museums and galleries talking on cell phones and listening to MP3's, sitting and watching the TV's and listening to the headsets for answers on how to think about the confusing art they're looking at. Now is a time in which public television documentaries about the noisy world advertising creates can come to the conclusion justifying the fact that it drives communities apart, and people are made more introverted and selfish, and humans are now openly referred to by the economic term "consumer". After all, it's what's happening, and nobody's been successful in disputing it, so it must be what we want for ourselves.
So now, I'm left asking myself questions. Why aren't we asking more of our artists? Who should art be for? What is the best art being made, and where is it coming from? With these questions, come answers. We aren't asking more, because we've grown lazy, and left it up to everyone else, who, in turn, is also lazy, and leaving it up to us. Art should be for the people, and, whether they want it or understand it, it should be staring them in the face, unadulterated, in the very streets they walk down, rather than holed up in hidden galleries or misappropriated to sell products. The best art being made is the art that is self-aware and challenging, rather than being merely non-sequiter, flashy, and loud. It's coming, mostly, from in and around the streets, made by people who care about what they do, rather than where they think it'll take them.
So went the epipheny. I've got an application for my artwork, both physical and spiritual. I now follow in the footsteps of those who thought and think of themselves as guerillas fighting a war of attrition. Art needs its own force of propaganda these days. It's got a bad rap when it has any rap at all, and it's time for me to stick my neck out for my mistress in the best way I see fit. I guess we'll know that I've failed if I get a sweet contract with Coke, and/or end up having my work dissected and described by professors and critics ten years after my death. Until then, I'll see whether my bugling can start an adequate rally for my side.