Do artists have a responsibility to speak out?

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N.Beltov N.Beltov's picture

Well, we don't have to stick to pop music anyway. And it's probably a good idea not to ... especially if the thread gets into a pissing match about artistic taste. That's not the point.

6079_Smith_W

N.Beltov wrote:

Dylan's song about "Serving Someone" has everything to do with religion and bugger all to do with social activism. It's about antipathy to social activism, in fact, and is an expression of religious "pride". That's why John Lennon mocked it so mercilessly - Lennon was, after all, an atheist (and was eventually murdered by a Christian fundamentalist) . Dylan's song is about abandoning the struggle for social justice and "finding Jesus" instead.

I'm not challenging you, because that is clearly what you hear, and that may indeed have been his intent (though I wouldn't be so sure). But the fact is it doesn't matter because, as I said, art speaks differently to each of us.

That is part of the reason why I think the artist isn't 100% important. Once the work is out of the bag he or she doesn't actually control it any more, and there is plenty of art that has been interpreted in a way differently than what the artist intended.

If I listen to that song and hear a direct message that we cannot avoid the choice to do something productive with our lives then that is what I hear, and it's not anyone's business to tell me otherwise. You hear what you hear and I respect that.

ebodyknows ebodyknows's picture

the point with the public enemy reference that you are avoiding is summed up in this line

"Great people don't ask comedians actors and entertainers to lead. Great people produce what we need."

Which I believe is influenced by Dylan(see support material above).

Dylan has also stated he did things to alienate his audience because he didn't want to be the messiah for activists.  There's many better examples in dylans output which you could point to as alienating and deviating from social justice issues.  Picking on gotta serve somebody is petty and misguided.

It's not a matter of taste. It's a matter of being aware of cause and effect relationships and accepting that history did not stop in the 60's (I know that's a lot to ask of the babble community)

ebodyknows ebodyknows's picture

6079_Smith_W wrote:

I'm not challenging you, because that is clearly what you hear, and that may indeed have been his intent (though I wouldn't be so sure). But the fact is it doesn't matter because, as I said, art speaks differently to each of us.

 

Has anyone thought about the importance of ambiguity and the 'fool' archetype in 'speak out art?

  In the spirit of St-Jean-Baptiste celebrations lets take a quick field trip to quebec.

The popular Felix leclerc has the fool in his book 'le fou de l'ile' say:

"Dans le monde qu'il fera... mais allez donc faire un monde ! N'importe,
mourir à une tâche irréalisable est préférable à vivre sans heurt comme un incliné."

"In the world he will make...oh, but to make a world! Doesn't matter, to die at a impossible task is better that to live without conflict like a couch potato" (Anyone more competent want to improve the translation?)

Though Felix often speaks clearly to a particular point of view the specifics are often omitted and the audience is left to apply the 'message' to their own situation. The distinction between that and an artistic voice speaking from an ambiguous point of view reflects an important politically laden decision on the part of the artist.

"whether as writer or composer, Félix Leclerc is a moralist.' In his book Félix Leclerc, Luc Bérimont writes: 'Leclerc's character is rich, complex, beyond grasp."

In the case of the 'le fou de l'ile' the 'thing that flies'  the fools raison d'etre is a symbolic object upon which the reader can replace with details relevant to their own life.  The message is the details are not so important as the idea that one should not give up in that which they believe. 

The interesting thing about him as an outspoken artist is that Multiple parks, roads and schools in Quebec that have been named in his honour. The Félix Awards, given to Quebec recording artists, are named after him. In 2000, the Government of Canada honored him with his image on a postage stamp.). Does woody get that kind of formalized respect? Any other political canadian artists?

"Félix Leclerc espoused the ideals of French-Canadian patriotism even before the Quiet Revolution. From the mid-1950s to the end of the 1960s, several songs ('Tirelou,' 'Tu te lèveras tôt,' 'Les Rogations,' 'Le père,' 'Richesses,' etc.) predicted a radicalization of political positions."

What do you think that says about the importance of having a culture sympathetic to the ideals/politics being expressed?

"I'm alone on my team
The people round here aren't really violent
because they have meat under there teeth
and a full stomach hasn't any rage."

N.Beltov N.Beltov's picture

It's also about those, like many babblers, who think, to paraphrase Socrates,  that the politically unexamined life is not worth living. I mean those who make it their business to try and convince the artist everywhere (even the one inside them) to take what Georgi Plekhanov called the "utilitarian" view and thereby nurture that joyful eagerness of taking part in social strife and taking "sides" in the issues of the day that matter.

It might be the subject chosen, the (new) form used to convey the artistic images, etc., or simply public statements and expressions of solidarity with the oppressed. Artists help to inspire, provide motivation, and so on. In any fundamental socio-political change an alternative artistic vision or visions is necessary to overcome/battle the artistic orthodoxy of the status quo.

E.P.Houle

ebodyknows #54, Thanks for that. And juxtapositioned next to Plekhanov and Woody.

 

N.Beltov N.Beltov's picture

On the Death of José Saramago

PCP Secretariat wrote:
... José Saramago's intellectual, artistic, human, and civic stature makes him a major figure in our history.

His vast, remarkable, and unique literary work -- which was recognized through the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1998 -- will remain a milestone in the History of Portuguese Literature, in which his is one of the most prominent names.

José Saramago helped to build the April 1974 Revolution as an active participant in the resistance to fascism. He continued this activity after the Day of Liberation with his engagement in the revolutionary process that profoundly transformed our country for the better, creating a democracy that had as its prime reference the defense of the interests of the workers, of the people, and of the country.

José Saramago was a member of the Portuguese Communist Party since 1969 and his death represents a loss for the entire Communist Party collective -- for the Party which he chose as his own until his final days.

Lots of babblers will, no doubt, spit upon Saramago's Communist connections. However, no one, not even the most pathological anti-Communist, can deny that the great author was able to combine successfully his great artistic work with participation in the resistance to fascism in Portugal and the development of Portuguese democracy.

A great artist can, and should, speak out. And it's hard not to notice the contrast with Canadian author Margaret Atwood.

 

 

6079_Smith_W

@ N.Beltov

With respect, I don't think the fact Atwood is offside from you on one issue changes the fact she is a politically outspoken and active person.

Atwood made an informed decision to not support a cultural boycott, not surprising given her political work with PEN around censorship. Whether one agrees with her decision or not it certainly doesn't erase the many issues (environmental, political, feminist and free-speech) on which she is politically active and does speak out and write.

I had intended to speak the question here; guess this is a good time. I think artists have the same obligation as the rest of us to make the world a better place and help others. And like the rest of us, they have the right to decide where they want to put their energy. If they want to create political art, speak out, give financial support, or do political work, great. But they don't have to do all of these things, and they don't have to do any of them if they don't want to. And they get to choose what they support, not anyone else. I am happy to see any artist speak out or create a work in support of a cause I support. But if that support isn't there it's not my place to barge onto someone else's stage and demand it just because that person has an audience I do not.

Weighing artists based on their politics can create some messy dilemmas. I asked already in another thread what I should do about U2, with whom I agree on their support for Africa, but disagree WRT copyright. And just as I wouldn't rush out and buy work I dislike just because of the artist's politics, I wouldn't automatically turn away from someone's work because his or her politics are different than mine, or because s/he won't buy my girl scout cookies.

 

N.Beltov N.Beltov's picture

If you support peaceful political struggle, and not recourse to violence, then the BDS campaign on Israel is critical. And the role of artists is quite important in this. It helps to isolate that barbarous, genocidal Israeli regime. Why? Because Israel banks on "useful idiots" who treat cultural and artistic matters as somehow "separate" from other aspects of social life.

Like you do.

Weighing artists on the basis of their politics, on the philosophical and social views that are reflected in their artistic activity, is precisely the RIGHT thing to do. What a work of art is about is what matters most of all.

Of couse, if someone turns that into the view that politics is ALL that matters, then their own attitude will narrow their appreciation of truly great art. Edited to add: Here is an example so you know that I am not talking out of my ass. Honoré de Balzac was a great French bourgeois writer. The bourgeois were his canvas. Realism was his great artistic innovation. Yet Balzac was a extreme conservative - a Royalist. If I ONLY used political views to evaluate an artist's work ... well then, I would never get to know the favourite writer of Fred Engels.

There are artists and there are artists. Lots of Canadian artists - take poets and musicians for example - languish in semi-poverty. It would be a kind of cruelty to expect such artists to make a bigger sacrifice than the ordinary Joe. This doesn't apply to the well off artists, like M Atwood,  who can take half a mill from the institutions of a racist regime and then blather about it afterwards like she's pure as driven snow. ha ha. We on the left did not fall off the turnip truck yesterday.

People who study poetry have been treated to, for years, the artistic and ideological views of a couple of fascists. I mean Ezra Pound and (incipient fascist) Thomas Stearns Eliot. I've always found this disgusting. There is no getting away from an artist's views. They're either hidden or not.

I put great artists, as Atwood is, on the same level of expectation as, say, a great scientist. I expect the latter not to do work that harms people.

And by helping the Israeli regime legitimize itself, there is another useful idiot who is helping to harm the Palestinians.

6079_Smith_W

N.Beltov wrote:

Like you do.

In the sense I recognize someone's right to make her own decision on an issue, even if I find it disappointing, and I can look at the rest of her work at face value and see her as an ally in other things, yes. That's how I see it.

And while we are trying artists for their fascist sympathies, let's not forget those who made art which is truly beautiful, like Salvador Dali, or whose situations were very complicated, like Wilhelm Furtwaengler or Hans Albers. You might know what you would do in their position. Me, I'd have to actually be in their shoes before I could say for sure.

(Edit)

Read your edit, N. Beltov. Yes, I am glad we agree on that. I won't be tossing my Rolling Stones albums either just because Mick voted for  Maggie Thatcher.

 

 

milo204

some of my fav. lyrics:

propagandhi: a peoples history of the world.

"At some turning point in history,

some fuckface recognized that knowledge tends to democratize cultures and societies
so the only thing to do was monopolize and confine it to priests,
clerics and elites (the rest resigned to serve),
cuz if the rabble heard the truth they'd organize against the power,
privilege and wealth hoarded by the few- for no one else.
And did it occur to you that it's almost exactly the same today?
And so if our schools won't teach us,
we'll have to teach ourselves to analyze and understand the systems of thought-control.
And share it with each other,
never sayed by brass rings or the threat of penalty.
I'll promise you- you promise me-
not to sell each other out to murderers, to thieves...
who've manufactured our delusion that you and me participate meaningfully
in the process of running our own lives.
Yeah, you can vote however the fuck you want,
but power still calls all the shots.
And believe it or not, even if (real) democracy broke loose,
power could/would just "make the economy scream" until we vote responsibly."

 

and of course, from the same record:

"Why don't we all strap bombs to our chests and ride our bikes to the next G-7 picnic?

It seems easier with every clock tick.
But whose will would that represent?
Mine? Yours? The rank-and-file's?
Or better yet: the Government's?
But I don't want to catalyze or synthesize the second Final Solution.
I don't want to be the Steve Smith of the Revolution.
Do you see the analogy?
We're the Oilers. The World Bank- the Flames!
And just 2 minutes remain in the 7th game of the best of 7 series!
Yeah, Jesus saves! Gretzky scores! The workers slave.
The rich get more. One wrong move and we risk the cup.
So play The Man, not the puck.
Why don't we plant a mechanic virus and erase the memory of the machines
that maintain this capitalist dynasty?
And yes, I recognize the irony that the very system I oppose affords me the luxury
of biting the hand that feeds.
But that's exactly why priviledged fucks like me should feel obliged to whine
and kick and scream- until everyone has everything they need."

N.Beltov N.Beltov's picture

That's interesting in a political context: " Play the man, not the puck." The puck is ideology, the superstructure. The man is the base, the foundation.

That's a keeper. (Even if it could be improved by being gender neutral. )

Fotheringay-Phipps

Can't believe I'm the first to drop this into the conversation, but here goes:

"Out of arguments with others we make rhetoric. Out of arguments with ourselves we make poetry." W B Yeats

N.Beltov N.Beltov's picture

I wonder if Yeats wasn't thinking of some argument about politics with Maud Gonne that he lost. Like, maybe an argument about artist involvement in social and political life?

I understand they eventually made some poetry together. heh.

N.Beltov N.Beltov's picture

I'm interested in moving beyond what I view as the odious actions of a well known Canadian author. Here is a quote from a self-described Marxist, of some kind, about "revolutionary" literature.

This too is worth discussing.

The Radical Novel Reconsidered.

Interviewer: "In your view, what's the role of literature in the struggle for revolutionary socialism in the United States and internationally?"

Alan Wald wrote:
Well, I don't think it's useful to talk of one particular "role," since literature performs so many social functions. The important thing is to take a broad and non-sectarian view of the full range of left-wing experiences and "positions," something we can afford to do now that so much of the former Communist, Maoist and Trotskyist movements have opened up and are engaging in regroupment processes. Clearly Trotsky had a point when he argued in LITERATURE AND REVOLUTION that literature always lags behind social reality and is a poor guide to the future. On the other hand, the is a legitimate tradition of Marxists who see literature as prophetic in its peneration to fundamental issues in life, and, of course, literature is often the repository of utopian hopes for a future egalitarian society. As I emphasized in answering the first question, Left literature can also record the powerful as well as painful experiences of our predecessors, enabling revolutionaries of the present to enrich their consciousnesses. I personally believe that there is a tremendous amount of insight into the radical personality to be gleaned by Polonsky's THE WORLD ABOVE and Saxton's THE GREAT MIDLAND--including the matters of romantic and sexual relations. I also have found tremendous inspiration for anti-racist commitment in Maund's THE BIG BOXCAR and Sanford's THE PEOPLE FROM HEAVEN. From Bonosky's BURNING VALLEY I saw for the first time the potential for a Catholic commitment to become the site of revolutionary politics. But one thing of which I am definitely skeptical is the whole tradition of Marxist parties trying to "lead" a cultural movement, especially by encouraging the creation of a "revolutionary" literature. Whatever one's intentions at the outset, this leads too often to judging literature by immediate political line or by interpretations of mainly one feature of the writing (ignoring the ambiguities and contradictions of the reception process). In my view, James T. Farrell's A NOTE ON LITERARY CRITICISM remains a useful beginning guide to the problems in this area, even though Farrell, writing in the heat of the 1930s, is a bit overpolemical (and satirical) in his characterizations of various positions.

 

6079_Smith_W

@ N. Beltov

Great quote, thanks.

I'm not familiar with Trotsky's statement, but I presume the "lagging behind/prophetic" dynamic actually refers to art which is either reactionary and sentimental or which calls for social change. After all, if we have art which is 400, 1000 and 2500 years old yet still speaks to modern politics and society, there isn't too much which we have never seen before. There is no need for actual prophecy.

And "prophecy" as he calls it is kind of irrelevant if it doesn't actually speak to what is going on right now. 1984 may seem like a futuristic novel, but everything in it - even the devolution of English into Newspeak - was something going on at the time Orwell wrote it.

But Wald is right. Politicians, power brokers and committees shouldn't even bother trying to get into business they know nothing about. There are a great many artists who manage to make powerful, and even complex political and social statements. But unless you know enough to speak to the people instead of lecturing them, forget it. Someone who only sees dogma and philosophy, and sacrifices art (like Ayn Rand or de Sade)  might interest scholars, but so far as the general public is concerned they produce work which is more talked about than read.

 

ebodyknows ebodyknows's picture

"It is naive and unhealthy to consider the men and things of history through the magnifying glass of fame, which lends them qualities beyond the reach of clever academic monkey tricks, although such qualities come automatically when man obeys the deep necessities of being -- when he elects to become an new man in a new age (the definition of any man, of any time)"

Was listening to Jules Feiffer on the radio yesterday talking about how he had to become famous in order to be able to speak out.    Picasso was mentioned for guernica but let's go to an earlier point in his career  Les Demoiselles d'Avignon which was considered 'revolutionary and controversial' painted in 1907 was not shown to the public till 1916.  We've talked a lot about the responsibility of the artist but we've only glanced over the responsibility of the audience.  It is imperitive that the culture supports the the kind of art which match their ideals.  This correlation is important both in the message of the art(implicit or explicit) and the modes by which the art is created.  Culture and it's production is too finely intertwined into the meaning of our everyday actions and activities for us to even consider comprimises. The whole worth of your identity depends upon it.  Just a brief walk around OCAD is enough to let you know there is no lack of aspiring politically engaged culture makers out there(I'm sure this is typic of art school around the country) yet browsing through the culture section of babble I can't help but be overwhelmed with post after post of mindless cultural drivel.

 

"Make way for magic! Make way for objective mysteries! Make way for love! Make way for necessities!"

Cultural artifacts are not enough. Though I agree they can be important for inspiration and sharing of ideas at some point you have to actually live the culture.  I think artists like Michael Franti deserve a good deal of respect for putting what in the case of most popular artists would be nothing more than eclogue into reality.  Simple symbolic commitments like walking around with no shoes have deep cultural significance.  I really do find it incredible that so many self styled leftist are willing to accept cultural heros handed down to them from capitalist corporations.  The cultural significance of someone like ani difranco refusing record deals from major labels is infinite.

"The reign of hydra-headed fear has ended.
In the wild hope of effacing its memory, I enumerate:
fear of facing prejudice -- fear of public opinion -- of persecutions -- of general disapproval;
fear of being alone, without the God and the society which isolate you anyway;
fear of oneself -- of one's brother -- of poverty;fear of the established order -- or ridiculous justice;
fear of new relationships;
fear of the superrational;
fear of necessities;
fear of floodgates opening on one's faith in man -- on the society of the future;
fear of forces able to release transforming love;
blue fear -- red fear -- white fear; links in our shackles."

All the above quotes are from Le refus global (I modified the translation on parts i thought were awkward.) Le refus global was an manifesto signed by a group of artist(mostly young) standing together.  In contrast to the Felix Leclerc example(who btw wrote 'barefoot in the dawn') in a previous post Quebec society didn't accept their anti-religous message very easily, though it's influences are certainly recognized now.  For the artists this meant being uprooted, losing careers, giving children up for adoption, personal relationships breaking down. A documentary was made by a child of one of the artists 50 years later in which she interviews her shzitophrenic brother who was seperated from her at the age of 3 and whom currently lives in a shelter. She asks him to imagine what a better world would look like and he talks about living as a family.

BTW Arlo guthrie and pete seger were on the radio talking about protest music yesterday too in which some brief uncertainty is expressed about just who they have made to think with their music, the worth of it all and the artist and audience being all mixed up in it together in between responding to questions with pre-fabricated political statments we've all heard a million times.

"Condemned by doubt, immobile and timorous; I am like my people, undecisive and a dreamer; I speak to whoever will listen of my fictive country; The heart full of vertigo and consumed by fear."

We don't need the artists to speak out.  We need to evolve towards a culture that doesn't require the artist to become these famous super-human mythological figures who's lives we admire.  We need to start living the culture we want to have!

 

 

N.Beltov N.Beltov's picture

In the meantime, let artists speak out. Get out of the way if you can't lend a hand. Ha!

ebodyknows ebodyknows's picture

N.Beltov wrote:

In the meantime, let artists speak out. Get out of the way if you can't lend a hand. Ha!

okay, let them hope the audience is a good one, without any fear.

 

"Fame is proof that people are gullible."

 

ebodyknows ebodyknows's picture

...

N.Beltov N.Beltov's picture

An article by a woman who was Dylan's muse at a critical time both for American culture and music as well as Dylan's own career might be an interesting read ...

Suze Rotolo and Bob Dylan's Left Period

Gerald Meyer wrote:
This period of Dylan's career was critically important to American popular culture; during this time, Dylan composed a series of exquisite, politically engaged songs based on a folk music movement identified with the American Left. It concluded with his controversial adoption of more popular, depoliticized modes of music performed on amplified instruments in place of the traditional acoustic instruments.

... and foreshadowed his later musical odes to religion one of which was rightly mocked, mercilessly, by the late John Lennon.

 

trippie

Yes, artists have a responcibility to reflect life honestly. At all times an artist is using their media to communicate.

What should they say in this communication with others? They could blather on in ignorance or they could be intelligent.

 

Timebandit Timebandit's picture

Reflect life honestly?  What if I prefer to just make stuff up?  Are you telling me I can't?  Oh, well then, best go scrap that screenplay...  Some dude says it's not true to life...

Get a grip.  We communicate, certainly.  But whether that communication takes the form of right, left, honest, dishonest, original, conventional, whatever - is up to the individual.  We do not have any such "responsibility". 

It's nice when artists reflect your own beliefs and politics, but they're under no obligation to you or anybody else to do so.  These arguments only make sense when artists agree with you.  What about the ones who don't?

Ken Burch Ken Burch's picture

Could the mods delete the "normal 0 false false false" thing from my post?  I can't figure out how to remove it.

6079_Smith_W

@ Ken Burch

You should be able to hit "edit" and go in and change it.

Ken Burch Ken Burch's picture

I did, several times, and it kept coming back.

Ken Burch Ken Burch's picture

Here's three quotes I'd like to post regarding this discussion:

Two from James Connolly

I. "No revolutionary movement is complete without its poetical expression. If such a movement has caught hold of the imagination of the masses, they will seek a vent in song for the aspirations, the fears and hopes, the loves and hatreds engendered by the struggle. Until the movement is marked by the joyous, defiant, singing of revolutionary songs, it lacks one of the most distinct marks of a popular revolutionary movement; it is a dogma of a few, and not the faith of the multitude".

II. “Just as it is true that a stream cannot rise above its source, so it is true that a national literature cannot rise above the moral level of the social conditions of the people from whom it derives its inspiration.”

And one from Brecht: “Art is not a mirror held up to reality, but a hammer with which to shape it.”

Just wanted to put these out there for anybody's comments, because they seem to be appropriate to this discussion.

 

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

Fixed @#74

Ken, if you paste text from Word or Explorer it has all sorts of junk tags that get imported along with it. To delete them, you have to view HTML code (click the HTML button in the babble comment box). Then you'll see all the garbage Microsoft puts on its clipboard excerpts, frustrating to an infinite degree.

ebodyknows ebodyknows's picture

Ken Burch wrote:

 

II. “Just as it is true that a stream cannot rise above its source, so it is true that a national literature cannot rise above the moral level of the social conditions of the people from whom it derives its inspiration.”

Nice set of quotes Ken.  It should be obvious from the sentiments I've been trying to express that I relate most to the 2nd quote. 

I'd change the metaphor a bit though. To me the culture is like the ecosystem and and piece of art is but a fish in a river.  Any artists work is fed, nourished and shaped by its context.  Though an artist work may speak against the current of his or her culture they still have to acknoledge the realities surrounding them.

If true cultural revolutions exist they are rare.  You can with great force cause a river to change directions but usually the river still wants to maintain it's old behaviour.  Even the catholic church had to work with pagan traditions to get their message across.

 

Caissa

Are you an artist speaking out against Football?

ebodyknows ebodyknows's picture

Does it make any sense for me to protest football thread?

I mean as far as issues go it's small potatoes, is really worth getting banned over?  On the other hand I've always been a person of principle(I even eat Jerusalem artichokes.).  Weather or not my point of view is right I do feel strongly about it, but my life would probably be easier if I just confined myself to this thread and babbled on about the intricacies of bob dylans career.  There certainly isn't a culture that will support the kind of culture my art is trying to hammer out...at least I could make some friends and laugh a little more if I accepted that.

ebodyknows ebodyknows's picture

Caissa wrote:

Are you an artist speaking out against Football?

I'm an artist speaking out against the musique savant.

Caissa

Would you like to elaborate on your objections to others discussing Football on Babble?

ebodyknows ebodyknows's picture

I've outlined my stance against the musique savant in the various football threads starting with 'the greatest show on earth' thread.

Caissa

This seems to have been your first foray into the thread you mention above:

 

so why are ya'll so into a bunch of guys running around a field(that's been stripped of all flowers and everything else i consider interesting about fields) and kicking a petro-chemical product?

 ETA: Sorry that was your second. I'll look at your first after the penalty kicks.

ETAA: Okay so I read your opposition to the World Cup. What I'd like to know is what is your opposition to us discussing the World Cup?

ebodyknows ebodyknows's picture

 

Caissa wrote:

ETAA: Okay so I read your opposition to the World Cup. What I'd like to know is what is your opposition to us discussing the World Cup?

"Homelessness and Poverty require innovative response.

Every person carries stories, perspectives and abilities that can effect personal and social change.

All people are creative and need the chance to tell or retell stories in whatever way we want to tell or retell them. We are all a part of making history regardless of what our life situations indicate....

....It’s easier to make decisions when your imagination is awake. Working in the arts increases self-esteem, strengthens resilience and invigorates a desire to learn more.

The arts offer neutral and accessible territory that breaks down barriers and gets us to work together. A sense of voice in community elicits civic participation and reduces isolation."

This is just one example of so many where people are working hard to create a culture created by and for the people. 

It's forkin' hard to be culture makers that want to create a culture outside of the dominate culture.  The dominate culture that isolates, feeds us with fear, fills us with ridiculous unpractical dreams of gluttonous glamour and teaches us to accept feeding our soul with mass produced/low nutritional value junk.

 

'The funny thing about many calls to be more tolerant: the onus so often falls on the marginalized to tolerate what they have to tolerate every day in the oppressive context of the dominating culture. It becomes particularly rich when it is people trying to convince us they are allies who demand that we take it, because, well, they *mean* it differently than the status quo does. And we should learn to tell the difference. And we shouldn't be so ... petty.

How is this progressive? Why is it so hard to simply hear: "That term alienates me. It makes me feel bad. It puts me down. It pushes me away. It is silencing. Maybe you don't know it, but that is the effect. Could you stop, if you truly want to have me participate here? If you want me to be comfortable?"'

 

It forkin' hurts to see the artists stressed and struggling around me who try soo hard, sacrifice their time, money and lives resisting the pressure to market themselves as magical superheros for a malnourished culture to idolize.

If you depend on the dominate culture as a crutch to get you through whatever you need to get through that's fine.  However, you should not have any right to babble on about repressive dominate culture norms in a way that excludes critical discussion if you want me to take this forum seriously.

Our politics are petty if we can't start incorporating them into the culture of our everyday lives.

 

 

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

I actually didn't mind ebodyknow's contributions to the football threads. He did limit himself to one, maybe two situationalist-type responses to each World Cup thread, and the rest of us could carry on unhindered in our discussion about patriotic millionaires kicking around a petroleum product in a third-world continent under the jurisdiction of trademarked corporations. It's okay to point out the irony every now and then, lest we go blind.

Erik Redburn

Timebandit wrote:

Artists do not have a responsibility to "speak out" any more than anybody else does.  They are not obligated to be "people of conscience", and in fact there have been some extremely self-absorbed and conscienceless examples of artists who were, nevertheless, extremely good at the creative end of things.

Artists express, but they are in no way obligated to be politically inclined.  As an artist, I say that those of you who have these expectations should get stuffed.  I'll pick my messages and I'll express them when and how I CHOOSE. 

 

Hi Timebandit,

I can understand your reaction; you might not have guessed it but I used to think of myself as a bit of an artist too but now resigned myself to being a mere painter and artisan.   So I too am wary about the expectation that 'artists' should somehow be more 'transcendant' than others or reflect only conventional mores and morality. 

That said if some great talent makes another "Triumph of Will" or "Birth of a Nation" then I don't think they deserve anymore immunity from public criticism than any other propogandist.  Maybe less if they have an loyal following or high social profile.  I've thought about this a fair bit and decided that for me the dividing line is that anyone should be allowed to express themselves however they see fit about whatever they choose, but others don't have to feel obligated to buy it or even say nice things about them based on past reputation.  Leni Reifenstahl was a true cinematic genius (along with her camera men) who influenced the genre for generations, but her justification that she only saw it as another working opportunity should also be seen in context of what political movement she helped spawn and the immitators that followed.

To take it further, art historians and universities should be allowed (and indeed encouraged) to expose students to any great or influential works, regardless of their affect on the society of the day, and they should be based on the social norms of their own day, but any decent teacher should also make students aware of the other side of it toi, from more current experience.  I hope that explains my position a bit better.

ebodyknows ebodyknows's picture
Caissa

New Brunswick is jeopardizing its ability to tell its own stories by denying its young artists access to more funding, according to one of the province's best-known authors.

David Adams Richards, who has twice won the Governor General's Literary Award and is a co-winner of the Giller Prize, writes in an essay for CBC News that it is imperative for the New Brunswick government to find a way to support its writers and artists.

http://www.cbc.ca/canada/nbvotes2010/story/2010/08/31/nbvotes-election-c...

Ken Burch Ken Burch's picture

That's a natural choice for a right-wing "free market" government, whether Tory or "Liberal".

If people are allowed to tell their stories, they get the chance to demonstrate that their lives have dignity, meaning and value.  This makes it harder for the political-industrial complex to just cast them aside as "deadwood", because the people the PIC labels as deadwood are shown to be growing trees with deep roots instead.  Human clearcutting becomes much more difficult, if not impossible. 

Can't have THAT if you believe in "the magic of the market". 

Timebandit Timebandit's picture

As someone who creates content, written and media, in "the regions", I have to say that retaining arts funding is a constant, uphill battle.  It was ever thus, whether we had an NDP gov't or a conservative one here in SK.  I spent a decade on the board of an artist-run co-op and it was all advocacy all the time.

I'm not against commercially viable art - in fact, if it's really well done most of the time the setting isn't actually that important.  If you've been writing 30 years and it only speaks to people in your immediate vicinity, you're doing it wrong.  But it's incredibly important that we provide funding to give the next generation the experience to develop and refine their craft so that their voices can be heard.

ebodyknows ebodyknows's picture

Timebandit wrote:

If you've been writing 30 years and it only speaks to people in your immediate vicinity, you're doing it wrong.

While I can appreciate artist that transcend barriers of different sorts could you explain why art must ultimately speak to a broad audience?  I can only assume your working definition of art is much more specific and that you see a much more focused purpose to an art practice than I am able to conceive of.  I'm often happy to be engaging in a form of personal entertainment that obfuscates my dependence on entertainment provided by the capitalist system or creates a sense of community amongst the alienated. 

Yes, it's great to be able to relate and share your culture with a broad group of strangers.  However, I'm bored of the culture of the second hand, the culture of referencing other cultures without experiencing them first hand.  I like more people to have a sense of culture as something they live rather than something they attend constantly playing the part of the 4th wall.  While I might like to have some info about SK not all the artists living there need to be a spokesperson for SK for them to be worthwhile as an artist.....if there wasn't culture makers there working to create a sense of an sk identity I'm not sure the spokesperson artist would have much interesting to say.

Ken Burch Ken Burch's picture

The work of most of the towering figures in European culture(to use one example)usually didn't speak to much of anyone during their lifetimes,  Many if not most of them died in poverty.  Those who had patrons were often forced by those patrons to spend most of their creative lives turning out flattering, if meaningless, dreck in honor of the bloated egos of those patrons, squeezing in the works we remember them by in their off-hours.

And to this day, any creative work that actually dares to create will always be outsold by things like romance novels, action movies, "pop" music and "I Cn Haz Cheezburger" posters.

If you are writing to be popular, it goes without saying that you won't be creating important work, since most work that is heavily sold is bland decoration(in visual art) schmaltz or action-driven(theatre and movies) or mindless sentimental nothingness("chick lit" and other "popular" forms of writing).

This isn't because most of the human race is shallow.  It's because most of those who have enough disposable income to buy books, theatre or movie tickets, or stuff to put on the walls are mainly driven by a desire not to think or be challenged.  The false "popularity" of things these people purchase is always the enemy of genuine creativity.  If you try for "accessibility" for these people, you inevitably end up with emptiness. 

You simply CAN'T create anything meaningful and have it be your objective to have your creation "sell". 

Timebandit Timebandit's picture

ebodyknows wrote:

Timebandit wrote:

If you've been writing 30 years and it only speaks to people in your immediate vicinity, you're doing it wrong.

While I can appreciate artist that transcend barriers of different sorts could you explain why art must ultimately speak to a broad audience?

Art of any kind is essentially a communication. If your themes and modes of expression are so narrow that it does not translate to a broader audience, in my view, you should look at why that is. Perhaps the fault is not with the audience. It might be that, in the final analysis, you are okay with that, but it's rare that any artist aims for a very limited audience.

Quote:
I can only assume your working definition of art is much more specific and that you see a much more focused purpose to an art practice than I am able to conceive of. I'm often happy to be engaging in a form of personal entertainment that obfuscates my dependence on entertainment provided by the capitalist system or creates a sense of community amongst the alienated.

I think there's an enormous difference between creating something to entertain oneself and being a working artist. You're thinking more along the lines of a dabbler, someone who paints or writes as an outlet, but not as a vocation. I'm curious, though, how do you create a community by creating something that is limited? Should it not speak to others?

Quote:
Yes, it's great to be able to relate and share your culture with a broad group of strangers. However, I'm bored of the culture of the second hand, the culture of referencing other cultures without experiencing them first hand.

One could argue that there are universal themes that transcend cultures. Is it boring to read Garcia Marquez because I haven't experienced his culture firsthand? Or is there something of greater value that I can draw from his work? What about seeing a Van Gogh? I can't experience 19th C. Arles, does that make his work strictly second hand and of less value? Or could one argue that his work transcends cultures and communicates something beyond the immediate?

I rather think I would.

Quote:
I like more people to have a sense of culture as something they live rather than something they attend constantly playing the part of the 4th wall.

Is that what we do? I disagree. We experience our own cultures daily. So what? Does that mean your daily experience limits what you have to share to only those in your vicinity?

Quote:
While I might like to have some info about SK not all the artists living there need to be a spokesperson for SK for them to be worthwhile as an artist.....if there wasn't culture makers there working to create a sense of an sk identity I'm not sure the spokesperson artist would have much interesting to say.

I'm not sure where you got this from - it certainly wasn't implicit in anything I wrote. I'm not sure what a "spokesperson artist" is supposed to be, or if they actually exist. I rather think not. Anyone who makes art here is contributing to the sense of local identity. It's not about "information about Saskatchewan", you can get that off the tourism websites. That's not the job or the aim of artists.

This brings to mind a novel, The Shipping News, by Annie Proulx, which was adapted for screen - Lasse Halstrom directed it. Anyway, it's set in Newfoundland. I haven't directly experienced Newfoundland's culture, but that didn't mean that the story, its transcendent themes of loneliness and belonging, of becoming who we need to be and so forth couldn't come through that lens and speak to someone who is completely landlocked.

I think my point here would be that if you don't have anything interesting to say beyond a very limited few in your immediate vicinity, then the truth is that you don't have anything interesting to say at all.

Timebandit Timebandit's picture

Ken Burch wrote:

The work of most of the towering figures in European culture(to use one example)usually didn't speak to much of anyone during their lifetimes, Many if not most of them died in poverty. Those who had patrons were often forced by those patrons to spend most of their creative lives turning out flattering, if meaningless, dreck in honor of the bloated egos of those patrons, squeezing in the works we remember them by in their off-hours.

Is the Mona Lisa dreck? How about the Sistine Chapel?

I'm sorry, but this is nothing more than a high-handed romanticization of the creative process. It's only true art if it isn't for money. Bullshit. The mark of a true artist is producing quality work regardless whether one's motivation is intrinsic or extrinsic. If it weren't for those patrons, the world would be a much more barren place. Last time I checked, artists need to eat.

Quote:
And to this day, any creative work that actually dares to create will always be outsold by things like romance novels, action movies, "pop" music and "I Cn Haz Cheezburger" posters.

If you are writing to be popular, it goes without saying that you won't be creating important work, since most work that is heavily sold is bland decoration(in visual art) schmaltz or action-driven(theatre and movies) or mindless sentimental nothingness("chick lit" and other "popular" forms of writing).

An action movie can't be art? Says who? If music is popular, it must be trash?

Snobbery. Just because it doesn't speak to you and your particular segment of audience doesn't mean it has no value.

 

Quote:
This isn't because most of the human race is shallow. It's because most of those who have enough disposable income to buy books, theatre or movie tickets, or stuff to put on the walls are mainly driven by a desire not to think or be challenged. The false "popularity" of things these people purchase is always the enemy of genuine creativity. If you try for "accessibility" for these people, you inevitably end up with emptiness.
You simply CAN'T create anything meaningful and have it be your objective to have your creation "sell".

Oh, well, we're ever so glad you're benevolent enough to not actually call everybody who doesn't share your enlightened view "shallow". Good grief.

You know what? Stephen Frears makes artful films. They are gorgeous, well-written, well shot and well performed. They're also commercial.

Get over your own bloated ego.

 

Fidel

I think you're right, Ken. Musicians today tend to be kids because their stuff appeals to other kids. Kids are who the big labels want to tap into for their allowance money and burger wages. It's all about who has disposable income to fritter away on their kiddie crap-rap. Everyone else is too skint to buy kiddie rap and kiddie noise and that infernal chainsaw music that passes for rock or whatever they're calling it nowadays. Jeez the new music stinks. We need some real musicians in addition to a real monetary system designed with people in mind.

Ken Burch wrote:
The Beatles only grew creatively when they STOPPED focusing exclusively on trying to crack the Top 40. They were popular, but they grew as artists only when they were willing to say "We don't care if the teeny-boppers like this...it's what WE want to do". In taking this approach, they used the popularity they happened already to have to push the boundaries of music and to expand the consciousness of their audience.

Deep. I tend to agree with Malcom Gladwell, and Marx, and Weber, and Ken Burch. It's all about life chances. I think there are creative artists who ponder their creation and are inspired by something or some event in their lives. And then there are experimental artists. Apparently today's artists are more the experimental kind. They tend to be the ones who meander down dark alleys and narrow paths trying this and that before producing something that appeals to someone somewhere. I think people were in the mood for music in the 20's, 40's, 50's, 60s, and 70s. I even liked some of the 80s tunes and damn few nineties works. But that's just me.

Ken Burch Ken Burch's picture

Da Vinci didn't paint the Mona Lisa in the hopes that it would make him rich(and it didn't-no money was made off the painting until somebody sold it to the Louvre centuries later).   That example totally fails to support your point.  So does the Cistene Chapel-Michaelangelo wasn't trying to be the "Thomas Kinkeade-Painter of Light" of the Renaissance.  He just had to satisfy a couple of cardinals-and they'd likely have signed off on whatever he came up with.  So that doesn't work for the point you were trying to make it work with either. 

An action movie CAN be art.  The Swedish film version of "The Girl With A Dragon Tattoo" is art.   It goes without saying that the big-budget American version can't be, because, unlike the Swedish version, it will be solely about "what will sell".  This is why there was no creativity, no originality, and no emotional or intellectual truth whatsoever in any Angelina Jolie action film ever made. 

Music, film, visual art that HAPPENS to be popular can be creative.   But things created with the intent of being "marketable" can't be.   Putting popularity FIRST always puts the product in a creativity-free zones. 

It's great when something can speak to a wide audience.  But if you're making that something with the specific intent of reaching an wide audience for the sake of reaching a wide audience, it's almost always not going to be much above mediocre.  The Publication/Production/Distribution-Industrial Complex won't allow it to be. 

It's why George Clooney couldn't be as good in "Ocean's Eleven" as he was in "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" or when he directed "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind".  It's why all of Harold Robbins'  dirty-old-rich-white-man potboilers were creative failures compared to "A Stone for Danny Fisher".  It's why none of the playwrights whose plays drew bigger audiences than Shakespeare's during his lifetime ever survived to be performed by later audiences.  It's why Salieri hated Mozart, even though Salieri was much more "commercial" than Lil' Wolfie back in the day.

The Beatles only grew creatively when they STOPPED focusing exclusively on trying to crack the Top 40.  They were popular, but they grew as artists only when they were willing to say "We don't care if the teeny-boppers like this...it's what WE want to do".  In taking this approach, they used the popularity they happened already to have to push the boundaries of music and to expand the consciousness of their audience.  It goes without saying that if they'd kept putting "having a hit" first, they would never have moved beyond the "Hard Day's Night" level.   They'd have been stuck being a real-life version of The Monkees.  And this wouldn't even have kept getting them hit singles.  The same applied to Madonna, or to any other popular artist.  Look at how pathetic the Rolling Stones have made themselves by almost always putting popularity first.   Bob Marley had a huge audience, but only because he didn't put "hits" above making music based on the truth of his life and his convictions.  To see what happened to reggae after popularity became more important than creativity, look at "dancehall"-a form with no creative or social significance whatsoever and a form that has no chance of liberating anyone or changing anything.   A form, in short, that will be forgotten within a decade.

And Annie Proulx wrote "The Shipping News" out of a desire to speak a creative truth.  She was NOT writing with the objective of getting a best-seller.  And this can obviously also be said of her original version of "Brokeback Mountain".  What she did was to get a lot of people to read a book that the publishing industry would never have predicted they'd read.  And she did this by putting truth and creativity BEFORE popularity.  "Market values" types can't handle that, because it proves that you don't have to push for the lowest common denominator to ACHIEVE popularity.  Another example of Dr. Seuss.  He just tried to create children's books that were different than the usual dreck.  This is why Dr. Seuss's children books still matter and the "Dick and Jane" books, or the Berenstain Bears, don't, in terms of creativity.

Creativity can be popular, but it has to refuse to care about popularity.  You can't do anything meaningful it you, as an artist are thinking "what does the audience WANT to see/hear/read".  You have to put truth before popularity.  Otherwise, you end up self-editing and self-censoring whatever you're doing to the point that it ceases to have any validity.  And this is compounded by publishers, producers, and executives who always want whatever they allow to be put out under their name to be diluted beyond recognition.  Sometimes, creative truth does get released by the corporate creative machine...but always in spite of market values and because the executives weren't looking to make sure the truth and originality were surgically removed.

 

Oh, and dude, I don't claim to be a major artist myself, so this wasn't about MY ego.  Might I ask why I merited a personal attack when I made no such attack on you?

And are you, by any chance, David Mamet posting under a pseudonym?  That's a guy whose take on culture is right-wing too.   You tipped your hand with your contemptuous remarks about the creative process.

And if every artist that wasn't immediately popular was forced to stop creating(which appears to be your objective)would you really want to see the shit that would be left?  Would you really want no music other than Lady Gaga?  No movies other than action films?  No books other than Bridget Fucking Jones?   You seem to be really eager to silence and crush a lot of artists.  Why is that?  Why do you think popularity is more important than anything else?  And how can you think that work created with the primary intent of being popular can still HAVE any truth to it?  That would've given us Sixties music that featured ONLY The Supremes, Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, and Jan and Dean.  It would've meant the only films produced in the Seventies would've been the Star Wars Films and ET.  It would've meant no visual art at all in the Eighties and Nineties.  And we'd never have heard of Mozart OR Bach, since neither of them were commercially viable by any measures in their day.   

Sorry, but it looks like what you want is for all artists to reduce themselves to being hacks, as market values force reduce everything else to mediocrity and "flash".

The artist HAS to be free to be ahead of the audience, or else art cannot grow, and life cannot grow.  It's only through experimentation and risk, both of which are always crushed by the popularity machine, that art can tell the truth.  Everything that is comfortable is a creative lie.

 

Ken Burch Ken Burch's picture

The saddest thing about Timebandit's ultraconservative "popularity is the only true measure of success" dictum is that he, unlike me and you, Fidel, is the true elitist.  Timebandit assumes the audience can't respond positively to challenges, can't follow the artist

as she or he takes risks and tries to find new depths in the work.   To someone like the Timester, "history is over" among ordinary people, and "they want what they want" and will never move on from that.  This attitude will always be the enemy of art, and the enemy of the audiences for art.

Fidel

Ya I detected hints of Bach and Wagner in the tone that reply to you. It almost made me feel like invading Poland, or something. I dunno.

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