Let Them Eat Art

As an artist, teacher, and writer on art I see it as incumbent upon myself to warn others not to take too seriously what I, others in creative fields, and supporters of the arts say and do. That’s more important, in my opinion, than promoting whatever I may think will change your life for the better. In other words, I’m not in favor of the politicalization of art—in any way, shape, or form.I would also caution my readers against expecting too much from aesthetic and/or cultural experience. It can be a fine thing when the rest of our lives are in good order. But it can be quite superfluous, for example, when one’s belly is not full, when security is not assured, or when the state of public education or the values of a whole society are in crisis. Art has some social value but it is not as important as it is often made out to be. There are already far too many bread-and-circus spectaculars in our otherwise too-often-poor world.I’m well aware of the uplifting, inspiring, sensitivity-training, and character-building aspects of creative praxis. And I endeavor to emphasize these in my teaching. However, I’m also always cognizant of the way the human ego has gilded the gritty business of truly independent expression and subverted the integrity of art history and contemporary art and culture.As someone who pursued these paths in the past, I’ve experienced the hypocrisy, rampant egotism, and need-to-feel-good-about-oneself motivations in myself and from many creative types and their supporters—the intellectual, academic, political, and financial elite. Significant and powerful members of these groups form our own unique contemporary cultural aristocracy.After exhibiting, teaching, and writing about art for a couple of decades, I removed myself and my birth name from the art world. I worked anonymously and collaboratively for the past ten years because I sought some balance in terms of my creative work. I wanted to work in a relatively egoless state. Functioning in this way provides a sense of freedom and potentiality that working as a part of closed cultural systems never did. Recently, I’ve decided to modify my approach. I’m interested in the value I might create for others by returning to teaching and publishing my thoughts, taking a radically critical approach toward the very broad subject matter at hand and commenting on what I observe at the nexus of art, society, and human nature—including the effect on art and artists by the manipulations of the ruling classes and the potential damage that art and artists, so subverted, do to our culture and values.*I’ve said enough about this subject for the moment. In this entry, I wanted to simply introduce the topic and begin a personal deconstruction of my critical position here as regards the many and varied socio-cultural bandwagons from which I prefer to maintain some critical distance—for purposes of aesthetic and journalistic objectivity. To work toward a sense of balance, I endeavor to state things that are, for various reasons, unstated.In any event, this seems a suitable time to lay down a layer of sticky skepticism before a new torrent of slippery save-the-world-ism does engulf our critical faculties.

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