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Re: <eyebeam><blast> Art and Media

Robert Atkins wrote:

> Since art's origins lay in mythic ritual paleolithic citizens might
> reply that art has always saved lives by ensuring that the crops grow,
> the bison flourish, that enemies are vanquished or female fertility
> ensured.
> But I suggest that you are thinking far too literally about what it
> means to save a life. (Altho a  Rodin could certainly flatten a 
> rapist.) Figuratively speaking, art (and film and books) saved my life 
> as a kid. At a social level, art--like theory--obviously possesses the 
> power to change/shape/alter consciousness. Be that artwork Picasso's 
> Guernica or a Rothko abstraction. More recently the AIDS crisis 
> provides lots of additional examples. The resonant symbols of that 
> crisis which have helped save lives by focusing attention, anger, 
> fundraising etc were all made by artists who self consciously 
> conceived them as public artworks: Silence=Death (Silence=Death 
> collective), The Quilt and Red Ribbon (Visual AIDS' artists caucus). 
> Not to mention the fact that the prospect of exhibitions has kept many 
> artists with AIDS alive; a shocking number dying a week or 2 after 
> that final exhibition opened.

Dear eyebeam-list,

This is my first post. What I'd like to say, I'd like to say gently. It
has something to do with the discussion of the value of art and of
saving lives. BUt from there, I'm not sure where I'm going. I do feel it
is vaguely appropriate. We are so insecure about our role as cultural
workers. We give our time away, we make enormous claims for our work,
and we are rarely rewarded with comfort or security. We are terminally
vague and inured in poverty thinking. What we do is esoteric (as is
other, well financed, researches of our culture) and yet we have yet to
succeed in getting those outside of our climate to recognize its value.

We use words to charge the success of others and their marketing
strategies in negative terms. Read the discussion of Damien Hirst and
Matthew Barney. Everyone distanced themselves from what these artists do
to continue making the work while debating in some cases defending the
work. What makes me sad isn't the media machine of the Barneys and the
Hirsts (really, its so small). It is that so few artists (writers,
cultural workers) get money back from their work.  What if we were a
little more forgiving of what artists and writers and cultural workers
have to do to continue their work. What if we cleared the space to allow
others to exist by being a little less critical of the means of how they
do it. Are we really so afraid that there's a hitler in our ranks? 

For me, one of the most important things I can accomplish is to secure
funding for current and future experiments. I will not sacrifice all to
this end, that seems somewhat dangerous, but I will go to great lengths.
This has included getting industry to donate materials and time. There
is something unofficial about this, something subversive. But, the
subversive is not of great interest to me. I don't have to feel like a
bad boy to make my experiments valueable. I look forward to the time
when I can pay people as opposed to beg and borrow. I would then
participate in a larger economy. A little bit of my money would go to
other people and help them pay a bill, enjoy a moment, raise their
children, experience life and art.

What's intersting to me is that the people who are helping me make my
work (all of them are in the engineering community) are delighted to be
a part of it. The work has entered a different audience who don't
neccesarily understand it or even understand it critcally but who
intuitively respond to it.

Last summer I gave a lecture about my work to some high school students.
The energy of these hormonally challenged teens in the room was
extraordinary. It was daunting--how would I get some of these ideas
across to people who wanted to have sex, who wanted to do the opposite
of whatever authority told them. After going to some lengths to explain
the origins of the work (which is always an intellectual convolution, to
my fault) a kid asked me a question. he said "You're like me. You make
things that are cool. It doesn't matter what it all means does it? I
mean, you want to make things that are cool, right?" At the time, I
didn't completely realize that I was being taught. He totally "got it"
and he didn't. Looking back, I've got to say, I get it and I don't.

As the various means of dissemination become more available to us all
rarefied definition of our disciplines becomes looser, freer. We can be
bigger than artists, writers, cultural workers. We can develop along
complex lines, more fully. We can realize ourselves in a larger way. 

I don't know, what do you think?
michael rees SCULPTOR           http://www.sound.net/~zedand00/
1212 w 8th St. Bldg B #2,       816 753 3020 voice    zedand00@sound.net
KC, Mo 64101                    816 753 1542 fax

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