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Re: <eyebeam><blast> Art and Media

michael rees wrote:

> 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.

> 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.

> 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 find these insights gently stimulating and encouraging. As a fellow
artist I have experienced that irony of  struggling to justify the value
of what I do, oftimes to those outside the arts who  judge it to be too
esoteric, while at the same time experiencing the delight of those
"outsiders"  that have become involved in my work, and who hold it in
high esteem partly because they do view it as esoteric(!) --actually,
they feel or project that it holds the very elements that are elusive to
them in life, elements they covet.

I am personally aware of my own special brand of "poverty thinking"-- I
know how it holds me back, and I struggle against it because in one
sense I believe it perpetuates poverty (conceptual and otherwise)  more
than any external circumstances might--actually, it helps determine the
way we--artists, writers, cultural workers--are perceived by the rest of
the world hence how we are treated. And yet, in some perverse way, I
revel in the difficulty I psychologically help create. I mention this
only because I find this process of undercutting oneself to be  a common
occurrance among artists, and I wonder if there is some collective
underlying worry about eliminating the obstacles--rather: some sense
that the struggle against the obstacles helps determine the rigor of the
process, whatever it may be, of making stuff, of conceiving stuff. It
sounds sort of ritualistic. Do we harken back to some shamanistic role?
Is there a worry about losing spiritual rigor by becoming part of the
larger world? by coming out of our saltmines/monkcells?

Or is this just a part of the nineteenth-century crap--part of the
problem really-- that still holds the arts in its grip, according to
Paul D. Miller? A lot of romancing the shaman that we should de-bunk and
toss? Get with it.

We do need to step outside ourselves and see the larger picture in order
to become larger, more complex creatures. Our definitions of what we do
--our identities-- are so small. Artists still huddle under the aegis of
the gallery  like so many chicks under the Easter hen. But I don't--as
some seem to-- advocate the idea of dumping the gallery world
altogether: I prefer to entertain the possibility that it could fit into
a larger, evolving picture, and be changed by while influencing such a
picture. In other words, when artists talk about commercial success, it
usually inhabits a dangerous and coveted terrain in their brains where
"selling out", going soft, and other such negative affinities come into
play (witness the 80's); we should be able to define commercial success
differently from commercialism,  and in terms of an economy where we
determine how that success invigorates our own production--our
contribution--how we give back, how we make choices for where we go
next. I know of only a handful of people who are succeeding along these
lines and they have taken their processes beyond the artworld without
actually leaving it for lost.

We need to see ourselves in terms of a larger task, without losing our
sense of focus and internal rigor--without losing the minutiae.


joy g.

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