The Death of Art: A Series

The Death of Art: Part 1

Art died a while ago. The only thing keeping it alive is dead artists.

What I mean by the “death of Art” — emphasis on the capital “A” — is that Art in the spiritual, romantic, Oscar Wilde sense of the word, has gone out with the Dodo. You can’t write Ulysses and get anybody to read it anymore. You can’t make 2001: A Space Odyssey because you can’t get funding for something so conceptual, something untested and unproven to make money — unless you have a big name attached to it. In other words, publishers need a track record of readers and movie producers need proof of concept before they’ll even think about a project. They need to see a following and a market, all the stuff that they used to be responsible for and did themselves back in the “good ol’ days.”

Blame it on an overly-creative and spotlight-seeking population, right? Too many people with too much easy access to technology that can publish, create, and share anything they want to with the world. Here’s a good article in The Atlantic about this argument, which basically says how artists are becoming artisans who need to be entrepreneurs.

Either way, with this combination of an entire population that can create but at the same time needs a track record, you get the death of Art. The death of taking risks and experiencing something new. The human soul is so packed in thin and wide across the face of the Earth that it won’t allow room for any originality anymore. Money decides what’s good, not its clearness of message or its morals or ideals. Right? Art isn’t judged as good by the spiritual and romantic ideals of Oscar Wilde any longer (though that’s what I’ll always fight for). And this is because you can’t make money on something that hasn’t been proven to make money. You can’t have an audience for something nobody’s seen before. Am I wrong?

metamodern art sculpture
Austin Eddy, “Smoker” (2014-15)

Sure, in some ways this is how it’s always been. Artists, if they’re like any other profession, need to earn a living with their talent, skill, and craft. Yet Francis Ford Coppola said that Art is moving in such a way that it’ll be free, and an artist will have to do it while working another job: “You work another job and get up at five in the morning and write your script,” he said. “Because, as we enter into a new age, maybe art will be free. Maybe the students are right. They should be able to download music and movies. I’m going to be shot for saying this. But who said art has to cost money? And therefore, who says artists have to make money?” Here’s the article in which he said this, though it’s very easy for an Oscar-winning director with a profitable vineyard to finance his films to say such things.

At the same time, as I’ve come to learn the hard way, you need to sell products to get an audience for your work. In the case of books, book sales means readership. It’s the only way. But the flip-side is that major publishers, in a very convincing way, control the market. So you can’t reach the most readers unless you prove to them that you already have those readers or have to plan to get those readers.

So it’s back to the Branding Board and this metablog, and the Catch-22 of getting your foot in any door without a track record. But you need to make your way into the lobby somehow. And the doorman: the Death of Art … because these days, Art’s motivation is either money, which is the wrong ideal, or the sake of Art itself, which would make it free and create a situation that Art — spiritually-inspired art, art from the soul — won’t get the proper attention it deserves. So the only way is to sell out, dumb it down, and suck up to the masses to get in the lobby.

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