If aliens landed today they’d think all we care about are sexy beers and fruity shampoos. I think our public spaces can better reflect what’s important to us as residents and as human beings.
— Candy Chang, in What Do You Want to Do Before You Die?
If Michaelangelo or Leonardo Da Vinci were alive today they’d be making Avatar, not painting a chapel. Film is incredibly democratic and accessible, it’s probably the best option if you actually want to change the world, not just re-decorate it.
The postmodern mentality had turned the gallerygoer’s essential experience, which had once involved judging, into something closer to the take-it-or-leave-it experience of shopping … The real question, then as now, is how we choose. Our choices, although they can be idiosyncratic, must be fueled by pressures and preoccupations that have nothing in common with the choices we make when we decide whether to buy the black socks or the patterned socks—or end up buying both. Too often now, there seems to be something a little weightless about the interest in Jess or Hammersley or Remenick or Thek. To admire an artist for his own sake, although certainly a compliment, can also be a way of suggesting that he has no place in the larger scheme of things. When it comes to the development of a rigorous eclecticism, our freedom to choose is not so much a choice as it is a necessity. And the necessity of eclecticism must be grounded, deep down, in an idea about the unity of the arts, about the braided-togetherness of all experience.
"You live in the city and all the time there are signs telling you what to do and billboards trying to sell you something.
"And I always felt that it was all right to answer back a little bit, I suppose. That the city shouldn’t just be a one-way conversation
In recent years, we have seen public service announcements by celebrities touting the benefits of arts education in elementary schools because it supposedly helps make better mathematicians or physicists out of children. Perhaps the point ought to be that arts education makes for better artists. Perhaps we ought to stop being so apologetic about art and not keep trying to wrap its trembling shoulders with that raggedy shawl of self-righteousness and instead advocate for public school funding that incorporates all aspects of education. Perhaps we ought to accept the fact that artists may produce work that is disinterested in social change, and put some of the burden back on the state to effect the kind of social change we want. Without buying too much into the neoliberal mantra of choice (often a code word for “choose this, or else”), we need to acknowledge that artists should have the power to choose when or if and how they will speak to social justice issues. Without that choice, they are only being exploited in the name of art or, worse still, in the name of art disguised as social justice. The privatization of the arts now mostly requires artists to speak explicitly to social justice, and that robs artists of any autonomy over their creative processes.
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