Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Where Art thou?

These are questions I've always asked:

Where did the Artist's Art go?
When does Art become Entertainment?
When does an Artist sell out?

While writing some things about funding Artists and Art, I also wondered:

Who really owns it, for its original purpose?

"Music is everybody's possession" ~ John Lennon once noted, no one really owns Art.

In every way, it continues in some form or another--from one Artist to another, from one beholder to another.


So if the principle is, Art is owned by everyone, shouldn't everyone fund it (versus say a music label)? This new idea is actually an old idea: Arts Patronage. But it's new in the sense that we're talking about many patrons instead of just one. If a politician or charity can raise funds online from a crowd, why can't an Artist? Aren't Artists the ones who inspire most in life?

Historically, Arts Patronage has been about people who see beauty investing in inspiration or divinity--where you can invest MORE than a dollar for a song. It was never about disposable Entertainment worth 99 cents or less.

In many ways, it was about creating an everlasting legacy. Something truly divine: "Art."

At some point, Art might cross the line, traded for Entertainment, to achieve someone else's idea of success. But Entertainment doesn't always mean the Artist gets paid well. The Artist was never a shrewd deal maker. And ultimately, this means deal makers will exploit that financial disadvantage.

Ultimately, Arts Patronage is needed to help Art stay true to its trajectory. Ultimately, its inspiration attracts people naturally. The truth of it sets Art free. Inspiration doesn't need someone else's idea of success. Never has. And commonly, only the uninspired need diversions of Entertainment. The inspired historically seldom did.


Art inspires at least one person by imparting insight. It can keep one there all night long. By contrast, Entertainment is required to entertain, to give enjoyment to as many people as possible instantly. Now you see it, now you don't. A quick fix. There's nothing wrong with that. But the difference is often confused: Entertainment passes like a drug. Art lingers like a truth.

* * *

In great Art, you might not get a lot of response instantly, but you instantly know you are onto something.

* * *
"Entertainment wants to give you what you want. Art wants to give you what you don't know you want."--David Cronenberg


Googling Art vs Entertainment...i found this excerpt:

"Entertainment is part of an evening -- mini-golf, pizza, a movie, ice cream. Art is the evening -- you generally have to make plans to see an Art movie, and then you find somewhere to sit and discuss it afterward.

Entertainment is terrified of losing you, and is willing to change itself to be more to your taste. Art doesn't give a fuck whether it loses you -- if you're lost, that's your problem.

Entertainment condescends to what it perceives as your level. Art assumes you're at a high level and wants to take you higher -- it conascends.

Entertainment wants to make you think you're thinking, but actually steers you toward its chosen conclusion. Art actually does make you think, and allows you to arrive at your own highly subjective conclusion.

Entertainment generally isn't personal or obsessive or visionary. Art often is.

Good Entertainment often is not artistic. Good Art often is entertaining.

If Entertainment is unappealing, offensive, and hell to sit through, you just wasted your ticket money. If Art is unappealing, offensive, and hell to sit through...maybe you should see it again."


* * *
In The New York Times, a letter to the Editor contained this line: ''Sorry, but there is a line in the sand that has to be drawn here. Entertainment's job is to pass away the hours; Art should make profound, eloquent and affecting statements about the human condition…"

* * *

"In simple terms, to me, Art is a creative expression that stems from the heart and soul and breeds self exploration and self examination, whereas Entertainment is just some shit we enjoy that takes us out of our heads for a moment." --Dave Navarro


* * *

Entertainers get paid (occasionally handsomely) to please the masses, often with sub-par work. Most Entertainers I know can yield way better Artistic output.

So what happens when Artists get paid in a world where only Entertainment pays? What happens to the Art?

When I am paid, typically, I cannot write, take pictures or produce graphical works as well as I could without payment. Inspiration just can't be bought. And when things are bought, sometimes, inspiration just doesn't even arrive in time for someone else's deadline.

With or without payment, I produce creative works, equally prolifically. But with payment, the rules with it change everything. The deal changes the outcome of what you could've produced in a perfect world. The creative muse I once had with me is often lost in the strings attached.


I started off as an amateur (which in Latin means "one who does it for the love of it"--amor), but soon worked at major Media & Entertainment companies. It certainly honed the craft I had. But it destroyed my creativity and inspiration—and even any desire I had to create in my spare time.

In the last 12 years, for income, I've switched over to the business side (finance and marketing) where I can be equally prolific. I get inspired there in a different way. Would I ever choose to marry the creative and business vocations I've had at some Crossroads?

No--if I had a choice.

There's something the about the rules of the Entertainment industry and the politics of payment that just curb inspired works.

As an amateur columnist once, I felt bad writing a scathing critique, something a 20 year old wouldn't be afraid to say, about one paid journalist's coverage of a topic I knew well. What he wrote was just plain awful. One day he sat in front of me at a stadium to cover something I was covering as well, and he actually turned around and looked at me and said, "you know Chung, I've only got five hours in one day to get the story, you have a whole week. I am paid to move on to the next story right away. There's a huge difference. They don't give me the time to analyze, research or think about it even."

There was just something amazingly truthful to what he said, unwritten on any subway wall. After that, I said not one more word about his work. In many ways, what he said defines the nature of how Entertainment is produced. It's a factory method, to produce a piece of work, that an inspired amateur can best. I once questioned why something like that should even be paid; but that's how the system works. And once you're paid, who knows what will come out.

One seasoned journalist said: "It's just fill in the blanks. You just change the names and places."



I've often noted, the best work comes out for free, freely.

Artists, however, are without question related to Entertainment. It's where Artists can most likely make a living. But Art and Entertainment are without question distinctly different. For me, Art is inspired, Entertainment is manufactured. Entertainment seldom changes lives. Art always does somehow. When you look at people who create, that's the key distinction. Are they inspiring? Or are they entertaining desires?

* * *

In simple terms, an Entertainer makes Entertainment for enjoyment and an Artist makes Art to make one actually think about something.

In the finance space, the "Entertainment Sector" includes Movies, Television, Video Games, Music, Gaming (gambling), theme parks, publishing, the Internet and Live Stage performances.

I somewhat define Entertainment as being owned by major movie studios, broadcasters, video game publishers, music labels, casinos and publishers who distribute paperbacks, magazines and newspapers to grocery stores etc. Without question, anything that has the term best seller, top hits, and box office is part of the Entertainment economy. But anything attached to Entertainment jargon, or any jargon for that matter, rarely can be fully inspired, to make Art History.

Entertainment is not Art in essence. It is merely a popular way to make money, by entertaining masses of people.

* * *

"It is the spectator, and not life, that Art really mirrors."
- Oscar Wilde

In our acting class one summer in college, we had a picnic. Each of us were asked to play the role of someone dead, in character, as if they were still alive. We'd all arrive anonymously. You could ask any questions to try and figure out who a person was, and have a conversation to out their true identities. Everyone in pop culture was outed first. The last two people identified– including one played by my acting partner – were the toughest to identify, yet so familiar.

My acting partner played Oscar Wilde. The last one standing, who suspended disbelief the longest, played Jesus.

* * *

The Prime Minister of Canada wants every Canadian to reduce their Arts contributions by $1.35. Ya, he's a bit cheap. I spent an hour once musing over this, writing about it, but didn't post anything because of this question. What is the Art that's meant to be funded?


The plight of the Artist and Art (sometimes two different things) is timeless.

From my interviews and research probing how things i really liked got made, much of the best Art was created from scratch without funding, because an Artist had lived a starving life to see some truth in a better way, that manifested into a beautiful work. The same is true of many great start ups in business.

A love of the Art is truly tested in these times and grows strong, to yield good Art. And sometimes like a shooting star, yields great Art. When something "divine" comes out of you.

When an Artist becomes a Celebrity (or Entertainer), there's more money earned and more politics experienced. It is then I often see a decay in the Art.

I mean imagine throwing money, power and politics at someone who has never had it in abundance – never handled it - what will become of the Art?

But at the same time, the Artist deserves an income...as a person.

And a devoted Artist's only means of living is to make and sell Art, with maybe some casual jobs on the side.

Being an Artist is the hardest living in the country. Imagine if a politician was forced to sell Art for any dollar earned. Only devoted Artists understand that journey. A touring Artist will see more of a nation than any President. The Artist is truly a Citizen, depending exclusively on a community that nurtures, in which the Artist contributes wholly.

But selling Art is an Artist's greatest paradox - independent of what the government thinks.

What's it worth if defined as priceless? It's almost unnatural to sell something supernatural.

Government Arts funding has always been political - a who you know, what can you show on paper, have you been funded before game. That's politics for ya.

Many government-funded projects in fact fail because of that approach.

Politics ~ n. ass-covering manufacturing.


Now i must disclose, I've never received a dime myself in Arts grants and I am more familiar with Internet and movie subsidies than any other kinds of government Arts grants. Non-profit exhibitions, dance troupes, symphonies and operas also get funded by the government. I also do think the writers and painters of Canada, who are now becoming an endangered species, should get more help. Canada's greatest artistic assets are in those genres.

I support the Arts tremendously but feel the wrong system is in place to support it.

Additionally, an Arts education (to learn the craft, the history of it, and the discovery of it) is diminishing in stature and funding along with exhibits or channels to show or distribute Art.

Canada's cultural legacy is continually being exiled to America when looking at where "top" Artists from Canada go. To grow a legacy, a program is needed, one that is about yielding Art that resonates with Artists and Art lovers in this country.

The problem is the people who review grants don't seem to really know what that means. I see bad Art getting funded so frequently, and good Art getting canceled so regularly.

I think the solution is to allow taxpayers to donate online using tax credits or deductions to fund the Art or Artist they love.

This was written over many days with a fever. I've been sick since 4am, fri.

ED--this was originally written in September, 2008, before Kickstarter became well known. It was actually the second half of a two-part blog on the Cross Roads. The first part is about Robert Johnson selling his soul to the Devil to become a famous musician. I re-did it inspired by a documentary trailer about underground Artists in New York City called Somewhere In The Dark.

5 comments:

X said...

Trivia questions:

1) Who was the 1st unsigned Artist (music) who charted #1?

2) Which song was the 1st to win a Grammy for Record of the Year and not chart the Billboard 100?

Ans: Lisa Loeb (Stay - 1994)
Ans: Walk On (U2 - 2002)

X said...

Go to Penny's Open Mic in New York City and you'll see the difference. The beauty of Penny's Open Mic is that there is always great Art by someone that night - or more accurately by many people that night. Even when someone tries something out - still rough - it never comes across bad, but rather aspiring to a greater goal like a moment between crescendos.

X said...

Penny's Open Mic.

Avant-Garde: http://xthespot.blogspot.com/2011/02/unfinished-new-york-serenade_20.html

Risk: http://xthespot.blogspot.com/2010/11/there-are-days-i-never-forget-this-is.html

X said...

A scientist’s invention becomes great when there’s Art. An Artist’s Art becomes great when there’s invention.

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