Sunday, February 24, 2013

Enriching the Soil: The Requirements of a Mythic Artistic Movement (Part 4)

Part 1: There Is No Counterculture. Please buy our books and tip your waitresses.  

Whole series.

It is quite apparent that fringe political movements, which for instance seek to liberate the workers from wage slavery or develop alternative and sustainable methods of energy, communication, or commerce may appear more essential in the coming years.

We hope that art will again take a role as a mythic and cultural strange attractor and mutation device. 

However, all of these developments are knitted together. We cannot, in fact, have one without the other. There is a desperate need for both.

Artists and thinkers are neither engendered nor supported for the value they can produce within other sectors of the economy. This is partially because this value, both in being qualitative, and in being a part of a systemic benefit, is difficult if not impossible to evaluate. That is a valid problem, as there is a meaningful distinction between advocating the arts, and giving all would-be artists a free ride. If the government subsidized all art, we'd simply have warehouses full of garbage. This is a very tough nut to crack in a bureaucratic sense.

However, this benefit is hardly recognized. What is worse, social and economic systems don’t engender it. In the US, the arts are mostly seen as a nuisance, with endowments shrinking every year. (Even if this wasn’t the case, the parameters and requirements for artistic grants are so specific and oftentimes so complicated and arcane that they make Heidegger seem plainspoken.) In a country where scientific research is most enfranchised when it can be used to make bombs, and the Department of Defense budget exceeds what is spent on the entire rest of the country, this comes as no large surprise.

Yet, for this as well, we all suffer as a result.

The Branding of Cirque Du Soleil -- arts movements will be dissected in the jargon of marketing, and they must succeed on those grounds to be taken seriously or accomplish anything. 

In revealing the nature of the counter culture myth, we also have to return to the myth of the artist as a unique and individual creator, slaving away in solitude, because in the final summation this doesn’t seem to line up with the history of art. Nor does it make a whole lot of sense for the myth-makers to be working in isolation, given the cultural significance of myth itself.

It is true that the unique perspective of a genuine, engaged outsider is part of what gives art its teeth. The “revolution” comes from listening to your experience, everything else be damned; the necessary compromise comes in learning how to play well with others without putting a pair of scissors in their eye. Art is not a solitary endeavor, and its benefits are social, even if they are hard to delineate or define. This is the blind spot left by the myth of progress and the individual artist which we have already explored. No artist “made” it alone, and you'd best believe they had friends you never heard of that helped form a work that became immortal.

For an art movement to have integrity, each individual must be true to themselves above all else, yet for that to come about, it needs solidarity of purpose. This is the dilemma. Creators need one another, for critique, for diversity, for sustainability. They need each other to build a myth of a “scene.” You needn’t agree about anything else, but without an alignment of collective and mutual best interest, a movement, a commons, a culture cannot come to be. It will collapse in on itself before it attains any sort of critical mass. This seeming paradox is part of what keeps many creative individuals disenfranchised, biting at each others ankles: they’re arguing about the wrong things, and focusing their energy and attention in the wrong place. Movements only occur when people learn to work together towards common goals, to hell with the politics.

Such groups require no closed manifestos, no party lines, no armbands, tattoos or uniforms. What is needed is space to meet up and share ideas and collaborate, a means of making the relevancy of their work evident outside the insular and seemingly elitist circles that form around such groups and the ability to eat without completely shilling the underlying premise or making other creative prerequisites impossible. Space, resources, an understanding of mutual benefit, and a determination that goes far beyond any benefit that aesthetic posturing could possibly provide.

Aleister Crowley (a counter culture figure himself if ever there was one), “man has the right to live (and love) by his own law.”

Last but not least, they require time, and colossal dedication. I have personally worked towards such ends, and have even at times been part of such groups. The question worth asking is not what we can imagine, but what we can realize. The artists I have gathered to work on these books are just the very tip of the veritable iceberg, serving, if anything, to demonstrate just how vast the cultural need for recognition of the function of myth in the arts truly is.

There Is No Movement; Apply Within.


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