Sunday, March 27, 2005

Art for the General Public

On there is a text about how to make art more accessible to the general public. I specifically like the great discussion below the post.
One issue is being sort of left out - and it shouldn't. The psychology of the art world. I think it could go as far back as the impressionists (so, the beginning of what some call "modernism"). It goes something along these lines: the artists create works that the general public refuses to accept. Since other artists create similar works, they encourage each other. What is being created is a "Us vs. Them" situation. We know the truth, we see it, and they are too short-sighted to understand it. This attitude translates to an even stronger rejection, and then a total ignoring, on the part of the public. As for the people supposed to make the connection between the art and the public - the critics, the owners, museums, they opt for one side. They either stick with the artists and justify them (some more, some less), or they agree with the non-specialized public, and move closer to "entertainment". In the latter case, they refuse to accept the "new", radical art, and demand "accessible" art. There is only scarce dialogue between the two camps: as ever so often, the negotiators are seen as traitors. And we're left with an art world where it's extremely difficult to justify a work of art in front of both milieus. It seems as if all the "elite" are afraid to be considered as traitors, entertainers, low artists. That's why a simple gesture like Banksy's can be seen with so much sympathy - it challenges this division. It says: look, I'm also an artist. Remember the Little People. Smile. Say a joke. Play with me. Stop being so goddamn high-fetched and isolated. Or you'll bore us all to death.

PS: How to engage the general public? How about: think about them. Don't think you're oh-so-good you only need to think about your work, your art, your idea. Make at least one work your parents would like. (Or your children. Or anyone that couldn't possibly make it.)


Brandon said...

The problem is interesting and similar problems occur in all fields of art.

The reason the division occurs makes sense. Museums are interested in gaining more visitors so to some degree they have to try to appeal to the masses. Many people believe that appealing to the masses means dumbing down and resorting to pure entertainment.

The same thing occurs in music. Major record labels prefer to stick with the safe formula over innovation because they know they can attract those interested only in the entertainment value. Meanwhile there are the various indie and underground movements that reject anything mainstream whether it has artistic merit or not because they feel art should be made purely for the artist and not made to appeal to the fans. Granted few of the artists actually follow this philosophy, but many preach it.

Movie producers (and theatres) and publishers do the same thing and there is always a counter philosophy to try and block it.

I think that it is something that is caused by the combination of capitalism and art. When art becomes a way to make a living one has to make something that will appeal to a wide enough audience. When people take this to extremes you get terrible cliché formulaic art. People see the extremes and reject art as a business completely and instead attempt their "art for the sake of art" and often it creates decent art but it can also lead to artwork that is completely unapproachable.

As in most philosophies there is an ideal middle ground, and most people refuse to see it. Those who do, get less attention because they are dwarfed by the radicals on both sides.

josephus said...

Vvoi, I visited New Art as you asked and liked it.

Brandon makes a lot of sense here. As a printmaker and collage maker, I think artists probably have to be artists first and marketers second. I suspect we do "art for the sake of art" one day and then something for the parents or kids another. The fun in monotypes, for instance, is the unexpected results of the effort. They turn out to be something one person likes, another doesn't. But Brandon is right, if you make a living at it, you have to do what people will buy, if you can figure that out. It really is as simple as that.

fred said...

Hi !

I was writing a comment concerning "Art and the general Public" in Los Angeles from Caryn on this web page......

..... but theirt staff suddenly with no explaination to commentators terminated the Comment function of their Blog... humm strange isn't it .

So if you are interrested by this topic just read what she wrote and how their discussion started then read my comment wich is particularly write in weirdo English just because will said I am coming from the "Foreign General Public" of Los Angeles.

Here the comment I was not able to post :

Hi !

This is specificaly a comment of the message posted by Caryn on top of this page... not of the others.

I don't know what is the exact position of the Critics in the organization of the power and influences in the US artworld or in LA; In europe they are exactly in between the artists, gallery's, Museum and public institution, mores the critics is well none better it will "boost" the carrier of an artist if in a way or another their name appear near the name of a great critics, very often it will bring to the artist institutional support and an entire mechanic will start to suddenly pay attention to this artist, this magic power of the critics is amazing ... so amazing at the point somes critics seems to feel themself Artist and sometimes better Artist than the artists they officially support, as you might notice I still do not write about the general public... just because at this particular level nobody care of the general public it's a bit like the life in a Corporation .

And, Somes peoples from the wise public observe since now 10 or 15 years how artist works in many exhibition are too much a kind of illustration of the critics comments or an illustration of the last book the critics publish, critic wich also curate the exhibition . . . hummm the money come very often from the governement so the critics also act as a kind of ideological selector or filter regarding the content and specificies of the artworks, humm and also they cheick too if the artist in his resume has allready be involve in the proper network, all those control just because the goal is to keep this little mechanic running smoothly with the proper parts, public institution and critic in the middle and artist, museum, gallery's etc etc around.

The first exhibiition of Palais de Tokyo was commented by a texte of 10 or 20 lines sticked near each artworks and wrote by the critics who curated the exhibition and was too in charge of the whole institution, it was by the way funny to see peoples reading 5 mns a textes and take a look at the art work displayed just 2 mns... humm pathetic and after that spend 25 mns at the library and 1 hours at the cafeteria for socializing and networking

after that almost all big and medium size exhibitions are commented very pedagogically in the museum in itself to the attention of the general public also partially because 8 or 6 years ago somes reactiv group from the general public protested against the fact public money was spent too much for too much "CRAZY THINGS" called Contemporary Art so as an act of pacification to calm down reactionar public contemporary art became explained and explained and explained in art center, museum and fondation.

My personal opinion is everything come from the artists first and somes talentuous artist are able to design and adresse the content of there work to a wide audiences and sometimes for decades with no particular needs of critics comments to be understood by what Caryn call the "general public", somes others have an artistic language wich act as an intellectual maze where sometimes a little group of peoples are deliciously lost and unfortunately somes other less talentuous to me works more for the network who allow them to show their work and make their living and whatever if the content of their work finally is custom made for the collector listing of their gallery.

Me I live in LA since now 3 years, decided to see what is on the run here, i went everywhere and what I saw as a wise public did not gave me a lots of unforgatable artistic emotion but gave me lots of informations concerning the way cultural life was produce in a multicultural capitalistic economic environment .
What i saw all over LA as a foreign viewer was first a big amount of what i call "Pizaiolo art" noot difficult to imagine we all had a look on pizaiolo working while waiting our table at the pizzeria... and a big amount of work extremly precious and well made almost in between what you can find in a design store and a gallery, entertainent, seductive etc etc kind of "Artistic Opium"... So ! things are running this way I drive to a gallery and what i see is a city first full of homeless with no teeth "swerving" along clothing stores and sometimes in between hummers, Suv with driver using 2 cell phones with 5 video screen in their car... Then I enter in a gallery like Sixspace and what i see are are little canvas with kind of fragile kids or child drawing perfect for kids bedroom decoration. Ask to someone in the street in Ukraine what he think about Contemporary art he will tell you "my friend a work of art in Ukraine it's a bag of potatoes" , let's compare contemporary art from Africa with contemporary art from California the first one is adressed to the entire world included general public from Africa it's all about what their social body is experiencing painfully... here in California almost 90 % of the art I seen in 3 yrs seems to be more a way to Make up or Escape from what I will name "The reality of the street" where the general public is supposed to be, So why wondering why the general public is not really interrested by contemprary art in LA ?? it's just evident to escape reality there is Movie Theater $ 7, jamba juice $ 5, staples center etc etc etc .
The artscene in LA seems to be lobotomized of one part of the brain, wich is the one who is able to politicaly formulate a dialog.... for wich reason ? what is the origin ? I am seeking someone to explain me why . 1 yrs ago maybe I spent a day at the getty following a series of lecture regarding the history of Art minimal none a single person in the audiences and the lecturers except Roberta Smith made a comment regarding the original Political motivation of the Minimalism.

After 3 yrs, The only Artist I seen really steping out of the "Artsy Entertaining style" and who was by it's process adressing his work to what Caryn call "The general public" was Allan Sekula... and he was too the first one I heard commenting politicaly the artscene of LA with a terrific expression wich was "HIPPIE NAZI"... so I'm not sure the lack of interrest from a general public come from a lack of critic introducing the artist to the general public etc etc etc I think it's simply coming from first a lack of artist producing work of art adressed to a true "General Public" and an excess of dealer who certainly don't want shake too much the mood of their fidele collector.

Ok another exemple on how contemporary art life in Los Angeles is simply not educated to run with the concept of "General Public" and the fault come a long tradition certainly not only because a buncch of guys are not writing about it.... the two lectures of M Barney and D Byrne at the hammer was annouced as a public event on the hammer website for 3 or 2 months before the date... a crowd was easy to expect specialy if the staff of the hammer is supposed to know the interrest and behavior of their "general public" but what happens at these show really well how things was simply unprepared. Members had priority to access like in a Private club, then I saw also somes members who was stoped at the gate and more maybe 200 peoples was forced to stay outside in winter with just a poor audio return but no images for M Barney he was speaking 3 mns at the begining then asked to launch his movie... Outside still no Video images only Audio but because it was maybe the second lectures they did an effort in order to increase the volume... Not lucky we was.... audio's of M Barney's movie are volontarly extremly deep violent and rude so suddenly 200 hundreds folks was agressed with this violent noise i mean almost like Speciale force use noises to evacuate an area .
I mean it's just simply rude and show in a certain way how art here look more running as a little distractive and decorative game for private club member than to spray the best of humanity in the social body of the city.

Thanks for reading my dirty english ;)

vvoi said...

Thank you all for such interesting input!
I really like the different points of view (and yours, josephus, seems slightly different than brandon's).
Fred, I also had this problem with - the comments are suspended there probably because of unpleasant remarks someone made (not the first time, I imagine) to one of the posts. This "General Public" issue is really a hot potato - it's not easy dealing with and "the middle ground" sounds more like a dream, or a post factum (post mortem?) judgement more than a possible criterion... Then again, the middle ground for Aristotle was not an in-between, but rather - the right thing to do, the reasonable action. In that sense, we all certainly should try.
(Oh, and Fred! I'm making a work about Ukrainians here in Lisbon!)

fred said...

Hi vvoi ! Good ... send me a link about theses work concerning ukrainian.

Maybe my past blog is a bit confuse... but mainly what I wanted to write was Art here in LA seems to be like I explained, a kind of esthetical "make up" or "spiritual escape" to what is might be the big lie of an entire society... wich is just visible by observing the street all over LA.

Have a good work in Lisbonne ! ;)


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