Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The Revolution Will Be Artistic

We've had approximately...

150 years of photography,
100 years of movies,
120 years of radio,
60 years of television,
thousands of years of sculpture,
thousands of years of painting,
100 years of recorded music,
500 years of written music,
and thousands of years of written poetry and prose.

That's a lot of culture!

These days in my own little Midwestern US city of Springfield, Illinois, there are too many art shows for me to attend. I get invitations to such events on Facebook all the time. They kind of pile up on me. I can't even keep track of responding Going/Interested/Ignore to them, partly because I'm so busy managing the events I host for myself and for the co-op of artists to which I belong. If I select "Ignore" to some event and opt to stay home instead some evening, I then find myself reading about new books that seem compelling, new movies I suddenly feel like watching, new TV shows coming to the burgeoning number of new internet streaming TV channels, new radio programs or internet podcasts I want to hear, new music I want to listen to, and so on and so on. That's not just because we are late in modernity right now, though. It's also because within the last two decades information technology has had a massive democratization effect on the means of producing cultural commodities. Almost everyone I know is making and disseminating something, especially via the internet, so much so that all that new art risks watering itself down to the point that it ceases to really matter. Being a patron of it can sure feel overwhelming.

And yet, I would never say That's Enough Art Thanks, because such an approach to the problem of surplus culture is not at all practical, especially for we artists who live to create and moreover because society still needs and will probably always need new artistic creations. Plus, in any complex system (like the art world) competition breeds improvement via adaptation over the long run.

So, I would say we should keep making, but with a big caveat: right now we have more pressing concerns than creating another song or another painting that simply helps people feel like everything is okay, because after all things are far from okay. Trump's America is an increasingly dangerous, hostile, and precarious place. The looming planetary extinction of species we humans are causing is extremely awful. People-caused climate change is probably going to wreck our civilization within the next several decades. Therefore, what I would say is make art, but rather let's make it so that it matters to the current situation. Let's use those ubiquitously available technological tools for as much real good as possible, and while we're at it maybe save some time for political/social action, which we need currently more than ever.

See, we can't afford to sit idle in safe mode at this point. Any new art in the coming days should be edgy, provocative, informed, bold. In a word, it must be revolutionary. We need experimental pieces a la the Situationists again. We need music groups like Consolidated again. We need Photoshop experts to take down the unsustainable and damaging systems with parody, satire, and most of all sharp criticism. Think late night comedy talk shows--John Oliver, Trevor Noah, and Samantha Bee--but in terms of music, drawing, painting, writing, and everything. That's where art should be taking itself, if it knows what is good for humanity and the rest of the planet. A lot more artistic creations should be questioning and criticizing such seriously real problems as: our economic dependence on fossil fuels; our destructive and cruel meat-eating habits and industries; our over-reliance on alcohol as a drug; our widespread debilitating sugar addiction; our polluting of land, water, and air; the common ways men have been and are damaging women and children through physical, verbal, and sexual abuse; the as yet not reconciled history of enslaving and degrading people of African ancestry here in America; the ways greedy corporate interests vastly override efforts toward the common good, as with the NRA and guns, health care and the pharmaceutical industry, etc.

Of course, it would hypocritical for me to say all this and not demonstrate how to go forward with such an important cultural movement of art. Toward not being contradictory, I will not only forefront my more socially relevant pieces from now on, but also, in this post itself, I will put on display two small ways I have used what skills I practice as an art producer to attempt to make change take place. Those two pieces are below.

Trump makes the cover of New Low magazine.

Rock on and make it matter!