Letter to R. Rhodes/ CANADIAN ART magazine
Richard Rhodes, Editor, CANADIAN ART October 2012
Good afternoon Mr. Rhodes,
I recently revisited Louise Dery’s article ‘The Painting Project’ as it appeared in Canadian Art, Summer 2012 and would like to thank you for the thought provoking issues it has brought to the fore.
Specifically, I was struck by the mention of ‘[art presented] as simple entertainment put together by…celebrity’ and Canada’s lack of a collective artistic imagery and whether or not “…this explain[s] the widespread feeling that an understanding of the work involved in creating today’s art does not reach citizens, politicians, decision-makers – or our colleagues across the country and around the world?”
These ideas are unremitting in my own speculation on the current state of art in Canadian society and inspire further examination regarding its future.
Whereas I agree that lack of collective artistic imagery is at issue in addressing the feeling that an understanding of the work involved in creating art does not reach Canada’scitizens and politicians, it is only a part of the issue and we must consider its root conditions, trite as they may be, or we will remain forever ensnared (socially and economically) by the contradiction of what is and what we hope for in the Canadian and international art scene.
To bring art to the attention of ‘a society scarcely conscious of art’ we must acknowledge there is little platform (and desire, perhaps) in its marketing outside the artistic community.
We live in a celebrity-filled world where the lowest common denominator in cognitive output is the entertainment winner; where reality television or generic, fast-paced viewing designed to help ‘turn-off and tune-out’ is the norm.
How can art, created without cohesive identity (“I’ve never heard of this artist”, a viewer might think) though created with passion and designed to stimulate and provoke, intended to ‘turn a viewer on’ and ‘tune-in’ compete with the (much easier) more familiar (possibly branded), readily available offerings from the world of ‘Entertainment’?
Dissemination of positive artistic messages and experience are thwarted by an over-stimulated and impatient population; a population driven further from art as those participating in the Canadian art scene continue to insist on positioning it as a purely academic pursuit. Art created by and for academics; mounting monographic exhibits of didactic and intelligent works brought together through consultation with historians, doctoral candidates and experts in the field [of art]. This is not an invitation to average Canadians.
It is true, that even the most educated of citizens feels a certain hesitation in visiting an art exhibit for fear of looking like an idiot; a marketing triumph in selling the exclusivity and sense of prerequisite academic requirements for inclusion into the art galleries of Canada.
And what are the solutions?
Is the economization (marketing ) of art in Canada a plausible strategy to overcoming “…the widespread feeling that an understanding of the work involved in creating today’s art does not reach citizens, politicians, decision-makers – or our colleagues across the country and around the world?”
Is it the directive of the Canadian art community to engage the average citizens of its country? Is this possible?- and if so, would the output costs be worthwhile? For whom, in today’s world of contradictory mass media and academia are artists creating art? In a world of individualism, is there any hope for developing a national identity in ‘collective artistic imagery’?
I look forward to future conversation in this regard.