I wrote the below in response to this entry. However, the comment button is not working. I am going to write the blog owners to see if they accept comments… In the mean time, I’ll post it here.

I agree that a public equation of the terms ‘artist’ and ‘entrepreneur’ is not always helpful one to nurture. Artist as “problem solver” has its own difficulties as well. For an artist to consider the useful aspects of these terms for themselves and their livelihood is one thing, but when these traits are presupposed as components of the artistic persona, from the outside they become problematic. This becomes especially evident when institutions begin to view artists (especially young and unknown ones) as creative thinkers whose are willing to do free work in exchange for resume building. Groups like WAGE are doing important work by bringing issues like this to the forefront.

But beyond demanding certain rights for artists, this post reflects a general insecurity about how we define the role of an artist today. It feels especially relevant when artists are increasingly interested in what appears to be non-art, or in doing projects where locating the art is inherently difficult. By moving out of a traditional viewing context like a gallery, the question of malleability enters the conversation. A project must be able to bend to suit its environment, but how much can it do so without losing its artistic core? I think this is one reason some critics argue for an antagonistic element in art that attempts to make its home in the world– something that can help shelter it from assimilation by the rest of the (capitalist) world.

At the same time I do feel that it is important to be able to embrace alternate social roles– like the entrepreneur– as a creative choice. Artists should not be left out of the conversation on how to make value in the world, even if the rest of the world defines value in terms of capital. Warhol said, “Making money is art, and working is art and good business is the best art.” I hope that we can continue to see this as a statement from an artist, not a societal decree.

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2 Responses to $

  1. caroline says:

    I really appreciate you pointing to a seeming insecurity that’s present in the B@S post. I think that makes a lot of sense; I think, even personally, I have a lot of questions about how to define that. However, I feel some insecurity is already present in the “artist as entrepreneur” phrase. It seems like it’s already trying to justify the work of art making in terms of production and sales. Of course, if one wants to self-identify that way, I have no say over that; I’m only intrigued by its seeming popularity. I wanted to look at what that meant.

    I read another post today about the fate of publishing. (http://arcadesunshine.wordpress.com/2011/06/01/porn-cyberterrorism-the-russian-mob-and-the-future-of-literature/) It’s awesome, actually, because it depicts a real entrepreneurial scenario; what if book publishing follows the path of porn and cyberterrorism—aka industries driven by profit. Ethics, integrity and (even) merit are of little to no import. The goods tendered are primarily intended to fill appetites. This is where I feel like art differs: I want to suggest there is an ethics in art making. Something very often evident in service media projects, in fact. When I go to a museum I very often experience decades of criticality as art makers reflect upon the cultures they inhabit, pointing out contradictions and nuance and, even, political strife. The ethics themselves aren’t necessarily codified into one body; they’re nebulous and changing, but they seem to inspire reactions that, often, become works of art. Sometimes those works are very difficult for a public to embrace at first.

    I think it’s interesting that you quote Warhol–oddly enough, I ended up at the Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh very recently. I love his work, in no small part because I find him incredibly ironic. It makes sense he would say art is good business. He lived that reality and, if he didn’t change our culture, he certainly predicted its direction. Nevertheless, I always feel like he was also critiquing some very basic consumer appetites in the American public. We want to see photographs of Jackie-O, or a car crash; we want to experience a democratic replication of bodies—Campbell’s soup cans and Marilyn Monroe: it’s all the same. There is something both grotesque about the appetite and luxurious/pleasurable about its fulfillment.

  2. Pingback: Artist is the New Entrepeneur | The Lantern Daily

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