A conversation I had yesterday brought me back to this old rant:
originally posted April 20, 2009:
What a bullshit word. I fucking hate it.
Well, it’s useful. But Art vs. Not Art is bullshit.
And when they say ‘artist’ it kills me and makes me want to rip the skin off my face and take plastic cutlery to stab at my eyes:
Chris Cobb, a local San Francisco artist, did something amazing to a bookshop called Adobe Books- he arranged every single one of the 20,000 books by color. (via)(via)
Now, that’s pretty fucking cool. But what’s the difference between ‘a local San Francisco artist’ and ‘a local San Franciscan’ in use in that sentence?
If doing the act defines him as an artist, than there are only two potential purposes I can tell: one is to tell us where he makes his money. Chris Cobb makes a supportable income selling art. I do not think this is the intent of the passage; none of us care that Zimmerman [Bob Dylan] makes money by telling T Shirts at concerts, or however you make yours.
The only other purpose is to tell you that you are not an artist. Maybe it’s true- it’s possible that you’re not. But that irrational line that separates men from being Creators, gods - that line where the people putting on the show are behind the screen, and you’re in front of it - the line that has been trained and branded into you by years of defining yourself by tastes rather than expression - that line doesn’t need to be erased, because it fucking doesn’t exist in reality. Whatever reason you have for keeping quiet is your own.
Open your mouth or close your eyes, but otherwise stop taking up space in my world please.
(As usual, Zimmerman said it better: “Why do you care what I think, man??”)
If I do my job correctly, before I die the word “Artist” won’t exist.
When people read old works of literature from the 1900s containing the word, they’ll have to do research in old encyclopedias to understand the weird cultural context that allowed that weird fucking bigot word to exist; a strange time when humans who IMAGINED things and then MADE THEM were so oddly segmented as to require a separate noun to define them.
As I see it used, “Artist” means:
1. Someone who is “creative”, and therefore unreliable, irresponsible, bad at business, reckless, “doesn’t have their shit together”, and, most of all, irrational. (Because when you think of the archetypical “Artist” in the last century, you think of Picasso, and he was bad at business and died broke. Oh wait, he didn’t. He died with over $50 million dollars, or $265 million adjusted for inflation.)
2. Someone who isn’t “me”. One of those weird mutants who actually applies their creativity. Which I don’t, because that would be reckless, I don’t have time for that (there’s too much TV to watch) and, say it with me now, “I’m not an Artist”.
What a broken fucking scale.
But don’t listen to me, listen to these geniuses:
“Everybody’s too scared to deal with children all the time, so we reject them and send them away and torture them. The ones who survive are the conformists - their bodies are cut to the size of the suits - the ones we label good. The ones who don’t fit the suits either are put in mental homes or become artists.” - John Lennon
“All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” - Pablo Picasso
And just in case you think these are “crazy artists” blowing smoke, here’s some science:
“When children are very young, they all express creativity, but by the end of the first grade, very few do so. This is because of socialization. They learn in school to stay on task and to stop daydreaming and asking silly questions. As a result, the expression of new ideas is largely shut down. We end up leaving creative expression to the misfits—the people who can’t be socialized.” - Dr. Robert Epstein, in Scientific American, summarizing studies I will find a link to and paste back here
So why would we stigmatize the humans who haven’t been broken in and tamed by cultural memes designed to turn them into cogs of larger engines which themselves could only exist because they were designed by entrepreneurs exercising creativity? Why use a deadly little word that can so easily let the majority of humans kill their spirits, removing from their model of their own identity the very heart of what makes them human: their creativity?
Let’s drop it.
We’re humans. Creators. We imagine things and make them. And share them.
That’s normal. Let’s build a world where it’s no longer a noteworthy trait in an individual.