The Role of Art


So, interesting day today. The MacArthur Fellow Fred Wilson gave a “lecture” today at my school on the question “What is the role of art in contemporary society?” Great question. So the term “role” seems to be interesting because it assumes that there is an audience, yet at the same time he couldn’t emphasize enough that as an artist you should never compromise your artwork. You should always do exactly what pleases and interests you.

How can these be reconciled then? If art has a role in society, then the artist can’t ignore the audience, yet the artist must ignore the audience or else the work will fall flat.

So, many things happened during the discussion/lecture. First, I became painfully aware at how conservative an area I’m living in right now (even the artists of the area). People kept asking questions such as, how will I be able to manage a family and do art at the same time, and other “family values” crap. Second, the people on either side of me made me want to vomit. To the left we had the pretentious art student that fell into the perfect stereotype: he dressed “arty,” asked questions that were all fluff and no content, and sort of laughed a little every time someone else asked a question as if it were below his level. To the right we had art student who was so infatuated with Fred Wilson that he kept notes of everything that was said as if it were divine truth. Kind of ironic considering the things that he was saying was to be your own person.

Third, Wilson successfully dodged the question that the talk was about for the entire two hours. Hmmm…my guess is that he had good answers, but they would have been too shocking to the conservative audience, and since he was being paid to speak here, he might as well say what he is being paid to say. Fourth, I became painfully aware of how eastern my views are compared to the general person. Many things that were said even by Fred had me thinking to myself, “How western.”

To sum up, I wasted two hours thinking I would get some great material for here and was once again reminded of how badly I want to leave this area. Maybe I will tackle the issue at a later date. I have one more chance to turn today around, since I am going to a violin recital at 6.

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