Listening to the Silence

Sunday, 18. September 2016 23:55 | Author:

Meditation is said to enhance both creativity and productivity. However, meditation requires discipline and practice; without a coach and some training, formal meditation may be beyond the reach of some. What is often overlooked is that there are various forms of meditation. For example, some time ago I ran across a variation that was previously unknown to me. It was in one of those “10 Habits of Highly Successful People” lists (which I wasn’t able to find it again for reference for this post); this list said essentially that successful people take some time every day for quiet, or introspection, or meditation or devotion, time to just be. What I will call “personal quiet time.”

While formal meditation may be, in many ways, superior to a personal quiet time, there is much to recommend the latter; while personal quiet time does take discipline, it does not take the training that meditation does. And the goals are the same: taking some time to free the mind, preferably every day. And while freeing the mind every day may or may not help make one successful, it can certainly be beneficial in the same ways as meditation.

Something about the way this personal quiet time idea was presented struck me. Perhaps because I have an interest in mindfulness, I decided to give it a try. The space I found for this experiment has a comfortable place to sit, a large window that faces east, several pieces of art that I have seen hundreds of time but that still invite contemplation.

Every morning I set aside a time to just be. Well, actually, it has a bit more structure than that. Every morning I sit in the same place and read one chapter (some would say verse) of Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching. (Probably many other books would do as well.) Then I just let my mind wander; there is no effort to make the mind empty as there is in formal meditation. Sometimes it wanders over what I have just read. Sometimes it wanders over one or more art pieces or out into the yard beyond the window. Other times it wanders to the future and puts the events of the day in order, or it wanders to dreams, or it just wanders. And sometimes solutions for problems or ideas for new projects or new approaches to old projects appear—out of the air.

Early on, I learned that music did not enhance the experience; rather, it detracted from it. So now there are no sounds other than those made by the house. I’ve come to think of it as listening to the silence.

How long does this go on? The time it takes to unhurriedly drink a cup of tea (coffee would work too of course); it varies from day to day (usually between 15 and 30 minutes). And so I sit, and listen to the silence, and let my mind drift.

It’s very like meditation in that it seems to generate an altered state of consciousness, somewhat akin to a very light trance. And when it’s over I come back to myself and the “real” part of the day begins.

In just over 30 days it has become an important part of my day. So important that I will get up earlier, if necessary, in order to have that time before I have to be somewhere doing something—and I am not a person who takes getting up earlier lightly.

The benefit is worth it. My creativity and productivity have improved dramatically in the short time I have been practicing listening to the silence. Whether it would do the same for you I have no idea. I do, however, recommend that you find some way to unplug and take a few moments for yourself every day—to just be. You may see a difference in your work, and maybe in your life.

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Be Like Rita

Sunday, 4. September 2016 23:30 | Author:

Rita Dove is not only a woman who writes amazing poetry, she is the second African-American to win a Pulitzer prize for poetry and the youngest person ever to be named United States Poet Laureate. Moreover, she has received 25 honorary doctorates as well as a host of other prestigious awards. If you look on the internet, you can find a number of quotes that are attributed to her.

Most of those quotes have to do with things other than art, but there are a few that do, and those few describe an approach to art that would benefit almost any artist. Her art, of course, is poetry, but you do not have to be a poet to apply her words. Just substitute your own art or arts whenever she refers to poetry and you will see why what she has to say is important.

Concerning her creative goals, she says, “All I ever wanted to do was write the best damn poem that I could write – a poem that was true and honest and the very best I could write artistically and linguistically.” What could be a better goal for an artist? Work that is true and honest and the very best that one can create both artistically and mechanically is all any of us could strive for. How many of us have gone to our theatres or computers or studios and done work that was maybe just a little less than true and honest? Or perhaps, on an off day, we did not do the best that we could either artistically or mechanically or both. If so, maybe our own creative goals could stand a little re-examination.

Continuing on the subject of truth, she finds it important to be true to oneself and recognizes that in doing that, the artist is being true to a much larger constituency. She says, “Being true to yourself really means being true to all the complexities of the human spirit.” Because (1) we are all connected and (2) the complex being that is us reflects all those complexities that make up humanity, in being true to ourselves, we cannot but make more empathetic, more complex, or more truthful art.

Dove says this of her approach to creating: “Every time I sit down to write, I try to feel that I’m starting over. It’s all new. It’s all fresh, and I’m learning as we go.” And “I make a discovery in a poem as I write it.” How better to make art? Every project in brand new and fresh. The artist makes discoveries and learns both artistically and personally as he/she creates. This does not mean, of course, that the artist does not bring all his/her experience and learning to the project. But if the project is to be more than a recycling of old ideas and formulas and means of expression, it must be new and fresh and full of discovery. Otherwise the work is, in the words of Konstantin Stanislavski, imitative art or worse, hack work, and who wants to be associated with that?

So, perhaps if we were to follow Dove’s advice about creative goals and being true to ourselves, as well as adopting her approach to creation, we might find that our work is more honest, more reflective of us, fresher, more innovative—better.

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Going Further

Monday, 22. August 2016 0:43 | Author:

Some artists make their art and call it done. The painting is finished; the character is complete; the novel is written; the photograph is finalized. The artist, content, then moves on to the next project. Once the work is declared done, the artist never looks back.

Unless he/she is in the class of an art teacher I know. He always, no matter how good the “finished” piece, asks his students, “Have you thought about… [some twist or slight modification to the piece.]”  There are some variations; sometimes it’s a different question entirely, or seems to be. And it’s not even a real suggestion, just a question, asked very gently. I’m not sure he’s really interested in the answer. What he is interested in is getting students to think beyond themselves, to consider possibilities that they haven’t considered, to understand that when it’s done, it may not be done.

Whether the students do anything with those considerations may also be of lesser importance. What is important is that that they think about his question. They may then attempt whatever suggestion was hidden in the question, or modify the piece based on a different idea, or, having evaluated their piece, decide to keep it as it is. Regardless, they have considered going further. And that’s the point.

Most of us reach a point in the creation of a piece of work when we declare it “done.” There may be a number of reasons: a deadline, thinking we’ve spent too much time on this project, anticipation of the next project, just getting tired of working on the project. Or it may be we actually consider the project done.

Many good artists, however—at least the ones I know—are seldom satisfied, no matter when they get to the point when, for one reason or another, they have to release their creations into the world. They may call it done, but they are still thinking about it. They suspect that there is something further that can be done.

This attitude was perhaps best expressed by Picasso, who suggested that the artist is never finished: “To finish a work? To finish a picture? What nonsense! To finish it means to be through with it, to kill it, to rid it of its soul, to give it its final blow the coup de grace for the painter as well as for the picture.

And, like Picasso, we may never finish our pieces. Still, sooner or later, we must let our work be performed or published or shown or sold. But before we do, we need to look to our imaginations to see if we can make a little twist or slight modification that would make the piece better before its required release. This is not to suggest that the new piece will ever be finished either, only that we take it just a little further before we let it go.

Because we can always go further, this could be a never-ending journey. But isn’t the creation of art that already? Perhaps by making that small twist or slight modification we have not yet thought of, we can reduce our dissatisfaction with our own work. Perhaps we can make our work just that much better. And how could that be a bad thing?

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Why that Artist’s Method Won’t Work for You

Wednesday, 10. August 2016 1:03 | Author:

It seems that almost everyone who is beginning in the arts wants a prepackaged process. This is easily seen in arts classrooms where potential actors, painters, photographers, sculptors, writers eagerly await how-to prescriptions of how to warm up, how to approach the material, how to get results. They are looking for the magic path that will take them from the classroom/studio to producing acclaimed work one project after another.

Acting students have heard, after all, that there is a Method, and if they follow the procedures of The Method, they will certainly produce good work. What they don’t realize is that the method which originated with Stanislavski, has been modified by his innumerable students, so there are now multiple methods, each claiming to be the True Path to great acting. The same is more-or-less true for all the arts. For example, some photographers think that if they follow Ansel’s process, their pictures will rival his; some writers believe that if they use the same methodology as [insert name of famous writer here], their work will be just as good.

And this seeking of the magic process is not limited to novice artists. There is a constant parade of articles, workshops, classes, all telling the seeker what might be wrong with his/her process and why the one that the writer/presenter is offering will make the seeker a better actor, painter, photographer, writer. The fact that the workshops and classes are full and the articles have readers indicates that even practicing artists are still looking for the Holy Grail of artistic process.

The narrator in Robert M. Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance blames this on technology: “Technology presumes there’s just one right way to do things and there never is.” That sentence was published in 1974; it’s an even stronger statement now when technology has pervaded every area of our lives. And his point is well taken; it seems that every piece of technology comes with instructions which imply that there is only one right way to use whatever the tool happens to be. So it becomes ingrained in our thinking. Pirsig’s narrator goes on to say that there are, in fact, an infinite number of ways to do things. He says of a true craftsman or artist: “He isn’t following a set of written instructions because the nature of the material at hand determines his thoughts and motions, which simultaneously change the nature of the material at hand. The material and his thoughts are changing together in a progression of changes until his mind’s at rest at the same time the material’s right.”

Stella Adler in The Art of Acting says much the same thing. She says, “Mr. Stanislavsky had his Method.” Continuing, she says that what worked for Stanislavsky will not work for contemporary actors simply because they do not live in Stanislavsky’s culture or have his experiences and influences. The proper goal for the actor, she says, is to be independent of The Method, of any instructor, and to reformulate it the actor’s method in his/her own way.

Just as there is no one warm-up that will serve all dancers or actors, or any other performer, there is no one way of approaching whatever our art is. The best we can do is study various methodologies, try them out, and, adopt those techniques that, when we apply them, are not necessarily the easiest for us, but that yield the best results.

Studying the processes of successful artists is one of the ways to acquire ideas that we can adopt or adapt. But we must remember not follow the processes of others blindly, but to pull out those ideas, methods, and procedures that will lead us to our best results. Thus we develop our own working procedures and our own process. And once we have a base process, what we may find is that we will have more success if we modify it, as Pirsig suggests, to fit the material of a given project.  Then we will be masters of our own unique, flexible process, and our work will be the better for it.

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What Artists Should Really Be Asking

Monday, 25. July 2016 0:16 | Author:

In the Afterword to the audiobook version of his novel, NOS4A2, Joe Hill, who describes himself as “a guy who prizes the imagination above all other personality traits,” says that he thinks that:

Everybody actually lives in two worlds. There’s the world of stuff, of coffee in the morning and bad jobs and bad hair and work and physics and chemistry. And that’s what we think of as life. That’s the world you live in. But I actually think that people spend as much time spends as much time in the world of thought. And in the world of thought emotions are as powerful and as real as gravity. And imagination is as powerful as physical law. And that world also really and truly exists. You could even make a philosophical argument that that world exists for us more than the real world.

Hill goes on to discuss how “a good reader can make a good book that much better.” He singles out Kate Mulgrew and Wolfram Kandinsky, of whom Hill says, “That was a voice that spoke to the deepest parts of my imagination.”

We in the arts are used to concerning ourselves with imagination, but usually only from the creation sided of things. We use our imaginations to create worlds that do not exist in physical reality. We use our imaginations to fantasize over what might be. We use our imaginations to foresee what shapes our artifacts might take.

What we don’t do is concern ourselves so much with our audience’s imaginations. Note the last quote from Hill. What made certain audio books come alive for him was that the voice that read them “spoke to the deepest parts of his imagination.” Suddenly, we have two imaginations working on the same piece, in this case an audiobook. We have, if you will, one imagination (that of the author) engaging the imagination of (in this case) the listener through the medium of the reader.

As a long-time listener to audiobooks, I can confirm Hill’s assertion that “a good reader can make a good book that much better.” Until I heard Hill’s comments, it did not occur to me to question why some readers make the book really come to life and others just get through it, why anything Frank Mueller read was golden. And now I know. Mueller and the other readers that I really appreciate are the ones who have spoken to my imagination, not just my ears.

And then it occurred to me that that is exactly what we, as artists, should be doing: speaking not just to our audience members’ ears and eyes, but rather speaking to our audience members’ imaginations, engaging those imaginations. Too often we use our own imaginations to create art that does not engage the imagination of the viewers. We create and throw it out there, and the audience acknowledges it, but doesn’t take it home. There are a number of reasons for this, but one certainly is that we failed to engage the audience member’s imagination.

It is only by engaging our audience’s imaginations that we can actually communicate with them, create something that has real meaning for them, make something that really impacts their lives. Otherwise, what we create may appear to them pretty or interesting or even intellectually stimulating. But it will not impact them in the emotional, visceral way that many of us want our art to communicate. So the question we should be asking ourselves is not “how can I communicate my vision to my audience?” but rather “how can I make my vision engage my audience’s imagination?” The answer can only lead to making our art more than it is.

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The Downside of Obsession

Monday, 11. July 2016 0:11 | Author:

There have been a number of posts discussing the fact that many artists are obsessed and probably need to be (for example). There is, however, a downside to that same single-mindedness, and it manifests itself in at least two areas.

The first is tunnel-vision. When an artist, or anyone for that matter, is pursuing some goal obsessively, that person develops tunnel-vision. There is nothing that exists in his/her world except the object of the obsession. This, of course, can be a good thing; no distractions exist. If that artist enters flow, then all the better because his/her whole consciousness is turned to the creative project at hand. The problem comes if the artist is experiencing tunnel-vision and is not in flow. That means that there is a single-minded effort but the whole consciousness is not involved. That means that ideas that should feed into the creative process are kept out. The objective and reaching it becomes far more important than the process.

The second aspect is, for lack of a better term, drive. In this case drive means pushing toward the goal as hard as the artist can go down a single path. And that’s the problem right there: the push. Again, this is a much more serious problem if the artist is not in flow. What happens is that the artist is moving toward the goal so hard and so fast that it doesn’t occur to him/her that there may be other paths to the same goal, easier paths, paths that would lead to greater creativity, paths that would lead to a more complex and interesting result. And if the movement toward the goal is not successful, the artist continues to try harder rather than considering input from other paths or another methodology, both of which would occur to him/her if he/she were in flow. This is akin to the artist beating his/her head on a rock; the harder he/she tries, the less successful he/she is likely to be.

This happened to me recently. I spent four hours on a project that should have taken twenty minutes (I’m thankful that it was not a more complex problem; I might have been at it for days.) It was at the end of the day, and the push to finish the project took on a life of its own; no matter how hard I tried, the goal was still out of reach. What finally stopped me was exhaustion. After I stopped, decided that maybe when I started on the project the next day, I would take a different tack. And that is exactly what I did; after some rest, the project looked a little different. I tried approaching the problem a different way and success came within thirty minutes. The problem had been that I was trying so hard to get to the goal, I missed other approaches that would yield success much more quickly.

So while obsessive behavior is probably necessary to be successful in the arts, improperly directed single-mindedness can be detrimental to the creative process and a huge waster of time and energy. That kind of obsession can be detected easily. Does it feel like you’re beating your head on a rock? If so, it’s time to change your approach. Flow doesn’t feel like that; flow almost removes you from the world, so that you have very little, if any, self-awareness. Our goal should be appropriately-directed and managed obsession. And that will appear when we merge the self and the creative process.

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Be Reasonable

Monday, 13. June 2016 1:19 | Author:

Worst. Advice. Ever. At least for an artist. Synonyms for reasonable are sensible, rational, judicious, practical, realistic, sound, evenhanded, equitable. None of those sound like any artist I ever heard of.

We are talking about artist behavior; people who are reasonable or any of those other words do not produce masterpieces. But reasonable can be applied to the work as well as the artist. Reasonable art is safe art, and safe art is boring, unlikely to engage an audience beyond the superficial.

So the task is to produce art that is unreasonable, either in subject matter, form, or treatment. People who create that sort of art, art that speaks to people, art that grabs the attention of the public and critic alike are cannot be reasonable. To produce that kind of work takes obsession that laughs in the face of evenhandedness or well-roundedness. To produce that kind of work takes a selfishness and dedication that borders on fanatical.

And that selfishness and dedication result in behavior that is the stuff of stories. There are many stories about what actors will do to prepare for roles, and there are stories about acting methodologies that are considered unreasonable by others in the business. Interestingly, these actors produce some of the best work out there.

It’s not just actors. Bob Fosse is notorious for bad behavior toward nearly everyone because of his single-minded approach to directing and choreography. Stories abound about writers who hide themselves away to write without being disturbed. Picasso and Dali certainly behaved in ways that many people would consider unreasonable. If you were to ask them why they behaved the way they did, they would answer simply that they were being themselves—and most of their beings was tied up in creating. The real artist’s life is not about balance; it’s about spending every waking minute on art.

So the question arises, does being creative give a person license to behave any way he/she wants? It’s the other way round: the creativity does not give rise to the lack of reasonable behavior, rather to exercise one’s creativity to the fullest—to write the great novel, or play, or poem, to paint a masterpiece, to produce an amazing film, to create a great photograph, to choreograph like no one ever has before, to compose a symphony, to act beyond human limits, to transcend in performance—requires such will, dedication, and single-mindedness that all the rest falls to the wayside. Normalcy is not an option because in order to be Tennessee Williams or Bob Fosse or Georgia O’Keefe or Weegee or Picasso or Beethoven or Baryshnikov or Olivier or requires every ounce of focus that a human being can muster. This leaves little room for traditional sensibility or rationality.

This is not to say that if your behavior is unreasonable or not very realistic you will be a great artist. There is no license. Rather, if you are a great artist, or even a good artist, your behavior will likely not be reasonable.

It’s because of the attention that the work requires. It’s because the personality that can spend four years painting the Sistine Chapel, paying attention to every tiny detail and every color and even the smallest bit of the composition spends so much time on the work that he has nothing left for a “normal” relationship or family or any of the thousands of other things that “normal” people deal with.

We are not Michelangelo. Most of us are not even close. However, if we are to do good work, if we are to create art that is important and that lasts, we may find that our art as well as our behavior—at least from the viewpoint of others—may have to be completely unreasonable.

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The Hardest Thing About Failure

Sunday, 29. May 2016 23:20 | Author:

We all know that failure is a necessary part of the creative process. Knowing that doesn’t make it any easier when it happens. It doesn’t matter whether the project is a play or poem or short story or novel that we are writing, a photograph or oil painting or watercolor or digital image or sculpture or musical composition or directing some sort of stage performance. Whatever the project, if we, as artists, take genuine risks, it is likely that we will fail at some time or the other. And then we have to deal with it.

I use the term genuine risk advisedly. There are artists I know who take pretend risks, i.e. they do something just a little edgier than their norm; these artists hardly ever fail, but then they hardly ever grow either. Safe is a comfortable place to be, but if there is no possibility of real failure, then there is no real risk, and no potential for real growth.

That real risk sometimes results in a real failure. And we are not talking about the oh-this-is-hard-I’m-going-to-stop-and-throw-up-my-hands sort of failure; we are talking about I-have-beaten-my-head-on-a rock-for-the-last-three-years-trying-to-make-this-project-work-and-it’s-just-not-happening-and-now-it’s-crashing-and-burning failure. When it happens, and it will, we have to deal with it, and that is a hard thing.

The hardest thing in dealing with failure is admitting it. It feels terrible; we take it personally. So often we refuse to admit it, and we continue to try things and spend time and resources beating our heads on that same rock that we have become so familiar with. But at some point we have to actually admit that we have actually failed, and there is no point in trying to dress it up with euphemisms. We didn’t just “not succeed;” we freakin’ failed. And the sooner we recognize it and address it, the better.

Once we have overcome everything in us that struggles against failure and admitted our situation, we can get on with the wrap-up and then move on to a new, hopefully more successful project. That wrap-up includes two important components: salvaging what we can and learning what we can.

Even though the project may be a failure, there may well be pieces that are salvageable, pieces that can form the basis for new projects or simply be stored and used at some other time as a portion on some other project. Just because the main project is a failure doesn’t mean that all of the effort was wasted. We must examine what we have and what might be of use at another time. (There was an earlier post about this method of recovery.)

The second thing we can do is learn from the failure. If mistakes were made, we should try to discover them so we won’t repeat them. But there are many other things we can learn from failure. It would be well to take a little time to analyze why the project did not succeed to better insure success the next time. It would not be well to take this as an opportunity to impugn our self-worth (For an excellent discussion of this problem, see the May 23, 2016 edition of Brain Pickings.)

To be sure, if we continue to create and grow, we will have other failures. The key is what we do with them. If we admit them when they occur, salvage what we can, and learn from them, the ultimate result will be success.

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Get Out of Your Head

Monday, 16. May 2016 2:59 | Author:

Actors and directors are taught to analyze characters and plays, then to analyze how the character fits into the play. Photographers are taught to analyze the shooting situation in order to come up with the right combination of lens, shutter speed, aperture, and composition then to master the complexities of post-production whether that be the technicalities of mixing chemicals and using them at the right temperatures or understanding the myriad of controls in Photoshop. Other arts require similar combinations analytical and technical. No wonder artists have a tendency to spend so much time in their heads.

This is all well and good, some would say, because when a person is in his/her head, he/she is in the moment which is right where the artist is supposed to be. Except that’s not quite true. When an actor is analyzing a script or consciously constructing a character, he/she may be now but certainly not here; he/she is in the world of the play, which may well be a universe away. The photographer may be in even worse shape with regard to the here and now: he/she may be analyzing light conditions for tomorrow or even next week in some other location, so he/she is neither here nor now.

The problem can be compounded in that once an artist gets into his/her head, he/she may not voluntarily come out. The analysis function may take over. The results are likely to be processes that are technically correct and not very inspired. And there are other dangers.

The first danger is over-thinking whatever is being created—the analysis never stops and so performance/artifact becomes over-intellectualized and not very interesting. In the worst cases, overthinking can lead the artist not only to a cerebral process, but to confusion as well. It is far too easy to become lost in the labyrinth of conscious metaphors, thought-out connections, intellectual allusions and meaning.

The second phase of overthinking is second-guessing. Was path A the right choice, or should we have taken path B? We have no way to know, and we begin to worry about it. And then we begin to wonder about other choices we have made, and that leads to worry which leads directly to second-guessing every decision we have made during the entire creative process. Doubt reigns; creative progress is stopped.

And a third danger is that in the head of an artist is where the Monitor lives. You know, that voice that keeps telling us that we are not good enough, that our work is somehow lacking, not up to the mark, and certainly not excellent. This is the voice that keeps suggesting that we just might be frauds and because of that will be caught out and called out which will then lead to public or at least semi-public humiliation and why don’t we just quit now and save ourselves all the embarrassment. When we spend too much time in our heads, the voice speaks louder and louder; after all, we are living in his/her domain.

The fact is that art does not depend solely on logical choices. Rather it depends on instinctive, intuitive choices. These are choices that we make with our whole being, not just the rational mind. Not only do such choices have to seem correct intellectually, but they must feel right as well.

So, yes, we must do the analysis and the calculation and make the proper technical choices. But then we need to trust that those choices are the correct ones, set our logic aside, and allow ourselves to operate in flow. We need to stop thinking about our art and just do it. We need to get out of our own heads.

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Creative Entrepreneurship: the Implications

Monday, 2. May 2016 0:12 | Author:

In his article The Death of the Artist and the Birth of the Creative Entrepreneur” in The Atlantic, William Deresiewicz details what he sees as the implications of the latest art marketing paradigm. Some of these are direct interaction between artist and collector, artist diversification and versatility, and others that do not seem onerous. However, he decries a number of potential implications for arts and artists, including the following:

  • Works of art will become commodities, consumer goods.
  • There will no longer be an audience, but rather a customer base.
  • Art will become more like entertainment, less like art: familiar, formulaic, user-friendly.
  • It will be “the age of the customer, who is always right.”
  • Work that is “safer will be favored.”
  • “The measure of merit will be the best seller list.”
  • The artist will be “only as good as his/her last sales quarter.”
  • Artists will “spend more time trying to figure out what customers wants rather than what they want to say.”
  • Aesthetic judgment will be reconfigured because ratings and reviews render everyone’s opinion equal. Taste will be democratized; there will be no more gatekeepers. This will mean that no one can tell an artist his/her work is bad.
  • Breadth will displace depth.
  • As “winds of market forces blow the artist here or there,” artistic interests and directions will shift; there will “no climactic masterwork of deep maturity.”
  • Art itself may disappear, replaced by craft; artisans will replace artists.
  • “A vessel for our inner life” will be lost.

While some of these implications of the new art marketing paradigm don’t sound so bad—at least to me (the resurgence of craft and the artisan, for example), on the whole it sounds pretty awful. Art as we know it will disappear. Except it won’t. What Deresiewicz fails to recognize is that we have been living with this paradigm for some time now with not too many ill effects.

This “new” paradigm is nothing more or less than the Hollywood paradigm applied to other arts. This has been the working paradigm for the production and marketing of American film (and to some extent American theatre) for a hundred years. The results have not been devastating; American cinematic art still exists.

Yes, the majority of films are strictly commercial. After all, from its inception, the movie industry in this country has been about making money. This has led to some copy-cat work, an endless number of uninspired sequels, and formulaic movies that are only a little more imaginative than a daily work schedule. And all but a few are made with consummate craftsmanship by true artisans.

But then there are those artisans who aspire to do better, who are willing to take a risk on a film that is out of the mainstream, a film that is indeed “a vessel for inner life.” There is, it seems, in every generation of filmmakers, two or three directors who are not motivated by money. Oh, to be sure they have to be sufficiently entrepreneurial to raise enough capital to actually make the movie, and there is an expectation that the resulting film will not be a financial loss, even if it doesn’t generate $100 million and action-figure sales. Still, these directors, these artists, produce exceptional work within this paradigm.

And a paradigm that can give us the work of Chaplin, Lubitsch, Hitchcock, Scorsese, Eastwood, Kubrick cannot be all that bad. It’s not that it’s a dreadful paradigm; it’s that it’s a paradigm different than the one we’d planned on.  Perhaps we, as artists, should stop wringing our hands over the terrible state of art marketing and instead concentrate on the opportunities that a new paradigm brings.

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