Why Artists Become Artists?
As I read the above indicated posting, I noted the photos used to “attract” the eye to the article. The presence of Picasso, Leonardo, Van Gogh and Rembrandt certainly gives an air of gravitas to the question at hand. Staring at the row of “greats”, I wondered, in the dark recesses of my mind, whether the contemporary need to call ourselves “artists” is simply nothing more than a ploy for recognition by association.
I’ve always thought that an artist is someone who creates “art” - art as an above and beyond intangible which surpasses by much the basic physicality of the paint, canvas, marble, etc. used to render "artworks". Throughout the centuries, art has proven itself to be a mysterious wonder which has always transcended its 2 or 3 dimensional “supports”. As such, art is not so much the physical artwork we see but rather a presence rising from the depths of someone’s unique ability to sense the powers, wonders and even horrors of it all and, through them, communicate those sentiments to the world at large. Art is that part of it which reaches out beyond the physical plane - touching, moving, awing and speaking to its viewers - surpassing anything that even the best in the basics of craft or technical skill can conjure within the artwork itself.
Though there are millions if not billions of artworks created in the world every day, very few have such powers. But when they do, we recognize them as special, noteworthy, valuable. Though numerous enough worldwide, these exceptional pieces nonetheless remain rare in the grand scheme of things and, in the end, merit a global status which is higher than the norm. And to their creators we equally assign a status of “greaterness”. We call them artists. . . and to the greatest, we assign the title Master. Thus my wondering at the idea of “recognition by association” and these follow-up questions : Are we all artists because we simply wish it so? Do most of us just not accept the titles associated with what we “do” - i.e. : paint, sculpt, compose, write, dance - as good enough? I think of welders not wanting to be associated with the idea and action of welding or teachers not wanting people to know that what they “do” is teach.
Ironically, we live in a world which both eschews royalty and its accompanying titles and appropriations and yet hates being associated with “labour”. And so it assigns itself status which no longer has qualifications attached to it except through “association” with those whose entitlements to that position once demanded qualifications. . . . Just thinking. . .
I would "like" to think (no pun intended) that the idea of 'Like" in Facebook is more complex than it appears. At its root, it has more to do with appreciating that something has been said than liking what has been said. But it can mean this as well. Same old, same old? Not necessarily.
Allow me an analogy : Picasso created a painting entitled La Guernica. It spoke to the horrors - the devastation of war as it effects both the physical and the human spirit in each of us. This painting said more about war than many essays. It is sensual, harsh, poignant and direct at the same time. In other words it is a masterful statement. And so, if Picasso presented this painting on Facebook I would immediately click on LIKE to make a point of saying to the painter that I LIKE that he has made this relevant statement. It does in no way mean that I like war or find war beautiful. It's the difference between recognizing that something has been beautifully said whilst knowing full well that the content of the statement may not be pleasurable or beautiful.
I used to think that the Facebook LIKE button was a superficial thing. (At times it actually still is.) BUT, I have come to appreciate the idea of it. In the end, it recognizes an individuals right to speak his or her mind whether the content is likable or not.
This sudden "need" for an UNLIKE button is worrisome in that it seems to render simplistic how we think and feel about something being said. The concept of UNLIKE resurrects the dominant idea of right and wrong rather than same and different thinking. It emphasizes that we have no other choice than to either agree or disagree - i.e. : We are now only able to LIKE what is being said or UNLIKE what is being said - all other nuances being summarily eliminated.
The UNLIKE button, as it is presented, gives power to political correctness. UNLIKE connotes that we not only don't like content such as war, abstract art, lime green Smart cars, poverty or dead child on the beach type of things - it actually goes further by saying , we don't want to hear about them. And that is where the danger lies - not wanting to hear about what we should be hearing about - whether we like it or not.
When we give free rein to our unique minds, we think differently and that's what makes us "us". UNLIKE, on the other hand, homogenizes Facebook thinking so that everyone is led to focus upon and to consider a topic in the same way rather than differently - thus making our unique thoughts and perceptions less valuable than if they are collective thoughts.
Over-reaction? Possibly. But once the idea is initiated there is no going back. LIKE will then mean I can now only like the content not the fact that someone had the wherewithal to say something on their mind. UNLIKE inadvertently will also only focus on the content and not the right of the individual to say something different or differently. UNLIKE is a rigid statement. It limits individual thought. It renders authoritarian the very foundation of the repartee between individuals and groups - which in turn defines whether something is "acceptable" or not - and that specifically includes both the idea of saying something and what is being said. . . Scary.
I am a painter and writer who's whole life has been influenced by one precept : "thinking each our own thoughts makes us relevant and relevance makes us powerful."