How does an artist's work fulfill their hopes, desires, and fears about politics? This is an interesting question because to make art work in itself is already to be in a zone of dystopian or utopian impulses. Perfection and imperfection colliding with moments of clarity and confusion. In asserting control over the canvas, the score, the sculptural material or the performative gesture, we are moving from the potential to the actual. Many things obstruct the way. And while many artists are open to and even invite external factors to intervene the creative process, others try and keep it as hermetically sealed as possible. For me, this issue of control is inherently political.
I for one have a very weak sense of my own authorship and don't mind out-sourcing and appropriating at certain stages of the work. What I do fear is stepping beyond myself to the point the work ceases to be authentic and my right to assert any kind of moral authority through it collapses for lack of legitimacy. The work becomes, in essence, an artifact of a failed state of the mind.
I put this question out to friends on social media to see if anyone else had strong feelings about art and politics and this is what I heard back.
Robert Crisman implies the limitations on an artist are existential and material as well as political in nature:
"An artist, conceptualizes a project. When that idea is executed in any way and becomes a finished piece, it's still part of the creative process. An artist should have no limits in seeing something through. They already have enough external limits on them when following through with their ideas. Some of those limits are mental, financial, spacial...what ever it is. It's all thinking outside the box, all part of the process."
In what could be interpreted as a criticism of artists like Jeff Koons who outsource their artistic labor he adds, "Obviously, there are the gross manufacturers. Maybe this is no longer art, or at least art with a pulse."
Champaña Perez is a production architect and video artist at Cognitive Rise Productions. She provides a holistic perspective:
"What else are we here for...to connect to create. It is primal, it is natural. Fear can be fuel yet will only allow you to find reverence with a sense of security. Passion has the intensity of now, this moment is the only sure pathway to pure expression. To act by yourself or to guide another is to influence the outcome. Art is action, even if it is a reaction or response, it becomes renewed, transformed, interpreted in the act of creating. Like a conductor of an orchestra, who is the guide of conjoined vibration, so is the vision of the artist amidst creation. Transforming vision into reality. Courageous action is an integral part of all that is long lasting no matter the source. More heart less ego."
Conceptual artist Richard Gleaves took the question in a completely unexpected direction:
"Perry, I wonder if what you're contemplating here is individual differences in how an artist is able to maintain a strong, clear vision of their work as it is realized. I think film directors are most instructive in this case, since in a sense their job entails nothing more than growing and protecting such a vision, with literally everything else out-sourced to others and contingent on the octopus of life. "
Richard put the ball back in my court by suggesting a link to music with this question, "Can you imagine yourself being a jazz player? Are you expressing doubts over your ability to envision an artwork and preserve that vision as the work progresses and things happen?"
My answer, is that I can feel the jazz player's freedom and my immediate response is the desire to share and partake in it. I believe it is that freedom which is the core of any discussion of art and politics. Of course, the flip side of that freedom is the discipline and training that allows the artist to spontaneously comprehend, evoke and interpret the present moment. It was Edgar Allen Poe who said it best in "A Letter to B..."
"...music is an essential, since the comprehension of sweet sound is our most indefinite conception. Music, when combined with a pleasurable idea, is poetry; music without the idea is simply music; Without music or an intriguing idea, colour becomes pallor, man becomes carcass, home becomes catacomb, and the dead are but for a moment motionless."