Over the weekend I read an article in Harper’s magazine by William Deresiewicz about artists (singers, performers, dancers, painters, scenographers, lights operators, production managers, writers and more) and how their world has changed. Gist of it – pandemic stopped almost all forms of art along with people not being able to attend/enjoy/experience it, and it is time people start respecting (think: paying for) art also online where we are rather used to view and use it for free.
One of the many interesting aspects the author looks at is the fact that some think that artists are lazy, all they have to do is create their art and they can live in their own worlds and they are clueless of “real” life. I’ve also noticed similar notion, even among those close to me. What these opinions are in fact ignorant towards, is the character of an artist’s profession today.
Not only you have to have a skill which takes years and years of study, determination, stamina, repeated failure, success and hard work to develop it, it also takes much more to stand out since pandemic crossed out the possibility to purchase art for so many (it not being the first necessity object) and the competition is at its highest.
However the main change to profession is – artists now are also their own agents, accountants, finance managers, tax managers, exhibition managers, marketing managers, SEO managers, branding managers, social media coordinators and implementors, producers, designers, resource managers, logistics managers, and much, much more.
In part thanks to big tech companies, artists can (or: have to) do all those functions on their own. While it is a great opportunity, it also means that they need to learn and understand it, and eventually they become multi-area experts in their niche with tremendously wide expertise. So in fact, being an artist no longer means that you just have to develop your artistic skill, but be a marketing powerhouse who not just knows about it but practices it daily. Show me a lawyer or finance manager who on a daily basis needs to juggle his + additional 2-3 professions which in most cases are both, humanitarian and exact sciences-based.
The second aspect I appreciate a lot was the idea that artists need to create permanent communities to protect their legal and social rights (not just pandemic-induced organisations who support artists to make sure they are not evicted out of their houses after a work-less year). Artists hold the superpower to speak to society like no one else – that superpower should be used to bring across the support they need and build unions to represent their interests on a wider and higher scale nation or even region-wide.
What was curious, was the next article in the same magazine, originally written in 1986 by Jacques Barzun, quoting Balzac and Degas who claim there are too many artists in the world and the arts must be discouraged. Together with an another article by about the young form of art – digital content creators on tiktok and elsewhere created by young minds in clubhouses who make their kind of art even more accessible to profess and make thousands of money per month – this is interesting. If all the previously mentioned names of great artists would see how the arts have developed, they would probably roll over in their graves – I think due to both simultaneously, disapproval and jealousy.
I love reading such pieces – they move my curiosity further and expose my mind to so many interesting things happening in other places where I am not.
The featured image: cover of the Harper’s magazine June 2021 issue.