Art is meant to subvert, that’s the reason for it, a basis for its existence; even when it comes to the painting of flowers, it is the pure expresion of a subjective interpretation of the world. It didn’t come into existence to make people happy necessarily; art was born to educate and challenge, inform and inspire, and sometimes, outrage. Great art has been instrumental in pushing the world forward, and it is ALWAYS met with resistance. The general public is at least 10 years behind the subversive artist. If the majority of people like your work, you’re doing something wrong; if they hate it, chances are, you’re doing something that challenges common perception; something important and different and it will take years for the zeitgeist to catch up.
It can be very hard to know the difference though, because the general populace will try to convince you of your worthlessness if your work is challenging enough to their sensibility. They will conspire at first, to destroy you, to silence you. Sometimes it doesn’t work though, the initial assault on your character, your talent, sometimes the artist’s is strong enough to repel this direct onslaught. Then the tactic will shift and become much more duplicitous. Assimilation. Once they embrace you, shower you with love and money and wrap you in their cocoon of acceptance, your power is gone. You are no longer an artist, congratulations, your now an entertainer! Or a mechanic, a factory worker recycling the same images or cult of personality over and over.
It amazes me that the cycle of outrage followed by the public demand for contrition then acceptance just plays itself out over and over and over without vision. It’s as if we still don’t realize that the world is going to change, AGAIN, and things that don’t exist now are going to exist soon and things we like are going to change and evolve and become something else and that this is the one constant yet we CAN’T BELIEVE IT! when it happens. We scoff that the Beatles were considered radical and dangerous to the older generation, they were going to ruin the yutes! Or Elvis’s hips. Now they are considered tame by the standard of music that came later, the same went for pretty much every wave of new music as long there’s been…well…music. This applies to all mediums though.
Remember when N.W.A, Public Enemy, Tupac and Eminem were at different times all the devil? The horribly misguided, short sided movement to censor which only succeeding in empowering the artist and all because they were attempting to fulfill the artists age-old obligation of informing the world, through their music, about what was happening in poor urban areas; in their lives….real lives…..American lives, and the world couldn’t handle it; suburban America not only having no idea about it, but also didn’t want to know, and that continues today, incredibly, the same cycle and obvioulsy not just in here, but throughout the world and throughout history.
In many cases Hollywood can’t make a movie about them fast enough. Society homogenizes it and drains it of its importance, the machine absorbs it, makes it its own and cashes in on the nostalgia of its former power; that’s how the modern world deals with subversion, now…. anyway. Not to long ago if you were different enough or radical enough you might just be killed, now, assimilation is a more insidious, but no less effective, method of silencing.
Still, as always, when something new and different comes along, everyone LOSES THERE F’N MINDS all over again, like this never happened before…except the same thing happened last year; the next singer or rapper or performance artist says something obvious but harsh about the world and its evidence of the end of Western Civilization and it is of course more then we can bear. It makes me wonder if we’re getting smarter, falling for the same cyclical patterns of rejection and acceptance.
Whats more alarming to me is art of all kinds is becoming less subversive not more. We don’t want to damage our ‘Brand’ do we?
Before mass media it was the artist who disseminated information, through their works, the painters of the renaissance told the story of Royalty and Religion; cave drawings told of migration, and community and tradition; the Greeks and Egyptians educated about their ideas of the origins of the world and all attempted to explain the reality around them. Art always enlightened in regard to sexuality and sensuality and told the history of the evolution of humanity, intended or not, expressing feeling and loss, art told the story of love and hate and broadened the scope of our vision and mind with scenes of distant places and lofty goals and dreams. Art has told the story of human toil and outrage and rebellion, of life and death. All artist are descendants of this struggle. It is their bravery and fearlessness which push human consciousness forward; always on the edge of whats acceptable and proper, taking it just a little further so the stretched mind can never regain its original shape. This is how the world moves.
Artists with popularity to rival Kings have been persecuted and imprisoned for having the audacity to expose hypocrisy in leadership or give a less than flattering portrait of the ruling class. Since the dawn of human civilization till the present, this has occurred, those in power, when they feel threatened by the influence of the artist, condemn and attempt to destroy or discredit, finding a reason where perhaps there is none other than to illuminate a truth in the world.
Art is human flowers, our contribution to the beauty of the world and is as essentail to the human experience as anything we have created and the more subversive and outrageous, the better. And as is always the case, more important then ever.