Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Sad State of Art, Introduction

Art is not best created in an atmosphere of greed, yet that is its current state. Because artists need time to create art, they cannot simultaneously be purely artistic and economically productive unless they are supported by their artistic output. Therefore, they must be (1) salaried to produce art; (2) entrepreneurs who sell their own art; (3) engaged in another trade and squeeze art into the time remaining; or (4) independently wealthy.

Of these, (1) (or (4), of course) is the most attractive option on a large scale, but is exceedingly rare, as in the market system, there is no incentive to salary an artist unless the return would be greater than the salary. And, if that return is guaranteed, the artist would be selling his or her own art (option (2)), and if it is not, there would be no salary.

Because avarice is our law, individual artists are mostly left to subsidize the costs of their own art. Creativity, then, is relegated to a secondary (or fifth-best) activity, while the bulk of the artist's time and effort is spent in self-sustenance. Thus, as a society, art output suffers drastically under the law of avarice, because individual subsidization is inadequate. Even for those who drive themselves to poor health or utterly refute long-term individual economic goals, the art suffers, and the species, and history, suffers the loss of its never having been created.

There is a laundry list of great artists throughout history whose work has been limited or coerced by the dictates of the churches and the wealthy. We now look at the Sistine Chapel as an invaluable cultural treasure, and countless other pieces of work (pick your favorite), but we will never know what wonders we are missing out on--moving symphonies, impeccable friezes, soul-bearing portraits, fantastical realms--for having been incapable of encouraging and unfettering great minds that have already come and gone.

Now, as the law of avarice becomes so enthroned on rapacious technology that it pervades every aspect of life, we are even more limited. The wealthy patrons of our time invest their resources in producing movies and certain kinds of music, but little else. Music creation is subsidized by individual artists across the world, who work frantically around time constraints to keep the habits alive. The greater culture becomes aware of them only through chance, or through the whimsy of formal attention, whence a financier sights an investment opportunity. Movie creation, for the time and resources it requires, is beyond most; certainly, employing the art with today's high technology requires aristocratic backing.

All of this effort has brought our culture the talents of a few very fine actors, and very skilled musicians and vocalists--when the former can be heard amidst the exploding of ten thousand trucks and the braying of the latest screen megastar, and when the latter can be picked out from the noise of layover tracks and electronica riffs--but on the whole, the process is a failure. Most of what our widespread effort can leave to future generations is a few stale summer blockbusters, inflation-gorged sales figures, and records with a limited temporal appeal.

There are great paintings being done, insightful poems being written, wonderful movies being recorded, and so on. Yet, however striking these may be on an individual scale, they are the exception, rather than the rule, and gaining them exposure to the greater public consciousness (and thereby making them more available to history) rarely occurs. It is a question of scale: life should be filled with wondrous art, not just rarely brushed by it. Surely with so many billion human minds and such vast resources, we should be experiencing more great things than one really good movie a summer, a couple very well-done albums a year, and three or four quite clever Superbowl commercials.

As there is the capability of feeding and comforting all in this vast potential of Earth and its human inhabitants, so there is the capability of swimming constantly in a sea of thoughtful, penetrating art (call it free entertainment if you like). We are the lesser for every day we go without it. The law of avarice crushes this potential, and like savages striving to kill or be killed in the jungle, our economic system aborts countless wonders each day. If we had been raised in art, we would have the capability of being moved to horrified tears at how unwisely we waste the resources we have. The etudes, the operas, the verse, the landscapes, the insights, the architecture, the wonder...! All the things we could have, spent futilely, lost as an opportunity cost in favor of enthroned greed.

First up for discussion will be the way avarice effects movies. Forthcoming.

No comments: