Art in Age of Brainwashing
Artists in the Age of Brainwashing
Artists in the Age of Brainwashing
Americans like to live dangerously. Why else would we be in this position where so many aspects of living put us in collective jeopardy? Every place one looks there is turmoil and under-development. It can be seen acutely everywhere but not in the world of art where I live. What I see in this unique world is the ability for individuals to achieve greatness against serious odds. No matter how long it takes and even when we think nobody is noticing, artists innovate. Sadness? Artists have ways to lift ourselves up. It usually starts with sharing something simple. A delicious fruit, a beautiful sunset, a good night sleep, a cold beer on a hot afternoon etc... Under-capitalized? Artists can re-imagine so at least it is not too painful, plus there is the occasional magic that happens when one person's trash is an artist treasure. However artists are lucky because as a community it is typically generous with one another. Coming together in times of sorrow and joy are natural for most communities but when it happen in artist world, everyone should be prepared to walk away inspired because it happens all the time.
When I first came to Brooklyn in the mid 1980s I became friends with so many people who have long since passed away. Two of them in particular stand by me today with nearly everything I do. Sculptor Alan Glovsky was one of the most open minded, tenacious, capable people I knew. He was a wonderful influence on my children and I can still ask myself the question he asked me all the time.... "are you happy?". If I answer "yes" then... I feel lucky but if I answer "no" it is on me to change that direction. I appreciate this simple clarity. The other great influence in my life was Tessie William, the District Manager for Community Board 2. She advocated for me when nobody dared and she stood by me when I turned my dream into a reality. She was so proud of everyone's creativity. As she started to decline she "made the rounds" with her friends to say a fond farewell carrying a few choice strawberries to share. She told me a story that I want to tell now. Her story explained the difference between heaven and hell. In hell there was bountiful foods and drinks but people lacked elbows to help themselves. It was sad angry place, but in heaven it was the exact same situation except people learned how to feed one another and it was peaceful loving place. So... the moral of her story was that if a community works together then shared problems are solved easily. RIP Tessie and Alan, my love never stopped.
Despite all the unhappiness, greed, fear and hatred there is all around us, we do not need to dance with the devil to accomplish something good. We just have to pick our friends more carefully.
Pictured here: Teresa Adams
Once the decision is made, after all the options are weighed, it is relatively easy to get a plan and work the plan. Interdisciplinary art discipline is a great tool-box. If there was a need to build, direct, fix, design, clean, solve, invent, create, conceptualize etc.... - then being an artist works well but if the goal is to influence NYC legislative policy - that was my Waterloo. Individual artists are arguably a strong force for economic empowerment so beginning in 1990 I began lobbying Borough Hall City Hall, Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, NYC Council, NY State Assembly and US Congress for fun. They would have to listen to me for 3 mins and the questions often asked were "why does artist's sweat equity matter since it cannot be measured?" or "why should I care if artists cannot make a living? They must be terrible artists." So meeting up with those powerful people was a tad discouraging, even tho for me it was still fun, since I was striving as a mother of 2 elementary students to have an experience that was out of my maternal elements.
Fast forward to 2015, NYC Council is involved in developing a new city wide cultural plan. The NYC Council members believe their plan could begin being implemented in 2017/2018. As I attended the announcement meeting at NYU with a diverse group of interested players, one by one by one young artists expressed that their personal/professional needs were dire. They needed help yesterday with housing, public presentations opportunities and various health/human services. Since bureaucratic wheels turn very slowly in big city life I, for one, hope artists can hold on because NYC is a very sad place without them. However individual artists have a shorter rope to hold onto than the average citizen. Micro Museum has made it our mission to create a vibrant place for a tribe of achieving artists. I have seen their determination up close. I sincerely hope this NYC cultural plan comes with a serious budget because you know.... 'if wishes were horses beggars would fly."
Recently watched BANKSY DOES NEW YORK – a documentary about the 2013 residency in NYC. Banksy’s 31 days of art initiatives became an internet sensation and by extension became a form of virtual graffiti. The filmmakers followed the art journey by turning NYC into a progressive art treasure hunt. The residency exploded into 31 collisions with art relatively unbound by ownership, like a donated painting to “Housing Works”, that eventually was auctioned off to the highest bidder. Later the painting went to the 2nd bidder since the top bidder could not deliver the money; or a rock formation in Queens that was dismantled and reassembled in an undisclosed location for later resale; or neighborhood guys who actively charged viewers to look at the art work under a piece of cardboard. Zabar's installed a plexiglass piece over the one on their building. It did not take long for NYer’s to get creative. It is kinda the reason I love this place.
I am further impressed by Banksy’s ability to remain unidentified, although my sense is that these art actions might not be one person. The works were brilliant and accentuated complexities of life in the 21st Century for artists and others. They brought out a deep agonizing desire to “get rich quick.” It was a great art experience as a citizen of NYC and re-visiting it through the film directed by Chris Maukarbel for HBO got me thinking more about my theme of “artist as hero” and feeling that truth, justice and the American way are still good reasons to pursuit art. I regret that young individual artists are migrating away from NYC because there are few options and scant resources to keep our local artists, local? It is still advantageous for the NYC powerful to care about individual artists. I am hopeful NYC Council will recognize artists as inventive economic development catalysts but also people who desperately love their city.