Today, I had a conversation with Lonnie Schlein, and we talked about ideas for a lecture he is giving next month in Italy at an international art event. We have been preoccupied with the business of selling our art this past year — in my case, the raven series created on the iPhone, and in his case, the photographs in his touring exhibition.
I have many thoughts on the pitfalls of the commodification of art — which in my opinion has contaminated art, and exiled the muse.
It is detrimental to the creative process for artists to distract themselves with selling — what might sell, what won’t sell, what should sell, what would make something sellable, etc. Pure art comes from the soul, and its aroma is that of honesty and truth, no matter how sweet or pungent. The dollar is a false muse, the fruits of which have no scent at all, and her sister has become an endangered species.
I never realized before now the origin of the word MUSEUM — in Greek, mouseion literally means “seat of the Muses.” Hmmmm… I feel a project coming on…
4 thoughts on “Killing the Muse”
I tend to agree. Thinking about going through the long process of seeking our journals for my poetry, realizing its in some ways tied to this whole system of knowledge and power now, that to become part of the academic mill of publications and to enter the top tier of this world one must spend so much time working through the gamut of publications, write and coddle editors with the right letters, forms, etc. almost seems to take away from the whole effort of being a poet to begin with. We live in an age of glut, to decay and richness, of excess and in the old sense an agon to the death with the traditions surrounding us as we weave a sense of strangeness and explore our universe. To commodify this seems part of the strangeness. It’s not about money in that sense, its about exposure: and, to me that’s the issue – with so much poetry and writing, to even become known and find an audience in that commercial sphere of publications is a task.
I can imagine your feelings about art and your multimedia projects.
Several years ago I went through a period of profound despair – losing my passion for everything. However, what was most disturbing to me was that I had also lost my passion for art and creative expression. I felt that I should/could no longer contribute to the “glut” (as you say) of mediocre excess.
Yet, I understand that one must put food on the table and pay the rent, somehow, some way. But as we both know, that’s what day jobs are for, despite how deeply it compromises our passions. I feel fortunate that I now have a small pension that takes care of those basic material necessities, so I continue, as before, to feel no pressure to bend to the trends of the day in order to make a buck.
To be known and acknowledged, however, is a powerful force – in my case a probable manifestation of rigid and chronic parental denial of emotional and soulful sustenance since birth. But that’s another, more personal matter…
Strange times indeed… in the past, patrons and agents humbly assisted and acknowledged the worth of the manifest muse. Sadly, nowadays our inboxes are full of embellished, false offers from wolves hungry to make their fortune off the backs of struggling artists, if only we will contract to give them piles of money in advance for their supposed “generous” services. It’s a travesty.
In the meantime, I would not entirely dismiss the power of self-promotion through blogging and other useful social media, which technology has happily given us (for better or worse). And while visual artists can submit proposals to legitimate galleries and juries in the hopes of being selected, it’s also true that poets and poetry are becoming more visible in the realm of performance (including the One Thousand Poets for Change movement), merging the spoken word with other media.
After decades of fast cars and passive entertainment (TV, DVDs, CDs), which have crippled our naturally slow and considered imaginations, the [general] public is easily bored with the static. They will walk right past a painting in a gallery, seemingly unintelligible to them, but will stand transfixed like statues in front of a video installation of moving images in that same gallery’s darkened corner.
It’s what we’ve come to … BUT… a welcome and very exciting multi-arts cross-pollenation has been unfolding, and I for one rejoice because I’ve never liked being restricted to just one box.
Have you considered branching out in non-traditional ways?
I’m sure you’re right… I’ve followed much of the emerging trends in performative arts, sound installations, and the cross-pollination as you describe. As for myself, since I’ve retired I’m on fixed income so have yet to explore other venues. As you suggest, there is so much glut, so much of muchness everywhere its difficult to keep up with anything more than the trailing’s of traces of events and happenings… I’m so busy in research and study, and writing that taking out time to explore the vast archive of even the internet for trends when there are tens of thousands of journals vying for one’s attention, etc. Yes, I put in as much time as I can: go to poetry readings in my local state, etc. Lots of activities… yet, for me again, this takes away from one’s actual work, and seems pointless… I can imagine Petrarch or Dante, Vergil or Homer, or even Samuel Johnson wandering round our world today… what a comic relief that would be 🙂