in the arts
Mike de Sousa, Director, AbleStable®
The following article first appeared at Mike de
Sousa's personal web site www.mikedesousa.net/artspeak,
and represents his personal views
about the relationship between contemporary art
and the general public.
start: devil's advocate
This article uses the word 'art' to mean visual
arts, music, drama, dance, and literature. The phrase
'art critic' is meant as one who critiques any of
the above art forms.
The relevance and importance of art and artists
in the Western world continues to diminish. Contemporary
art is pursued by a small minority of practitioners
and followers as it continues in its transformation
from cultural necessary to minority pastime.
Music, visual art, literature, and drama are crucial
in helping us express, define, and debate the world
we experience. However, the general public will
continue to feel dislocated and disillusioned by
contemporary art so long as artists, art critics,
and arts institutions view them as other and lesser
language of art
The use of exclusive language to assert cultural
status serves to distance the general public: a
piece of pottery is craft, while a piece of ceramic
is art. Craft is less; art, more. Artworks are too
often defined by the dubious judgments of artists
and critics, and not by their value and relevance
to the general public.
art of prejudice
The amateur or nonprofessional artist is in general
frowned upon by the arts community, except that
is, if their work is of use for the professional
artist to parody, satirise, or patronise. The feeling
of mutual distrust between the artist and non-artist
is fueled by the culture of exclusivity which defines
contemporary art. Art must become accessible and
inclusive if it is to regain its position as a vital
component of our daily existence.
art of value
While artists may enjoy an instinctive, innate aesthetic
experience of life which is different than non-artists,
the belief that this difference is necessarily of
greater value than the experiences of ordinary people
art of the new
Originality, novelty, and the ability to surprise
or shock, assume a primary importance, and this
desire to feed the ego stifles the development of
art, bad art
Popular film and music are among a raft of cultural
activities that are often excluded from inclusion
in a definition of contemporary art. They are often
classified by the contemporary arts community as
entertainment or pastimes, and by implication not
merely different, but of less interest and worth.
art is a personal matter mostly defined by taste
and circumstance, and less by the views of others.
Art requires an audience. The audience is a part
of art's nature as time is to music. As the audience
of contemporary art declines and our spiritual infrastructure
crumbles, art must connect to survive, and connect
to the many, not the few.