Stealing Art Part 3

Christine Alfery

Posted on April 29 2021

Stealing Art Part 3
Featured image: Fishing Nets

I frequently search for a hidden agenda of humanism within the concepts that make up how art is understood. I frequently search for some form of political or social power that controls the work and the work that is controlled by "other" power. If I find it, then I don’t call the work art because this "other" power takes away from the power that has always been in the concept of art for as long as I have known it. Frequently, the question that needs to be asked is what is being left out here? Especially, because it makes me feel so good.

As I have frequently said, if we do not do our due diligence surrounding the concept of art then someone else will, and how we know art and understand art will never go back to its own sovereignty. This is happening when we say, "Art can be anything and everything." As a former art educator, I know and have heard other art educators teach this very concept that art can be anything you wish it to be. This statement can be linked to the once held notion that there was a freedom associated with the concept of art where, the self, the soul, the individuality could be expressed freely within the work. And within current educational systems and curriculums, it's the only place where individuals can find this wonderful space to have their voice heard. The concept of self in the arts has been stolen by the more overpowering concept of humanism.

Historically, I watched this spread of humanism take over how the concept of “art” is understood. Slowly this spread has taken over how the artist thinks or does not think. The use of one's own mind, one's creative mind gets smaller and smaller.

The example I want to use to illustrate this is the use of the word, "competition," used in a sentence recently by someone talking about an exhibition that I have artwork in. The person said, “And most importantly, none of the work in this exhibition, none of the artists within this exhibition compete with each other.” This person was speaking for themselves. What did they mean by this statement? How did they understand the concept of “art” that allowed them to make that statement? My guess is art can be anything and everything and therefore does not compete.

The idea that artwork does not compete with other artwork is exactly a phrase I think of when I think of the stealing of the concept of “art.” Not everything that is made is art. Art needs to be different, unique, one-of-a-kind, sovereign. If anything and everything can be called art, then of course nothing competes. Then, there really is no art. The value of art comes with the notion of creation and to create. And no, not everything that a person creates is an artwork.

I have, in the past, defined how I understand the work creation, or to create, when it comes to art and understanding what art is: It is the ability to rearrange the combinations of natural elements. It is the only power an “artist” and an “art – work” has. Because the individual who achieves something creative has put themselves into the work. They have rethought how to think about something and presented it in a fresh and different way. That makes their work unique and not imitation.

The middle is not grey – or I could say the middle should not be blue. I refer to the terms "red pill" and "blue pill" as a choice between the willingness to learn a potentially unsettling or life-changing truth, by taking the red pill, and remaining in content ignorance with the blue pill. 1999 film The Matrix.

Well, how can “art” be defined then? I prefer to think of “art” as having a choice and the choice is not to remain ignorant to difference. Difference does not mean we all meld into one melting pot of grey. Difference means respect and honor of another and talking about difference not as competitive but simply as difference. Personally, I think a better word could have been used for these reasons. But the biggest reason is, if art can be and is anything and everything, then art will be a prisoner and never have a soul of its own again.

The “red” middle is filled with artists who are different and difference is not defined through the loss of the sovereign self. The moral, ethical code for those in the middle should have nothing to do with humanism. It should have to do with the individual, the individual self. The middle will be just fine if we follow the simple golden rule that has been around for a long time –

Do unto others as you would have them do unto yourself.

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