[The Seven by Nine Squares home page] [YAWN 36] [Art Strike 1990-1993]

Angles on the Art Strike

What the hell is an "art strike"? I though striking was a tool used by organized labor to get a better shake. Strikes ain't as effective on the labor scene as they used to be, and now a bunch of disgruntled artists are striking, although the organizers themselves don't think it will do anything but cause artists to think about their effectiveness in response to the ills of society. Perhaps only the most pompous of artists actually think that they're bene tting the world by expressing themselves. At least I've never thought I was being creative for the purpose of effecting social change.

In an article supporting the 1991-1993 [sic ] "Art Strike," called "Give Up Art Save the Starving," art is painted as the single most cause of the world's ills. I would imagine that the organizers of the art strike are artists of the self-hating variety. Although I'm not enamored of the "art community" and its snobbish attitudes, I don't place all art and artists in the same box marked "trash," as these people do. The article begins asking the reader to imagine a world where art is forbidden. Art is portrayed as the blinders that prevent us from seeing reality. "Give up Art..." reads like stilted propaganda. "Art is money." The "starving artist" of lore is debunked as being "rich beyond their wildest dreams." The really suffering people of the world are those who have never heard of art, the article maintains, claiming that "Artists are murderers!" This is based on the idea that artists are involved in the fantasy and illusory world that masks the real one and makes it bearable.

Just as there are plenty of artists, there are an equal number of visions, and contrary to the strikers' beliefs, one person calling himself an artist cannot "deny another equal right of vision." The "professional" art world, with whom the strikers have a beef, may deny "recognition" of an individual's artistic efforts, but no one can deny vision. It's interesting that these folks gure that the best way to deal with the fantasy of illusory visions it dislikes is to stop creating (more realistic ones) by shutting down the visionary machinery. There are lots of artists who use their talents to show others how they see the world. The purpose is not to entertain in some detached manner, but to share their perceptions with others, and hopefully nd some common ground. Inspire and/or be inspired by others. It's the essence of communication.

The problems of the world do not exist because of artfully crafted illusions. It will take imagination and creativity to deal with the future, but the problem is that not enough people exert their imaginative and creative muscles to make a difference. The art strikers are really living in a fantasy land if they think that the artist, those who overtly use their muse or imagination, should hide it in shame, and blend in with the masses who already suppress their abilities. If anything, we should opt for a world of artists, not one without them. Perhaps these art strikers ain't artists at all. Maybe they nd it easier to encourage others to suppress themselves than to express themselves so they don't have to awaken their own talents.

[Von K. Lechner

The above article is reprinted from Salon: A Journal of Esthetics, no. 10, Summer 1990 issue. The editor may be conacted at: 305 W. Magnolia St., Suite 386, Fort Collins, Colorado 80521