[The Seven by Nine Squares home page] [YAWN 7] [Art Strike 1990-1993]

The Artist as a Victim of Tourette Syndrome

"The architects of the Art Strike want to force everyone else to emulate their own lack of success. They're promoting lazy cafe intellectualism as a political ideal."
-Julian Schnabel, 1989

Artists. Can they help it? Are they possessed with the uncontrollable urge to create, or is this simply a pose designed to mystify the activity? Is the making of art a kind of obsession, the suppression of which might lead to profound dissatisfaction with daily life and seamless unhappiness? Do artists "require" expression in the same way you or I require food or water, as a matter of survival, as many of them would have us believe? Or are artists driven by manipulated cultural forces of which they may be only dimly aware? If so, who pulls the strings?

Presented with the possibility of giving up "art", many artists will stare forward, dumbstruck, mouth agape, with the hollow words "I couldn't!" scarcely able to form at the orbit of their lips. Sweat forms at their temples, their brains race in epicycles from their panicked frenzy, faced at last with the possible obligation of confronting the prison of nude reality. Is art an addiction, or is it much more?

Think of the absurdity of such a proposal: Artists can't help it. This creates a subset of the `human condition' which we should have to call the `artist condition'. Such artists are little better off than the pitiable victims of Tourette syndrome, a medical condition characterized by violent nervous tics and involuntary spasms of socially unacceptable behavior. Victims of Tourette can't help it. They tic like you or I blink our eyes or swallow a mouthful of saliva.

Many of the things which so clearly characterize Tourette can also be applied to the artist. The violent jerks and ejaculations of half- or fully-formed epithets, the flinging of the arms, and the otherwise disturbing uncontrolled outbursts which would seem to be somehow significant. The short attention span, the hyperactivity, the disruptiveness in school, the obsessiveness, the compulsions. Or the slopping of large canvases with pigment. It is the same.

If Tourette syndrome is the operative metaphor for what is here called the `artist condition', then it seems likely that there would be no cure. For those of us who are fortunate enough to be wholly conscious of our every decision for taking action, all we can do is to go on Art Strike and show these miserable sufferers exactly what's possible if you put your mind to it. [ASAC-IA