Deep Thought Thursday: The arts today

Inspired by last week’s Deep Thought about art and politics.

The arts used to be considered an indicator of a society’s advancement and standing in the world.

Are they still? If they are, how so? And is it just artists that think this?

If they aren’t, why not? What has replaced art and how did it happen?

Send to Kindle

14 comments to Deep Thought Thursday: The arts today

  • I think economic indicators (like how much workers make per day, GDP, etc.) are today’s metrics for measuring a country’s level of advancement. Not incorrectly, either. Too many people in the world live on $1 per day or less. After you take care of the basic needs, then you can begin looking to higher-level needs like aesthetics and self-expression.

  • Aesthetics and self-expression is at the core of being human. Without it there is no culture or social identity to speak of. I have a good friend, a leader in Uganda’s Parliament, who has dedicated his life to restoring his country and its culture. That culture was completely wiped out when Idi Amin literally killed it by killing an entire generation of young men. The Ugandan people are, for the most part, poor, uneducated and without culture except for music and some forms of visual arts. He knows the art and education is were their humanity lies. Building a culture is key to their development as a nations. Of course it is not the only thing that is needed. Education, infrastructure, and commerce is essential. But without the core of a culture, a social identity, there is little reason for hope. No doubt, the poor of the world need the help of those of us who can. I would argue that the waning support in the U.S. of individual artists, local arts organizations, arts education and the like, indicate that we have shifted our priorities. Our fear of enemies, real and imagined, competition in the business place. Competition with our neighbors (who has the biggest and best?) and rampant consumerism. When it is all about winning, little wonder the arts are squeezed into the margins.

  • Walter Hawn

    Seems to me that, in the industrial world, the idea that ‘everybody is an artist’ and the corresponding or underlying thought that all expression is valid art has devalued *real* art (whatever that might be) in the general culture. And manufactured goods (the iPod springs to mind) have often become the expression and the way of art. There is a whole college on the West Coast, for example, dedicated to industrial and automotive design, and the students and faculty consider themselves to be artists all the way. In some circles — principlely of the upper income sort — art is appreciated both for its presence and for the wealth it signifies. This is somewhat different from years gone by, when certain cultures emphasized art AS wealth and not just concomitant with or a result of wealth. There you have it, a whole Ph.D. thesis in under 200 words. Wait — this could be THREE theses and a lecture tour, if I work it right…

  • Art does define a culture – it IS a culture. But to begin with, we need to broaden our definitions of Art – to address this question, we need to consider all the manifestations of art, not just “wall candy”. Culture is defined by things like music, dance, fashion, jewelry, architecture, entertainment, and a myriad of other art forms besides paintings and sculpture. Those two standard-bearers of the culture will never disappear, but they may well meld and blend with the art forms we live with every day. My hope is that they will enjoy a resurgence in popularity, as people realize that in those media the “message” is pure … that it is presented with no ulterior motive but to communicate. More likely, however, is that artists will continue to evolve to suit the available media, and apply their talents and skills where they will make the most difference.

  • Michael: Re winning . . . Artists never really have been focused on being competitive, have they? Walter: I tend to agree. There are undoubtedly more artists today than ever. And anyone CAN be an artist. This is very different from in the past. When are you going to start that lecture tour? David: Yes. Notice I didn’t define art. I think that was a different Deep Thought! But I agree that it is an inclusive term as I used it here. It means ALL of the arts–old and new.

  • I would add to Walter’s observation on “manufactured goods” that, in part due to the commercial print industry — it seems sad that, for many people, the criteria for good “human” art has been reduced to art that “machines” can reproduce well.

  • This was a very good deep thought question, something that can be discussed where every artists and non artist come together. I wonder if the impact of Julia Cameron’s Artist Way (which by the way I’m a advid follower) as hit our society where she speaks again and again about every one is creative person and that the whole society has become creative and making their own art in a way. I think it’s great that we can be creative and address that but your right in asking what happen so that we can help see where we are headed. I’ve been only at it for baby years but I love hearing story from days gone bye. Even look at the why Movie Stars or were and how it is now with the mass media published about them. Well I probably way off track. Good topic!!

  • Film is the medium of our time. The amount of resources we pour into it and the on-screen results are astounding, don’t you think?

  • I have to disagree with Walter’s statement about the idea that “everybody is an artist” has devalued “real art”. Au contraire mon frere. In past cultures where everyone really WAS an artist, and people created their own tools, clothing, etc., which were also works of art—there was a tremendous appreciation of and value placed on “art”. It wasn’t the same “money culture” that we have now, but I wouldn’t say that the art or creation was devalued in comparison.

  • I have to agree that, today, the indicators of a society’s advancement and standing in the world are its technology and its level of affluence, as the world is, as far as I’m concerned, completely drive by money and power.

  • This is an interesting question since the last art I saw in the top art mags and in installation (this week) all had to do with sharing bodily functions and the results of those functions and/or blank screens….what do you suppose that says about us as a culture?

  • All is too global a statement–how about much of what I saw….I’m just feeling discouraged about the state of the world today….please forgive me.

  • Art, high technology (at least higher than your rivals), and wealth have long been the three markings of how strong a society is and how dominate its culture will be. Just think about how weapons went from being wood to metal long ago… metal obviously won. The problem today is that while technology continues to advance and wealth continues to grow, art has branched out so much that it is hard to lock down. We are at a point where anything and everything can be considered art. A plastic cup with a red dot on it can be considered art just as much as a traditional oil painting. The only question is how ‘good’ or ‘bad’ it is. True, if I displayed a cup with a red dot most people would say it is not art. However, if a famed artist did the same it would be worth thousands. I’m not suggesting that is a bad thing overall, but I do think that it might be why the importance of art has lost some validity in the eyes of the general public.

  • “Aesthetics and self-expression is at the core of being human.” Adams

    “Seems to me that, in the industrial world, the idea that ‘everybody is an artist’ and the corresponding or underlying thought that all expression is valid art has devalued *real* art (whatever that might be) in the general culture.” Hawn

    “Art does define a culture – it IS a culture.” Stewart

    “it seems sad that, for many people, the criteria for good “human” art has been reduced to art that “machines” can reproduce well.” Smith

    “It wasn’t the same “money culture” that we have now, but I wouldn’t say that the art or creation was devalued in comparison.” De Camp

    “This is an interesting question since the last art I saw in the top art mags and in installation (this week) all had to do with sharing bodily functions and the results of those functions and/or blank screens….what do you suppose that says about us as a culture?” Richmond

    “We are at a point where anything and everything can be considered art. A plastic cup with a red dot on it can be considered art just as much as a traditional oil painting. The only question is how ‘good’ or ‘bad’ it is. True, if I displayed a cup with a red dot most people would say it is not art. However, if a famed artist did the same it would be worth thousands. I’m not suggesting that is a bad thing overall, but I do think that it might be why the importance of art has lost some validity in the eyes of the general public.” Sherwin

    Very well said. Thank you.