Artists often choose to remain silent when it comes to social discussion, whether because they believe the art will speak for itself or for other reasons, they take a pass when called upon to raise their voices and address the important questions. Because of this the amount of dialogue within the arts community suffers and a group of strong, passionate, creative individuals is broken into so many little pieces to be ineffective rather than a strong, informed community.
We at Empty Kingdom want to build a place not simply for beautiful art, but beautiful people as well. As we are sure you all are. We want to see a strong arts community capable not only of speaking it’s mind in a single, unified voice, but one large and powerful enough to get what they are asking for. In this Roundtable we are seeking to provide one of the many building blocks to build such a community.
But how do we stitch together so many disparate elements? One step at a time. We share our love of art with you, so we know that we have common ground. Here we present to you dialogue. The Roundtable series addresses important and often ignored issues that are very real to artists and the arts community. Addiction, sexuality, lust, love, beauty, give us your ears and the time and we’ll try and address them all. You’ve done us the great honor of coming to our site, now take whatever you read in the following roundtable, however much you manage to read, and go talk about it. This is how we create dialogue, this is how we create community. Good communities take hard work and we’re all in this together.
What is the role of an artist? How does art differ in importance than other services? How does the job of an artist differ from that of a doctor or a judge or a taxi cab driver? Do you think that the role of an artist is more loosely defined than the roles of others? A doctor heals, a fireman protects, a cook feeds, what does an artist do? Does the role of an artist change depending on the audience? What are the inherent responsibilities to the job of an artist? What are the privileges? What are the burdens? What would you say to younger generations to help them better consider their own role as artists, both currently and as a part of the greater human history?
To me the role of the artist is to translate his or her worldview from a mess of unsorted brain activity to whichever medium they work with, paring down and honing their thoughts to relay to an audience what it means to them to be a human being. Or if not something as grand as illustrating the human condition, to illustrate their opinion on a particular topic in ways more roundabout and thought provoking than simply stating it. Ok, I think that sounded a bit wanky, but that’s the best way I can sum up what I consider my job to be. How is differs in importance to other careers is a tricky question. In some ways, it is incredibly less important and more disposable than almost any other career in our society. We need doctors to take care of our bodies and usher in a new generation of human beings as safely as possible. We need construction workers so we can live in structurally sound buildings that will protect us from the elements. We need farmers so we and our families can eat. We don’t need art to survive. If all of the artists in the world stopped making art for one week, I’m not sure if anyone would really notice. Every show being produced during that time would be a bit more sparse, or late, but that’s about it. If all ambulance drivers, factory line workers, custodians, any profession where a tangible service or good is produced stopped doing what they do for a week, there would be chaos. I don’t think anyone’s life depends on art, but I do feel like the quality of that life is heightened greatly if is is spent in a society that makes beautiful or thought provoking art.
If we’re talking privileges and burdens of being an artist, I have to think of this from a very personal point of view, because it’s pretty much the only thing I’ve done with my life. The privileges are plenty. As an artist, I’m allowed to spend everyday in the way that see fit. I often wake up and just put pen to paper all day at my drafting table until I go to sleep, but if I feel it is necessary to sit and think for the whole day, or read, or just go out and be as far away from the studio as possible, I can. I have the freedom to ride my bike throughout the city and visit the studios of some of the most interesting people I have ever met, talk with them in their own environment about they’re own work and ask for advice concerning my own. Beyond traveling the city, I get to travel the world, going to places for shows I never dreamed of visiting. I’m 31, I can hang out with artists in their 70’s and soak up a lifetimes worth of knowledge, or hang out with a bunch of 20 year olds, try to give them some advice and encouragement, and feed off of their raw untainted passion.
As far as burdens, I don’t think there is much to complain about. I have a hard time maintaining intimate relationships because I do tend to work longer hours than most people, and I get anxious if I spend to much time out of the studio, which I do not think is very fun for other people to be around. Or maybe I’m just not very good looking or something, I don’t know. Also, I’m always broke, I generally just make enough money to get by, I have no savings and a considerable amount of debt, but I hope that will go away eventually if I just keep working. I figure if you just keep doing it and refuse to stop for any reason, you have to find success eventually? Thanks what I’m banking on anyway…
What would I say to younger artists? Well, the first thing I always say is that this is that you have to work. You can’t just call yourself an artist and have everyone believe it, if people don’t see that you are willing to sacrifice important things in your life, like relationships and financial stability, work and think and experiment and fail until it hurts, no one will take you seriously. As far as their greater role as an artist, I don’t really go there. I just encourage younger people to get a studio, and stay in that studio as much as they possibly can. Do everything you do with passion and work your ass off…