Culture Fail: Art Vs. Commodity… A Struggle Too Often Lost

Andy Warhol, Oxidation Painting (detail), 1978, bronze paint, urine.

Not many people who get into art do so for reasons that don’t at least partially include the romance felt for other artists and their work. Or even just the idea of being well known and thought of as a genius without having to log the hours for a mathematics Ph.D. To break it down into less exhilarating terms, the concept could even be thought of as a remote control for one’s ability to simply matter – and with a shot at changing the channel based on who you are rather than what you had been taught to do. There’s a purity to it, even if encased in a thin slime and wrapped around the sentimentality of your average teenager. Eventually, as skill builds and is introduced to the ambition that is so often rooted in the aforementioned, a motivational balance is struck.

On one hand, these motivations can lead a person to actually do great work at some point, but that’s only if they’re able to grow out of them. Or, in some instances, if the person is able to recognize when they’re being caught up in similar pathways of reasoning and change course. As we all know, it isn’t easy to resist the baser parts of human nature. But as I’ve gotten older and grown in both skill and experience as an artist myself, I’ve watched more and more fellow artists cross these points of no return first hand. And I’ve come close a great many times myself

The line in the sand that I’m describing is the commodification of your work. How many shows, festivals and events have I done in my life for no other reason than to use my work as a vehicle for exposure? There’s nothing wrong with exposure… right up until that mechanism suddenly changes gears inside you and you no longer think of your own work as anything but a vehicle. And a vehicle for what, itself? Have you ever heard the expression, ‘spinning your wheels?’

Andy Warhol proved a few decades back that the only thing you need to create art is a surface and some urine. Sure, art generally costs a lot of money and time (which, in turn, costs money), but let this be a lesson to you: don’t let that, or anything else, position you too close to crossing the line. One’s attitude, thoughts, feelings, etc. go into their work whether they like it or not. They uncontrollably transfer into the medium at hand. Art is one of, if not the most ‘free’ things a person can engage in. Don’t contribute to the collective poisoning of the well.

By Johnny Beaver