Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Learning about art and power

Today I'm starting research about the relationship between art and power for a short essay.

It seems now that it is a relationship defined, like so many other relationships, by contention among competing forces. There is art that provides alternatives to state power, and this kind of art tends to be emphasized pretty heavily today - art as emancipation for sub-altern groups.

On the other hand many kinds of art have also been defined by ruling classes - the tradition of portrait painting was, at least at first, produced by artists for the wealthy.

One thing that seems pretty constant. Artists, practicing skills that do not directly produce the goods they need for life, need support from other parts of society. Long ago, metal-working artists practiced their craft (and perhaps even invented their craft) for the benefit of kings and nobles. At other times society or wealthy patrons have taken it upon themselves as a collective to support artistic endeavors. In the latter case, artists tend to be more free to do work that is not for the benefit of any particular individual or client, but is rather directed at all of society.

Many questions emerge. What about this artist/not-artist dichotomy? Can people include artistic production in their lives without being solely artists? Is that a possibility that modern digital media make more available or less available than it has been in the past? And would it be positive or negative to have more self-supported amateur artists?

And the boundaries of "art" a YouTube video art? Could software be art?

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