I’m reminded of this notion as the future of Art is debated at the moment –the near future is a very gloomy prospect for public funding for the arts, once again Art faces the near impossible situation of fighting its corner alongside education, health, defence etc.
We are an ingenious crew in the arts and inevitably contingency plans are being discussed – typically these involve looking for folk/departments/agendas (with money) who could conceivably benefit from a bit of our creativity in pursuing their own aims. The argument that comes with this camp is that we have to adapt to survive and that ‘necessity is the mother of invention’……as long as we are alive then Art is alive within us.
On the other side of the wire is the ‘the Real Thing or No Thing ‘ team. Their position is that the Art we have has been hard won through the politics of no compromise. Art is important because it is Art and if we join in with any form of agenda that aims for anything other than Art then we will be trampled on and what is produced will not be Art but window dressing for the real commercial/political/criminal motive behind the ‘collaboration’.
I have no solution here – but I have learnt that there are two pre-requisites for Art to exist 1) it must be produced by someone who is an ‘outsider’(in the emotional/political rather than geographical sense) and 2) it must be useless - by this I mean it must not have an ‘intent’ in the same way that a design aims to solve a problem.
The question, for me, then is ‘Is it possible to get the money for your art from a ‘non-art’ source, remain an Outsider and make work that is Useless’. I believe that the answer can be (but not always is) yes. As usual, the reality of this comes down to individual relationships – fleeting moments when two disparate energies collide to the benefit of both.
I have been writing and thinking about the importance of 'fools' of late – I was interested in relationships like Lear and the Fool wherein the truth and wisdom more often than not comes from the Fool – yet both parties are aware of this and mutually dependent on the other for survival. The important thing for both the king and the fool is the truth; and it requires both of them. When talking to fellow artists about this idea they take issue with the idea of the ‘king’…..’why must we be subject to anyone?’. It is a good point, but only if you look from the outside and try to generalise (or legislate) the situation….the whole point is that these situations rely on a deep inner trust within a key relationship – a mutual understanding of what is important and what is not. They are not marriages – they are not meant to last, rather they are like Kerouac’s ‘fabulous Roman Candles’ burning bright and fast.
Such relationships can equally exist within the world of State funded ‘Art for Arts sake’ as within worlds beyond ‘Art’ just as both systems are equally capable of creating work that is bloated and corrupt.
It is the passion that is the key – not ‘artist and patron’, not ‘king and fool’ but rather two people with recognition of their difference and belief in what they can achieve together. Now, more than ever, we have to look for the passion and be brave enough to find it in unlikely places.