The following column was written as an attempt to become Quench columnist. I was reading quite a lot of philosophy and sociology books at the time and was getting a little light headed. Maybe that's why they didn't choose it, because it reads like a conspiracy theory? Except squashed into 800 words. Anyway, Molly Wyatt got it in the end. Not mad, because if I had got this I wouldn't have gone for cartoonist.
The TOMMENT: The bond between Artist and Art
Should we separate artists from their art? This is an issue that has pervaded human societies ever since paintings were first scrawled on cave walls.
In 2014, at the height of what seemed like endless scandals, in the UK we saw the prices of Rolf Harris’s once valuable paintings drop like a gymnast in a nightclub. In the US at the same time, Bill Cosby faced allegations of child abuse and had his new TV show cancelled.
In Harris’ case, many people bought his paintings because he was a TV celebrity- unsurprising, as in our celebrity culture people seem ecstatic just to sit on the same seat as a Big Brother finalist. Perhaps if people hadn’t been so keen to attach art to artist in the first place, the massive overestimation of fairly mediocre paintings wouldn’t have happened.
Some might argue the issue is related to the “commodification of culture”, wherein works of art become media texts and even the most provocative of works (for example, Mein Kampf) are considered worthy of sale on the market. Although this grants them access to a wider audience, it also strips them of their former countercultural context in being conducive to attacks on the status quo. This idea was propagated by sociologist Herbert Marcuse in 1964’s One Dimensional Man, writing that the effect of this would be to stifle political dissent among the young. He was happily proven wrong by the hippie movements of the late 1960s, but this line of thought lives on today in people such as Bill Watterson, the Calvin and Hobbes cartoonist, who was frustrated by the dismissive way that newspaper comics are often treated, writing in 1995 that there should be no distinction between “low” and “high” art.
There are some cases where creatives try desperately to distance themselves from their work. Also in 2014, Markus “Notch” Persson desperately tried to cut ties to Minecraft, which had become the best-selling PC game of all time, and developed a rabid (and increasingly younger) fan base. The young fans saw him as “a symbol”- a role model when the latest update was good, but a hated figure when something went wrong. In this case, Notch was more than happy to partake in the commodification of culture and sold his little Java game to Microsoft for 2.5 billion dollars, washing his hands of the increasingly hot-headed fans once and for all.
That same year, then JOMEC society president Vicky Chandler successfully banned sexist comedian Dapper Laughs (aka Daniel O’Reilly) from playing in the Students Union. O’Reilly responded to the wave of backlash all over the country by trying to show that his character was not him, that “Dapper” was designed to parody the shady ideologies of online pick up artists. Unfortunately, there’s very little evidence to support his claim- he just seems to like punching down on those who have less luck than him, including women, the homeless and a character who is 45 years old and still lives with his mum. When your work is this bad, I think you deserve to have it stapled to your head for the rest of your days.
My original idea was to then link to a page on this website where readers could find links to explore the topics discussed further. I feel like this would make for more interesting reading than a lot of feature and comment pieces in student media, which seem to be drawn from peoples' heads. Here's what readers would find on the secret page:
In this issue's column, I discussed the bond between artist and art. Where should they be separated, where should they be united? What are artists' views on this, and what have academics said on the subject?
Two great articles on the BBC from the Rolf Harris scandal: Here and Here.
The Guardian on Dapper Laughs.
Bill Watterson on High and Low art
When Notch opted for sanity and money over retaining control of his life's work
What could have been, eh?