[-empyre-] For whom is art "made"?

Julian Oliver julian at selectparks.net
Wed May 7 20:00:59 EST 2008

..on or around Tue, May 06, 2008 at 08:20:21PM -0400, G.H. Hovagimyan said:
> Actually making art has a couple of components. One is an internal urge 
> or curiosity that causes a person to become an artist. This means that a 
> person seeks out and feels comfortable in the creative process of their 
> art.  In other words an artist makes art for themselves.  If you ask 
> about an external reason; an artists make art for their patron.  Art has 
> nothing to do with the general public. It's not entertainment. It is not 
> the artists' task to relate to the general public nor to seek any 
> influence on them. Indeed, in a capitalist, commodity, marketing system 
> the broad based consumer object/ service seems the most important. That 
> is the confusion of your question. Art is more like aesthetic research 
> but it is not done in an, "ivory tower."  I would have to say that art 
> making is field research.  If you understand that all of the galleries, 
> museums, critics etc.. are an external system that is not art but a  
> consequence of the aesthetic research done by an artist than maybe  
> that's closer to the reality of what art is.  If an artist is making art 
> that involves the general public than that is what their aesthetic 
> research is about.  But an artist can also make art that only involves 
> one or two other people or no-one.  Stéphan Méllarmé said that all an 
> artists needs is a poet and a patron.   Understand that poets in France 
> at that time were people that wrote about art and were able to explain 
> the work to the public. It was never the job of an artist to explain or 
> relate to the public.  The patron is a person who recognizes the artists 
> project and supports it with both emotional and monetary support.  That 
> is who an artists makes art for.

i agree with these sentiments. 

i'd like to say i think it is a sad day that art that is /expected/ to
have an obligation to "everyday life" or the "man on the street", both
of which are themselves patronising generalisations. which street, whose
everyday? we have many everyday lives with many concerns. the gallery is
not somehow outside of life! 

secondly, Joe Shmoe doesn't exist and he never has. Joe Shmoe is an
aristocratic fantasy, an Unexceptional Life, used to reinforce a
cultural and intellectual class separation. Joe Shmoe is also a figure
people invoke when they need to feel influential, interested and
concerned about their "fellow man" all at the same time (a super

i would go so far as to say that the moment art takes "everyday life" as
its charter and as its content, it is being the most patronising and -
in some senses - the most abstract..

i have made several projects designed for use outside the gallery in the
interests of approaching different audiences and presentation contexts.
i don't think for a moment that i'm somehow talking to "the people". i
am however talking to more people with different interests than i would
typically in a gallery setting.

> On May 6, 2008, at 12:47 PM, Megan Debin wrote:
>> How does current art production relate to the general public, to the 
>> Joe Shmoe on the street?  How is the public really involved?   Shall we 
>> sit in our ivory towers and wax philosophical, using complicated 
>> terminology that most of the general public does not understand?  That 
>> is our job, right?  How can artists and critics reclaim a true 
>> relationship with the people?  

i would answer this by saying that art, at it's most influential, at its
most publically conversant, is popular culture. this is the Art of


julian oliver
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