Taking Art Private

I think that art should be allowed to go private. It should be a matter of one-on-one. In the last few years, the public has only heard of art when it makes record prices at auction, or is stolen, or allegedly withheld from its rightful owners. We need to concentrate more on art that sits still some place and minds its own business. We all hope for a strong response from art, but the kind of buzz that we have to live with nowadays is the enemy of art. Quietness and slow time are its friends. Let’s hope that their turn will come.

–John Russell, in conversation with Jason Edward Kaufman

This quote captures the essence of the idea behind Slow Art and the reason I started blogging over a year ago. Russell’s advocacy for a more personal one-on-one art experience–an art that has gone “private”–runs against all the tendencies of our culture.

The sentiments Russell expresses remind me of one of my culture heroes, Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist.org. Even as his social networking site is valued in the billions of dollars, he is not interested in selling out. When asked why, this was his answer:

“Who needs the money? If you’re living comfortably, what’s the point of having more?”

He has talked about starting the site in his spare time as a service to the community, and it just kept expanding. “I believe people are overwhelmingly trustworthy and good.” By taking that approach, the site has become a massive force of its own.

When something authentic and powerful goes against the drag-it-down current of conventional wisdom, who knows what will open up? I long for these new points of view, new ways of thinking, a shift in the consciousness.

Thank you Elatia Harris for finding the quote by Russell and sending it my way.

6 Replies to “Taking Art Private”

  1. When my father and I visited galleries, he would sometimes say to me, “Which of these pieces would you like to take home?” I think he had that intimate view of art, that it was important to interact with the art on a personal level despite its obviously public stature. A little “air” keeps art fresh, but I think Russell is right that buzz is destructive. It interfere’s with the viewer’s response and might confuse the artist as well. With buzz, I always wonder what we’re buzzing about, the work or the phenomena surrounding the work.

  2. D, there is work that I love and want to live with and there is work I love that I would rather think about but not confront on a daily basis. (Case for the latter, Matthew Barney.) But that intimate, private experience work is hard to find in the commercial art world right now. I believe there are lots of people like me and your father who keep that approach valid and vital, regardless of whether it has buzz or not. Thanks for this.

  3. This private view may be a reaction to consumerism, and the idea that art, instead of an experience, is a commodity. I think about the gift shops at the end of every big exihibt, just like the rides at Universal Studio or Disney World. Ugh!

  4. Blogging is a kind of writing that gets immediate feedback from readers and in that sense there is an action I never had in the little publishing I did. I never had long ongoing conversations of what I wrote. People would say “oh, I really liked that piece.” And that was it. The connection I feel with readers writing on my blog feels like a guilty pleasure, like I’m not really writing, only it’s the funnest writing I’ve ever done and, I’m feeling, the closest to expressing me. I’m still struggling with the issue of anonymity vs recognition, afraid that seeking recognition with my real name will shut down the Department of Creativity in my brain and clamp me all up for fear of what my employer/patients might think. But, what’s in a name?

  5. Elatia Harris says:

    Good point, Individual Voice. Would anyone do anything if it were guaranteed never to result in recognition? Blogging has removed much of the worst of non-recognition in providing interaction and a sense of audience. Rather freeing, like the fabled conversation on a train which finds strangers confiding in one another, safe in the knowledge they’ll go their separate ways. Tim Parks, full of interesting thoughts on vanity, wrote in an essay called “Writerly Recognition” about writers seeking both praise and recognition as if they were the same thing. They’re not, he says. Praise is ephemeral, given by the establishment to usually not very talented writers, while recognition of who you really are and what you can really do as an artist, may come from anywhere and be experienced as very important.

  6. There is so much more to this topic, and these comments reflect some of the many themes that reside within it. It is a daily conversation for me, seeking clarification about what I want my work to do and to be. Elatia, thanks for that Tim Parks distinction. And IV, you address another whole set of issues. No shutting down of the Department of Creativity allowed!

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: