Where do you locate the power of art?

September 3, 2013

To a certain extent we’ve seen a massive influx of arts practices and sensibilities into new domains like entrepreneurship, medical practice, and numerous others; indeed, a realization that Art is a part of life. Yet such a claim is based on the notion that the arts either inherently are or have become separate from these other professional domains and from everyday life itself. The quick explanation to this quandary comes from Cultural and Art Histories: our separation of the Arts from everyday life is a fairly recent one, related to the principles of modernity and the elevation of Art to “high Art” and “the Canon.” To sum it up with a necessarily brief and simplistic reduction, Art became something to be preserved, appreciated, and striven for, instead of part of living as it had been up until that point.

Such elevation, according to fields that examine subaltern and non-dominant cultural forces, extends the standards and judgments of singular truths, where values of dominant cultures are seen as neutral, common sense, and bases of “Civilization” for all of humanity. And yet, another view is that the Arts have never really been stripped from fields or made alien from daily life, despite the way we make sense of the twentieth century the logics that allowed it to take the shape it did. In either case, we now find ourselves in a particular cultural moment in which more people have access to meaning making through representation and artistic production than ever before on a larger stage than ever before. Despite the intense unevenness in quality of artistic production and, importantly, of that access – dependent on age, rural vs. urban, global North vs. global South, race and ethnicity, governmental systems, and numerous other factors – where do you locate the power of Art: in its process or in its products? What does this mean for supporting “the Arts?”

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