In the Service of Society < Deep Thought

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Artists have to be the servant to society.
– Marina Abramovic


[ Read the context of this quote. ]


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20 thoughts on “In the Service of Society < Deep Thought”

  1. I’m sorry… but I cringe when I think of the US based grant money that has been spent on Marina Abramovic. It is good to see that she plans to give back with her institute… but… *yawn*

  2. It’s difficult to get past the first paragraph; as this person sounds like a psychotic exhibitionist…and a very spiritually needy one at that. The thought of grant money going towards that stirs up feelings of anger and dismay, and yes even disgust, with me. She comes across as another “celebrity wanna-be”. Pitiful.

  3. Wow. You guys are really missing the point of my Deep Thoughts. Maybe it’s my fault and I wasn’t clear. It’s okay to feel that way, but I just have to point it out that the post isn’t about whether you like her or not. It’s about that specific quote.

    It’s just interesting that you would dismiss everything or any possibilities because it came from someone you dislike.

  4. Victoria Pendragon

    I have loved performance art since the 60’s but it’s changed a lot as society has changed and opened more broadly to social consciousness. In the sixties performance art was designed to be thought provoking; now it seems to utilize the element of shock to provoke that thought… but that’s because we have, as a society, become desensitized to mere verbal provocation as it seems to be everywhere.
    In the 50’s were were told that if we couldn’t say something nice, we shouldn’t say anything at all. That’s far from the current trend at this point. So why should we expect the visual to be far behind?
    As the producer of a series of works – Witness – that focus on the emotional and psychological ramifications of childhood sexual abuse and incest, I find that I am often in a place of asking myself, “Is this really art?” which self-query is quickly followed by, “What is art anyway?”
    There are a whole lot of people who feel that art and beauty are synonymous. Most socially conscious art is lost on those folks… but it isn’t lost on the people who are open to learning more about their own humanity, about the humanity that surrounds them. Art that is about addressing ‘issues’ can be challenging and unpleasant… but it is about making that journey to experience – if the artist is effective – at a feeling level something that – thank heaven! – the viewer has not actually experienced; it is about having a taste of what some other people have been through… or are going through.
    But I still wonder… because there’s a huge difference between a work that you want to hang on your wall to enrich your everyday life and a work that is designed to change lives. Are both these things art? Yes. They are.
    Writing is an art… and much is written that is challenging and unpleasant and very, very necessary. Why should visual art be any different just because it is even more powerful.
    Do we all need to address ‘issues’ in our work; I think not. We all have our skills, our niches, and many of us are very private people. And while I would hope that every artist is a person of compassion, a person open to learning about the challenges that life can bring that he or she may not have experienced, I see no reason why every artist needs to address social issues in their work. Sometimes we just want beauty. We require beauty.
    I have been an ordained inner-faith minister for 23 years; I do spiritual counseling in addition to writing and creating art. I created Witness in the year that the last of the people associated with my abuse died. Meanwhile, I was doing other work; I’m doing other work now… it’s all color and design. It happens that most of what I do is geared towards personal empowerment but it’s also geared toward being something people want to see (as opposed to something they might need to see).
    Some people are called; some people are chosen; some people are along for the ride. We all have our place.

  5. Christine Sauer

    Many years ago I created issue based art. Oy certainly helped alleviate my angst but eventually I decided that type of work doesn’t really do enough to change things. I think working more directly with cause/issue is a better approach. I see a lot of art like MA’s more in the realm of sociology. Interesting certainly but not my fave. So artist being a servant to society….that’s a heavy burden!(and a bit pretentious)

  6. I agree with this quote. I believe that art can be the most selfish act, and it can be the most generous act. When it’s the latter, it’s the most successful. Sure, art-making is personal, and it can be driven by personal needs. But when it has something to give to an audience, when it can serve society, then the magic happens.

  7. About the quote:I like to serve…It humbles me…I like to think that I am in service…I am bored with chasing money…Once you have success, chasing money is no longer a goal…So you are left empty…If you shift your paradigm to being in service, it lasts longer…
    In terms of issue based art:I like issue based art that solves the problem…Not art that shows the violence or the abuse, but art that shows how that badness was overcome…Not art showing pollution or sadness, but art that tells how we can solve that…I want to read about victories…How did you get out of that hole? Didactic teaching art…
    About the artist herself:Coming from a drama & theatre background, I grew to feel that performance art was really just an extension of theatre…Much of the exercises proposed at the Institute are things one would do as an actress in training…I don’t like self-mutilation performance art, nor the masturbation in public performances, but I feel that somehow this is possibly important…I don’t know, but I am open to artists who are willing to break molds…I am also shy to be negative about women in the arts who are successful…Like the works or not, I am glad they are paving my road…

  8. Maybe I’m just thick but I don’t get it. I’m afraid you picked a poor example Alyson, the whole thing was just incomprehensible to me.

    Anyway, all professions serve, if they didn’t they wouldn’t have customers or receive compensation. That’s all money is, a convenient way to exchange service and product. However, I believe you’re really talking about charity, not sure why artists should be singled out for that, everybody should be charitable, artists are not special in that regard IMO.

  9. The fabric of your art work, what you choose to do, to share…Artists have the unique ability to capture & identify the needs of a society, in the moment, & provide an out of the box solution…To be in service to society…For example…A small community in Manitoba has the highest incidence of multiple sclerosis in the world…Turns out it is due to old leaded pipes…An artist steps in & does an exhibit explaining the problem, the cause, the results…The artist also organizes highly discounted phototherapy sessions for those afflicted, since the light therapy is beneficial & healing…Sure other industries serve as well…I hope they serve…But in what we choose to share with the world we have great power to elicit change…Fine you can argue so do others…But this is an art business blog & this was just a quote & the context was given just as a reference & I think everyone could be a little nicer here…Because it sure doesn’t feel like service is happening…

  10. No. The artist first duty is to their self. I’m making visual art about social issues etc because after being emotionally abused anything else seems trivial.

    Also while it’s a good discussion, I wish you had chosen a different example. One of her performances would count as self harm in every other context. As someone with depression I found just reading about it triggering.

    1. I agree Anita…I think we take the self for granted…Like how many send ourselves an invitation to our own shows? My point about social issue art was not to make art that repeats the abuse, but shows the way out…I feel the self-mutilation art is just repeating the abuse(agree with you there too), rather than showing a creative solution…

    2. Victoria Pendragon

      I,too, Sari,feel that self-mutilation is very much repeating the abuse and feels more like exhibitionism than art although I do feel the need for visual metaphor that can create a sense of how the abuse felt to the artist… otherwise,what’s the point of showing a way out?
      Art, in this instance, needs a way to ‘tell a story’ without necessarily (I feel) being literal about the story. For me, to create images that convey the fear or pain or shame or whatever was felt is key to generating a sense of empathy in the viewer or, in the case of someone who has experienced something similar, a sense of recognition. To make that feeling connection establishes a foundation and a reason for the hope that,ideally,is also revealed.

    3. Even more exciting for me, is to see someone who has been abused, overcome that to such a great extent, that they are able to create new artworks that are about completely unrelated subjects…Sometimes the act of repeating the emotion in their art,endlessly, prevents a survivor from moving on, even from themselves…If anyone wants to continue this discussion, please write to me directly…I think it’s getting a little deep for public…

    4. Victoria Pendragon

      I’d love to, Sari, though your private Email isn’t visible to me. If you’d like, you can visit my eponymous website (VictoriaPendragon) and E me from there and we can continue.

      What you say is absolutely on target as far as I’m concerned. I’ve moved through two ‘phases’ with it, the second will turn out, I feel, to have been the last. We’ll see!

  11. The role of the artist in society has always been a major discussion point, in my experience, and most likely will never be resolved. But when/if we “serve” society we’re also serving ourselves, aren’t we? How would we separate ourselves from society if we wanted to do so? What IS “society” anyway, if not our own realm, as narrowly as some of us live or as broadly as some of us reach? “Servant” can be a tough word, with connotations of obeisant behavior required for little reward. Sounds to me more as if the idea intended is to be in service to – an agent of – ideas to serve/offer society. As if we are the art itself, regardless whether we paint objects for walls or stand mutely while others stare at our very selves.
    As for whether any one of us is more or less important in any of this, well, isn’t it “society” who remembers/ordains/anoints/rewards the art & artists who survive over time? (To pick that nit, yes, I do know it’s the power structure that actually determines that – but what is society if not the culture & system encouraged and approved by that power structure?)
    There’s endless discussion to explore on this subject, and I appreciate being reminded to let my head wander down this trail, reminded how many trails there are. . .

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