Wednesday, January 21, 2004

30 Slides and an Artists' Statement


First off apologies for the lack of an entry yesterday, but I was busy with the three most recent CDs that had been recorded here, and some legal stuff (more on that later).

But today, as I interviewed yet another artist, it occurred to me that for beginning artists, and specifically people who have not gone through academia that the Artists' statement is one of the more scary things around. If you want to get a Canada Council grant, you gotta write one, if you want to apply to the Conseil des Arts et Lettres du Quebec you gotta write one in French. If you want to apply to have a show at any of the Artist-Run centers in town (or elsewhere) you gotta write one. They also help your standard issue commercial gallery with the fluff that they use to impress folk, they can be turned into a section for a catalog, yada-yada-yada.

Here, I specifically do not ask for one. And I think that the whole concept smacks of elitism, which ain't a good thing. If you're talking to somebody who lives in Athens, are you going to judge them by their ability to speak to you in your language? What about holding a conversation with somebody who speaks ASL? If you can't make your hands flutter in the right direction, you're going to end up looking mighty foolish.

Musicians, when they want to apply for something get asked to play their instrument. Dancers when they want to do the Nutcracker for the rest of their life get asked to dance. Writers get asked for examples of their writing. Could you imagine Charlie Parker trying to explain one of his solos to a Canada Council jury? Or how about Nabokov dancing in order to give you a better understanding of Lolita? Why are artists asked to write? Visual Art is a language, if you don't understand it, you're either blind, or still only six months old.

If you're fluent in a visual language, why would anybody expect you to be fluent in something else? Yes, Linus Pauling won the Nobel Prize twice, and Ice Cube can rap and also act, but the number of people who are accomplished at two completely different things are exceedingly rare. Yes, I know how to cook, but I wouldn't be able to work as a chef at Maxim's. Yes, I can ride a bike, but no matter how much I wish I could, I would not be able to finish the Tour de France.

So why do the mandarins in Ottawa and Quebec city insist that artists be writers too, in order to get money?

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