**Disclaimer: because I view this blog as a sketchbook, many of my thoughts are half-baked at best (I believe this is true of most blogs anyway). Nonetheless, beyond my meager writing skills and Swiss cheese arguments, I’d like to think there are kernels of truth worth discussing.
To try and make this short and concise, here’s the thought: Shouldn’t art that the artist intends to be political in nature be judged to some degree on its ability to incite political interest in the public... outside the walls of the “art world” garden? Shouldn’t art that the artist intends to be religious be successful in inspiring spiritual awakening in people who don’t frequent museums of contemporary art? Shouldn't art that claims to have relevance in the real world engage it? Shouldn’t its success be evaluated on its impact outside the vacuum of the institution, the gallery, the world of professional theory and criticism?
Certainly not all (not most?) art today means to discuss the plight, the motivations, the faith of everyman/woman. Good artists know that their conversation is often just about art or the plight, the motivations, the faith of the artist and his/her peers. This art is about small ideas that do just fine being confined to the “art world.” And small ideas are good. They only intend to impact a small group of people.
But then there are delusional artists who think they are making art that engages humanity on a large scale and it doesn’t. The conceptual aspect of an artwork only works if it’s intended audience receives the intended message of the artist. Millions and millions of people witnessing your artwork doesn’t mean it reached/engaged/impacted those people.
Now I’m speaking of art in a very strict sense here. I mean art that serves no function but to be art. Mainstream movies, books, and music are extremely successful at engaging lots of people (and I consider them art), but delivering a message in the artistic sense is not normally their primary function (entertain/make money).
Beyond that, precedents set by artistic movements like Relational Aesthetics and much interactive installation realize the success of an artwork only when the audience is moved to the point of participation. Artists must now consider their responsibility to curate an experience. They must consider that the engagement and directly inspired actions of their viewer as extensions of the artwork and a contributing factor to its success. Are these actions of the audience realizing the conceptual intent? Now I’m not talking about propaganda, where the work’s main function is to inspire a movement in one direction or another. I’m just pointing out that if an artist intends to make art for the public at large, their related actions are part of the piece... and if there is no action, is the artwork successful? If the audience is not acting, maybe the work is reaching them, but still not successful.
Artists must be held responsible for their delusions. Just because the “art world” understands an artwork and even acts on its behalf, doesn’t mean the work is successful. Too often the work is pretending to have a conversation with the real world, only the real world isn’t listening. And worse, the piece is considered successful because the only people that are listening, the “art world,” are the determining opinion in arts success. This is short-sighted and naive.
Worse than making art that is delusional is just ignoring the public because it’s too hard to make successful work that includes them. An artist might complain that they lack the resources to engage the real world like mainstream movies, books, and music do... they can’t get an audience beyond the institution (read: “art world”). It’s possible. It’s even easier now with the Internet. Reaching the public is a noble cause for art, but we need to raise the standards of success in order to really make art with broad impact.