Fragile Art

Sunday Thoughts: Aeon.co short film by Chris Landreth.

At the risk of courting the ire of my friends who feel strongly on the subject of monetary compensation for their art work (and I do not disagree, in general), I believe this is where we go wrong: believing we are entitled to economic compensation for “our” genius (I rather like the Ancient Greek take on what genius is). If we assume that our creativity is a means to a capitalist end, or a justification for the unique and privileged social status of “artist”, then perhaps we are forgetting that creating art is also a factor/condition of our human existence. Artists who resort to self-destruction out of spite in the face of what they feel is a lack of recognition do have my compassion, but not my respect.

What are we striving for? Why do we create, really? (After all, history is a fickle thing: ethically abhorrent men remembered as icons for things they never stood for; the truly compassionate, who gave joy to people around them, too often forgotten entirely in a generation.)

This film is beautiful. And sad. And frustrating. But, honestly, it makes me want to walk down to the park, write poems on paper, and fold them into tiny boats that will disintegrate in the shining lake. That kind of fragility might just be the right kind for me today. That kind of art.

4 Comments

  1. E says:

    I’ll have to watch the film but I love your questions. I struggle with the privilege of the art world seeing art as a vehicle for healing, community and connection. It belongs to all of us which is why I’m married to my day job haha.

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  2. Thanks for this, Ren. I like your words here: “perhaps we are forgetting that creating art is also a factor/condition of our human existence. Artists who resort to self-destruction out of spite in the face of what they feel is a lack of recognition do have my compassion, but not my respect.” Yes. That’s something I have wrestled with myself for many years.
    We can be the outsiders, the rebels, the non-conformists–“we” meaning artists (poets, etc.)–but all we are doing is recognizing and finding ways to speak about the human condition, with its suffering and its joys, its revelations and its difficulties.
    We may or may not be geniuses at this sort of expressiveness.
    Whether we are or are not geniuses, it does not matter; we are never entitled to anything. Entitlement, even remuneration, doesn’t enter into the equation…though yes, it OUGHT to, in a perfect world.
    This being, we may note, not a perfect world.
    I’m sharing the video with a beloved who may benefit from its sorrowful but honest view of the artist in the world.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. henry 7. reneau, jr. says:

    i respect your point of view . . . but, when you consider the billions and billions who have lived and died on this planet, and that, maybe, one percent of one percent of them could create a mona lisa, compose a symphony or blaze like jimi hendrix, or write a poem like patricia smith or walt whitman . . . i feel that it is a given that artists should be paid for the art they produce. artists need food, shelter, and heat like everyone else. and, if humanity is willing to pay athletes exorbient amounts of money to vicariously exult in their thrill of victory, then a poet/novelist like laura kasischke should be paid the big bucks also.
    hell ren, the work you produce should be worthy of monetary value considering the elightenment and catalyst for introspection your writing offers the reader.
    so, if you ever decide to donate the proceeds of your artistry to a poor, struggling poet, i would be very appreciative. ha! ha!

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    • Ren Powell says:

      As I wrote, I do not disagree that artists should be paid for their work. Where I disagree, is that being overlooked by a capitalist society offers up a legitimate excuse for people to become self-destructive. I do believe that more artists-as-martyrs for capitalism is a romantic, and utterly destructive approach to being an artist. With much respect… r

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