nicole rademacher

Monday, August 25, 2008

What are we to do?

I've been having a conversation with myself, as well as friends and colleagues about the commodification of art. I am completely ambivalent about this. One minute I agree and try to figure out how my work can fit into this box and the next I don't care at all and just want to continue to make moving work. This conversation has been exacerbated by my current teaching position. I like to call the school the Devry of art schools. From a fine art perspective this sounds like I don't think highly of the school. And by fine art standards I don't, but it isn't a fine art school (and every day I have to remind myself of this). It is an applied art school that doesn't have time to mess with or teach theory. Their agenda consists of generating students that can produce the work that the capitalist commercial society wants. The only 'thoughts' that the creative person can have is how to make it look 'cooler'. Obviously I don't agree with this, and honestly, I don't think one needs to agree with this philosophy in order to teach in this environment, but I do. This type of total disregard to values that I hold dear is taxing on my mind and heart. I come home from work completely frustrated. I call my friends from architecture school (the genesis of my completely idealistic view of the world and art) for advice. I recently received an email from a former advisor about the changes in fine art education as well as applied art education (prompted by my email describing my utter frustration). What am I trying to say with all of this? Basically that I just read an article in the New York Times that prompts me to say - I am not alone (not that I ever thought I was - well at least not with this feeling). The article is titled: An Architect Unshackled by Limits of the Real World and talks about the work of Lebbeus Woods. I remember in architecture school that Lebbeus Woods was giving a lecture down in Charlotte, NC (I was at Virginia Tech), and there was a big big commotion about who was going to drive down there, could we miss class, where were people going to stay or were they going to drive back... Being a first year I didn't know who he was, but I made a point to find out. Of course he wasn't that big of a deal because all the other architecture gods that I was introduced to had similar theories about designing. As described in the article, most of those architects have made it big (i.e. Rem Koolhaus) and are making money and designing for a myriad of clients. Woods on the other hand is designing abstract buildings, sites, environments, where the idea of it seems to be more important that whether or not it can be built. The theory and the design are paramount. The article offers a reason on why his contemporaries, and the world of architecture, have shifted their ideals: ... 'High end architecture became a valuable commodity. ... The pressure to smooth over anything in a design that might be perceived as threatening has only increased in recent years, as a lot of architecture has begun to look like a sophisticated form of marketing. Architects who once defined themselves as rebels are now designing luxury residential towers for the super-rich.' Upon reading this I realized why I am so frustrated and unhappy with the current state of everything. We are soft. Society is soft. It doesn't want to ruffle feathers, it only wants to make money or make things pretty. Everything is about big business. Then I have to ask myself - well, then, what does being a professional artist mean? Professional. This implies business. What is business without commodity and marketing (This being asked by a child of a capitalist and materialist society that thinks that it has taken over the world and can do whatever she sees fit in order to propel her own gain.) I don't know what professional means. Yesterday I thought I did (seriously, yesterday I was having a conversation with a friend). Now? Who the hell knows? And a bigger question is why am I compelled to label it?

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