A sign of the times.. the issues of culture debt, being an artist and the wanting of the life less ordinary – I have found that I’m not the only one thinking of change and more positive ways to live my life.. enjoy this thoughtful guest piece written by Mr. Rory Magnus..
I recently read an article written by my friend Matt Moore from Cloud Kid that seemed to fit into the context of what many of my peers and I have been thinking about and discussing lately. Matt’s article entitled Three Things Art Schools Need to Embrace confronts contemporary academia’s (specifically art schools) ultimate failure to successfully prepare students for a realistic and fulfilling life after their education. According to Matt, and I am in accordance with him on this, it is because our art schools operate under an outdated paradigm in which the student’s brain is continuously pounded with the ideal of the independent, romantic artist that they fall short of their responsibility to the student. I won’t try to explain Matt’s whole schpeel (you can read it here: Cloud Kid) but basically, we are in a different time and things work much differently today than they did even 30 years ago. Therefore we cannot educate the same way we used to and we cannot live our lives according to the same principles and paradigms.
Most of my college educated peers, (artists in particular) seem to all be struggling to to come to terms with their paths in life. Now in their late twenties or early thirties, many of them feel that although they appreciate their college education and enjoyed the time spent earning it, and some are even able to hash out a modest living through their artistic practice, they must at some point make a choice. That choice is: Do I continue doing what I love to do and foster my creativity even if it means never being able to buy a house and in all likelihood have a weak financial future for my family, should I have one? Or, do I put down my pipe dreams and commence re-education to go into a field that is more likely going to allow me to buy that house and have financial security?
Now, first of all I think if schools began to readjust their methods and focus as Matt suggests art students would stand a much better chance of becoming successful and sustainable practitioners of their art by eradicating the stigma ingrained in them that they are artists and therefore terrible business persons and entrepreneurs. Educational institutions are not the only things that need to shift their way of thinking. We as a generation are still clinging to a social paradigm that is no longer realistic or intelligent.
We are living in an economy in crisis. Most college graduates leave their institutions not only with a degree that will prove obsolete to the field that they actually go into, whether that be clerical assistance or making lattés, but also with a crippling amount of debt. Now these students may work for a while in whatever job they can find and might even save up a little money while trying to pay down their loans, but currently for most people in this demographic the idea of ever owning a house seems an implausible, if not impossible idea. The housing market is unstable and most of the artsy-fartsy types, myself included, have not a clue about financing and economics. The only path to that dream-house goal entails diving much further into debt. Scary. How am I supposed to support a family? Kids are expensive! So, we struggle with this decision. Do what you want to do or conform.
For many, doing what you want to do as an artist means relinquishing any hope for a stable financial future. You will always be living with roommates in a cheap rental and supplementing your income with part-time shitty jobs. Many are ok with this because the alternative looks very unattractive. Does anyone really want to be an accountant? I say that we need to re-examine our ideals and our vision of what a happy successful life looks like.
I liked matt’s idea that in our fast growing, techno-based, global community the emphasis on artist collaboration will be necessary and beneficial for artists to proliferate and prosper. In the past artists banded together in community in order to have solidarity and to help each promote the others’ work. This is how artistic styles and movements gained attention and momentum. We seem to have strayed from that mode of operation, preferring instead to be solo and independent, individual. While I think individuality is crucial, I realize that in this world where anyone can now take brilliant photographs or shoot stunning video it is very difficult to stand out as an individual. There is strength in numbers and people working in collaboration are capable of creating things greater than the sum of their parts. What if we applied this notion not only to artistic endeavors but to social goals as well?
Do we need to each have our own huge house and financial security? Could we not encourage the cooperation of like-minded individuals to cultivate micro communities, where they each share in the goal of building a home without having to incur untold amounts of debt? In times past villages were founded as a way for people to protect themselves as a group from the dangers of marauding clans. Although we are no longer in danger of being pillaged by barbarians these days, we are still vulnerable to other predators such as huge corporate business and over-empowered financial institutions. We are conditioned to think that our individual lives lived in isolation with the convenience of modern commodities is what we want and need. We need to go to college. We need to get married. We need to buy the house, and we need to remain indebted to banks and corporations. And in our isolation these establishments are in a fine position to control us. I’m not trying to start sounding all paranoid and crazy, just bear with me.
What if the more we can culturally collaborate the more options we open up to ourselves and to each other? If a group of people pooled their talents and resources to buy some land, build some houses on it and began using that space as a resource to fuel their artistic output and cultivate their own goods who knows what potential there could be? A solid community like that would gain attention, it would attract others. I know this isn’t a new idea or anything; there have been earthy-crunchy communes for ages, which are now stigmatized as being only for new-age hippie types. However, maybe it is time we erase that stereotype as well and re-evaluate the potential of communal living and reinvent it in a way that makes sense for our rapidly changing world.
I’m not sure if this was all coherent. A lot of it was rant and babble off the top of my head and a lot of these ideas are still only half formed. But one thing I do know. We should no longer be enslaved by the notion that we must sacrifice our dreams in order to conform to a life of financially secure mediocrity . What we want in life should determine our lifestyles and the lifestyle we are told we should have must not dictate our paths in life.