Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Artists as Amateur-Anthropologists

One of the driving forces in Lila: An Inquiry into Values by Robert Pirsig; is the theory that the majority of the world’s anthropologists have short-changed their sociological findings by refusing to interact with their subjects. The traditional anthropology desire to remain completely objective has interfered with the adherents’ ability to understand alternative cultures from a first-person perspective. Those who refuse to follow the “rules of anthropology” by not remaining detached from their focus group are therefore considered amateurs of the field. It’s rather like academic discipline for the non-conformists.

Where do artists fit within that great chasm? Are we content to remain within the barriers of our stereo-typical anti-social placement? Certainly, the stereo-type is often true. I speak more in this blog than I ever do publicly about such ideals. Hence, the very source of my artistic vision is the concept of overcoming my own reductive tendencies regarding social interaction.

The Immersion Travel Art Movement has merit two-fold:

1. Documentation of societies that reflects their philosophical need to continue

2. Social interaction that forces the artist into the forefront of collective importance

For over a century we have remained a closed society. Prior to that time, artists were much more active in royal courts and general social engagements. Without doubt, there were still numerous minor figures that had difficulty finding success – but absolute failure was not the badge of artistic honor, that seems to have infected our modern culture. Half the reason there are so many “starving artists”, in contemporary society, is our field’s lack of initiative in perpetuating the truth of our importance.

One of the worst moments in the modern art world occurred when Van Gogh died without selling a single work. His complete success in the years to come only made his lack of merit while living all the more glorious to collectors. Before his demise, I wonder how common it was to hear the statement – “an artist has to die to become famous”? - DN

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