|ARTISTS ARE LIKE POLITICIANS
This one’s going to sting.
It’ll be like taking a bullet straight to the gut. Why? Because no one and I mean no one, wants to be compared to a politician. Hell, even politicians don’t want to be compared to politicians.
I can hear it now …
“How DARE you compare me to a politician! You second (or third) rate art writer! Who do you THINK you are?”
Okay, let’s get this party started.
During the current presidential campaign, I watched one of the “dropout candidates” explain on television why he was endorsing a controversial competitor. The drop-out guy basically ran as a so-called, “Washington Outsider.” Yet it was all I could do to keep from puking in my own mouth as I watched this clown stumble, bumble and struggle for words to explain his controversial, new endorsement. He had actually run a campaign based on “integrity,” “morality” and being “anti-establishment” and yet in his struggle to explain why he was supporting another candidate, he sounded more like a politician than anyone I’ve ever heard in recent years.
Oh, and by the way, if you happen to run for office as an anti-establishment candidate and actually win … once in office, aren’t YOU now the establishment?
Anyway, almost anytime I’m interviewing an artist – or anyone for that matter – I’ll ask them a question that they – for some reason - either find challenging or they don’t want to answer and their response is usually one of the most uncomfortable things ever. They’ll stumble and bumble and almost always go off on some long soliloquy about what some famous artist said 100 years ago while they’re carrying me on this long tangent about everything except for an actual answer to my question.
And after reading the answer while editing the interview, I’ll usually yell out …
“WHAT?” “What the hell does that mean?” Can we drop the art speak (nonsense disguised as intellectualism)?
When it comes to talking about contemporary art, which is something they do practically every day, many artists are like politicians. They don’t want to be quoted about this or that, they’re afraid of this or that, they squirm, they equivocate and they answer a question by asking a question.
“Uhhh … I don’t understand what you … I mean … I don’t … Um … Well … If we … That’s a great question!”
And do you KNOW what gets me? No one seems to see themselves in all of this. And yes, I can be just as guilty of this as anyone.
Perhaps the biggest problem with politics is that people simply refuse to admit to being political. No, artists and most people are not professional politicians, but believe me, they are definitely political. Everyone is. Perhaps I should’ve called this piece, “Everyone Is Like A Politician,” but that’s not true. Babies aren’t politicians … at least not until they hit the playground or sandbox and fight for dominance.
It also cracks me up when some artists get upset when they don’t see themselves on the ArtBookGuy Super Hot Artists lists that I produce every January 1st. There is absolutely nothing political about this list and there’s nothing an artist can do to persuade me to put them on it simply because they want to be ON it.
Look, if you are doing something for or against someone for reasons that are NOT based in simple justice and fairness, you my friend, are being political. You do not get a pass.
Here’s an example…
Not too long ago, I was standing in line at the supermarket. I was at the end of a long line which I hate. Who doesn’t? Well, a friendly, checkout clerk I know from past visits was opening up a new line. She also knew me. As she passed by me, she tapped me on the back and waved me over to her checkout. Not two minutes later, I was walking out the supermarket door. Purchase done.
I knew her and she knew me from past visits. That was pure politics at work and guess what? I benefitted from it. The person who should have benefitted was the one who was next in line up front, not me. And if I hadn’t been selfish, I would’ve made that known, but I was too busy playing politics myself ... and profiting from the process.
Was it fair to the people on line ahead of me? No. Was it politics? Absolutely and it wasn’t going down in Washington, D.C. or some state capitol building, it was happening in my local supermarket and I was involved. Politics happens everywhere.
We the People … we blame politicians for everything. That’s precisely why we elect them, so that we have someone to blame for … the economy or terrorism or falling bridges or whatever. Of course, we elect people with high hopes, hoping they’ll actually be able to change and improve things, but if they fail, guess what? Not our fault. We see ourselves as having clean hands … that’s IF we even bother to register and then actually show up to vote on Election Day.
I’ve seen and spoken with SO many people who hold marches, rallies, rock concerts and all of these socio-political events aimed at bringing about change. Yet, after all is said and done, how many of these people do you think actually do the easiest thing one could ever do to bring about change in the world and go to their local polling site and vote?
My guess is about 50% … IF that. And then, I love people who say they don’t feel they have real choices and so they’re not voting. They’re real winners. They don’t have sense enough to understand how privileged they are to even have the right to vote. It’s not always about your choices. It’s about the fact that you actually have the luxury of voting which many people in the world today still don’t have.
No one is asking you to LOVE the person you’re voting for. You just have to show up and do the work. Do you love your spouse every single second of every single day? You better not answer that.
Where was I?
Despite claims of public service, many people are IN the political world for what they can get OUT of it. Sort of like the contemporary art world … and the world at large. No? What would the world be like if everyone were out to GIVE as opposed to TAKE? It would be a much different world, wouldn’t it? It would be heaven. Often, the problem with human politics is that when someone wins, someone else loses.
I love people and I love humanity, but the reality is that because people are indeed people, we often say one thing, but we do another. And you don’t have to be a politician to be a hypocrite.
Have you ever helped anyone and then when you need help yourself, they don’t help you? Of course, this in itself is hypocritical. You shouldn’t help someone because you expect help in the future. You should help someone simply because it’s the right thing to do, but even helping people can smack of political agenda. Do you know how?
“Hey Bob, Did you get that on camera?”
Need I say more? Politicians do it and everyday people do it. Don’t think for one moment that there isn’t a political component to selfies.
But back to artists. It also cracks me up when I chat with artists who don’t want to stand in their own truth. These particular artists only want the benefits of being honest and candid and not the drawbacks. Who doesn’t? Yet life doesn’t work that way does it?
The only difference between politicians and everyday people is the fact that politicians get paid for being politicians. For every story about politicians being political, there are probably one hundred stories about everyday people playing politics. Open your eyes and look around.
You don’t believe this? Go ahead. Convince yourself that it’s not true. That’s precisely what any good politician would do.
Something else that cracks me up is when I hear artists say nothing will change in the art world because of this or that which is way beyond their control and yet we spend much of our lives as a species trying to control things that are way beyond our control because we see a political advantage or at least a payoff of some sort in changing those things.
Sorry ... I got the runs there. But isn’t even that cynical conclusion political? If you write something off, that means YOU don’t have to take responsibility. That’s how that works.
Do you know how politicians handle situations like that? They have their teams write up a short statement … hit “send” on the email late Friday afternoon … run for the hills ... and hope it blows over by Monday.
Artists aren’t like politicians because they’re artists. Artists are like politicians because like the rest of us … they’re people ... trying to make a buck or make it to the front of the supermarket checkout line. No one has clean hands. That includes me. If you think you do, you’re being political, which means your hands may be doubly dirty.
You know, the only time anyone might enjoy being called a “politician” is when someone calls you a “diplomat.” Somehow, there’s something noble about being called a diplomat. In theory, it means you are capable of playing well with others and promoting harmony. One could even argue that smart artists are diplomats … if they’re not spending all of their days holed up inside their studios.
Didn’t I tell you this one was gonna sting? Or did it sing?
Everyday People Have the Power