(This post is the second in a new book club, and inspired by reading the introduction of Scott Timberg’s “Culture Crash: the killing of the creative class.” Read all the book club entries)
If there is a crisis in the arts, why do we care?
We live in unsettled times – climate change is throwing the whole planet into environmental chaos; there is a constant buzz of military action in a “war on terror” that shows no sign of ending and theoretically never could; global hotspots between major powers like the U.S., China, and Russia, threaten to erupt; antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria are becoming an increasingly common fact of life; government power, especially for surveillance, is running unchecked …
When we say “it’s a problem that artists can’t make a living,” this is the competition. This, and the fact that as a result of automation and corporate policies there may soon simply not be enough jobs to go around for anyone.
So a guy can’t make a living painting paintings? So a woman can’t make a living sculpting sculptures? So I can’t make a living writing little stories? So what? What’s at stake?
It’s not like we’re going to run out of paintings or sculptures or stories. If anything, digital images and 3d printing and the internet make all these things easier to come by than ever.
Scott Timberg opens his book “Culture Crash: the killing of the creative class” by making a case that art itself is in danger.
“If we’re not careful, culture work will become a luxury, like a vacation home,” Timberg writes in his introduction. “The price we ultimately pay is in the decline of art itself, diminishing understanding of ourselves, one another, and the eternal human spirit.”
As an artist, I would very much like to think Timberg is right – and that the world will not go on turning in some vital way without me and the work I do. As a human being, however, I think Timberg is very cogent in his analysis of the problem we’re facing, but very wrong in his analysis of what’s at stake.
Art is not in any danger. And I think Burning Man, as an arts and cultural institution, inadvertently demonstrates why. (more…)