There is an interesting idea that, broadly speaking, may be categorized as the ‘psychology of history’. It suggests that because we are a psychological animal still prone to instinct, we can read human history purely from the psychological viewpoint to arrive at a better understanding of why the things that happen, happen. To give you the usual example: our leaders take us where we as peoples want to go but the political system makes us think the leaders have been making the decisions.
There is nowhere better to analyse this idea than the art system. For here we find the beating conscience of the human race, the creativity, the intellect, the value systems and the works that we think define us as civilised beings. It is the vital description of our ultimate freedom; for artists are both inside and yet observers of their societies. It is the unique place society gives artists that affords them their status.
But the psychology of a human being is not only easy to damage, it has simple needs one of which is, the whole idea of status at once given to persons for their skill and desired by others for the privileges it gifts.
The psychology embedded in the art system today derives from the skill of past artists, feeds off their status in our society and yet has been wholly divorced from describing the depths of human experience by the infestation of the social sciences making it a handmaiden to fashion and giving it the task of only supporting the politically liberal and the acceptably relevant within, of course, the politically correct vocabulary.
Artists should have no other agenda but their art. This dedication is their stature; because it is so difficult to maintain, the vast majority of the population, including some with talent, are not brave enough to pursue such a life. Yet today you could pursue such a vocation and be entirely irrelevant, out of fashion, never critically analysed and wholly unknown. In an age where governments give billions to support art this is an utter betrayal of the very reason artists exist and have perceived status.
But young artists come out of art colleges with a portfolio and immense amounts of fear, and resolve to use their talents from within the late-capitalist system as glorified designers while a few do as instructed, feed off the broken system, to be lauded in their lifetime and vanish a few days after they die. The young talented artists who would be inheritors of art history are being as effectively annihilated by the system as if they had been sent over the trenches at Verdun.
Volume 33.no.1 September / October 2018 p 3