Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Sick As a Dog

I am really sick today, and I don't think it is a coincidence that this comes after I've posted my last commentary on Outrageous Fortune. Staring at dysfunction, tunnel vision, and economic injustice for over a week, and then having people posting the same bullshit about how artists ought to quit whining and how nobody put a gun to their head to make them become a playwright/actor/director/designer has probably undermined my immune system.

Machiavelli once said "There is nothing more difficult to carry out, nor more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to handle, that to institute a new order of things." There is more to that quotation -- something about how you earn the enmity of those who have succeeded in the old system, and the suspicion of those who have begun to experience a little success in it as well. That's been my experience. People prefer the known evil over the possible good.

So now people are talking about self-producing as an end in itself, a way to control one's art instead of being at the mercy of gatekeepers. And I applaud that empowerment with all of my heart. And the loudest applause goes to James Comtois, who has put together some practical information for people. James, in a world of easy and successful self-publishing, you might want to consider formatting this and making at available through Amazon's CreateSpace. I think people might like having a bound copy for reference. So often we hoard our information in the hopes that what we know will give us a leg up on the competition, but that actually prevents the field from advancing. In this world of blogs and self-publishing, we should all start sharing what we know, both good and bad.

For my part, my contribution is to shift the focus to small places and what Bill Ivey calls the "expressive life." Over at ArtsJournal.com, Ivey, the former NEA head and current director of the Curb Center for Arts, Enterprise, and Public Policy. and who along with his colleague Steven Tepper are publishing some of the most innovative ideas about a new artistic order currently available, began a discussion about shifting the emphasis from "art" and "culture," two terms that carry heavy political and social baggage, to "expressive life." Predictably, he is encountering the usual resistance that Machiavelli predicted hundreds of years ago. Follow the discussion -- it will go on for a couple days -- and note how strong the status quo is when it comes to new ideas. That someone as well-known and well-respected as Bill Ivey is getting such flack gives me, pretty much unknown and oftentimes disrespected, some hope.

Maybe I need to get out my copy of The Prince...

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