So you want to write. So you want to direct blockbuster films, and compose the best music there ever was. So you want to make good art. What do you do? Well, if you’re hardworking and have a good eye for what works and what doesn’t, you’ll find a forum on which to put yourself out there, get the word around and attract people who appreciate what you do.
Increasingly in this age of technological self-made fame, most of the artists that you and I know have followed this recipe to become the next big thing. Sites like Youtube, Thought Catalog, Flickr, DeviantART are teeming with overwhelming bundles of creativity. I say ‘bundles’ because it’s precisely that: creativity neatly organised in a single place where you can find all sorts of outlet for artistic expression. That whoever’s out there must then plough through to find those rare bursts of true talent that speak straight to the heart, and sometimes even to millions if they’re lucky. It really takes a good mix of inspiration, perspiration and sheer luck (Edison never mentioned that!)
Having said that, after trawling through sites, galleries and blogs on an almost daily basis, I can say that the price of sifting through the mundane and the uninspired is worth it a hundred fold for every time I stumble upon a rare gem: a shining diamond of truth out of the yawning gloom of the internet, something really worth telling your more artistically inclined friends about over brunch. But what does it mean when everything is concentrated in one massive hub, like a library, like a museum? It means that you have to go searching for what is really good. It means that in a community made up of self-publishing, self-critiquing individuals, we are our own audience.
Self-conscious mediums that generate huge quantities of art prime its viewers and listeners to stay guarded on quality control. We become more selective, more judgmental because we have more choice. The thing is, you aren’t supposed to go looking for good art. Good art is supposed to be there, it’s supposed to stand out singularly, not crowded in by all the mediocre art and poor art around it.
Writing that sits in a blog doesn’t have quite the same holding power that a single book has. It doesn’t yell at you like an image on a billboard does. A homemade clip can be hard to distinguish from a million others. And when you go to see an exhibition, the sheer volume of good art can keep you from enjoying each painting for itself, separate from the experience of the others.
Think back to the most moving works of art you’ve seen. I bet it was spontaneous, when you least expected it, and didn’t it enliven you to see it? Maybe it happened when you were tired from navigating a whole day in downtown Tokyo, and saw a painter sitting on the street, tiny ceramic tile in hand, painting his mind. Maybe it was a short silent film in the middle of a rowdy place, with emotions that you recognised and words you substituted for your own.
Will we always remember these lone beauties that deserve a unique place in our memories? I say yes, we will. After all, what is art if it doesn’t tie us to our experience of that time, in that place? Who wants to remember sitting at their laptop in their room when they discovered the book/song/movie that changed their life?
Like anything else, art struggles to be heard. But good art never struggles. A writer once said, ‘In art as in love, instinct is enough.’ We know this. Just that sometimes, it’s hard to get there. In other words, this is the war of finding the one.