The jester artist
Art is not entertainment

by Jizaino, 24 February 2011


Saying that in this epoch we witness a loss of values, a spreading of superficiality, status symbols and impoverishing consumerism, may perhaps seem just rhetoric, senile dotard's nostalgia.
Indeed, the advance of the human society fluctuates continuously; since the beginnings man has always wandered between the two antithetical horizons: soul and body, reason and instinct, being and appearance, love and psyche.
If i am here to defend the being, the reason, is because i feel there is the need for it, before that Art, first and last chance of the human being, will be in a tight corner; it is necessary to correct the heading where we are going too fast, and to find again an equilibrium.

If you firstly want to know what i mean for Art, read philosophy and meaning of Art in the introduction of the site.

The jester artist

Jackson Lee Nesbitt, "Jester", 1935, etching, 276 x 222 mm

Figure present in human society since ever, the jester has a peculiar task of his own: the entertainment; the jester is therefore the archetype of all the professions related to that.
Traditionally, the profession of the jester is often poor (as in the case of the "street artists"), and sometimes rich (as in the case of illusionists like David Copperfield); it has been the profession of those people who, having no purely productive skills, or finding themselves in scurvy conditions, were venturing in doing the buffoon at the court of nobles trying to animate their evenings in the hope to obtain providential alms; or even in the public squares, sometimes exposing themselves to the cad's plebeian derision.
Being that jester a wealthy prestidigitator, or a famous singer, or a begging "street artist", the very heart of his role does not change: entertain the beholder for livelihood (now i do not ever consider the role of other jesters of the mainstream entertainment, who have also other purposes, not only the economic gain).

Contrarily to the jester, the Artist, as we know it since Renaissance up to now, decides to express himself. As i always uphold, it is necessary that the artists have an ethics of his own that is not built around the need of his own economic sustenance, to impose himself commercially; in other words, for this sake, they must not conform their own Art to the liking of the audience, to the market trends, to the art collecting, to the fashion or the customer's requests.

The work of Art must not become entertainment.

Today we are the witnesses of several attempts to make us to recognize as Art all the proliferating design materials born within the commercial entertainment, such as movies and video-games (not talking about the design of commercial goods: mere attempt to pass the compulsory impulse to consume as a cultural virtue); that is very dangerous.
It is necessary that everybody, artists and public, think about that. Art must be kept free from the mechanisms of that production that needs to please the public; that would be as to begin a discussion giving always the reason to  the interlocutor: thing absolutely useless, hypocritical and prejudicial; absolutely, that is not the purpose of Art.

Let us take for example a movie: it is a work made by a commercial company, but rare exceptions (which anyway almost never reach the theatres); it is a product having as first purpose to produce a profit, and to achieve it, almost as a rule, firstly it will have to please the audience (i pass over what would really want the audience and what would be indeed a conditioning). When a movie does not produce profit, as much as it wastes the initial investments, it is considered a flop, and it will be detrimental to the working career of who made it.
From this point of view, a colossal movie in the theatres or a "living statue" in the street are the same thing.
And that same thing is also the artwork of that Artist who, craving to self impose commercially, subdues his own creativity to the game of the entertainment, to the likes of the audience: a pandering.

Coming back to the commercial entertainment topic, the  materials of the products are often property of the multinational corporations that financed them: in many spheres, the artists taking part in the making of the product can not even be individuated, ending up anonymously in the cauldron of a special-effects house of productions; a little like it may be for the Milan Cathedral, of which the countless workers are conjoined in this colossal collegial work of religious promotion: comprehensibly, nobody says "i am looking to a work realized by the many: Michelino da Besozzo, il Cerano, Vincenzo Foppa, Leonardo da Vinci, Cristoforo de' Mottis, Simone d'Orsenigo, Giulio Cesare Procaccini, etcetera etcetera..." but they say "i am looking to the Milan Cathedral", maybe just recalling the archbishop who commissioned its construction.

Today the commercial entertainment has been put under trial by the crisis tasted by all the "westernized" world, or better the "system", in other words his market economy; and that has involved also Art, although above all that art subdued to the system, this is to say that has let the profit to win.

Jan Matejko, "Stańczyk", 1862, oil on canvas, 120 x 88 cm

True Art will never die; perhaps artists may decline, but not the true Art, at least until there will be one person who appreciates it.
But, if in this epoch, all the art is living a phase of inertia, it is not only the global crisis to be blamed, but also because too many artists have really lost ethics, that of the true Artist who acts for passion.
It is useless if many try to simulate a lyrical torment fallen from the sky in order to entice the most intellectual customers: they may deceive one person now, but not everybody always; the Artist's status is reached only in the deep of one's own personality, with sincerity to oneself.
The beholder who in his deep sincerely loves Art, or in other words putting aside the crave for possession or investment, is an emotional and smart person, as mush as how may or should be the Artist; that person can love and hate the expression of the human intellect; thanks to the sensibility spirit he can easily recognize the falseness. The pandering game of the market and the insincerity of a complaisant art are being unmasked, and after several decades of this prostitution game, love perishes, one realizes he has been deceived, and the true love has been betrayed. The disappointment takes over, then the dislike.

"ideoque philosophi sunt quodammodo pictores atque poetae, poetae pictores et philosophi, pictores philosophi et poetae, mutuoque veri poetae, veri pictores et veri philosophi se diligunt et admirantur;" - Iordanus Brunus Nolanus

"and therefore philosophers are in some way both painters and poets, poets are painters and philosophers, painters are philosophers and poets, thus the true poets, the true painters and the true philosophers esteem and admire one each other;" - Giordano Bruno

Now, the artists, to regain trust, must prove to be real, sincere persons.

Nevertheless, obviously, there will always be a market that continues to scream the price for an authorial falseness. Anyway, sincerity will be useful for everybody, at least to separate the wheat from the darnel (after all, there is always who loves the latter).

Then, the very risk is that in this epoch we are witness of a slow accustoming to the idea that Art is just an entertainment phenomenon (both mass or niche) as an alternative to an evening at the cinema, or a rainy Sunday at the mall: pay the ticket hoping in an adequate fun. One may notice how many museums of institutional grade, sometimes prefer to resort to the exhibition of the most extravagant artists: with all the respect for the personal expressions of these artists, that is due to the need to let Art become a phenomenon for circus booths, an exhibition of absurdities, a gallery of horrors, with the purpose to raise the curiosity of the big masses indifferent to Art, and then to make cash with more tickets.
In the vicious mechanism of "supply and demand", common to market and entertainment, even the artists are pushed to opportunistically dare an insincere eccentricity, in order to be considered by the trend of the mainstream entertainment.

Besides the sincerity of the artists, also the education of the public will do the difference.

At last, i would emphasize that, considering Art as a form of communication, it does not exist an absolute opposition between artists and non-artists, actors and public, chosen ones and profane ones; acts do exist, persons do exist, who create artworks that are made for other persons.
The work of Art is a debate, between who in that moment takes the role of Artist and the others who in that moment look at him; in fact, who often likes to have the role of Artist, in the rest of the time loves to be also a beholder.

Everybody can express hiss own thought becoming Artist, touching those strings that only Art can make to  vibrate. Not necessarily with painting only, but with any mean.

"If you could say it in words there would be no reason to paint." - Edward Hopper

There's the need to understand one thing: as a confirmation for the fact that Art is communication, an Artist, as presumptuous as he may appear, is often searching for a debate with the public, maybe calling attention or provoking a conflict. Fundamentally, the Artist "speaks" because he wants to discuss with the society, he wants to open a conversation.
The jester artist, instead, wants to open your wallet.

Jackson Lee Nesbitt, "Calhoun Street", 1990, lithography, 352 x 297 mm

Jizaino -