of Art, Creativity, & Object in a Capitalistic Society
What is the importance
of art in a capitalistic society? Initial thoughts may come to mind
of market values, cultural preservation, and rarification, elitism
and class-distinction by means of object ownership. But these ideas
relate to what is only a surface equation—a line drawn from
object to seller, to buyer to profit to worth. Is there a deeper
relationship and furthermore, importance to the sustainability of
art in a capitalistic society?
It has long been argued
that art and the creation thereof is a luxury. A paradigm has been
instilled in many that there are three essential needs: food/water,
shelter and clothing. It is proposed that only after these three
crucial needs are met, that any other “expression“ or
creation may take place. Granted, these needs are elemental for
a reason. In most circumstances, one would not sacrifice any of
them wholly for the sake of creative endeavor. However, the crux
of this idea is an instillation in the young that art is not a necessity,
that creativity is not the essential function of mankind, that his
goals and existence relate more profoundly to the need to fulfill
these survival tactics.
The frequently overlooked
idea is that man, in his most elemental form, is a creative being.
Even the word creature denotes that one has been created,
formed, come into being, and suggests a connection to revisit this
source. It is inherent in the nature of humans to bring into being:
both oneself and others. This is true for survival and propagation
of the species, but also on a more individualistic and personal
level. Each person works throughout his/her life to cultivate sustenance
on a variety of levels, all of which are daily acts of creation.
Moreover, even the meeting of such basic needs is in itself an act
of creation, and a unique enterprise waged by each person. The finesse
that develops along with an ability to uniquely utilize information
transforms such base acts into something more like art. In relation
to humans, base survival is art.
Furthermore, it is the
inclination of the universe to create and grow. Energy is in constant
flux of birth and decay. The paradox is that this unending cycle
does not shrink, overflow, or stagnate, but like the current, it
ebbs and flows as part of a greater extending existence which has
its own force. Man is part and participant in this ever-changing
cycle. It does not make sense on a universal level for man not to
create or be part of this creation. The cosmological implications
for man to be degenerative instead of creative are not evinced in
the observed mechanics of our universe, thus far.
So, how do all these seemingly
abstract concepts relate back to object oriented works, specifically
a capitalistic society? In a society obsessed with object, the object
manifests on varied significant and complex levels. It is important
to be conscious of the mutability of objects and their potential,
in order to understand our relations with them. This can be illustrated
using a relatively common item of canned food. The creative manifestations
of a can of food include: nourishment, convenience, security (of
both the product and the aforementioned properties), status (of
whatever rank, depending what the specified food, be it rarified
or commonplace), reliance, profit, industry, commodities exchange,
monetary value and so forth, blown all the way up to the rarified
art incarnation of Warhol’s Campbell Soup Cans. But what all
of these manifestations are illustrating is an incarnation of creative
desire. That is to say, depending on your vantage point and situation,
a can of food is an object of creation that may give you any one
of the many named properties. It becomes a tool of empowerment.
You give it its creative designation and allotment of power
and potential. Then there are other rings of systems built around
that object, which glorify, enhance or endanger it (advertising,
supply/demand, rarity, etc.) It may literally feed you, it may be
traded for other goods, it may stabilize you in a time of distress,
etc. And anything else is invented, created by people. Systems of
commerce, marketing, tools, and nearly every object has once been
a dream on the sleepy mind of man.
The relevance of examining
an object from this viewpoint of potential creative manifestations
is to gain a greater understanding of why our current culture is
so fixated on objects. They emanate power and promises beyond materiality
and cultural connections. Overwhelmingly, the sense of security
arises as a core desire. But moreover, I propose that much of the
fervent clamor for material objects lies in the void of unrealized
potential creativity. The is to say that the mechanization of society,
the mass production of material, food an products has left a creative
space empty within many individuals, and furthermore, removed the
creative presence from individual crafted items.
The essential desire to
create is frequently unmatched or completely unrecognized in contemporary
society. Efficiency and conveniences have injected our culture with
a need for the immediate and pre-made, yet have not dealt with the
human desire to bring into being. One observation is the prevalence
of compulsive shopping. It is commonplace to hear of people who
shop to alleviate their stress, worries or feelings of emptiness
by shopping, making a purchase, or splurging on something special.
The tales of the weekend shopper who found “just what I was
looking for!” are commonplace. The desire for a bargain too,
drives many shoppers on a creative mission to fulfill. Though there
may be a multitude of personal reasons for these situations, the
frequency this happens in our society makes one question the cases.
Why did Mayor Guilliani urge the people of New York City to shop
after 9/11? I suspect it was more than gross economics. Do Americans
have to shop to feel empowered? Is that the only muscle we can flex
in our proto-democracy?
Perhaps it is the very
sense of disconnect with our creative selves, which urges us on
the marketplace. The urge to shop after 9/11 was an appeal to the
people to take back their streets in the manner they best know how—to
create the vibrant city that is a treasured source of commerce and
recreation. Essentially, it was a plea to keep living. In a capitalistic
society, it seems that the lust for the object serves as a means
to express our self and life experiences. It becomes an overloaded
circuit of desire and expression, but furthermore, a material expression
of the inexpressible. It becomes Art.
The current disconnect
with owning the power of creativity is further propagated by the
belief that only the few have the power or ability to be creative.
Furthermore, many people believe that only certain chosen means
are acceptable expressions---that art is possible only as a painting
or marble sculpture or opera. But this very same sense of disconnect
and inability to be creative is comforted with the marketing claim
that “everyone can find exactly what he or she needs in ___
product ” Everyone can express his or her human nature and
existence with the appropriate cache of possessions.
This fallacy stunts the
potential for untold contributions. It gives rise not only to elitism,
but also has relegated many crafts into the mechanized production,
bypassing the individual altogether. Each person has an integrity,
which is channeled though and into his or her creative acts. Furthermore,
this integrity (or sometimes lack thereof) is inexplicably sensed
in the presence of the object. It may be debatable whether this
value is channeled directly into the object, or it is an assigned
value present with the concept of a one-of-a-kind work. Either way,
the fact remains that in a mass-produced culture present today,
filled with mass-produced objects, a lack of value in materials
and a sense of disposability permeates. There is a void in human
connection to objects.
Plastics are a prime example
as their source being synthesized chemicals in a labratory, injected
into machine produced molds. There is no step that seems to connect
to the sensorial world in which people live and understand. The
whole process seems somewhat nebulous. And yet this is the Modern
way. This is sterilized, safe, and cost-effective. But at what price?
I suppose my quandary is
what all these ideas conspire to create, and whether any of what
people are all clamoring for can be bought and sold. It seems to
me that the rarity of a great work of art lies not necessarily in
its material, monetary value or even appearance; it is in that inexplicable
essence of creativity that gives it unique life. It is a sensation
that escapes description, yet is inherently sensed---a sort of euphoria
of peaceful surround. Furthermore, it is attentiveness to this essence
that may be observed in any manifestation, be it object or experience.
We must be open to the
experience the presence of art and objects offer to us. Moreover,
we may attune ourselves to this relationship through creative acts.
An intangible experience is exchanged during this time, when criticality
and conceptual games are suspended. A moment emerges where the object,
the self, and the experience exist. It may be described as a moment
of clarity, reflection, a sense of slowed time, or a moment where
the actual weight of an idea moves from being understood, to being
known within. These moments of transference may be increasingly
difficult to find in a fast-paced, short attention environment.
But many people still unwittingly seek out these experiences—waiting
for an object to beckon to them, a pair of shoes to speak, a picture
to grab their eye. Part of the consumer drive is a quest for the
momement, for the sense of completion that object-human interaction