“There are only two kinds of artists – revolutionaries and plagiarists.” Paul Gauguin
“The essence of the avant-garde myth is that the artist is a precursor; the truly significant work of art is the one that prepares the future.” Robert Blake
Life seems bizarre to me lately. Perhaps it has always been so . . . but lately the loud, angry, fearful voices that dominate mainstream media with their desire to deny reality seem more bizarre than I remember. I do not want to pay attention to them. This year, 2014, I want to find and write about the more quiet voices who work day-by-day on things they love. Artists, writers, poets, playwrights, composers, philosophers, both living and dead are the voices I want to think about this year. I want to think about and talk with creative people who are not mainstream. I want their thoughts on today’s world and how it is impacting their various art forms.
Creative people have always represented society’s advanced scouts, the avant-garde, naming the next great shift before the rest of us sense it. Today, just when we need them most, many creative voices sound banal and commercial, competing for “market share” and “ratings”, forced to identify what is commercially viable in order to survive. Change is always difficult. Right now we are in the midst of a dramatic shift, one that will render our “lives as usual” obsolete. We need our advanced scouts to help identify the unknown terrain ahead.
My direct experience with the deadening effect of “art as market place viability” was as the artistic director of The Virtual Theatre Project. The project sponsored “The Pen is a Mighty Sword” new play competition and over the years we saw two trends emerge in the plays being submitted. The first was the reduction of cast size, not necessarily a bad thing, but it became formulaic. The second was the increasing number of plays submitted that lacked the visual language so critical when writing for the stage.
There were notable exceptions . . . wonderfully, notable exceptions.
So it is that I begin 2014 in search of voices who celebrate, ponder, dream, and envision. Voices that fill our lives with sounds and shapes, colors and contrasts, movement and momentum, words and wonder. Voices that challenge our comfort zones and renew our sense of possibility, while encouraging us to be the best possible version of ourselves.