An arts in context lecture I listened to the other day talked about the link between early romanticism and the development of a particularly popular notion of what art is and what artists should be: bohemian. Art for arts sake, not as a profession but for itself is the aim of the art and artist of Bohemia. This type of definition means that art becomes in itself a luxury, if it does not pay you and by necessity should not really gain profit, it must therefore be paid for. It’s creation must come out of leisure time. I think about people I know who are deeply bohemian in their approach to art, they make no money from it, their passion = God. I think about the nature of these people, creative, care free, addictive, self centred, loving, …wealthy. I know these people have never starved..(some people in this category are not wealthy but are simply endowed with time, due to little active social life and a slower pace of creation, though I cannot think of many who are pure in this category..perhaps an old man I met once in the French quarter, William, who is, due to the nature of his creative spirit, destitute and impulsively spends his rent money on prostitutes and his art was famous due to his time wrongly imprisoned in Angola).
Can it be that romanticism had such an effect on western culture that a punk and a poet in Louisiana can feel its reverberating stereotypes so keenly in their self identity today? Our bohemian pop icons and our artists are heralded to the nth degree. Kurt Cobain, Jackson Pollock, Frida Kahlo (John Frusciante, Tracy Emin, Kate Tempest). The lonely, heartbroken artist is a trope, allegedly developed around the time of the 1800’s. Before this art was craft. What shifted, and why did it not fully shift back? (Tin foil hat moment) is an isolated artist, a drunk with no money, an easier snout to muzzle in the wider context of art as a revolutionary activity? Is it an easier voice to silence? Sympathetic, though through their misery and lonely brilliance, kept separate from discourse with the ‘normal’ rest of us.
On the opposite end of the scale, I began to think of the artists I know who are more enterprising, collaborative, and creating for the sense of capital they hope to gain, even if this capital is just a sense of prestige, endowed in a pseudo religious way upon artists who are ‘successful’ by name or accusation to gatekeeper galleries and shows. They are a little less powerful in their message, bright, sociable, pleasing, hard working, tactical, happy to sacrifice self respect for a finished result. I don’t see them as particularly rich folk, often the drive for money / success seems echoed in tired eyes that have worked many a graveyard shift. An artist I once worked for felt somewhat like this. I feel like I am uncertain which camp I fall into. As is often my experience of the world, I am probably both, and with binaries there are often a million iterations between the two extremes. Other artists I admire are a combined effort of enterprise and inspiration..though I am uncertain to what ratio these are mixed. Yoko ono, rich, businesslike, pure in her obsessive artworks (rape-a video where she stalked a woman with a camera for hours was unlikely to win her a fortune, it came from her loneliness and female-ness, which to some is the same thing). She also made the smart move to capitalise on the Beatles wealth and to invest in New York property at a young age. An entrepreneur with the heart of a poet.