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Edi Rogers on The Price of Experiential Art Making [Section 1]

November 24, 2009 Point of View No Comments

Society has a cultural need for art, but likewise art needs a society on which to comment to make the work culturally valid.

Experiential Art and the idea of ‘Do It Yourself’ has been initiated by artists since the 1920’s with the Surrealists and the use of ‘the Game’, the 1950’s with Guy Debord’s ‘Psychography’ and the 1960’s Fluxus groups with their anti-art, anti-commercialism manifestos. This is an art form which provided the viewing public with more of physical experience, either through participating in an activity or paying witness to an action or event, rather then just looking at a 2D or 3D representation.

We are now in a world so filled with media orientated developments and modes of communication that the saying ‘it hasn’t been done before’ could soon become a scary reality for society and especially the creators within it- artists. Due to this most recent and ongoing recession, artists have been put in a very delicate position with the task of keeping up with TV, Celebrity, Advertising and the speedily digestible culture that surrounds us.

One of the major arguments that I have faced in my art career so far is to see if it is possible to put a price tag on such Experiential Art works, and if not, whether they class as art works at all? The accessibility of the art and the artist having to give the audience what it wants poses a further question- is it right for the artist to sacrifice his or her principles for profit?

Over recent years, one phenomenon has come to have a greater importance than ever before in the developments of interaction and the concept of ‘Utopian Situations’. These ‘Utopian Situations’ are being used by companies in their advertising schemes to invoke powerful and seductive sub-conscious emotions that make us, within our western culture, feel strong, free-spirited and persuades us to buy their product. For example, the T-Mobile’s ‘flash-mob’ dance event in London’s Liverpool Street Station promoted their product as bringing people together. The ideas behind these kind of schemes are basic but work brilliantly in an Internet-viral world like today. The T-Mobile advert is very effective; who knows if the next time I’m catching a train, music may start to play and get people dancing?American Idol

Where do these ideas come from and why do we find them so appealing? It is my belief that such social developments (such as the birth of interactivity) are becoming mainstays of the entertainment industries, developing programming which encourages us to think of how we work as human beings. Telephone voting for reality TV shows such as ‘Big Brother’ and ‘The X Factor’, designed to give an everyday person the opportunity of gaining celebrity status merely offers the illusion of public and personal empowerment.

So in times like this, when artists are trying to keep up with popular culture, perhaps the idea of the generous artist handing over control to the public, allowing self-interpretation and easy access to art is a good direction to move in. This risk of creating static visual items in our ever-evolving culture is that the work may have a very short shelf life. Should we be looking at creating art more explicitly as a form of entertainment rather than something that is an aesthetic personal pursuit?

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