Thoughts on Cynicism

No new art today, just some thoughts.

NSCAD has been a hard place to be lately. Everyone has been a little unsure of the fate of their school, their jobs, and their resources needed for their practice. It has left most of us in a weird state of confusion on what exactly we should be doing. I  walked home from the studio today in winds that growing up in Ontario did not prepare me for. I felt all sorts of warm and fuzzy feelings in my heart when I saw how many of my neighbors had put up Nova Scotia Needs NSCAD signs in their windows.

Being in the arts is really not easy. It’s not easy to find job security, the pay will probably never be that great, and it’s one of the few professions you have to consistently justify. No one knows better then art students the frustration of proudly telling someone that you are studying fine arts only to have them wince a little and say in a condescending voice ‘and what do you do with an arts degree?’ I used to avoid this whole conversation by saying ‘oh you know, live in a cardboard box.’ and laugh it off so we could then talk about the weather or something. Then I realized what a problem that answer is. I was agreeing, I was saying ‘You’re right, I’m wasting your time and I’m wasting your tax dollars with all that (often unreliable) arts funding I’m going to need later in my career.’

When enough people ask you to justify your practice you’re going to question it yourself. I recently saw a presentation given to a room of experimental filmmakers, about why experimental film making is a joke. Sure, some of the things art does is ridiculous. There’s a reason Art School Confidential is funny. We live in a surreal bubble where anything goes, but don’t we need that space and freedom to make the art we want to? To be innovative and thought provoking? In the end arn’t we all thankful to Duchamp for signing a urinal?

Don’t get me wrong, art is about being critical. If you think a piece has no purpose, question it. Ask yourself just why you think that piece has been a waste of your time, but be open minded.  Being cynical is easy. Being ironic is easy. Giving art, the very institution you work within, a big fuck you is easy. Trying to really create something, change something, be a part of something, or even just really thinking something through, is hard.

If there ever was a time when we as artists should be listening to one another, being productively critical, considering new ideas, supporting one another and supporting the institutions that let us grow, it is now.

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3 thoughts on “Thoughts on Cynicism

  1. This is a very moving piece! Here here!!!
    I think it gives all of us (members of the art community) something to think about, and rally together for. Being critical without a solution does not make change or support happen. Also, it is not just fine-art students who get flack for studying something that, to laymen doesn’t, appear to contribute to the economy right after graduation. English, philosophy, poly-sci students, to name a few, are also victims of the same cynicism. Abstract thinking and creativity are taken for granted as much as breathing is involuntary.
    Thank you for writing this Tori! Let the warm and fuzzies loose!

  2. I still don’t know how I feel about this entire article…I don’t have coherent opinion on it. However, I do want to share with you something I thought was AMAZING on the radio a while back (maybe a yearish ago) – on Radio 2 Morning, or something like that, Tom Allen (who used to do radio 2 morning) was talking about the new Stars album.

    He talked about how they completely avoided being ironic and they really tried their hearts out for the whole thing, and how sometimes that ended up sucking, but when it didn’t, it was better than an album of self-concious irony.

    I liked the sentiment.

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