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Tuesday 01.20.09

« First Opportunities | Main | Contemporary Textiles »

Linking to History

A Shepard Fairey sticker

The Art of Obama blog ran the inaugural address through wordle today. It probably isn't great art and definitely pales in comparison to the actual swearing in of Barak Obama but it's interesting how Presidential words get fetished. Americans only elect extremely strong leaders when we really need them like; Washington, Lincoln, the Rooseveldts and now Obama. As a historian I've felt weve been in need of our own Marshall Plan level reprioritization of our civic, cultural and individual values. Not since FDR have we had a President that is both willing and charged with such a task by his election mandate. In a cultural context, art does best when humans reconsider their priorities and instead of the straw man and rather deserved scapegoating of Bush the art world will need to truly investigate our options more fully than the past 8 years or so have given us. Art also needs peace and a certain stability to fully flourish, may the next four years provide it.

Damien Hirst, A Thousand Years, 1990

Gregor Muir's look back at the YBA's suggests how recessions can in fact increase the potency of art. You might not like Hirst but his classic 90's piece A Thousand Years is an interesting contextualizing lens on difficult times with it's flies eating a dead cow's head then dying themselves. It isnt bleak it's about looking at the cycle in a closed system, it only is sustainable if opened periodically. Now is such a time.

Edward Winkleman held a little arts under Obama brainstorming section last week. I've been thinking a lot about this and I believe that decentralizing culture (ie serious art even in moderate sized cities) is the best course of action. The whole red state/ blue state thing is so polarizing and culture can become a unifying questionmark. Gone are the days of not being curious, America needs to become more curious and the arts promote the all important "question.". When the NEA was gutted in the 80's it left many places that were not financial centers out in the cold. The East Coast became THE place where adequate funding was still available. Since that time the west coast has taken some steps but outside of major cities it's a tad thin (Ok Texas was good at funding art too). In the Midwest there are exceptional museums like the Walker, Des Moines Art Center, The Kemper and Milwaukee Art Museum but the more experimental mid level (non university) institutions are a bit hard to sustain there just as they are in Portland, Seattle and San Diego.

My point, with federal funds aimed at democratizing cultural experiences all over the country we would have a more curious civic body and ultimately a better country. Also, art will be seen more as a right for curious minds rather than the playground of the rich. Lastly, it is important for artists to drive the agenda of contemporary art, not the prospect of sales.

Posted by Jeff Jahn on January 20, 2009 at 11:30 | Comments (0)


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