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Taking the Artist Seriously

The artistic impulse is the impulse to unify, to harmonize disparate and diverse elements. For this reason, artists generally, though not every artist or even artistic movement, are always in a state of tension with technology and social change.

It is the artist who thinks through and represents solutions to the changes in which we find ourselves. Dances embody the quest for our place in the age of the machine; music incarnates the yearning for order in a chaotic world, paintings and crafts represent the artist’s attempt to bring into a coherent whole the mess that makes up our lives.

In the 20th century, many artists tried to ride the changes by advocating for them and even anticipating them. They became modernists.

But with rapid changes in technology, the artist is in a constant state of adaptation, perpetually trying to work out the new relationships established by the new technologies – movies, cars, televisions, radios, computers, the internet, E-books, and whatever is next.

None of us know, but our best artists will be in the forefront of the effort to find our place. I hope they can avoid nihilism and despair, the ever present temptation of the modern artist and philosopher who takes his work seriously.

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