Art as a Way of Life

There is a bit of a cultural trope of the artist as a rebel - that simply deciding to be an artist is an act of daring in itself and to some degree, for some artists, this validates the idea that the entire work of an artist is to be a rebel; to question society and to act as something like a thorn in the side of the great cultural imperatives.
My personal view is that the prime reason for art to exist and be created is not to question and provoke. Some artists are meant to do this; this is their life's work. But that does not make it all of Art's work.
Yet I finally understood on a personal level how this trope of the artist as rebel came to be such a powerful persona. My holidays were spent in a more conservative city with my more conservative in-laws, and the act of spending time making art of any sort became an act of immense rebellion against all the expectations that my extended family had of me.
Usually getting started making things is a bit hard for me, but my main problem is a certain laziness in combination with a certain feeling of pressure to do things like the laundry, look after the kids and make some money.
My own parents placed great value on cultural production. For them, I think the highest calling in life was to write books so I had never felt that art was a waste of time.
But in the context of my 'other' family, time spent not engaged in maintaining one's house and belongings and maintaining family relationships was destructive and selfish.
I admit that I did not make much art in this environment. I can see that in order to be a productivelartist in such a context, I would have had to sharpen up my (rather weak) rebellious streak - to start to envisage myself as a rebel, for this to become my persona.
So now I have a lot more sympathy for the way in which art has become identified with rebellion, of how difficult it must be for a large number of artist to live as artists, of why the idea of art as a rebellion against cultural norms has come to be such a large part of the art world.
But I still don't believe it is the main work of art to be a rebellion. If society is a body, then art is the dreaming thoughts of society, and artist are the dreamers.


  1. How strange that we should have been talking about this outside the dairy just now and decided that to be an artist one really needs to be SELFISH.