I've been thinking about Bunny's response to my last post these past couple of days. I think her point about me comparing apples and oranges (different historical moments; 'high' & 'low' art forms) is pretty important. Because after I thought about it some more, I came up with lots of additional observations and questions that didn't really answer my question (basically "Are Artists Irrelevant?") but did help make me to think through things some more. A couple of examples:
• Maybe the general public can't name 5 contemporary artists, but is that really a reliable indication that artists are not impacting society in a meaningful way? Maybe their innovations or ways of thinking are being assimilated by society and culture in other ways (other than simply becoming individually 'famous', cult-of-personality-style). Maybe their art is just being filtered though a broad network of 'middlemen' - including some of the same formats Bunny mentioned (advertising, comic books, t-shirts, advertisements, etc.). It's possible that the public really does have a connection to practicing contemporary artists without being aware of it. I should talk to the art directors at the big advertising or design firms, and ask them if they look to contemporary artists for inspiration and ideas. I'm guessing they do.
• I'm not sure about the 'high art/low art' dichotomy. It's complicated enough that I don't really know how to use it for analytical purposes. I mean, intuitively I know there are some pretty powerful associations that people make that are hard to entirely dismiss. Like there are tons of people who wouldn't really want to go visit a museum on a Sunday afternoon because they just don't consider themselves 'museum people'. I think there's a lot of assumptions rolled into labels like that - there's an implied class thing, the education-level thing, and so on. I wonder - is that a relatively new phenomena? Did a wider segment of the population go visitng museums on Sunday afternoons, say, during the 19th century? If they did, was it because television hadn't been invented yet as a form of competition? Or if they didn't, what kind of stuff were ordinary people looking at back in those days? Certainly they didn't have billboards and advertisements and photographs and glossy magazines everywhere like we have today. Come to think of it, did museums back then even function the same way they do nowadays? Nowadays anybody can pay $5 or $10 and then go in and roam around for a few hours. How back then? Were they free? Were they exlusive? When were museums invented anyway?
Anyway, so I guess one big thing that I've been reminded of in the past couple of days is that every question is like a fortune cookie. A fortune cookie with at least 50 or a 100 slips of paper stuffed into it, each with even more questions on it. And instead of getting freaked out that the original question is getting too complicated to answer, I guess it's important for me to try to keep a good attitude about it and be open to complexity.
Oh, by the way, in Bunny's posted response, instead of the word 'obtuse' she originally called me 'stupid'. She only changed it after Mimi and Kim said she was being mean.
[ Bunny: I did not call you stupid. I called your post stupid. ]