Simple Questions for artists – #4

by Geoff Hall on January 28, 2016

January 2016 – 

Mentoring for word, image and performance art.

Mentoring for word, image and performance art.

 

 

 

We are following Seth Godin’s 4 simple questions for writers/artists.

 

  1. Who are you?
  2. What is it for?
  3. Who is it for?
  4. Will it spread?

 

This month it’s our final question, ‘Will it spread?

“After the person you seek to reach reads this, will she share it? Shared action is amplified action.

Your resumé is written. So is your Facebook update, your garage sale ad and the memo to your employees.

Writing can make a difference. Write to make a difference.

 

#4 – Will it spread?

When we think of our work spreading to reach an audience we may dismiss this as wishful thinking. We don’t have a marketing or publicity budget; we are local artists after all, or just make art for our own enjoyment.

 

Godin sees the writer (and the artist) differently, as people with a passion which bubbles up and has to be released; as people working to make a difference. He’s not considering art for art’s sake, for the disinterested gaze of the viewer, or reader. Our context is drawn from the last blog article was this:

 

“So, what fears can we discern, what dreams do people hold for the future, indeed what nightmares, what are the prevailing attitudes towards the various crises of life? (Terrorism, poverty, displaced communities, climate change, corporate tax evasion, gun violence in America, hunger in the UK, peace).

 If we are conscious artists (word play there) socially connected, then in whatever art we are committed to, it should address such things.”

 

Here we have moved from art for art’s sake to a conscious or intentional art. There is no need for art for art’s sake to spread, but for the intentional artist, this is their life-bread.

 

We cannot escape the Media with its preponderance of stories concern one crisis or another, be it refugees, the weather or disease. The Media feeds on such things; it’s the nature of the beast. Journalists look for conflict, not resolution; they breathe the toxic air of retributive justice and have no taste for restorative justice. The blood trail from tales of vengeance is much juicer it seems, than conflict resolution.

 

'The Sum of all Evil' - Hell/Hellscape 2012/13. The Chapman Brothers

‘The Sum of all Evil’ – Hell/Hellscape 2012/13. The Chapman Brothers

 

 

In terms of our thinking about conscious (intentional) artists, am I talking about the same thing? Should we all follow the horror shows which the Chapman Brothers display to our eyes? Isn’t that the spirit of Postmodernism, to highlight conflict without resolution? As long as it offends an audience’s sensibilities, then the artist has done their job, right?

 

 

Wrong.

 

We seem to fall foul of this notion of freedom of speech, as the right to offend. But as consciously spiritual artists, our work should be focused on changing perceptions, raising consciousness and not desensitising our audience with the shock and horror of life. Therefore I’d like to offer a different notion of the freedom of speech, one which awakens us, which enlightens and illumines a path towards justice. After all, justice is one of the ‘first things’ we should be seeking, isn’t it?

 

Right!

 

And so to answer Godin’s final question, ‘Will it spread?’

 

Godin asks us whether the person who has read or seen what we have created, will pass it on? This is what he calls ‘amplified action’. We are not in control of this, but our audience is!

 

Whilst we don’t have access to massive budgets, we do have access to… yes I’m going to bang that drum again…social media.

 

Many sadly still see this as a fad or a distraction from ‘serious art-making’, but social media is here to stay. The forms of it may change, but one of the ways we connect with other people these days, is through social media.

 

How many of you have a Facebook page? How many of you have a Facebook page for your business?

 

How many of you have a Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest account or an About.me page?

 

How many of you have a weekly or monthly Blog or a website?

 

I’m speaking to those of you who do have one of those things.

 

How frequently do you update your sites and accounts? How often do you connect with the real people behind their Twitter handles and avatars? These are the devices which will help our work to spread around the globe. We need to be social media activists. We need to interact with people.

 

My question is simple. Do we want to earn a living from the art we create? Let me try another tack, Do we want our work to have an impact on society, to make a difference?

 

If so, then it’s time to get serious about using social media as a tool to advertise our work. Nowadays, it’s the way we can build an audience and expand awareness beyond the confines of our studio or small circle of friends. You don’t need permission to do this!

 

Here are a few words written in ‘The Artist’s Autobiography’ published in 2012 by Upptacka Press.

 

“Forget the Institution’s continual reminder to you of your unworthiness and weakness, along with its claims as a legitimate intermediary. You don’t need one; there’s you, a mirror and God looking back, it couldn’t be simpler than that. You don’t need anyone to hold up a lens for you to look through. You don’t need someone to describe what you see and tell you your shortcomings, or point out the poorly proportioned parts of your body! Let’s note this again; there’s you, the mirror and God looking back at you!”

Hall, Geoff (2012-07-23). The Artist’s Autobiography (Spiritual Direction in a Postmodern Landscape) (Kindle Locations 362-369). Upptäcka Press. Kindle Edition.

 

 

Here’s what Henri Nouwen states about this process,

“Spiritual formation requires taking an inward journey to the heart. Although this journey takes place in community and leads to service, the first task is to look within, reflect on our daily life, and seek God and God’s activity right there.” ‘Spiritual Formation: Following the Movements of the Spirit.’ Published by SPCK, 2011. p. XIX.

 

Please note, Nouwen’s accent is on community, not splendid isolation, for that is how we grow as artists. It is also on service, not as rulers and demagogues but servants, helping people to see the light, of awakening a consciousness for justice.

 

Will it spread? Let me know your thoughts by clicking on the ‘Comments’ tag below.

 

Peace,

Geoff

 

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

 

And so I’ll return to Richard Rohr’s prayer for ourselves, our friends and family and all people of the earth.

 

May we be free from inner and outer harm and danger.

May we be safe and protected.

May we be free of mental suffering or distress.

May we be happy.

May we be free of physical pain and suffering.

May we be healthy and strong.

May we be able to live in this world happily, peacefully, joyfully, with ease.

 

 

Be Well.

 

Geoff

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