Identifying Art

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Art is all around us in different forms; whether it’s painting, writing, film, music, sculpture, or any of the different mediums one can express through artistically. The medium of self-expression through these channels has existed for thousands of years. At first it was a matter of entertainment as well as thought provocation.

There was a time, for example, when writers did not get to see their names on the books they wrote; rather they were part of a guild like any craftsman, and the guild published the book. It was a time when notoriety and recognition were not valued as much as they currently are.

With the advancement of technology and the invention of television and cassettes and ultimately mp3s and iPods, the artistic world has dramatically changed. It is no longer purely about an artist creating a work of art; rather it requires a certain amount of pandering to the masses in order to sell this idea. It has become about profit.

Once profit made it into the equation, a lot of the rules changed. It became about product volume, as in how much of your product you can produce in order to saturate the market and be everywhere. Think of Hassan Hosny at one point or Kevin Hart now; these two actors were in so many things that it’s sometimes easy to forget that they were in them.

Which brings us to the problem: artistic saturation. If you were to take out whatever device you have your music on and press shuffle, would you be able to tell what artist came up? If you are able, then do you know what album that’s from? Musicians perhaps suffer the most in this issue; imagine if you worked on an album for an entire year, putting in time, effort and emotion and then releasing it to great success. Then let’s say you work on another album and a year after that you release that album to similar success. Would you rather people just know your name and say “Oh that’s by X artist”? or would you like them to be able to identify your work and say “Oh that’s by X artist from their Y album”?

I know many people don’t see a difference, but it truly matters for those who actually do the creating. Every film, every story, every song and every painting is its own creation, its own struggle, and its own individual entity. What we have come to do is allow the bodies of work of an artist to bleed into each other, creating this amalgam of works that once seen through the same lens renders its individuality obsolete.

So I guess what I’m trying to say is - for the sake of the artists out there - do not allow the ease and comfort that comes with technology to rob the significance of the art form. Find out what album that song is on, figure out who directed that film and what other things they’ve made. Did you know that the documentary 13th was made by the same director that made Selma? Or that the man who directed The Theory of Everything also directed a documentary called Project Nimm? How about that Tom Ford is both a renowned fashion designer and a renowned filmmaker? These are all important things, these are all ways in which we can either choose to engage with an artist’s body of work or walk around in ignorant bliss and - through what I can only term ‘artistic racism’ - claim that all of it looks and sounds the same.

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