by Rebecca

When I first read Randy Martin’s article in Artistic Citizenship over the summer as suggested reading from Kristin, it resonated with me, and I took in as fact. Now, rereading the text after being in Arts Politics for a semester, I have a much deeper critical lens and a different analysis to the text.

Primarily, Randy states “artistic citizenship looks like an oxymoron” (pg1). His introduction paragraph shows examples of the times the artists have tried to banned from the state. For me, I do not see the artistic citizenship as an oxymoron. They go hand in hand, which is in fact why these empires have tried to ban the arts.  Randy continues with describing the artist is an individualist in which “answers to the muse, not the state”. But, how can you separate the muse from the state? All of our images, whether conscious or unconscious are surrounded by our culture, and our culture is of course infused with the government around us. I say it in almost every single paper I write, the artist holds up a mirror to society, it is how we understand the world. The mirror can be a direct reflection, or maybe a funhouse mirror, where we the spectators try to put the images together to make sense. Even artists who create art for arts sake, or pure entertainment, there is some form of unconscious work that seeps into the creation. I am reading Carl Jung’s work about the collective unconscious and how it informs the art we create and the art we as the spectator receive, which could have underlying effects on how I reread Randy’s work.

But, what I do love in this piece is the “key to artistic citizenship lie in understanding how art and artists are brought into the world (pg1). The notion of public resonates in a strange manor with me. I appreciate it, but in many ways I am turned off by a public performance art. Public visual arts, such as the civic monuments or the populist representational art, that Randy describes resonates very well with me. His statement “art is treated as the embodiment of shared values of the nation, public, or community – and serves to integrate through its own legible forms those who might otherwise remain strangers to another,” directly corresponds to my research in Jung’s work (pg3).

It could have been my initial excitement towards receiving a Master’s degree from Tisch School of the Arts, but the entire section on professional training within the arts is highlighted immensely, and in some way now, I do not know why I first thought of these lines as important. I think for me, I believe that there is an aesthetic value to the arts and I do love learning about it from a theoretical and practical state, so while I do understand the economic associations between commercial or independent art, I do think there is some merit in having training for the arts.

The strongest sentiment I have with the piece is  the same as when I first read it in July. “Unlike political citizenship, which asks that we take state authority for granted, art compels us to seek in ourselves the authority by which we are obliged to one another in the fleeting, discretionary occasions for publics to gather together” (pg12). It defines everything I believe that the arts can achieve and how we as activists want to engage our art in the larger social realm of the world.

Similarly, in Enwezer’s writings, looking at historical events, in moments of upheaval there is a direct relationship to how the arts are engaged within the society. In some ways, I disagree with the association of the artist as producer in a time of crisis to the link with modernism. Looking at theater history, while the Greeks were writing for a religious festival, there is an immense amount of political commentary when it comes to Euripides work. He was writing about class, women, and psychological state. While he was not as widely praised as he is now at the time, it was for this very resistance to the status quo of Greek tradition. Same with Shakespeare. Yes he was funded by the state, but Macbeth is a clear metaphor for the tyranny in the monarchy, he set five hundred years earlier in Scotland to ensure his piece was performed, but there is no doubt in my mind that his images subconsciously influenced the spectator.

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