Thursday, March 5, 2009

Silver Linings

Holland Cotter had a great piece in the New York Times recently about art in times of recession. In it, Cotter discusses how past economic downturns have forced artists to get scrappy, finding new ways to operate outside the art establishment, and changing the course of art history in the process:
In the early ’70s New York City was on the verge of bankruptcy, bleeding money and jobs. With virtually no commercial infrastructure for experimental art in place, artists had to create their own marginal, bootstrap model. They moved, often illegally, into the derelict industrial area now called SoHo, and made art from what they found there. Trisha Brown choreographed dances for factory rooftops; Gordon Matta-Clark turned architecture into sculpture by slicing out pieces of walls. Everyone treated the city as a found object.
Gordon Matta-Clark, Day's End, 1975

Cotter sees similar hardship – and opportunity – for artists today:
Students who entered art school a few years ago will probably have to emerge with drastically altered expectations. They will have to consider themselves lucky to get career breaks now taken for granted: the out-of-the-gate solo show, the early sales, the possibility of being able to live on the [proceeds of] their art....

At the same time, if the example of past crises holds true, artists can also take over the factory, make the art industry their own. Collectively and individually they can customize the machinery, alter the modes of distribution, adjust the rate of production to allow for organic growth, for shifts in purpose and direction. They can daydream and concentrate. They can make nothing for a while, or make something and make it wrong, and fail in peace, and start again.
It's inspiring to be reminded that although times are tough, there is often a creative upside to adversity. Read the full article on the Times website, here.

1 comment:

Lee said...

I love that last paragraph about 'taking over the factory'...hopeful in an odd way...adversity and creativity become partners. Emily - great piece, really enjoyed reading it. LEE