It’s quite difficult to keep up with the frenzy generated by the National Artist controversy–if all the mud-slinging, hell-raising, kissing-ass, and freaking out could only coalesce into a giant bowling ball to strike GMA out of office, we’d all be happy by now. But we’re used to dire straits and finding snatches of joy in the crappiest of situations, and so if there’s anything to appreciate, it’s the discovery that we aren’t that indifferent, that our will to speak up or lash out isn’t beyond resuscitation, that we are not done asking questions and demanding answers and calling ourselves and others to action.
I’m excited by the questions brought to the foreground by the controversy–many of which shatter givens and expose well-loved and long-nurtured ideas as provisional–i.e., What is art/Art? What is an author/artist? How break a collaborative work into parts/hierarchies? Who takes credit for what and why? How assess art’s capacity to cater to/create audiences? How assess art’s place in society? Why should such a thing as the National Artist Award exist? What makes a National Artist? Can artists engaged primarily in collaborative work be honored as individual artists? Can those engaged in popular forms be called–and then honored–as artists? Can jerks be honored as artists? And so on.
Fortunately, there’s great conversation–lucid, sober, complex–going on here about these issues. Rather than add to the noise, I’d like to mull things over some more and hang out where the talk is definitely going somewhere.