Other story? Whose story? What story?
Do I have anything important to add, to say, to impart? No, I don’t.
But my story underpins my very existence, as your story underpins your everyday experience. We, as people are at the apex of a long, complex and interwoven narrative, a complex matrix made up of all our personal and collective memories, remembrances. A story called culture, a story that holds us together. This gift, this reservoir of cultural memory – that shapes everything we perceive, everything we do – will then pass onto the next generation and the next.
This is other story is our story, our culture, our truth. It’s not static. But fluid, changing, constantly, ebbing and flowing through time. Working in the arts, subsumed by culture, gives me such delight and joy. But juxtaposed to that is my anger at its corruption through commercialisation and despair at its appropriation by those wanting to use it as a means to separate themselves from others, to distinguish themselves by proxy, by association. Arts and culture have become a product to sell to the highest bidder and in doing so the industry has created an elite club. There is a knowingness about it, a smugness, a haughty air – if you don’t have the password you can’t come in. You can’t participate. Artists have become victims locked in a mythical garret constructed by agents of consumption. It wasn’t always so. It is a relatively new phenomenon, a 20th Century one, a modern one.
For most people, the words ‘Culture’ and ‘The Arts’ are a byword for educated, middle class, intellectual and respectable and I am deeply disturbed by it. It’s wrong. The arts are not a byword, a shorthand for ‘well thought of’ or ‘Well Bred’. The arts are an umbrella under which is an ongoing process of making, a hive of activity, a space in which people can express, reflect and question the meaning of their stories, their culture. Art is about questions not answers. It’s about clarity not confusion. It is not democratic. It is not bureaucratic. It doesn’t belong in a class, a box or a file. It doesn’t belong to anyone it belongs to everyone. It is our mirror through which we can glimpse our humanity, question our existence. And sometimes the reflections we see are breathtaking, memorable, unforgettable, astounding and stupendous.
Art gives us the opportunity to play, experiment, open up and try, push and fail and all those things that make us who we are. Art is not mundane, an advertising gimmick, a marketing tool or a commodity. But that is exactly what it has become. In our brand new, technologically advanced, bureaucratic, insured, health and safety driven world we have less space to move in. Less time to think, to breathe slowly and wonder. And wonder is at the heart of culture, the artist, the maker, the trickster.
Creating, making, playing and experimenting are activities we should feel comfortable doing all the time. They are part of our very being something we did everyday as children until the education system kicked it out of us. Play is essential to us, our well being and our culture. And it is through play that we find our truth. And that truth, memory, collected and passed on is what makes the arts so special, so vital, so important and absolutely imperative if we are to grow.
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