Artiquette

Well, my prediction about the Tucson city budget meeting earlier this week was fulfilled: the impending fallout is now a bitter controversy. As Tu Scene is not a place for critique (yet), I shall blow hot pixels here, opinionated Art Diva that I am. Who knew everyone and their dog who opposed the hotel and renter’s tax would also be wearing red? Next time arts-supporters should don something more unique, like purple and yellow polka dots or balloon hats… or maybe just dress up a little so as not to look like the rest of the rabble.

Lately I’ve been thinking that artists need to re-consider the way they present themselves to the public in dress and unfortunately, in some cases, basic hygiene. As governmental entities and charitable organizations run lower and lower on funds, public outcry grows against their financial footing of non-essential projects that support lazy artists. Now is the time for us to combat that crank stereotype. I’ve seen artists who go all-out on the presentation/installation of their work to near-perfection yet viewer-ly accessible as possible, and arrive at their own opening in blown-out khaki shorts, birkenstocks with nasty cracked toenails hanging out (in the over 35-ish crowd) or stanky All-Stars, pit-stained t-shirt and oily hair (if they’re under about 35).

Same goes for interaction with non-artists. By the word interaction, I mean interpersonal relations beyond things like manners, etiquette, sense of humor. Throwing our visionary weirdness in in the face of squares who will never “get it” doesn’t help to win respect and will continue to put us on the fringes of public opinion in emphasizing the vital role the arts play in everyday life and education. Rather than being militant eccentrics in our dealings with average Joes, let’s shift that energy to doing really, really awesome work and producing mind-blowing public shows with the best of the money, time and energy we have. This will take a lot of honesty with ourselves: honesty about our own apperance and actions, honesty about how the other half really lives and thinks, honesty about our own expectations vs expectations of others. It takes a great deal of consideration, maybe not quite courtesy or “dumbing-down,” but consideration nonetheless.

It’s OK to be who we are, knowing that we can let ourselves go with other creative types, but I’ve found it’s effective to meet people halfway upon similarities, rather than getting them to come “up” to your level. For me, this is not an easy thing to do; it takes a lot of energy. Sometimes the most open-mindedness you can sneak into a stoic viewer is a nod of acknowledgment; other times, a little consideration in your interactions with a person opens doors and windows in them that they didn’t even know they had.

If you are going to ask for public or private financial charity, take extra care in how you present yourself. While the mystique of the bizarre worked for 20th century artists shaking the centuries-old system of academies, salons and commissioned funding by patrons, we’re now on the threshold of the post-fame era. Luck is running out, being in the right place at the right time is a four dimensional gamble in which the odds are against you a kajillion to 1. Now, anything, happening anyplace and anytime can be self-promoted online, yet needs to be well-presented to get the attention. I’ve noticed that art and fashion blogs (and bloggers, as they choose to reveal their appearance) whose photos/graphics/writing are well-realized, hitting the ideal nail on the head, get the attention, while others slightly less than masterful in those forms — however inspired — fall more or less to the wayside.

Presentation isn’t about marketing — I think that conversation is being phased out, slowly, as laypeople’s web and photography skills increase, and also simply because marketing lacks what is at the core of art: grabbing someone by the lapels out of the Everyday and teleporting them through a psychic pneumatic tube into the hyper-temporal, spiritual Whatever. And not always on an “elevated” or “higher” plane, just a different, and important one. Making them honorary shamans.

Maybe this “etiquette” I speak of is the backlash away from the self-centered focus concerning embrace or rejection, sobered into the austerity of simply being respected.

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