The Logic of Art

- And why it is important for society


Art is art. If it is reduced to entertainment in the name of the Experience Economy it will become insignificant and reduced to simulacra – to copies of copies. Therefore, the logic of art must be kept separate from that of business. Editorial from SCENARIO 3/2019.

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Posted Aug 20, 2019 in Culture & Ideas Article from Scenario 03:2019

What is art? In order to answer this question, I will make a comparison with business as a counterpoint. The logic of art and the logic of business are very different when it comes to the relationship to recipients. In the following, I will make the comparison rather sharp for the sake of argument, but also because we are touching on the very essence of things. First, the logic of business, which basically is a matter of fulfilling expectations and giving customers what they want. Understanding where there is a market and what customers demand is essential if you want to be successful in this logic. If you do not understand this, your business will fail. It is different for art. Granted, art has always been a product – we buy artwork and get tickets for shows – but the artists must crucially see themselves as something different than an actor on a market, accommodating the demands of customers. An artist does not give people what they want, but what the artist believes people need. This ‘something’ is art and is produced after the artist’s testing or exploration of the world, which is another important point of difference: The artist does not move straight from a to b. Art is not created that way. Often, the artist does not know what the result will be, and that is what the artistic process is there for: There is room for erratic movement and detours and dead ends.

This is not how it is in business. People in the role of ‘customers’ are basically not interested in experiments, but in having the product delivered on time and in the expected quality. Art simply cannot thrive in this logic. In a time when more and more in our cultural lives happens according to an experience-economic optic, it is important to be aware of the logics and make room for both – each in their own sphere of the world. This also implies that we need art for art’s sake; as more than, and different from, mere entertainment. If art is reduced to entertainment, it will inevitably lead to artists and leaders of art institutions reproducing the old and familiar. After all, that is what the ‘customers’ demand. Should this happen, art will turn into simulacra; to copies of copies, which in the end will make it meaningless. This must not happen. Art must always be ready to disappoint expectations in order to give the world original things. Enjoy reading.

Image: Steven Zucker

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