Artists can be true to their art only if they stay uninfluenced by public perception! Feb 08, 2012

Amitav Ghosh, a writer of fiction who I particularly admire, blogged recently about the dangers of writers facing their audience in response to the recent trend of literary festivals and the Rushdie fiasco at the Jaipur Lit Fest. He makes the point that writers are able to take controversial positions and push the boundaries of thought only because they are separated from their audience. When writers put themselves in a position where they are being questioned, they will also be influenced, therefore weigh their words carefully and lose their spontaneity altogether. On a more serious note, society needs voices of dissent, opinions that ruffle feathers, perspectives that are different from the mainstream; who offers these if everyone is answerable and no one is willing to take the risk of speaking their mind?

I have written earlier about a scary culture of intolerance that is spreading through society. Ghosh’s piece also echoes a similar sentiment. There is an urgent need for defiance in our society; we conform too much, we give in too easily. We don’t want to think things through because we are convinced of the futility of such an exercise. We don’t really believe in change.

But we do want to publicize our smallest achievement and so, expecting writers to only write and not talk about their writing in today’s world is quite impractical. Most of us put up pictures of mundane events on Facebook and its but natural to share our achievements. But Ghosh’s piece made me wonder- When is the right time to share and exhibit our work/talents/creativity? A friend writes decent poetry, but shares her work with a select few, firm in her belief that her writing needs to mature much more before she would be willing to share it publicly. This is not out of shyness of lack of confidence, I suspect, but out of a desire to hone her talent in solitude with constructive feedback. Adulation and popular opinion can often derail a creative process completely.

Even as I blog my heart out to the world everyday, I admire the ones with restraint and patience; the ones who pursue art for art’s sake and worry about its saleability at a different level, that is independent from the process of creation. That’s how I think it should be. I worry immensely when I break my rules and visit the site stats page of my blog, when I should be worrying more about how good I feel about what I have created!

Contrary to popular belief, true confidence isn’t about keeping your art in the public eye constantly; its about making it accessible, sure, but most of all believing in it yourself and continuing to nurture it.

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4 thoughts on “Artists can be true to their art only if they stay uninfluenced by public perception! Feb 08, 2012

  1. there are many things in this to ponder about, but what stuck me is “Adulation and popular opinion can often derail a creative process completely”….. to an extent I agree with it, but seeing in light to the work and professional belief of participatory development, or how the urbz call is “user generated city”, one has to consider the popular opinion, but then will it derail the creative process?…. its not a question, but am just thinking aloud!!!!

    • i don’t think urban planning or design is strictly a creative process, but uses elements of creativity to meet an objective. These are designs for utility and user opinion is a must. i was talking about art….

  2. Here you make a distinct differentiation between ‘art’ and ‘design of built environment’…and I appreciate that…being a professional ‘designer’ of the built environment and an amateur writer, I am glad for that distinction. Firstly because I consider Art to be only one more stream and in no way superior to other pertinent streams of creation – like design which needs to be subservient to public scrutiny and dialogue. Secondly because I truly appreciate the need of Art to be delinked from public opinion to embrace true creativity – which is what I think used to happen before…artists had patrons and were allowed the space to create as long as they kept one or two persons pleased with their creation (their patron)…today a book or a painting needs to sell for the writer or the artist to survive..hence the requirement for public evaluation, critique and judgement. The discussion on ‘hate speeches’ and ‘hurting public sentiments’ has been done to death. Art needs to exist for art’s sake alone. A beautiful piece of novel (like Ghosh’s ‘River of Smoke or his stupendous ‘Glass Palace’) is an established piece of literary work even without the strong base of historical context and the immense ‘work’ which has gone into it. That is the added bonus. We do not need context for a Van Gogh ‘Sunflower’. That it exists is good enough for humanity.

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