Mashed Up

The line separating artists from their audience has always been a bit blurry. From that moment during the Renaissance when someone first decided that a painter was more than just a craftsman with an easel, the whole idea of the Artist-with-a-capital-A has required an entire mythology just to make it seem plausible.

The biggest myth of all is the Romantic notion that artists somehow create their work uniquely and from scratch, that paintings and sculptures and songs emerge fully-formed from their fertile minds like Athena sprang from Zeus. Running a close second is the myth that only a handful of us possess the raw talent – or the genius – to be an artist. According to this myth, the vast majority of us may be able to appreciate art to some degree, but we will never have what it takes to make it. The third myth is that an artist’s success (posthumous though it may be) is proof positive of his worthiness, that the marketplace for art and music functions as some kind of aesthetic meritocracy.

I think Aram Sinnreich makes a good point. The term artist always seems a bit precious to me, like their work needs the tag to make it legitimate or something.

Jared Diamond has a chapter in Guns, Germs and Steel about the myth of the creator because inventions rarely spring from one mind. More often one mind is remembered for having adapted the preceding ideas into a workable form.

This is true of art. Very rarely is an artist working in isolation when they develop their trademark. Yet we're marketed the line that their genius is unique.

It's why I like Creative Commons because it promotes the idea of adapting existing work.