State of the Arts – interpreting our world, one Tweet at a time

Victoria Ward
Victoria Ward

Is the media replacing art’s role in interpreting our world?

The events in Ottawa last week and the subsequent fallout from them as well as the recent Jian Ghomeshi scandal at the CBC has really emphasized how we get all our news and stories from the media. Regardless of the fact that nobody knows what the reality is in either story, opinions and declamations became de rigueur. People took to social media in droves to denounce the killer and it’s wider implications and then just a few days later jumped back onto the internet with proclamations about sex, private life, power and essentially how a creep was enabled by his celebrity status.

What got lost in both incidents is that now we seem to only have the media and its immediacy as a tool for deciphering the world. In the Ghomeshi case, it was the platform of Facebook which was used most cynically. A lengthy TMI statement from supposedly the man himself illuminated how the tactic of getting ahead of “the story in the media before people make up their minds” is now used as a common approach to make sure your value ie. media personality doesn’t waver.

The sadder incident and the one that resonated with me more was what happened in Ottawa and that we are now seeing the result of decades of disenfranchising the mentally ill although nobody can attest for sure what this poor man’s state of mind really was. That people in trouble seem to increasingly manifest their torment with guns is unnerving to say the least. Unfortunately members of our population feel marginalized to such an extent that they need to react in extreme ways. They need our help not our indifference or hatred.

While scrolling through the enormous amount of conversation about the incidents on social media, some of it reasoned and wonderful, some of it jingoistic and scary, and some of it insanely judgemental I came across an article about artists and being paid. New York based Working Artists and the Greater Economy or W.A.G.E. debuted a Certification Fee Calculator, an online tool that helps artists show how much they should be remunerated for a talk, or a workshop or all the various other things artist’s skills are usually asked to contribute for free. This tool is specifically for American based organizations but it’s concept is revolutionary.

Artist Christine Wong Yap's chart for deciding on whether to exhibit or not.
Artist Christine Wong Yap’s Decision Table for deciding on whether to exhibit or not. Finding this kind of thing on the internet is gold because it is teaching artists about real economics and perhaps doling out a little self respect.

I have been following W.A.G.E. for some time now and been impressed with their practical, no nonsense approach to talking about art and commerce. Like so many other ideas that have cropped up out of the supposedly failed Occupy movements, it comes as a timely tool for art activism. We are now beginning to see ideas about artists and their fees taken very seriously and slowly moving into the realm of practice. This is where our behemoth institution of the media uses its powers for good and not evil. It is directly through the use of social media we are witnessing art activism happening everywhere, on grand scales and working. Canada needs to catch up, CARFAC can’t do this alone people.

Instead of using media to interpret our world artists and art activists are using on line media as tools to enable art to interpret our world. The shift is palpable as artists and their supporters begin to use these platforms to engage the public in ways that are redefining the economic perception of art. We are still in transition but I see on line portals created all the time that deal with engagement and the exposition of art. At one time artists would have played a role in such defining incidents such as those that I mention above; Hugo, Dickens, Gericault and many others would have galvanized ideas surrounding tragic events and aided in framing them toward social understanding.

Today we have Twitter and people who can’t write expressing their uniformed opinions in quantities so vast it makes the mind boggle. Are we sure we wanted everyone to have a say? So many of my more sensitively inclined members in my social media community found their platforms degraded through the tawdry and questionable sentimentality attached to these complex ‘national’ incidents. They turned away from the internet. But if you wade through the noise of public outrage, you can actually find all sorts of great things happening.

I am ever so encouraged to see tech savvy artists using on line tools to extrapolate what I have been campaigning for ever since I began my blog. While social media repels it seems to those uninitiated, those of us who have kept our eyes on the prize are now beginning to see how generous, creative and forward thinking our community is getting.

 

 

 

 

 

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