Purveying Artistic Anarchy
Or, Removing The Labels, Restraints And Institutions That Limit The Output Of Our Collective Artistic Minds
Public art in an alley adjacent to a commercial drive in Vancouver, B.C., Canada.
By Wayne Schutsky
Modern Times Magazine
Dec. 5, 2011 — I hate poetry.
And that is no hyperbole. I really cannot stand it. I do not enjoy poetry when I read it and rarely manage to glean any sort of understanding, enlightenment or enjoyment from it (the rare exceptions are narrative-based epics like Beowulf and The Odyssey).
This may come as a surprise due to the fact that I am an avid reader, writer and student of the English language. In fact, as an English major at the university level, my course work and professors constantly thrust poetry at me. My dislike for poetry has not arisen out of a lack of acculturation or exposure.
I am no poetry scholar, but — from Dante to Shakespeare to Pope to Coleridge to Eliot and Hughes and Yeats — I am fairly well read due to the time I have spent in English and/or literature survey courses over the years.
And not only is poetry pushed upon me in every class I take, but the entire English community seems to put poetry up onto some literary pedestal as if it is the great beginnings of all that is literary and storytelling and emotive.
And there I sit, unmoved and uninvolved. A heretic to the English community. The lone dunce who prefers a good narrative tale to whatever the hell Eliot was trying to say in The Wasteland any day of the week.
Color me moronic, but that is just the way I am.
I even took a class on Whitman and Dickinson to try and fix myself, to no avail.
A few months after that course concluded, I decided that I am not broken. I simply hate poetry and there is nothing wrong with that.
Different art speaks to different people in different ways. There is no handbook that sets the ways in which culture affects the individual, even though it may seem that way today. No, the relationship between art and the emotional response it derives is an organic one. One created by the uninterrupted and uncorrupted human response to stimuli.
I am not trying to denigrate poetry at all here. If you enjoy poetry, as many many many people do, then that is great. I am sure that for a large contingent of the world it has a limitless amount of inspiration to offer. I am not taking anything away from that.
Rather, I want to open up the scope of what we consider art to include all of the activities with which we allow our creative juices to flow. I want to destroy the hierarchy that places certain forms above others, and let our creative freedom run rampant.
I am a purveyor of artistic anarchy.
Now, I know this may sound hypocritical or idiotic or downright absurd based on my recent writings concerning the differences between pop-literature and the classics, so let me clear a few points up first.
I am not advocating for the blatant labeling of everything and anything as art. Pop-literature is still pop-literature and does not involve or promote the sort of creative freedoms that I am advocating now.
The point of artistic anarchy is to remove the labels, restraints and institutions that limit the output of our collective artistic minds.
Making money is not the point. And that is why I feel perfectly justified in excluding pop-literature and Beyonce and Transformers and Andy Warhol (gasp!) from this otherwise inclusionary movement. If you want to sell more soup, then put on a suit and get to your nearest ad agency. Do not masquerade as an artist when you are nothing but a corporate stooge.
Instead of propping up the organizations and bodies that seek to define art as this or that, we need to build up our own artistic communities that foster, support and cultivate creativeness across the spectrum in its many forms and functions.
We all recognize the major players in our art communities (music, poetry, literature, performance, visual, etc.), but we sometimes overlook the less conventional art forms and expressions.
Art has always been an exclusionary word reserved for those with an exclusive set of talents. But there is a more collective artist that exists if we choose to see it. It doesn't hang on a museum wall; it exists in everyday life.
When we stop stifling our passions and natural talents, art results.
And that is how artistic anarchy becomes known. There is no defining characteristic that sets art apart from everyday life, because — when we get rid of superfluous convention — art exists as everyday life.
It becomes known through our individual talents as expressed by the way we live our lives and follow our purposes.
We don't look at gardeners or nurturers or problems solvers as artists, but I would argue that they are. They all show a distinctly artistic purpose to the way they approach life and their work. And we as a society benefit from it.
There are so many individual talents that exist with the capability to bring color and sustenance and life back into our society. We just need to stop overlooking them and taking them for granted.
By opening up the definition of what it is to be art, we can open ourselves up to a new landscape of opportunity and experience — aesthetic, practical, and otherwise.
I may hate poetry, but I know that it has a place within the artistic canon. It functions as a storytelling and emotion-giving and lesson-teaching device for so many people.
And it is not alone.
The build up of rules, regulations, conventions sometimes narrows our view of the world and our culture. But if we can circumvent these barriers and overcome them, our society will begin to look like a much more beautiful place.
Let the anarchy begin.
Wayne Schutsky is a freelance writer from Phoenix.