In the name of the Artist
Hey folks, for the first time evar, I have a guest blogger! I feel like I’m growing.
Introducing Theophilus Scribe. Please give him a lot of love, this is his first post (hopefully not the last), and possibly the genesis of a new blogger on blogville…watch this space!
“The aesthetic must serve a moral purpose, its called artistic responsibility” – Some smart dude.
I am a shameless proponent of the statement above, existentialist as it may be, I feel it should be one of those guiding principles that all artists should abide by no matter their specialism.
I am getting tired of the double standards displayed by entertainers when they find themselves in hot water with the populous at large and in their defence they seek to invoke what they see as their ‘get out of jail free’ card by calling themselves an ‘Artist’. It comes across as though they actually think that being an artist means that they can do as they please and their actions should be exempt from judgment, as though they have diplomatic immunity.
The ironic things is, that by actually declaring themselves as artists, it places them in a position where anyone with a mind at work will hold them to a higher standard than that of a run of the mill entertainer. Now this is where entertainers fall into a trap, they react to having done something that rubs a vocal group up the wrong way by trying to justify it by proclaiming themselves artists. As if they cannot be criticised by the public, or as if they only answer to a higher power that only artists have in common.
Problem is, that’s bollocks. You can be criticised by your audience. You do answer to them, you asked for their attention and so now you have it. You cant ask them to support you when you feel you are doing something they will approve of and then tell them they cant judge when you do something they don’t approve of – those double standards cant run.
This brings me onto the latest entertainer to jump into this trap, Mr Vybz Kartel. In a recent lecture he gave at UWI in Kingston, he decided to invoke his ‘get out of jail free’ card, in retaliation to a host of criticisms that have been levelled at him recently.
Where it got interesting for me was how he drew parallels with the criticism that reggae received when it was first making waves, and more importantly how the late, great, Sir Robert Nesta Marley was viewed as ‘dutty-head rasta’ when he first came out and how he is celebrated now.
This is where I fundamentally disagree with the point Vybz is trying to make, yes reggae music and certain artists back in the day were criticised by the establishment, but there is no confusing reggae with what Vybz is doing.
Bob Marley was a Rastafarian and as such the principles he decided to live his life by became the inspiration and subject of his music. As an ARTIST he chose to express what he lived and that expression took all the forms it could from the songs he sang, to the way he dressed, to the causes he dedicated himself to. In other words, Bob Marley the artist and Bob Marley the person were inseparable because he lived his art.
The result of this is that his aesthetic reflected his purpose, any audience will have an idea of what he represents without explanation.
Now this I feel is the often overlooked piece of the puzzle; as an artist you want/require an engaged audience, therefore how you engage them is how you want them to perceive you and your art.
This means that the audience becomes judge, jury and executioner; they see what you do and judge you in relation to the perception that you, as an artist, have portrayed. This is ok when the two are in sync, but when they are not, thats when the audience calls your integrity into question – which they have a right to do.
Now Vybz Kartel has landed himself in hot water because he’s done things that have led his audience to call into question his judgement and his message. He’s not the only entertainer guilty of this, there are many of them. The bottom line is, some cats just want to get paid, which I fully understand, they’re not here to provide any type of message or really engage anyone beyond a superficial level, they’re just trying to eat.
In that case they’re entertainers and not artists. Mr Vybz Kartel, I find you guilty of being an entertainer and not guilty of being an artist. Don’t front, just be cool.
If you have a spare ten minutes you can watch the video.