Well, I am supposed to write an article on Art vs Commercialism. I can’t see a more fitting opportunity for what I’m about to write next.
I’d like to thank, although begrudgingly, my ‘know it all’ editor for modifying my initial topic. His suggestions, despite being contrary to my original train of thought, made sense unlike the players in the commercial world who tend to control all creativity that there is without any knowledge of it.
Art and Commerce will be used as umbrella terms here. For art will be everything and anything which tries to express, and commerce can be an umbrella term which tries to put logic behind it but ends up censoring the entire process.
The fight between art and commerce is as old as humanity. I guess, in the stone age when someone was interested in making paintings about humans and animals on rocks, his fellow mates would have wanted him to go with them and hunt and fight in order to make the most of time and the available scarce manpower. I guess it’s an organic mindset which humans carry on their shoulders like evolution.
In music, anything apart from love for God was considered blasphemous. Even today, if in some song someone condemns or ask questions to God or refers to him/her in an unconventional manner, the singer/lyricist faces severe backlash. (I wonder if there were riots when Ved Vyas made fun of Indra Dev in Mahabharatam, but Ved Vyas is a genius. He created a mightier God, Krishna and made him mock Indra. Thus we ought to learn something from him. Therefore, next time one wants to criticize a God, one must use the God Hierarchy to do so.) Such incidents tend to threaten the guy with deep pockets(producers) who eventually recants from producing anything that is against popular opinion. The artist, when denied for numerous times gets the sense of the industry and loses his rebellious bone and gives in, thereby delivering sub-standard or ‘popular’ material. To him, it’s all the same after a point. As long as it is paying the bills. Hence, we see an industry that has stagnated in terms of creativity and originality of opinion. This stands true for every segment of the creative industry.
There has always been this fear of violence or outbreak. In the creative field, there are those who are willing to question society, but there are many more who are vulnerable and are efficient in aligning their insecurities with popular sentiments like religion, customs, etc. For instance, the painters were not allowed to paint anything obscene or they would have had to face exile but at the same time they were grandly invited to the King’s quarters where they were asked to paint the King with his 50 naked harlots(I might have forgotten to exclaim that censorship and commercialism in art are the mighty sons of hypocrisy[of course they are sons and not daughters, after all, we are talking of hypocrisy). When naked portraits were eventually allowed, they were not allowed for homosexuality and then these paintings were never to be displayed in an exhibition(the commercial format).
Something similar was applicable for sculptures. The artists were allowed to make godly figures for kings but not anything real. Same stands true for architecture. Point be noted that nothing has been said till now in the Indian context, for here, we chop hands of the ones who make wonders for us.
The first mass published book as we know was The Bible but even after that, the church was censoring any creative work that was published later. The fact which is shocking is that apart from the administration, there was much criticism from the general public against the independent work done by the artists and philosophers.
This is where the entire idea of conflict between art and commerce emerges. The ones with money, the producers /financers /publishers /distributors /exhibitors, try to avoid any jeopardizing situation in the art business. Hence, they analyze the things in Art that have mass popularity and liking and then transform it into an industry where a product is made over and over again, with new packaging every now and then.
No one likes change and the ones who want to put forth a different opinion or mindset are bound to face hardship. However, then should we really stop expecting co-operation and keep spending energy in fighting authority like we always have been instead of doing some really groundbreaking work. This Sisyphean task keeps us from discovering the hilltop.
On the contrary, there are various art forms which have come into being because of the commercial needs and demands like User Interface of applications, the office art, fancy and swanky interiors, etc.
However, it is disheartening to see how at times the commerce aspect paralyses the very art which gave it existence like the advertising world where we can see the mass influence of the commercial constraints (and the aptness of these constraints are highly debatable).
To acutely sum up my point of the detrimental effect commercialism exudes onto creativity, I would like to end with a line that was quoted by the legendary “artist” Walt Disney to a reporter: “People still think of me as a cartoonist, but the only thing I lift a pen or pencil for these days is to sign a contract, a check or an autograph.”