Artists Know the Trickle Down Smells Like Piss by Chad Sorg

Bureaucracy is any system designed to slow down progress. We can’t have anyone excelling too quickly–no one is to be trusted. We wanna make sure no one gets too far outta’ line and a paper trail is needed at every turn.

Bureaucracy is designed to keep everyone huddled as closely as possible. And to be clear, I’m talking about Socialized programs and a system not inherently bad, just a system that’s outgrown its practicality. Transparency is a hard ideal to realize and it’s the scale of an effective organization that is in question here. A giant monster of a government is far from transparent. Just watch the news, lack of effective communication is featured every day.

Most often, activity in the art world is aided by governmental funding and juried consensus. There are ‘experts’ to tell us what is Art or what’s not Art. We’re told to look ‘up’ to find out what’s worthy. I’m of the opinion that trickle-down governance smells like piss. I’d much rather see rampant, unqualified creativity. Artistically, the invisible hand will naturally weed out the slackers.

This is not an anti-Socialism rant, it is my educated observation that we’re in a new age. It’s time for artists to sacrifice the acceptance of free money from above. Private citizens have lost respect for art because artists have become rear-guard. The connection has been broken but it’s not too late. Artists have become a weak species. It is the non-institutional people that should be taking up the reins of art funding and It’s the artists’ own job to get their work admired and famous and bought!

At one time we had the Church, in all its patronage, to fund the Artworld. We had pontiffs, priests and popes to thank for featuring an artistic lineage of the brightest talents mankind had to offer. The common man was in awe of human ability. Taken optimistically, the Church’s patronage, throughout the dark ages and later into the Renaissance, put the most deeply beautiful creations of man in front of us. Their slant was that if you served the God that we advocate, you too can be a part of this kind of beauty.

The Church was cutting edge. The Church was in control; the Church was rich.

It certainly was a form of trickle-down governance/coercion, and the ensuing backlash later came in the form of privatization. In the nineteenth century, private institutions and individuals, such as the bankers and robber barons became the patriarchs of high Art. The Church had eventually lost its luster and American style hustle was becoming the new hero. It’s true the Church still owned all the art that they had amassed and it WAS still important art, it’s just that the most cutting edge examples of talent were no longer being backed by any religion. Private taste was now the arbiter of best. Capitalism, private industriousness led the way and the common man could find power within himself if he just worked harder.

And then along came Socialism and ideals of trickle-down economics. We were shown that culture could be handed down to us by bureaucratic machines and that tax dollars, pooled together, could fund a watered down mass of art. The trickle became a flow and artists were taught to scrape around until the trickle fed them. Tricks were commissioned by the government and cohesive forms of agreed upon art became symbols of high culture. At last the governments of the world could be seen as the patrons of beauty, and artists, the beneficiaries of democracy and the children of bureaucracy.

We affected change and also a kind of harmony amongst the race by complicating things. When it’s public money, we don’t want any one person or group to get too much. We’re all equal, right?

It’s a strange concept, possibly a little counter-intuitive, but the bureaucratic morass was concocted as a device of systematic complication. The downfall has been that only institutionally familiar artists continue to receive this governmental windfall. The paperworkers of the artworld continue to push bland art through the system in return for funding. It’s not ironic but sad that they are the artists already receiving salaries from public institutions for their service in teaching.

What’s worse is that this complicated system to give art educators more money to engage in creativity is stifled more and more each year monetarily by senate committees. Academic incestuous cronies fight for more money while the individualists stand out in the cold.

But I’m wondering if the time for complication is over. Can we afford to expend energy, time and money on governmental departments that are supposed to insure imposed equality? This current form of government that values Capitalistic competition combined with Socialistic equalization has been a useful balance, but in some areas of government, it’s my observation that too much energy is expelled on archaic forms of impeded function and at the price of what used to be the miracle of art, namely, giving the public something AMAZING, not just something acceptable. Too much energy has been wasted at the top to impact the bottom, the day-to-day, the huddled masses, the common artist.

A village is a concentration of people that personally know each other. It’s easy to tell who’s got the energy to lead and who’s going to help. The brightest stars of art are privileged individuals, entrusted because they have exceptional minds. Their job is to show the way. The village will follow them as they share.

Maybe the time is ripe for a government of a more tribal kind. Notice the blogosphere. Journalism is not objective. Journalism had been presented as something pseudo-Socialistic and we finally became acutely aware that it was, in fact, Capitalistic and opinionated. Now we have a choice and these old forms of misinformation are being overturned. Blogging won.

As media empires grew and history educated us of misdeeds and slanted information gathering and dissemination, people like Rupert Murdoch and William Randolph Herst have been exposed as self-interested posers, tricking people into believing that their news was objective–neutral. It was made clear that Fox news is not objective but politically conservative in its opinions.

Online social media is killing the old ideas of objective journalism. No one is fully objective and blogs are more upfront about their own slants. The blogosphere is anarchic. It self-polices. And it’s such a full space online that no website or blog has monopolies in municipalities. The blogosphere is tribal; like minded individuals have many choices of what news to read online and no one is forced in any way to read any particular newspaper.

My interest is for artists to think in this way once again. We haven’t had an art movement, proper, in a long time, and it’s my belief that the public art funding machine has ended such a tribal kind of banding together. Let’s end this blandness, we know each other, we’re capable and we’re LEADERS!

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11 comments on “Artists Know the Trickle Down Smells Like Piss by Chad Sorg

  1. This is one example of something I’ve written that, each time I read it, I still love it as much as the moment it was new.

    It explains my outlook pretty extensively and as the new President of the Chamber of Commerce of my town, I will use it to explain myself for anyone interested in knowing how I see the world.

    Artists are leaders.

    Like

  2. Oh, no you don’t– don’t blame socialism for the mess the arts are in!

    This is the largely the fault of one group and one group alone: if you want to talk about Bureaucracy, look at the educationalists!
    The academics are the largest most conservative bureaucracy in the world– they have all the money and they want to dictate the tastes and directions of idea and art– they want art to be productive of education. But art has never been productive of anything.
    Art goes its own way– to the chagrin of every narrow-minded pedantic snobbish schoolteacher in the universe.
    As for socialism, it seeks to improve the life of the so-called “common folk” . For instance, it brings art to these people and enriches their life.
    For my money, there could not be a better goal for art.

    Like

    • Jack, we obviously have differing definitions of ‘socialism’.
      Could I just point out there’s Marxism and then there’s State Socialism… for instance the institutions laid down by FDR, so long ago. You say “educationalists” as if that’s a party or philosophy that’s at odds with state socialism.

      Like

      • Dear chadsorg:
        Sorry, if I sound a bit vehement on this subject– nothing personal, I assure you. Allow me to explain. (What I meant to say!)
        My argument may seem to be against academics– nothing could be further from the truth. I
        have nothing against worthwhile academics– I think an education can be a fine thing– if a bit overrated (Pace Ezra and T.S.!). Richard Wilbur, for instance, is a wonderful writer & poet–
        but sometimes a bit underwhelming– his achievements are appreciated– as are many of the achievements of those cohorts of his who’ve crawled out of the pockets of his overcoat. The “Formalists” will always be with us.
        And teachers have often been the carriers of culture into the community through their teachings, writings, etc. This is a traditional role that should not be demeaned.
        So, let’s leave those fellows alone, shall we? Their works speak for themselves.
        Note: I am exempting here the visual and theatre arts who have their own hierarchy and have managed to sometimes– though not always– escape the slobbering slavery engendered in “funding”.The galleries run their own business as do most of the theatres and their success should be– and isn’t– a lesson to other disciplines in the arts.
        What we have to discuss here is the rise of modern academia and its all-embracing tentacles–
        the joining of the artistic state with the powers of the modern social state to create the mileau
        in which literature– particularly poetry– now finds itself.
        Now, I’m no social scientist nor historian myself, I have little or nothing to say about the rise
        of state socialism– it may be a good thing or a bad thing– depending on the immediate circumstances. I myself lean to the left. My opinion.
        Alas, I’m afraid my own education is shallow. I am no academic– a poet– therefore decorative,
        but of little or no practical value.
        What I mean to object to is the alliance of the academic crowd with the forces of the state.
        What they have created is a monolithic unit in which all funding, artistic recognition,
        promotion, publication– whatever– while taken from Federal and private funds designated
        for the use of arts– is administered through the schools and their own institutions. Anyone outside this coterie is, of course, persona non grata– it is a form of artistic and intellectual snobbery.
        This is a real bureaucracy! Worldwide and international!
        Self-supporting and above reproach. This is where the trickle-down for the artist begins and ends.
        I’ve known several people who were trashed by the academic crowd because they either had
        not the proper credentials– or they violated the first principal of mob etiquette: they didn’t toe
        the line of crowdthought– they spoke out. What is it Ezra says,: “Don’t kick against the pricks.”
        (“Mr. Nixon”, Hugh Selwyn Mauberly).
        I recently had some communication with one of the academic quarterlies of the midwest–
        in the course of our conversation, the editor mentioned that the magazine, of course, did not review self-published books. Hmmm– ‘fraid I’m out– also out is Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, E.A. Robinson, early Ezra Pound, some of Poe, and almost all the chapbook crowd– and, gee, nearly all first books of poetry and a lot of prose besides.
        So, anybody without an academic press to publish them or a commercial house to guarantee the “value” of their work is out– no sifting through the slush pile here, they’re out. Fini.
        What we’re left with– oh, yes– is the academic groups who– by placing their members in the right places at the right times– and on the right magazine staffs– have managed to corner the market on literature. They– regardless of merit– can get their works published and reviewed.
        This is at best an unholy alliance. The village poet can get no funding– the new novelist is thrown into the fire right away– unless he can kiss the correct academic ass. And even then,
        he’ll probably need a Ph.D. behind his name to tell him where to kiss.
        I am not suggesting a conspiracy of some sort– the academic crowd naturally gravitated to
        higher points where they might have some sort of influence. But they are a greedy lot who want to control everything. They have a consensus of opinion amongst themselves– what’s worthwhile and what is not. Oh, and they are, after all, smarter than the rest of us.
        By putting them in charge of funding, we’re probably robbing our own pockets.
        And they are often wrong.
        A few years ago, the guiding lights at Harvard decided to poll their students– the brightest and the bestest– to see who they thought wrote the 100 greatest novels of the 20th century. And
        guess who won? Henry James, of course– who can argue with that? But the novel they picked
        as greatest was Portrait of A Lady– a book published in 1875– a full quarter-century before 1900!
        Picky? Yes, but relevant to the argument: not one of the academic leaders seems to have
        noticed the problem– they were blind to it having already decided their own knew the correct answers.
        Thus I may say– finally getting to the point– is that if the (literary) arts are in a mess, it is not
        the fault of the state or socialism– it is the fault of the academic apparatus that has taken
        control. I call them the “educationalists”– behind every artistic movement they see another opportunity for classroom capers.
        The literary community– to their shame– has allowed this to happen.
        What the educationalists have given us in place of artistic endeavor is the “New Criticism” , etc.,and its bywords– and they’ve substituted academic nonsense for personal genius.
        Robert Graves talks of speaking to a young lady in a college classroom and asking her if she enjoyed the poetry she read in Professor so-and-so’s class– she turned up her nose and replied, “Poetry’s not for enjoyment– poetry’s for analyzing!”
        The Academy of American Poets and virtually every other literary organization in the US is
        under the sway of academic noodles. They stifle creativity and “control the means of
        production” (Sound familiar?)!
        Recently in Los Angeles the poet Nguyen Chi Thien, a Vietnamese dissident poet– who spent nearly 30 years in communist prisons– died of tubercular complications arising from his years
        of imprisonment. Released from prison in 1977, only long enough to write down his own
        poems he had memorized in captivity, he published Flowers from Hell.
        This is what poets in other countries do– this is why they’re respected and listened to. They
        speak to the people not to the academy!
        I know– poetry is a discipline, is fragile– it needs supporting. But is this the way? Perhaps
        what’s needed is a way to find funding outside the academic community.
        Alas, I have no idea what that would be unless an “angel” with deep pockets can be found!
        Jack Peachum

        Like

      • Dear -chadsorg,

        Sorry, if I sound a bit vehement on this subject– nothing personal, I assure you. Allow me to explain. (What I meant to say!)
        My argument may seem to be against academics– nothing could be further from the truth. I have nothing against worthwhile academics– I think an education can be a fine thing– if a bit overrated (Pace Ezra and T.S.!). Richard Wilbur, for instance, is a wonderful writer & poet– but sometimes a bit underwhelming– his achievements are appreciated– as are many of the achievements of those cohorts of his who’ve crawled out of the pockets of his overcoat. The “Formalists” will always be with us.
        And teachers have often been the carriers of culture into the community through their teachings, writings, etc. This is a traditional role that should not be demeaned.
        So, let’s leave those fellows alone, shall we? Their works speak for themselves.
        Note: I am exempting the visual and theatre arts who have their own hierarchy and have managed to sometimes– though not always– escape the slobbering slavery engendered in “funding”.The galleries run their own business as do most of the theatres and their success should be– and isn’t– a lesson to other disciplines in the arts.
        What we have to discuss here is the rise of modern academia and its all-embracing tentacles– the joining of the academic-artistic state with the powers of the modern social state to create the mileau in which literature– particularly poetry– now finds itself.
        Now, I’m no social scientist nor historian myself, I have little or nothing to say about the rise of state socialism– it may be a good thing or a bad thing– depending on the immediate circumstances. I myself lean to the left. My opinion.
        Alas, I’m afraid my own education is shallow. I am no academic– a poet– therefore decorative,but of little or no practical value.
        What I object to is the alliance of the academic crowd with the forces of the state.
        What they have created is a monolithic unit in which all funding, artistic recognition, promotion, publication– whatever– while taken from Federal and private funds designated for the use of arts– is administered through the schools and their own institutions. Anyone outside this coterie is, of course, persona non grata– it is a form of artistic and intellectual snobbery.
        And that’s a real bureaucracy! Worldwide and international and most often above reproach. This is where the trickle-down for the artist really begins and ends– and you’re right– it does stink!
        I’ve known several people who were trashed by the academic crowd because they either had not the proper credentials– or they violated the first principal of mob etiquette: they didn’t toe
        the line of crowdthought– they spoke out. What is it Ezra says,: “Don’t kick against the pricks.”
        (“Mr. Nixon”, Hugh Selwyn Mauberly).
        I recently had some communication with one of the academic quarterlies of the midwest– in the course of our conversation, the editor mentioned that the magazine, of course, did not review self-published books. Hmmm– ‘fraid I’m out– also out is Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, E.A. Robinson, early Ezra Pound, some of Poe, and almost all the chapbook crowd– and, gee, nearly all first books of poetry and a lot of prose besides.
        So, anybody without an academic press to publish them or a commercial house to guarantee the “value” of their work is out– no sifting through the slush pile here, they’re out. Fini.
        What we’re left with– oh, yes– is the academic groups who– by placing their members in the right places at the right times– and on the right magazine staffs– have managed to corner the market on literature. They– regardless of merit– can get their works published and reviewed.
        This is at best an unholy alliance. The village poet can get no funding– the new novelist is thrown into the fire right away– unless he can kiss the correct academic ass. And even then,
        he’ll probably need a Ph.D. behind his name to tell him where to kiss.
        I am not suggesting a conspiracy of some sort– the academic crowd naturally gravitated to higher points where they might have some sort of influence. But they are a greedy lot who want to control everything. They have a consensus of opinion amongst themselves– what’s worthwhile and what is not. Oh, and they are, after all, smarter than the rest of us.
        By putting them in charge of funding, we’re probably robbing our own pockets.
        And they are often wrong.
        A few years ago, the guiding lights at Harvard decided to poll their students– the brightest and the bestest– to see who they thought wrote the 100 greatest novels of the 20th century. And
        guess who won? Henry James, of course– who can argue with that? But the novel they picked as greatest in 20th century was Portrait of A Lady– a book published in 1875– a full quarter-century before 1900!
        Picky? Yes, but relevant to the argument: not one of the academic leaders seems to have noticed the problem– they were blind to it having already decided their own knew the correct answers.
        Thus I may say– finally getting to the point– is that if the (literary) arts are in a mess, it is not the fault of the state or socialism– it is the fault of the academic apparatus that has taken control. I call them the “educationalists”– behind every artistic movement they see another opportunity for classroom capers.
        The literary community– to their shame– has allowed this to happen.
        What the educationalists have given us in place of artistic endeavor is the “New Criticism” , etc.,and its bywords– and they’ve substituted academic nonsense for personal genius.
        Robert Graves talks of speaking to a young lady in a college classroom and asking her if she enjoyed the poetry she read in Professor so-and-so’s class– she turned up her nose and replied, “Poetry’s not for enjoyment– poetry’s for analyzing!”
        The Academy of American Poets and virtually every other literary organization in the US is
        under the sway of academic noodles. They stifle creativity and “control the means of production” (Sound familiar?)!
        Recently in Los Angeles the poet Nguyen Chi Thien, a Vietnamese dissident poet– who spent nearly 30 years in communist prisons– died of tubercular complications arising from his years
        of imprisonment. Released from prison in 1977, only long enough to write down his own
        poems he had memorized in captivity, he published Flowers from Hell.
        This is what poets in other countries do– this is why they’re respected and listened to. They
        speak to the people not to the academy!
        I know– poetry is a discipline, is fragile– it needs supporting. But is this the way? Perhaps what’s needed is a way to find funding outside the academic community.
        Alas, I have no idea what that would be unless an “angel” with deep pockets can be found!
        Jack Peachum

        Like

      • what a full bodied reply Jack. much appreciated!
        I’ve started, (though have delayed continuing) a great book called Liberal Fascism. He traces the history of that political party and related groups such as the Nazis, comparing their program to “ours” and the parallels are astounding.
        People don’t even know what Fascism means but I’m not exaggerating, it’s the contemporary “liberal” agenda to a T.
        I’d have to say, I do believe you and I are in agreement. I, too, am an academic outsider, more by choice.
        Many many of my friends are surviving at the government teet, building tenure, and not one of them seems satisfied with their artistic standings in the world.

        Like

  3. Jack, my main basis for this perspective, though, is seeing all the visual artists I know, always with their hands out reaching toward the big state acronyms going “where’s my grant money?? I’m an artist, I DESERVE to be paid by my government.”

    It’s debilitating.. it’s a mindset that they’ve bought into and I’ve been taking action (an art movement we started 7 years ago) that does not involve state money.

    Artists used to be visionaries, close to shamen and now they see themselves as servents to society.

    Like

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