Consumerism and its relationship to art

A week ago, I dove down a rabbit hole I’ve been avoiding for some time. That deep dive resulted in a Facebook post I will share with you now.

So…after making the mistake of diving down the review rabbit hole, I came out with two looming conclusions. I will share one conclusion with you, but the other I’ll hold close to the chest for a bit and see how I feel after a few days or weeks.

I’ll preface this by saying I like to be pretty transparent with my work. I don’t gloss over anything to make it seem like things are better than they are. Why? Because it serves no purpose other than to place a mask of lies over truth.

Me and lies? We don’t like one another.

With that said…

The conclusion I am on the cusp of drawing is pretty harsh and disappointing, but I have to be realistic with myself and my time. But as much as it saddens me, it might be time I gave up on audiobook narration.

Being creative in today’s world is a hard lot. And doing so on multiple fronts makes one even more vulnerable to the harsh realities of commodifying art. And no matter how much you try to tell yourself you don’t care, you do. Every work an artist puts out is imbued with a part their heart and soul. And taking the usual dings and dents from the critics in society is part of the unwritten contract you sign. It’s fair. It’s accepted. And there are some really harsh critics out there.

But when you find yourself spending more and more time justifying your continued existence within a particular realm, it’s time to re-evaluate whether or not you belong in that realm.
Ergo, I have some soul searching to do on a number of levels.
To my fellow artists out there, know that I not only feel your struggle, I live it. Daily. And like any artist who has a come to Jesus meeting with themselves, I hope to arrive out of this a better person and a better artist.

Thank you for listening to me.


Video Version: View the video take on this post.

From that reaction I had, I realized something I believe is rather important to artists of all kinds. Said something is about consumerism and it’s relationship to art.

I will preface this by saying there is no right or wrong, and that I’m not condemning anyone for how they “consume” art. With that said, consumers want to do one thing … consume. But how we consume the various incarnations of art has changed over the years.

Now … we binge.

The goal is to get through it all as quickly as we can so we can move on to the next thing. There’s little time devoted to savoring a moment, or pondering the deeper meaning. It’s just consume, consume, consume.

Readers want authors to pump out as many books as they can, as quickly as they can. Audible listeners want narrators to blow through the narration (at unnatural speeds and rhythms), so they can get through a book as quickly as possible. Theatres have started paring back shows so they rarely exceed 90 minutes. A movie over 2 hours is consider a chore. DVRs make it possible to skip commercials.

Back in the day, commercials served some very specific purposes: They allowed companies to promote their products, they allowed viewers to use the bathroom, and they gave us a moment to discuss or ponder what we’d just watched. That’s right, we actually talked about the previous scenes. And it was delightful.

When I was in undergrad, the college had a radio station that was home to the Fine Arts Society. All DJs who spun classical music had to hold for silence at the end of every piece. Why? So the listener could process what they’d just heard. That moment was important.

Now? There is no moment. Now, it’s immediately on to whatever is next. There is no time for silence, because silence is deadly. You can’t sell with silence, you can’t promote with silence. Even worse, you give the listener time to actually think during silence.

Gasp! We don’t want that.

But we should.

And that’s my problem with how so many people consume art these days. There is less importance placed on the art and more placed on the consumption of the art.

I’ve been watching “Pretend It’s A City,” with Fran Lebowitz (it’s a must-watch for me). There was an episode wherein she spoke to the relationship of people to art. She brought up the idea of how, during an action, a famous piece of art is rolled out to silence. But when the art sells for millions of dollars, those in attendance applaud the price tag. Instead of being in awe of the art, they’re in awe of the price.

That’s society’s relationship to art.

I’d like us to return to a place where the art itself received the ovation it deserves and the price tag is an afterthought, where people take their time to process and fully digest what they’ve experienced, before diving right into the next.

Art is something to be experienced, not rushed through like a cornfield maze with a clown-faced maniac chasing you down.

As an artist, I have dedicated (and re-dedicated) myself to producing art that allows the consumer those moments to step back and appreciate what they’d just experienced: The pause in the spoken word, the rhythm of the written word. I promise you I will never give in to the idea of consume, consume, consume.