Everyone: Don’t be a dick
The artist’s ego is complex. It is usually tied to notions of self-importance and inflated self-righteousness which is sometimes justified, but more than often not. One might think that I am addressing the “WMA” or White Male Artist, which stems from a position of privilege, though this illness of the artist’s ego is turning into a semi-epidemic that stretches across all archetypes of artists.
There is always at least one person who makes life a little bit difficult. Their work is allegedly so important and revelatory that it requires ample conceptual and physical space, often to the detriment of other people, no, other artists, who are working within close proximity. I’ve seen grown adults throw tantrums; crying and refusing to complete their works if their demands weren’t met; particular artists who are somewhat protected by their connections issuing throwaway accusations and insults as a result of an immature response to a suggested compromise. Artists of all different walks of life are acting like divas, like bullies.
Maybe it’s a core belief system from an institution that encourages us to act with desperation in regards to our careers? From day one within the institution, there is a war on space; on being a loud-enough voice among a dense population of emerging artists and curators. We are encouraged to be each other’s cohort, our very own support system while at the same time vying for the same job opportunities and positions, which are few and far between. Some people do start off with more privileged positions – financial advantage, being of a particular ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation, familial or professional connections within the Art World. A privileged position, however, does not necessarily ensure you a place in this competitive industry and if offered a rare opportunity of employment or advantage, why would you turn it down? Everyone’s metaphorically and literally hungry and everyone’s gotta eat.
This small art institution model reflects a wider societal concern. It is extremely difficult to get a job at present, let alone an art job. It’s hard to get ahead so being competitive and always looking out for one’s self might be a necessary survival skill? That might be a bit of a stretch but I’m in the hopeful nature that people have their reasons for being unreliable jerks.
It is possible to create an open dialogue and be critical of each other’s works without deducing the artist’s practice or creating animosity but this requires rigid investigation and critical exchange between the artist and the audience. Sometimes the understanding of a work is direct result of contextual space and misinformation, but do artists, particularly those in the miniscule New Zealand market, realise that if you act like a dick*, no matter what the reason, people are going to remember you?
*Rude, snotty, bratty, bitchy, conceited, mean-spirited, etc.
(A part of the column Natasha Matila-Smith on dicks)