Forever, people have argued about the purpose of art. The Romanticists advocated art for aesthetic appeal; the purpose of producing art is simply for it to be pretty to look at (which is why, when you visit something like the Monet exhibit at Musee de l’Orangerie in Paris, there are long benches for you to sit on so you can sit there, stroke your chin, and be immersed in the beauty of the paintings). The Modernists, on the other hand, advocated art for thinking sake; we produce art in order to enlighten others. This is why painters, such as Picasso and the Cubists, have such obscure paintings; as viewers, we are supposed to put together the shapes to create something, and within the process, we are becoming better people. Some people say art has practical purposes; the ancient people created pots and cave paintings and such in order to pass down the history of their people, to mark their territories, to share family trees. Whichever side we want to take, I think we can all agree that art is supposed to give us some kind of experience, whether that experience is to distract us from our everyday lives, to give us knowledge, to track our existence (and, looking at art as paintings and sculptures, but also as music, performances, writing, photographs, etc.)
If you are in the dance community, your world was turned upside down last week when a new mandate was announced that we can no longer mix music, ultmiately changing the medium of our art form. If you have ever been to a dance competition, you know that part of the magic of the competition IS the music selection. There is just something so captivating about watching a team walk onto the floor in their costumes, set their beginning formation, wondering what is going to happen–and then the music turns on. As a coach, I spend about a month listening to the song over and over again, determining which beats are the coolest, which sections of the song will be most appealing, where the music says, “Turn section goes here, jump sequence goes here”, and you never quite worry about another team having the same song, because even if they have the same song, your arrangement, sound effects, pitch and speed are probably different. So, when this mandate came now, myself, as many other dance coaches and choreographers, immediately felt our creativity to be stifled and limited (and, if you are a creative person, you will know that there is NOTHING WORSE than someone putting boundaries, timelines, and restraints on your products because most of the time, art just happens; somehow, your brain just produces something within all those tiny little neurons firing and you really have no control over what the outcome, or when that outcome occurs).
Of course, this problem is not limited to just dance coaches, but I believe reveals a larger issue in the current state of how we view art in our very capitalist society. The first problem I see here is how this mandate is coming down. I really, really hate Big Business, especially when Big Business uses their political, economic, and social powers to exploit the Common Man. Like, I once worked at a local establishment that was bought by a Corporation, and suddenly, everything was mandated. Our wages cut, our free food taken away, our break times regulated, and of course, this did not benefit the employee, but rather the Corporation (because the Corporation had more power than we did, so while the Corporation keeps growing, the Common Man suffers more and more). In this case, Big Business is the large record labels: Sony, Virgin, Warner, Universal, and the big name artists: Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber, Kayne West. These record labels and artists have money, we do not, so when these copyright issues go to court, of course the entity with money, who can afford the lawyers, wins, a law is written in the Big Business favor in order to prevent more lawsuits, and the Common Man, again, is squashed and helpless, while the Big Business continues to use their powers (I mean, as dance coaches, I suppose we could ban together, but we all know that no one goes into coaching for the money).
The second issue I have with this new mandate is how it’s causing art to be For-Profit. Don’t get me wrong, as a creative person and a writer, I would love nothing more than to put a lock on my blog and charge people $1 for every blog post they read (I personally think my writing is of $1 per post quality), or to charge every single viewer of our dances 50 cents. But, I think if you create art for the sole purpose of making money, then your purposes are no longer to give others an experience, and therefore, changes your motives to be selfish, self-seeking, competitive (all products of Capitalism). Part of choosing the artist-lifestyle is working in the grunge, not being able to afford your supplies, having Albert Einstein-hair, people stealing your ideas–because it is within these struggles that great art is created. Art is experimental; you always start with an idea, a technique you are working on, an image to portray, and it never ever comes out exactly as you expected. Art is collaborative; your best work ALWAYS happens when you bounce ideas off other people, take classes, watch what others are doing. Art is meant to be shared, it’s meant to have an audience, it’s meant to give someone an experience. Sometimes, I want my audience to feel sad, elated, angry–but I want them to feel something that they would not have otherwise, and enforcing this mandate changes how art is viewed (I know I’m revealing my Liberal-ist trends right now). Sure, we give the impression that if you have talent, you can make something of it, but there are plenty of great artists who are never discovered, simply because they don’t have the network or Big Business connections.
The last issue I have with this mandate is just how it will continue to shape the future of art. Usually how it works is society changes, there is a bunch of chaos and confusion, so we create laws to regulate the chaos and confusion, and then we continue creating more laws to continue regulating. This is happening with marijuana; Colorado legalized marijuana a few years ago, people were lighting up all over the streets, causing all kind of chaos and confusion, and since then, lawmakers have been working on creating regulations to limit the chaos and confusion. The same thing is happening with the Internet; it’s unknown territory, we see problems, so we create regulations. The longer we are in human existence, the more laws we have to abide by, and this music-editing issue is no different. A law has been passed that businesses and venues must purchase licenses (another facet of Capitalism) to simply play songs at their establishments. Now, in my opinion, any kind of exposure I get is quality exposure; the more of my posts that are shared, the more people who talk about my book, the more likely I am to make more money off them. How many times do you hear a song playing at the grocery store and go home to download it? All the time. How many times have I been inspired by a song I heard at a poms competition that I then choreograph a dance to? All the time. How many times do we blast a song at the spotlight, and the person parked right next to us starts singing along, they go home to buy the song, play it at their next social gathering, and now the audience has increased exponentially?… Are we going to mandate and create taxes and licenses for these things too?…
But, don’t worry dance coaches, I am confident we will overcome this hurdle; we are creative people, we are used to finding creative solutions, and we might even be surprised how far our creativity takes us. We are not defeated; it’s just another product of our Capitalist society that is ruining art.