Saturday, March 21, 2015

Artists Are Members of a Privileged Class @ SF Theater Pub Blog

I'm rereading Tom Stoppard's Travesties tonight (for a very cool reason which I am not yet at liberty to disclose) and I have to say that it makes for very interesting reading in light of what I wrote for the Theater Pub blog earlier this week.

My Theater Pub piece is about living in an age when "count your blessings" has turned into "check your privilege," acknowledging that being an artist is itself a privilege, and wondering if anything short of total social revolution will change that.

And then I start rereading a play in which Vladimir Lenin, James Joyce, and Tristan Tzara debate art and revolution with Henry Carr, a privileged British guy who'd rather talk about his Savile Row suits than about the carnage of World War I. Despite that, he gets in some rather trenchant commentary on art and privilege.

Some choice quotes from Travesties:

"To be an artist at all is like living in Switzerland during a world war." (Carr)

"Art created patrons and was corrupted. It began to celebrate the ambitions and acquisitions of the paymaster." (Tzara)

"Revolution in art is in no way connected with class revolution. Artists are members of a privileged class. Art is absurdly overrated by artists, which is understandable, but what is strange is that it's absurdly overrated by everyone else. [...] What is an artist? For every thousand people there's nine hundred doing the work, ninety doing well, nine doing good, and one lucky bastard who's the artist." (Carr)

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