Those who keep a close eye on my blog, will probably have noticed that not much was happening on my website. That is because I’m secretly working on the concept of an installation that involves a huge grant and is also some new territory for my artistic activities.
The curious among your may already wrinkle their nose and indigently ask “ Why the secrecy?”.
In a culture that emphasizes community over commerce many artists feel under pressure to reveal the cogs behind their creativity and that issue is becoming tougher as the techniques become every more complex.
In a world of exponentially developing technologies the tools of art are expanding. New products and processes hit the street every day, waiting for adoption and possible subversion by forward thinking artists. 3D printing, advanced robotic sensors, smart fabric, communication technologies; all these developments lie in wait, ready to be shaped into profound artistic experiences for the keen art-goer.
In keeping up with these new possibilities it is necessary for artists to commit themselves to extensive research. This period of exploration and invention is a creative and dedicated process of seeking, identifying, imagining, problem-solving and prototyping.
When I exhibit my work I’m are usually asked to deconstruct it. I might be questioned on the meaning and inspiration behind the piece. I may also be asked more specific questions. How was the art made? Where were the parts from? How much did they cost? How was it put together?
My initial impulse may be to tell all. By passing on my research and methods it is an opportunity to contribute to a communal creative culture. It can help like-minded artists, learn from each other, and help build a thriving cultural scene.
There is, however, a small voice in my head that argues otherwise. A voice saying: Hold on, I just spent six months figuring this stuff out. Should I just give that information away to anyone? Am I setting myself up to be copied, outmoded, and forgotten before I had a chance to establish this installation?
It is difficult for an emerging artist to stake a claim in the art world. In order to make a living I need to get noticed. Protecting some level of my research and ideas is a part of that.
I know that by remaining tight-lipped about some aspects of my work can come off as petty. It reveals a lack of confidence and a tendency to view other artists competitively. Many people asking technical questions are simply looking for an entry point to explore their own interests.
An unwillingness to share can stand in the way of creative partnerships and a sympathetic art scene. The historic and current influence of groups such as Critical Art Ensemble, Guerrilla Girls, Paper Rad and others, show us that there are exciting possibilities within creative collectives. An artist can market as a group, book big shows and create a vibrant following. They can see their idea change and develop through many hands until it becomes something far greater than what they initially imagined, and experience gratification from that process.
That said, it still doesn’t incite me to reveal my entire artistic process step by step and should by no means be the expectation. These are my ideas, and it is every bit my right to protect my intellectual property. By over-sharing it encourages people to follow my path and mimic my choices, allowing the asker to achieve more in less time … and with a whole lot more money in their pockets.
The answer of how much to share lies in negotiating a middle ground of transparency that I feel comfortable with. By giving a more generalized answer regarding my tools and methods it can still give outsiders an entry point while reducing the risk of direct emulation.
At the end of the day, it is the artist’s role to create art, not to teach it. I keep this in mind every time a curious patron flips open their notepad and ask for the manufacturer’s website. There’s nothing wrong with asking questions – but don’t be turned off if you don’t get the answer you were looking for. There’s something fun about joining the hunt for new ideas as well. Especially when huge and very competitive grants are involved.
3 thoughts on “About Secrecy in Art”
I think that in the artistic field a reluctance to share may hinder creative collaborations, On the other hand the description of one’s projects could also arrive at people who take possession of the idea, stealing it 🌷🌷🌷
While I see most of my artistic activities as a path towards personal growth, to realize some projects I need external funding. Where money gets involved, competition gets involved.
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