The constant need to self-brand has created a new artist; one that arguably isn’t traditionally an artist at all. The polar pressures to be true to oneself, but earn enough money to realise who that person is, has become harder for artists today, since you’re only as good as your first six instagram pics.
“One of the most conspicuous things about today’s young creators is their tendency to construct a multiplicity of artistic identities,” says American author, William Deresiewicz. “You’re a musician and a photographer and a poet; a storyteller and a dancer and a designer…but technique or expertise is not the point”.
Are internet-savvy artists of today moving even further away from the time-old and enigmatic artist persona? As pointed out by Deresiewicz, todays’ artists have to spend a hell of a lot of the time marketing and, thus, spend less time creating. They are less likely to be ferreted away in an isolated, dingy (but creative) Brooklyn apartment à la Robert Mapplethorpe and Patti Smith, and are more likely dashing between social media screens while feverishly checking for bread-winning, freelance gigs.
For Deresiewicz the age of the internet has him questioning the very existence of artists themselves. In The Death of the Artist and the Birth of the Creative Entrepreneur, he spoke of previous centuries being a time where artists were more skilled and weren’t busied with boxing and selling their identity as a product on their websites.
Some people, like ARTsala creator and gallery owner, Jason Horejs, disagree. “Mr. Deresiewicz fails to realize that the desire to create is as old as mankind… there will always be art that transcends the age in which it is created – present age not excepted”.
Horejs makes a good point: empirically, the very nature of art, is that it constantly transforms and develops through society. But it is undeniable that the internet has created a sort of hyper-connection, and if the artist is not fast at connecting, linking and wheeler-dealing, they could be left behind.
It seems Deresiewicz forgets that the commercial success of the artist has traditionally relied on the finances of their patron (from the pope to Guggenheim) and that marketing has always been key. Proving yourself worthy of a patron, and to then be granted their support and money, is a lot like using instagram and gaining followers.
While the need for artists to box and sell their identities is a relevant reaction to the internet age, there are plenty of successful artists who aren’t obsessed with their social presence or don’t have entrepreneurial skills. These artists merely feed on the (much) larger marketplace the internet has innovated for reasons like: inspiration, motivation and networking.
Furthermore, the existence between business and creating has always been a challenge in the arts and if the proverbial ‘patron’ must take a new form in followers and private investors to keep up with 2017, it will. It has. It is.