One of the best things about a self-directed art practice, in my opinion, is that you can learn and grow, as an artist, at your own pace. There are no externally imposed deadlines. Nobody cares whether or not you reach your artistic goals by a set date. It’s all up to you. Consequently, you can choose to have a burst of experimentation and rigorous progress, or else you can amble along, enjoying the leisurely ride. Right now, I’m taking my music and my painting more slowly, as I deal with other important aspects of life. I could go faster, but I don’t want to go faster. For now, ticking over is fast enough.
I think this refuge of self-development, where you can set your own agenda and work on it at whatever speed feels most comfortable to you, should be defended and protected at all costs. It’s becoming one of the last bastions of human activity where there isn’t somebody, with their own interests and agenda, breathing down your neck to have you go at a pace that suits them, not you. Personal growth usually does quite poorly, if forced and hot-housed, yet that seems to be how we have organised things. Educational attainments, career progression, even those important milestones in your personal life, now have an externally dictated (and wholly arbitrary) timetable. Failure to live up to the norms marks you out as a failure or as trouble.
As children, kids are processed in batches, first tested at age four, to ensure that their rate of progress remains within acceptable limits thereafter. That isn’t growing at your own pace. It is being force-fitted into a programme, ready or not; sink or swim. Throughout a child’s education, everything is biased toward meeting the grades in the regularly given tests and examinations. The tests are now so all-pervasive that it distorts how children are taught and more importantly, what they are taught. Curiosity counts for nothing. Neither does self-discovery or self-directed research into interesting things. What matters is growing at a prescribed pace, not your own pace. This has no other purpose than to prepare you to become a loyal, obedient, unquestioning servant of commerce.
Unfortunately, this way of thinking has even infected art education. When art education happens at all, it has become a brutal competition, with strict deadlines. The joy of art has been squeezed out of it. My children, both of whom are creative, musical and have painted since they were small, found formal art education, in high school, drudgery and a misery. It takes a singular talent to take pursuits that are so richly laden with possibilities for fun and fascination and turn them into dry, dreaded husks.
As a working adult, everything you do is time-limited, mostly so you can work more at making somebody else richer. There is no let up. The foot is hard on the gas pedal, the entire time. What’s the rush? Nobody can give you an honest answer. The reality is that it’s about profit and an economy so designed that, unless you are racing to earn your crumbs at break neck speed, you fall behind; down and out and destined to become a lowly servant of the ones that can maintain the pace, at the expense of all other aspects of living. Is it any wonder that burnout is now such an epidemic?
Patience is no longer a virtue; it has become an unwitting anachronism. Some even consider patience to be an unhealthy obsession, or supreme indulgence. It’s encountered only in personal, artistic pursuits, it seems. In every other sphere, results are required immediately, if not sooner.
To this end, radio has become homogenised to avoid the risk of playing something that doesn’t maximise listener numbers and hence advertising revenue. Gone are the days of discovering something new, played by a radio programmer with some insight, quirkiness and integrity. Unless the focus group and the algorithms deem the song a money maker, you will never hear it on radio. To ensure the risk of some radio stations breaking rank and undermining this science is mitigated fully, the commercial answer was to consolidate and bring more and more independent stations under the ownership of huge corporate conglomerates.
None of our technologies and applications is purpose built to free us to develop at our own pace, as individuals and to experience a more fully-lived life, making our own wealth on our own terms. Instead, they divide us, as a population, into those that work all hours, slavishly, for shareholders, or else menial, freelance servants that pamper the former, living lives of financial precarity.
All anyone thinks about is money. To quote Tom Petty, “You don’t hear any more of, ‘Hey, we did something creative and we turned a profit, how about that?’ Everywhere we look, we want to make the most money possible. This is a dangerous, corrupt notion.” He’s right. Everything, including morals, truth and ethics, is sacrificed in favour of profit. He continues: “I don’t think it’s a good attitude in your life to feel that you have to be rich to have self-esteem.”
Record companies no longer care about their artists. Acts are not allowed to make mistakes and grow at their own pace. Today, it seems that if you don’t have a hit, or even if you do, the record companies have no use for you the next time. Their asinine attitude is, ‘Well, why should we wait for these guys to come back with another hit when we can bring in somebody else?’
Childhood is being foreshortened, deliberately and for profit. Tom Petty again: “Only a sick culture would sexualize young girls. It’s disgusting. It’s not just pop music; it’s fashion, it’s TV, it’s advertising, it’s every element of our culture. Young women are not being respected, children aren’t being respected. Why are we creating a nation of child molesters? Could it be that we’re dressing up nine-year-old women to look sexy? And even if we’re wrong, let’s not do it anyway. I really don’t put it past these advertising people to say, ‘Well, look, we made a lot of money when we brought the nine-year-old out and made her look like a hooker. Let’s do it again.'”
Television “has no moral barometer whatsoever. If you want to talk about something that is all about money, just watch the television. TV does not care about you or what happens to you. It is bad for your physical health and your mental health. The music business looks like innocent schoolboys compared to the TV business. They care about nothing but profit.”
Sadly, many artists are as greedy as the businesses they work in.
I recommend you read this article: http://www.rollingstone.com/music/features/the-ten-things-that-piss-off-tom-petty-20021114?page=2
For an insight into how dysfunctional and seedy high tech culture has become, in the wake of apps that allow some to work incessantly, while others beg for cast off crumbs, hoping their phones will ring and give them a temporary, freelance concierge engagement for a few minutes, read this: https://medium.com/@laurensmiley/the-shut-in-economy-ec3ec1294816#.42wj34z72
The world, it seems to me, has lost its ability to nurture and to foster the growth of creative artists. You are not permitted to grow at your own pace, if you wish to participate in the so-called “creative economy”. When stripped back to its essence, what we have are slaves. We have slaves, who are entrapped and controlled externally, without any meaningful control over their own destinies or even way of living their lives. They have no means of escape. They’re trapped on their respective treadmills. Some slaves are working like stink, to harsh and unyielding deadlines, to produce their creativity, whether it’s good, bad or indifferent, while others are relegated to the ranks of the virtually unemployed, save for the odd job thrown their way ,at unexpected moments, with uncertain (i.e. non-existent) continuity.
When something is not allowed to grow at its own pace, it doesn’t grow. It can be forced to conform to a regulation colour or shape, as supermarket fruits and vegetables often are, but something is always lost.
Usually it’s taste.