The basic argument of this article is that art cannot become democratic via the mere engagement of people in the process of creation, implementation and social engagement with the work. We return back to the often expressed argument ‘everyone is an artist’ pronounced by renown artists among which we would put Joseph Beuys. What I think is that a holistic participation of the general public in the art, as imagined by scholars and theoreticians, seems profoundly impossible. This restriction is imposed by the very nature of art itself.
The truth is that art is a means of travelling to whatever the destination of the artist is. This is why it can take a lot of forms such as performance, visual art, digital art etc. this is why, this journey is lonely and not many people can embark on the same boat. If the idea is a festival, and the work is the car which takes the people to this festival imagine that the car can only fit a certain amount of people inside (the artist, his like minded people and the people who identify and contribute to the work). The amounts of people who can embark on this means are not many; on the other hand, the people who can fit in the festival venue are countless. That means the people who identify with the idea of the work will be countless; this does not mean however that in order to attract the people to this idea you have to attract people within the creation of the work. In other words, you cannot carry in the same car all the people who want to attend the festival, nor can you involve the people to the organization of the festival. This would also seem absurd.
And indeed, nobody in the academia talks about this problematic situation of participation but all tend to assume that it is naturally possible and even mandatory to at least try to fit all the participants in this one small boat of artistic creation. Therefore, in this investigation it is natural that many problems are being encountered. From ethical, to personal, to physical, to financial to anything you can think of. This is exactly because we have theoretically naturalized an unnatural idea which when applied to other sectors (like the rough example I gave with the car and the festival) with exactly the same premises, it seems unnatural, absurd and crazy. So I would like now to ask: what is the difference of involving various participants in the creation of the work with involving all the participants of a festival on stage or on the backstage of the organization?
For me, shifting the focus from the archetypical gatekeepers of art (museums, curators, artists) to the public might sound in many cases as a generous evasion of responsibility from the part of art professional circles. The reason for this is that since we can provide the control to the public, we will no longer have the capacity to evaluate the result or the input provided and the situation might get out of hand. Of course, this is towards the profit of certain people who tend to consider that surrendering the control of keeping and preserving art leads to a certain ‘democratization’ of art and is based on the assumption that people are willing to do so. However each democracy needs a ruler who can make sure that this democracy is indeed applied for all in the same way. The question is now who can take up this role with the least of opposition.
Also, to me it seems more democratic to be able to provide people with a certain notion of art which is applied to educational, historical and aesthetic prototypes rather than let everyone assert their input which might be unrelated to the target of the work and end up being a motley representation of individualized archives which provide confirmation to an ego of the audience rather than contribute to the creativity of artistic practice.
Also, if we consider that art is an a priori participatory action as many academics tend to assume, then I do not see the point in climbing up the artistic or professional scale of going to an art school or an academy or even bothering with reading art history books and philosophy. Therefore, what I mean to say is that I see an inherent gap between what people think art can be, with what expert people think that art should be with what art actually is or is made for. Art is made to serve emotions which are uniquely combined with artistic talent to provide a situation with which people can identify or understand. This is also the inherent quality of art which is not found in other sciences or practices. What is mostly misconceived about the nature of art is the fact that art is a massively applied journey where everyone should contribute their own means so that it can be safe, democratic and pleasant for everyone who embarks on it.
What is it that makes art so different? Maybe we have big ambitions or just need subsidies.