Artist and Audience 1


Recently, Scott Simon interviewed author Anita Desai in relation to her collection of 3 novellas entitled The Artist of Disappearance. At the end of the interview Simon asks Desai about audience:

SIMON: Well, for me this story raised the question: Is there art without an audience?

DESAI: I think the audience is quite certain that there isn’t – that the art only becomes art once it is looked upon as such. But I, in my experience, there are artists who have done things entirely for themselves and the audience is unimportant and often destructive to their vision. But all of us who’ve ever written, composed music, painted, know that when we performed these acts, we are not in touch with the world, we are completely withdrawn from it and in our own world we are recreating an inner world.


Desai specifies 3 forms of art making that seem more particularly independent of audience. Critics might suggest this independence is arrogance or introversion or the mythology of the 19th C. that wanted the aggrandizing image of the destructive genius to put artists on pedestals and to marginalize and stigmatize them at the same time.

There is a tension here for me. I do feel it is difficult and perhaps destructive to second-guess the audience when I am in the studio. It gets in the way and it adds noise to the need to hear subtle voices, to see where an image might lead me.  But I also feel that the audience completes the arc of creation when the work is seen, when it is received. This is a kind of mythic idea that the artist is part of the community. It is not about praise and inflation so much as it is about the wholeness of belonging and that in a healthy culture, the artist’s purpose is invited, recognized and validated. Perhaps after all this is about the health of the culture.

This is a topic I intend to follow and expand in later posts

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