I think it’s fascinatingly oxymoronic that the creative field of work has, over time, developed its own industry. Perhaps more fascinating is that today, the creative industry is the fastest growing sector in UK economy – which in itself is a strange idea, afterall, at what point are you able to define something as creative? The definition of creative has evolved over the last hundred, two hundred years, and is something far more different (although perhaps far more certain of itself) than in the past.
In the 18th century, art was something far less interweved in our society and culture as it is today. Buildings were designed to contain this artistic direction: museums and galleries. The focus was far more on the idea of aesthetics, than creative freedom – exploring almost the science in the creation of beauty. But soon the ‘romanticism’ movement would sweep over Europe and the focus shifted – appreciation then surrounded originality, progress and liberty – art needed to say something new. And there was also a shift towards the artist itself, society began to treat artists as potential geniuses, and embrace their ability to be imaginative, and help make society think alternatively. With this came the acceptance of far greater creative freedom – Modernism saw room for the avant-garde and the experimental to be art in themselves and design work needed to radical to be noticed. Post-modernism would eventually blur the line between high and low art, where eventually anything could be considered art if the audience would allow it. Now, we are able to celebrate the authentic and the inauthentic equally, the daft and the highbrow. Art almost would no longer be art if it didn’t hark to genres, pastiche, and value both the past and present – art is context, and it needs to remind us of something familiar, as well as inspire us.
So, with art leaking into almost all aspects of our lives, naturally it has potential to be monetized and put into the marketplace. Often, this provides us with that distinction – where only fine art is created purely for the message and for the appreciation, but art with a commercial interest or designed for mass appeal isn’t able to looked at in such a high regard. Indeed, for creative industries to remain industries, we ultimately must convince, some might even say lure, the consumer to hand over their hard-earned cash. Critics will argue that by industrializing creavity, we are also industrializing culture. By nature, when something is made commerical, its interests are appealing to the widest demographic as is possible. The result is a homogenous culture, one that’s designed to be predictable and familiar and where creativity is at risk. Some believe this is dangerous, by crafting a mass-culture, by selling products to consumers through familiarity, consumers may not choose to question these same messages and ideas, and only encourages them to conform. And the inherent problem is that this removes a fundemental property of art – that it should question everyday life, not always live alongside it.
I personally believe that art’s current universalism should be celebrating, and whilst Andy Warhol placing a few packets of Brilo Pads on a podium and calling it ‘art’ is dangerously smug, there is art in the everday – and I think that any design on a packet of cereal or tin of fish, was considered just as any other art piece was considered. Whether or not is challenges the everyday life, it was designed, and delivers a message – that, I believe, makes it art. We’re free to challenge things when they threaten us, but perhaps I’m just saying that beacuse, I too, am a conformist in a mass-culture society.