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Penny Arcade: Nothing Recedes Like Succes

Guest contributor: Penny Arcade

One of the most remarkable scams of the 20th century has been to sell people on the idea of aging as failure. “Don’t Trust Anyone over 30” began as an off hand remark by Jack Weinberg of the Berkley Free Speech Movement in 1964 to a journalist who accused him of being controlled by Communist Party members. Llike all disinformation this thought fragment was co-opted by advertising into a marketing scheme. 
"I've done some things in my life I think are very important,” said Weinberg 3 decades later “my one sentence in history turns out to be something I said off the top of my head which became completely distorted and misunderstood.”

Over the past 30 years’ people have been conditioned to view the first 40 years of their lives as superior to the last 40. Consistently, with each year that passes, the developmental arc of one’s life becomes increasingly devalued. The onset of Emerging Arts in 1985 which surfaced as funding for the arts in the USA was weaned from actual art practioners to arts education. Emerging Arts has become the hallmark of almost every mission statement, as institutions vie for an ever shrinking piece of the pie of funding, and has slowly strangled all art that does not have the imprimatur of academia. Emerging Arts funding is a ‘reward’ for people who pursue MFAs and PHDs in the arts. A sorry state indeed because no matter how much time one spends in art school and no matter how much money one spends in art school, it will never give someone the integration one needs to create supernal works of art. Do a cursory check for funding for mid career artists or established artist and the truth becomes clear, Emerging Arts places the focus on potential instead of accomplishment.

The truth is that Emerging Arts with its focus on neophytes has never been part of the art world before, where for a millennium young artists became old artists. Never before in the long history of art has a hothouse environment where young artists are coddled like so many battery hens existed. Emerging Arts has bolstered the idea that art is a profession, which of course is a bold faced lie. Art is a vocation and in no other pursuit is one’s ability and gift the least consistent indicator of worldly success. Sadly, the victim in this scenario is the young artist, who instead of the time honored practice of owning one’s personal vision through thick and thin to reach mastery, often stops as soon as the Emerging Arts period has passed, frequently without ever even reaching the first steps of personal vision, having eschewed the process that leads one to epiphany as an artist for the competition of creating product. Yet even more frightening are the organizations who midwife these practices proving over and over what Jack Smith called “The Hatred of Art” because in fact these salaried arts manipulators have no true interest in art, only in the process of moving generations along a conveyor belt of sameness. Instead of new ideas, it is the same old ideas reworked generation after generation as young artists vie for the golden ring of art star status.

What of the older artist who is left out of this process? As one becomes older one’s own authenticity becomes of great comfort. In the words of my old friend Bobby Beers, “After 30 years you either made the art or you didn’t. It is not a question of being promising, of being talented or of being precocious. Art is one of the things one becomes better at with age.” As Quentin Crisp once cautioned me “Time is kind to the non conformist.

Not to worry Miss Arcade” he said, “If you do something well enough, or like me, long enough, eventually the world will beat a path to your door.” As performance poet John Giorno said in 1982 “Nothing recedes like success.”

The only success that matters is artistic success, everything else ebbs away.

Penny Arcade will be at Old Dears, programmed by LADA

27 & 28 November

Chelsea Theatre

(part of SACRED)

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