Multi-media artist /composer Laurie Anderson said to graduates at RISD, “I can’t think of a better time to be starting out as an artist." Her inspirational commencement speech touched on her unconventional journey as an artist. She shared some survival strategies with the graduates. Communicating that working beyond conventional boundaries and taking risks helped her to invent and reinvent herself at every turn. Including her stint as the first and only artist in residence for NASA.
Anderson suggested that the artist could reach a wide audience today using great digital tools and do it without being aligned within an institution, collection, or corporation. With that in mind, the question of ethics and responsibility was brought up to ponder.
She quoted the first paragraph of George Trow’s book Within Context of No Context and then wove its premise, the “size of the con” from a social, cultural, and political perspective. Examining the power of the media to spin its own reality, she posed provocative questions, giving the listener a chance to weigh in cerebrally; “You have inherited a story-savvy government, one willing to use spin and multimedia to tell its stories. So what are the true stories?”
"Wonder was the grace of the country. Any action could be justified by that: the wonder it was rooted in. Period followed period, and finally the wonder was that things could be built so big. Bridges, skyscrapers, fortunes, all having a life first in the marketplace, still drew on the force of wonder. But then a moment's quiet. What was it now that was built so big? Only the marketplace itself. Could there be wonder in that? The size of the con?"
"Artists really do see the world from a very different point of view", she went on to plead her case for the artist-in-residence program at NASA to be reinstated. Making a broad assertion of the possibility of the artist in residence in Congress, the Supreme Court, and the White House. "There is a Department of Defense, Department of Health and Welfare. How about a Department of Art?"
I felt the need to share her words with anyone inventing their destiny through creative endeavors. More than ever, our world needs talented individuals who can disseminate, unravel, and envision new possibilities for the world. The time for her questions is appropriate now.
RISD Commencement Link
Something to Ponder!
"The work of television is to establish false contexts and to chronicle the unraveling of existing contexts; finally, to establish the context of no-context and chronicle it." George Trow