One of the hardest concepts for me to digest and understand over the past couple of months is the uneasy relationship between art and commerce.
The key question: how can one be true to oneself and produce art without being concerned about the business side? Further, how is art sustainable without losing one’s creative flair and passion for what they are doing?
DJing in the Atlanta area made me realize this tension. For all intents and purposes, it is hard to strike a balance, playing music that is more creatively adventurous, while becoming financially self-sufficient. But, as with any creative pursuit, one must have faith that it will eventually pay dividends, whether those dividends are monetary or not.
I have always had an admiration for artists who are able to construct pieces of art that are uncompromising and willing to go to places others are not. That are able to shine a light on truth and give an additional perspective to something that has gathered dust. But, once again, is it possible to follow this track, remaining financially viable?
In my opinion, art is currently at a crossroads. This couldn’t be more obvious than in film.
In the 1970s, there was the auteur period. Directors were king and many nearly had as much power and clout as the studios. Only in the 1970s could relative unknown Michael Cimino make the ambitious film The Deer Hunter, then be given countless amounts of money to make the bomb Heaven’s Gate, nearly bankrupting United Artists.
The 1980s were reactionary in a way, putting a greater emphasis on constructing blockbuster films and franchising. However, films like Back to The Future, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and The Empire Strikes Back are pieces of pop art. These types of films effortlessly balance adventure and entertainment with adept storytelling and some interesting insights on the human condition.
The 90s, aughts, and 10s have continued this trend to diminishing returns.
Watching the film Prometheus about a year ago reminded me of this uneasy balance. The film starts out as an interesting treatise on faith and humanity but ends up being a b-movie gorefest best experienced in an MST3K-esque format.
But that’s the thing, what is the balance? Is there a balance that can be found between art and business without sacrificing either?
In my opinion, Christopher Nolan is an excellent example of a balance between art and commerce. The ability to make entertaining films like The Dark Knight and Inception that also pose larger intriguing philosophical questions about life. But Nolan is a bit of an outlier.
So, where is this line and can it be somehow defined or crystalized?