On Making Artistic Statements

Years ago in art school I recall a discussion where the prof was telling us about an interview he saw with Basquiat. The interviewer was asking the usual sorts of inane questions and Basquiat was answering, albeit whilst stuffing his face with French fries. Chewing and mumbling, and refusing to repeat himself when the interviewer insisted he say it again clearly.

My prof commented that this was the best way to deal with it when someone demands that you explain your art. Refuse to explain yourself.

Let the art speak for itself. Don’t explain, don’t justify, and if people want to misinterpret it, fine. They will anyway.

Too bad so many of our artists have been cowed into having to justify and explain and soften their statements into meaninglessness.

If people don’t like your artistic statement, they can fuck off and not buy it/listen to it/watch it/go to your shows. The notion that an artist must explain himself implies that if his explanation isn’t up to snuff [ie, as current sensitivities and dogma dictates] that his statement isn’t valid. Furthermore, it’s degrading.

It’s the first step towards censorship – first the Stasi just wants to talk to you, then they shut you down when they don’t like what you say.