Archive for July, 2013

Bigger Cages, Longer Chains

July 31, 2013


The story goes that, in Britain, there was a protest rally.  A group in the crowd started in chanting “Bigger cages!  Longer chains!”  I always thought that this was a scream!  It appealed to my sense of humor.

To wit:

Toxteth riots, England, 1981.  During a lull in the action a leftist militant climbs on to a box and addresses the crowd on the subject of the coming socialist utopia.  Her promise that there will be jobs for all is met with derisory laughter from a group of young rioters.  As the speaker details other reforms, the group begins a mocking chant, “Bigger cages, longer chains!”

from the SPECTACULAR TIMES booklet “bigger cages longer chains” (from Larry Law).

Sun Ra said “It’s ridiculous for America to even talk about freedom when all the artists are in chains?”

Most true, deep artists struggle, fight and suffer as a matter of course.  It’s especially true of visual artists.  The odds of making a living off of making pictures aren’t very encouraging.  It’s like you’re carrying a psychic ball and chain around with you.  Eventually, you get so used to it that you forget that it’s there.

Many of the artists who do make it big do so through luck more than talent.  Or they study art magazines and the art scene, foster connections and get ready for the “big swindle.”

Most true artists don’t create to make money or to strive for success.  They do so because they must.  It’s part of their character and the way that they breathe, the way that they move.

The game is slanted toward entertainment and the popular arts.  It’s not easy to make it there either.  Yet with talent and persistence, one might have a fighting chance at least.

For most of us though, it seems to be a losing game from the get go.  We can’t stop playing it.  A labor of love is still work.  Yet many of us play it our whole lives, with little reward or recognition.  We create a good body of work and hope that it touches people.  If it doesn’t do so while we’re alive, maybe it will after we’re gone.

This is true for us visual artists.  It also often applies to other artists as well.

If need be, yes “Bigger cages! Longer chains!”  Better still would be to find ways to escape from our cages.  We could break and remove the chains.

The next stop would be a total artistic Renaissance.  Art would play its truest part in changing life and transforming the world.  Sometimes just “enriching” society is not quite enough.

living under a cloud