By: Jess Canty
You may have seen that Banksy, after having recently sold a piece for upwards of $12 Million, opened a online shop of affordable wares called Gross Domestic Product.
Among the questions you have to answer when you are attempting to buy one of these pieces is "Why does Art Matter?" So of course, I have been thinking a lot about this question this week while encountering two very different stories.
But I want to step back for a moment to a class I took called "Art as Social Action" - which was taught by a professor that would come back to UCLA only once and a while to teach this class. He therefore allowed it to be as big as it could get - meaning there were 800 of us, with 30 TA's and we held class in Royce Hall (which holds up to 1800).
In that class he raised the question of disrupting from the "inside" or disrupting from the "outside." Ultimately landing on the fact that disrupting from the outside is much easier - because often when you are on the inside, in order to get to the level of power to be able to disrupt - you are so molded by the status quo (because how else would you rise) that you forget to disrupt. More on this in a moment...
Anyway, so to answer Banksy's question - I think art is important because it is risky.
So I want to point you to two modern artists: The first is from the Netflix series Abstract - specifically the episode following Danish architect Bjarke Ingels. He is an example of someone disrupting from the outside.
I HIGHLY recommend you watch this episode - and I dare you not to walk away feeling like you have come into contact with a true artist.
He has vision. He is a risk-taker. He is passionate. He is positive. He is planning for the future he wants to see. He is sanguine in the face of criticism. He is a leader.
Haven't convinced you yet? Here are two quotes that made me press pause on the remote and rewind:
"Is this worth the next seven years of my life? If you're not realizing a dream, then maybe seven years is a really long time."
"When you're doing something like this, even though it is carefully crafted, pre-meditated, discussed, designed and tested - when you see it, it has to feel effortless."
If that isn't the description of the life of an actor - and the goal of any performance I don't know what is. And this is from an architect - which just proves that all artists are after the same thing. And all artists encounter the same problems in their respective fields.
My example of the "inside out" approach is Bob Iger.
And yes, I know that I recently posted that I am both proud of and agree with South Park's characterization of the issues at Disney when it comes to China. But... that aside, I came across an article in the reporter this week that blew me away. Bob Iger is betting the future of his company on streaming. Which doesn't sound like that big of a deal until you read what that means internally for the company.
When I read this article, I was IMMEDIATELY brought back to that class in college.
Here is a guy who has risen to the top of his field, and managed to make his company the most powerful and profitable studio on the planet. He is steering a MASSIVE ship - employing over 200,000 people. But he is still willing to take a HUGE RISK. In fact, he characterizes NOT acting as the more risky move. I bet that isn't an easy sell to his shareholders who are making tons of money from the status quo.
He is taking this ship, and turning it away from an iceberg that might could turn his company into the next Blockbuster Video. But it may mean that there is another iceberg in that direction too that nobody sees. But he's going for it anyway.
It requires vision. It requires risk-taking. It requires passion. It requires looking into the future to figure out what people want, not tomorrow - but five to seven years from now. It requires positivity. It requires confidence in the face of criticism.
Nobody knows what the future is going to bring. Nobody knows if their movie or TV show is going to work. Nobody knows if it is going to be a hit. NOBODY KNOWS.
Your job as an artist is to make a bold choice, dive in and go for it - whether you are a young Danish architect or the head of a multi-national media company. Or an actor walking into the audition room.
Why is art important?
Because it is risky business.
Aren't the people you admire the most in this business the ones who are bold? Who are never satisfied with the status quo? Who are pushing themselves to do better, different and more interesting work every time out?
If you are feeling stuck. If you are feeling like your career doesn't look like you want it to, like you imagined it to look by now - perhaps you aren't taking enough risks?
What is the craziest, scariest, riskiest thing you could do for your career today? Why aren't you doing it?