Why artists do not have a responsibility to cover the big issues of the day (unless they want to)

Greetings Lovers

Trust you are in fine fettle.

Last night, after reading an article entitled: My Responsibility As An Artist (written by photographer David Lachapelle), we had a pissed debate about the nature (or not) of an artist’s ‘responsibility.’

It’s something I hear all the time from both the artists themselves, and their audience.

To my mind, when an artist, writer, musician, whatever, start to talk of their ‘responsibility to the community’ it sounds sanctimonious and hubristic. They convey the importance and vitality of their work as the product of their tremendous cross to bear. They suggest they are ‘serving’ their community, the world, with their toil and sacrifice because of their ‘responsibility’.

Do me a fucking favour.

But as I say, the audience, the public, are at it too.

They’ll say: You have a ‘responsibility’ to write about women’s issues, race, or whatever has become the hot moral topic of the day. That is not to say that those issues are not important, and there will be artists who cover these issues and themes, but the compulsion must come from within. People mistake compulsion for duty. If it is duty, it is only to yourself.

The musician, the film-maker, has made the sacrifices. No one asked them to do this work. They weren’t employed by the state when they left school at 18. They had the drive, the ambition, the desire, to be skint for months or years at a time. Despite this, sections of the public think they own artists and creators, as though hey are there to serve. But the artists who allow themselves this highfalutin analysis of their craft are culpable in this idiotic notion.

The fact is you, as the artist, may already be doing work about the big issues of the day – a former refugee may use art to express their experiences – but that is because they felt they had something to say. But that’s their choice, and if it’s framed as something higher, they really have disappeared up their own fundament.

A writer’s only responsibility is to themselves. To write what he or she is interested in. By all means, say you are writing something because you think it’s important, but, please, not out of ‘duty’ or ‘responsibility’. And this should neither be encouraged, nor demanded.

But whatever. Just please use restraint. Think of the paper. Write less. Be economic. Please.

Try and avoid sentences like this:

“Artists have to try to be very clear in what it is that their purpose is and what it is they’re conveying because otherwise, it’s just more stuff.”

Stick to the photography, Lachapelle, leave the words to the writers.

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