On Not Dumbing Down

It’s easy to identify art projects that purport to be democratic but nonetheless are shunned by its own subjects. Those artists most pressing concern is not connection to the general audience (which clearly hasn’t been considered) but the artist’s (valid) fear of appearing unsophisticated to art world peers. This backfires. Their peers see the obvious intention slam down like a hammer, while the social in social justice crowd feels suspicious, excluded from what they deem weird and unfamiliar.  

Making art accessible doesn’t require dumbing it down. Making that connection involves refining your conduit of.. whatever it is that flows between you and your audience. Accessibility done right uses it’s power to push through membranes of class as well as time and distance. Inaccessibility uses its energy to push only upwards, maintaining distance. That is also a valid choice, but it should be a conscious one.

There’s no special purity in making democratic art for ‘The People’ and there’s nothing shameful in constructing relevance within the borders of art intelligentsia. These folks push culture forward. They are entirely valid. They’ve worked hard to be where they are. They too care about social justice, and hunger for elegant expressions to move them to action. 

I do think about those offering involvement to a wider poplace, and how I can attempt it. I think it requires an empathetic restraint. An economy of means can allow multiple entries into exploring the work. My topics don’t involve nameable categories of social justice. My expression of égalité searches for an arc towards accessibility without condescension.