Perhaps years of neglect can produce dictatorial desires in even the most stalwart of the usually egalitarian underground. Somebody out there (in here) came up with the idea that for the next three years (1990-1993) artists refrain from producing art. The idea, known as Art Strike, has been discussed in a surprising number of journals, considering its impossibility, authoritarian high-handedness, and ultimate disposability as ideas go. I fact it was a cute notion that should have been disposed of, but wasn't. And so we will be doing without the work of avowed strikers for three years.
The issue touches me in a sensitive spot and deserves to be exhumed, because it goes well beyond just "fun and games" in the artistic underground. If Art Strike be not a whispered vicious trick of some swift-tongued disembodied enemy of creativity, let us assume it has developed out of the sense of despair and powerlessness which grips those of us in the midst of creative working a world of recycled artistic idolatry.
Art Strike is a negative power feeding on the despair experienced from time to time by those who have chosen not to join the ready-made bandwagon of success in a very unsane surface world. This despair is a burden which is, as we speak, slowing down the progress of a thing which could become far more real and far more strong. To adopt a pose of cynicism or nihilism is an understandable response to the great beast of mass-produced culture, but it is an uneducated and unproductive response.
I certainly congratulate the perpetrator of this idea virus called Art Strike. As a meme it has gone very far. It has changed peoples' plans; stopped their progress dead in its tracks: it demonstrates the power a well-placed idea can have, even coming from the "powerless" underground. Some would say that that is precisely the point of Art Strike. If so, let's start planting seeds of artistic fecundity instead of spraying herbicides or exponentially-increasing barrenness. The harnessing of this power of ideas (verbal and non-verbal) is, ultimately, the greatest responsibility an artist will ever have.
There is an alchemy where art and daily life meet, are one, are sweet, effortless, and closer to the existential bone than thirteen billion printed words on Art Strike (or, for that matter, thirteen billion scatalogical album titles, misanthropic song lyrics, or other by-products of despair). There is a realization, which can be cultivated, wherein one can calculate the effect of Good one's creation will have upon the planet. Perhaps these intangibles present a vast and uncharted challenge, but their reward is sweeter than upsetting a corporate board meeting with free jazz. There is a realm where one is shown the truth (transitional or penultimate though it may be) in statements like, "God is a foot, Magic is alive" (and art is footwork-proper placement of one's "dogs" and a minimum of howling at the moon-footwork and fortuitous event). Divorce the shamanistic function of the artist and you get artifice: the glamour we know all too well which dominates the media (Garfield vs. Zippy). We need good art. Better, far better than we're getting. The medicine we've been collectively brewing isn't strong enough yet. And you Art Strikers are urging voluntary lobotomy for three years? My bardic muse writes, "Methinks you have been quelled by mutant forms who, from the spirit world, cast a pointless dare your way in order to destabilize a Goodness."
With these words beyond me, let me resume my usual cheery countenance and wish well to all participants or even semi-participants in the great Art Strike 1990-1993. I do see the whimsy and the irony in your flurry of non-activity. Enjoy your vacation, and choose your bowling ball carefully. It's all in the heft.
[Reprinted from The Void-Post #6