Art and its role in Culture

Reading a post from Miss Izzy is like watching a Simpsons episode. The beginning has nothing to do with the end, but serves only to set up the source of conflict. While reading Sunday Digression, she moved to a topic I feel pretty strongly about, the value of art in culture. She writes:

If you think about it, nearly all the most famous modern fiction work that is set in a world after a sort of semi-apocalypse has the burning of books and the confiscation of cultural capital as the fundemental conflict between the state and the people. 1984, Fahrenheit 451, Vertigo’s V for Vendetta, all of it have books being burned and the media under tight scrutiny. You’re kidding yourself if you think Art isn’t important and that I’m nothing but a cultural elitist.

Why do they burn books and eliminate all previous culture? Because they realize, as did Nazi Germany, that cultural items (art as music, literature, etc) are not only powerful expressions of what the artist was feeling, they are also the people. Part of what makes us Americans are our shared cultural expreriences. We have all seen Titanic, heard The Beatles, and read classics like Charlotte’s Web. Each of these has affected us in a slightly different way, but, as a group, in a way that anyone who hasn’t experienced our culture hasn’t been changed.

In fact, if you doubt the power of cultural experiences, why do countries as varied as France, China, and Vietnam complain about American culture stomping all over their own cultures? Because, by experiencing the cultures, they are fundamentally changed. While I don’t think that any one movie or song is powerful enough to change someone’s behavior, it is certainly reasonable to think that if American culture valued fat people, we wouldn’t have anorexia.

If you believe that last statement to be a lot of bunk, then do some research and see that in the 50s, girls were trying to get breast reductions to look like Marylyn Monroe. Now, they try to have huge breasts to look like the girls paraded on MTv.

Since culture is SO powerful, that’s why I believe so strongly in a free culture. Artists have the right to be compensated for their work, but incessant and complicated copyrighting is not the solution! By releasing their works under the Creative Commons license, they can retain the rights to making money off of their works while still allowing everyone to experience it. That’s why I release all of my artwork under a Creative Commons license. If people wish to enjoy my art or remix it into their own art, let them! I ask only the bare minimum – that I get credit as one of the sources of their work and that IF they make money, they must obtain permission from me because they must share the wealth. But if everyone wants to have the photos up on their website or print them to put up in their house or any other purpose, I don’t care. Let them enjoy my artwork and have their lives enriched by seeing it. I think that all artists should do the same and they will see how everything will work out for them. After all, if no one is making money off of your artwork what financial harm does it cost you?

Author: Eric Mesa

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