Image – Union of African States, 2016 (Unmaterialised)
Soundtrack – Cranes in The Sky, Solange.
‘Emerging Journal’ began as a means to challenge the stale conventions and conceptions that state, to be a creative practitioner is to be living on bread crumbs or at the whim of someone else grace. Furthermore, to challenge my fellow creatives to fight the stigma of being incompetent in the business side of their practice, by illustrating the evolution of the title of Artist, Designer, Writer and/or Director making them synonymous with the title of ‘Creative Entrepreneur’.
As we draw towards the winter break, the memory of emotional turbulence is far too fresh. December is for many creative entrepreneurs, a period of excitement. For final year students, the first three months of the academic year was a period of laying the foundations of what is set to blossom in the new year. Undoubtedly the dominant emotion from Foundation student to PhD candidates is anxiety and curiosity, particularly to the newly liberated graduates stepping out of the protective bubble of educational institutions, yet to face the harsh realities that plague all creatives of all calibers; publicity, budget, engagement, deadlines and storage.
Speaking from experience, as an MA graduate from the Royal College of Art, the convergence of internal and external pressures quickly arise, and attempts to summon creativity to solve the imminent debt and looming departure of student discounts cause a panic. Externally, you once again become aware of the immense scepticism of art & design being a respectable and fruitful occupation, despite countless arguments, to its essential and fundamental contribution to every aspect of society. The simple fact is, until you are financially lucrative you are deemed somewhat unproductive to society. Farewell, to your summer term visions of masterpieces and idealised manifestations of your deepest creativity. This is where the passed down theories are tested for resilience and validity in a financially driven and heavily nepotistic industry and society.
For the courageous and persistent, commitment to their practice post-graduation is a tumultuous path, rewarded in stages; recognition, respect and then wealth. Typically, the first honour to be bestowed on any recent graduate is to be christened with the title of ‘Emerging’. Expectedly, this is a heavily politicised ceremony and achievement, that begs to question, who is in power to give such a title and how is it acquired?
The most common answer, is the identification of the most popular media outlets who have strived to make themselves authorities within their sector; I.D, Dezeen, Creative Review, Wired, Dazed & Confused, ArtNet etc.. However, this title is heavily contested, some would say it is a recipe for a never-ending pursuit of validation and fuelling an inconsiderate machine of ‘relevancy’ dictating creative practices rather than documenting individual pursuits. But the underlying investigation remains what does “Emerging” necessarily mean, and by whose parameters?
If the goal is to “Emerge”, the endeavour to acquire international acclaim seems logical but irrelevant and premature. The initial obstacles are the clarifications of identity, process and principles that equip young creatives to endure once acknowledged. It’s important to state that “Emerging” has absolutely nothing to do with international acknowledgement and financial stability. Furthermore, success and emerging are also very different criterions. Successfully emerging, can be defined as recognition in a creatives specific field, followed by exhibiting alongside the contemporaries or within the same institutions as a marker of acceptance and respect, then conclusively being commissioned by that sector or generating an income from those works or engagements. If these three objectives have been achieved, they have emerged.
What is missing from these objectives is the insight into the personal battles between; authenticity and validation, battling stereotypes, positioning in context to other artists, and compromises of interests for appeal… an unfortunate unspoken reality, eventually creating a dependency until chosen for acknowledgement and success.
Beyond this, artists and designers have entered a new realm, pursuing success, which is dictated by financial gain and non-critical audience engagement. In a time where the future of the ‘Creative Industries’ a term coined by Tony Blair, are rendered speculative. The role of any creative is no longer simply packaged, particularly when independent. The uncertainty in the creative economy is based on the relegation of mandatory creative courses and the over pricing of creative education, has threatened the existence and emergence of future artists and designers. As a result, there is a necessity for a shift in mindset for artists to regard themselves as creative entrepreneurs and embrace the multiple facets of a success career, which we have become accustomed to outsourcing. Opportunity will no longer be presented but created, through the identification of value in their work, whether in the discussion, presentation or construction. Maintenance of an independent creative path will go toe to toe with the Utopian idea that art should be free. Proving it never has been free, but always subsidised until recouped through the general public post-creation.
The question remains, who will adapt, who will give up and at what cost?
Words by Christopher Lutterodt-Quarcoo
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