The Birth of the Author

Today from our sister publication Art Practical we bring you Andrew Berardini’s article published in issue 8.3: Art can’t do anything if we don’t. Berardini finds the place where art and self-expression exist in the face of illicit power. He states, “If it does nothing else, art gives us authorship of our experience. Layers of meaning and exchange, the nuances of aesthetics and economics, and the complexity of history and context all come later.” This article was originally published March 23, 2017.

Rebecca Belmore. Ayumee-aawach Oomama-mowen: Speaking to Their Mother, 1991; Presented by the Walter Phillips Gallery as part of the exhibition Bureau de Change, July 12–September 28, 2008. Banff National Park, Johnsons Lake, July 26th, 2008; Courtesy of the Walter Phillips Gallery, Banff Centre. Photo: Sarah Ciurysek.

Rebecca Belmore. Ayumee-aawach Oomama-mowen: Speaking to Their Mother, 1991; Presented by the Walter Phillips Gallery as part of the exhibition Bureau de Change, July 12–September 28, 2008. Banff National Park, Johnsons Lake, July 26th, 2008; Courtesy of the Walter Phillips Gallery, Banff Centre. Photo: Sarah Ciurysek.

Your voice matters.

A desperate holler, a drunken song to the moon, a cold and broken hallelujah. A prisoner’s prayer.

The words take shape, the vision becomes a picture, a sculpture, a photograph. This is yours. And it really matters.

Wrapped in the word author of course is authority, who gets it and who doesn’t? Many doubt they have a voice at all.

We live in a frightening time of political crisis. Maybe this truth always depends on where you’re standing. Where does art fit into this, if at all? I have often heard art disparaged as useless frippery, as a distractive entertainment, as a commodity for the rich, or as useful only when hitched to a distinct political doctrine. Art in service of the revolution. Many think art is totally useless, a few even hold up art’s uselessness is its most important trait. An art that advances human rights and an “art for art’s sake” are not mutually exclusive. John Berger wrote in The White Bird (1985): “Several years ago, when considering the historical face of art, I wrote that I judged a work according to whether or not it helped men in the modern world claim their social rights. I hold to that.” But he goes on: “Art’s other, transcendental, face raises the question of man’s ontological right.” Or in other words, our social right to existence, our right to make and explore meaning for ourselves, our right to a consciousness and a voice, no matter what we might say with it.

Read the full article here.

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