The Artist and its Art

By Chandrasen Yadav

It’s impossible to separate art from the artist. Amidst all the controversies around Deepika Padukone standing up for the students, an argument often thrown casually popped up again—we have to separate art from the artist. It’s an old debate, and an argument being used to a point that its validity needs to be questioned very seriously. So, it doesn’t hold up for me, it’s an argument which is just a better defense when these kinds of controversies happen.

In the US after the #Metoo movement, many celebrities were accused of sexual misconduct by one or multiple victims and were completely snubbed, their contracts were canceled, they were just boycotted by the industry, and they weren’t any C or D list celebrities, it involved the likes of Kevin Spacey and Louis CK. And again, this idea of separating art from the artist was discussed, but they were canceled anyway. Still, in one of the comedy specials, Dave Chappelle defended Bill Cosby’s legacy, by saying and I paraphrase, that he can’t just forget what he did for the community no matter if he is guilty or not. So where do we draw that line, or what could be the acme of crime one has to be involved in, that we don’t think twice before boycotting not just the artist but their art as well?

Talking about actors, I don’t think there needs to be some serious conversation about their art, because they work in a medium which needs teamwork, so the art being produced by them, they are just a part of that, so the art doesn’t necessarily reflect their thought process. So, I don’t think actors are that big part of a picture when it comes to movies, they’re just overhyped and overpaid, for reasons humanity don’t have answers to still. So, if an actor is not the writer and director of the project, I don’t think they can defend themselves by the kind of product being produced, which they’re just a part of. But then, as the majority doesn’t care about the philosophical reasoning behind the argument, actors will never be looked down upon, as this country is an actor worshipping country.

So, for the artists this argument works on, writers, comedians, and every other artform practitioners who reflect their thoughts in their art, it’s important to not cherry-pick this argument when needed. If this argument holds, then it should hold in all situations. I just have a single counter-argument, ‘if art needs to be separated from the artist, then the appreciation for the art that an artist creates shouldn’t be directed to the artist and shouldn’t necessarily add to his moral and character building, no matter the art shows the acme of morality and goldlike behavior’. Because if not, then the artist needs to take the brunt for their art.

If an artist is being appreciated for the art he creates, and it somehow builds the artist’s persona, then why is it that when the artist makes a bad move we should separate the art from the artist? It’s cherry-picking when the argument should be used, so that can’t be happening.

Now if I ask who is Deepika Padukone, if just her movies come up in your head, then you know nothing about her, her character, her morality, her political stand. So, just judge her for who she is, not as an artist, not for her art, just for her. And it’s not separating art from the artist, it’s just saying, I don’t care what movies an actor did, I just want to see what that person stands for, and I’m going to judge her for that.

And when we talk about artists, it’s impossible to separate because art is who they are, art is the physical manifestation of an emotional thought process, and if an artist lies about their emotions, he was never an artist. But I do understand the exception to the case when an artist is just a sick person but creates great art, and that is where we should find perspectives to look for, a moral dilemma for us to figure out.

About the Author: Chandrasen Yadav is pursuing Masters of Science in Psychology at Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi, he has a background in Computer Science and Engineering. He is an avid reader, observer of current social and technological trends with interest in writing on diverse topics.

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