The authenticity of an artist starts to crumble when exposed to external factors. In fact, one could argue that the purest moment in the life of an art piece is when the artist is alone and conceives and creates the work. It is a moment awkwardly close to a first date, only the date is yourself and you get to be dissected at the end.
In that moment, the work that you just created could be the best in the world, and it certainly is for you. That is only thanks to the privacy of the act, the intimacy of the creation.
Once the work is dipped in the judgemental society like achilles, artists put on a facade in order to defend and safeguard their creative instance, by referencing other artists, naming labels, endorsing genres, labelling names and god forbid, claiming to be original.
Of course, if originality was superimposable to authenticity this rant would end here for, in my opinion, original artistic output and inauthenticity could very well exist in a single act, with interesting results. Nonetheless that is for another entry.
How does an artist become inauthentic then?
Before we venture in those dark and grimy waters, we should first accept the “three ages of artists” theorised by me in this precise instant.
Yes, I am a 26-year-old undergraduate music student and I have personal theories, how dare.
The first is the “age of urgency”.
It is characterised by the necessity of the artist to create unconditionally and by doing so they question their existence as creatives. This period could last as little as a few sessions as well as years and decades. To put it simply, one wants to explete as much as they can, often due to a biased perception of their own capabilities. Let’s imagine an artist to be a dish sponge. Be it soggy and sad or dry and airy it doesn’t matter: they have to become exhausted and empty before they can serve their purpose.
Said purpose comes with the second arch, “the age of confrontation”.
This parenthesis is characterised by our sponge absorbing the good, the bad and the popular of the artistic environment where they express themselves. This results in an iridescent artistic output that can easily be described as “⭑⭑⭑⭑⭑” by selfless cash-thirsty gatekeepers or more simply as “artistic maturity”. Maturity in this case is not synonymous with experience as a mature work could occur early in one’s career, it is intended as a conscious affirmation of the works.
When the artist is then authenticated by their self-proclaimed jury, “the age of elevation” cues-in.
The final act is when the paradigm of the dish sponge proves to be most accurate: the artist at this point has the means, the platform, the audience, and most importantly the renewable self-esteem to create unconditionally. They have earned their freedom of expression by repeatedly creating works that have been approved by the establishment and acclaimed by their followers. This is when the sponge is squeezed several times, the more the merrier, and if all is well a thick foam starts developing, a zeitgeist, the end of an era, early retirement or unexpected demise.
There’s nothing wrong in having foam at this point, it is exactly what we wanted, unless the foam is runny and watery.
We need to ask ourselves, what is a dish sponge for?
Is it merely a squishy stress relief?
A thirsty tool for “levelling the messes”?
Or finally a strong and resilient scraper, capable of withstanding criticism and abuse?
All hail the humble sponge!
There is a lengthy discussion to develop on the subject but in my uninformed opinion of a self-proclaimed authentic artist, I can locate the crucial point of breakage somewhere between the “confrontation” and “elevation”: when too much is asked of the artist, something breaks and the output doesn’t reflect the initial purpose, the sponge ends up being washed out, exhausted but relentless; the price doesn’t reflect the worth anymore. They still can and will create but the foam is not as powerful, lacking initiative, a blatant prisoner of inertia.
Yes, I could have used a better simile, but I have been hand washing a lot and I can now appreciate a good sponge.
I could have also added that the three ages of an artist are coincidental to the freudian Id, Ego, and Superego. That again is for another entry.
Ultimately, it all depends on how much soap we have put on at the beginning.
You can’t learn how to be authentic, because you are already authentic in what makes your heart beat.