Art and The Artist

Separating the art and the artist is a conversation brought up over and over again when an artist does something controversial. For a while, people using #KayneWestisoverparty or #Kanyeiscanceled planned on boycotting his future work. But other people who want to defend their favorite artists while still maintaining their political integrity support the concept of separating the art from the artist.  

Art is a representation of the self. No matter what. Every song by Kanye has a piece of himself in it. When you go to an art museum, a lot of the art is put into a context of time and who the artist was. Fundamentally the art and the artist are connected. But some might argue that he isn’t rapping about his love for Trump in every song, so that particular song can be separated from Kanye’s political views. As a scholar at Duke University, Mark Anthony Neal once said, “Let the art stand for itself, and these men stand in judgment, and never the twain shall meet”. With that standard, we can drag Kanye all we want for his opinions on slavery and Trump but his music should be left alone. Boycotting would cause a separate part of himself to suffer.

It makes sense that we should have a separation between art and the artist. We shouldn’t feel guilty for having a connection with someone’s art. Kanye’s music has not only spoken to me, but to millions of other people. There are pieces of art that just connect with you and you can’t help it. Hopefully, the pieces of art you connect with are different than some of the problematic views that people have.

While this sentiment makes sense on paper, we live in capitalist society. Where our dollars support the lifestyles of others. Our money is our main way of communication of what we support and don’t support. Especially when there are men like such as Harvey Weinstein that abuse their power to harm others. By not separating Harvey Weinstein from his productions, he stays in those positions of power.  It is one of the many ways that we can fight those in positions of power. One of the main critiques of this point is when celebrities make these long apologies on Twitter, most of the time it is because their money is in danger and not because they’ve had a sudden eureka moment. So is change really happening?

What is sure is that Kanye isn’t Harvey just like the RuPaul situation is different from the Roseann situation. We can’t definitely say that we should always separate the art from the artist or always attach the art to the artist. There are problems with both sides; not every situation and position of power is the same as the others. In this current age of social justice, many people advocate for the cancellation of others they disagree with as collective and then never truly having a discussion. When you are your own moral agent, you have to be the individual person to decide whether you want to support a person or not. You, not a hashtag on Twitter, have to be the one that decides where your money goes.

While where your money goes is on a case by case basis, it’s always important to have discourse. To just blindly follow a hashtag is a disservice.  However, just like others on the internet shouldn’t force you to believe something, I can’t either. You are the only person that can draw the line of what you are okay and not okay with. In any case, you should be at least be aware of what you are supporting.

Edited By Jake Lutz

Hess, Amanda. “How the Myth of the Artistic Genius Excuses the Abuse of Women.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 10 Nov. 2017, http://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/10/arts/sexual-harassment-art-hollywood.html.

Kuppermann, Jacob. “On the Impossibility of Separating Art from Artist.” Stanford Daily, http://www.stanforddaily.com/2017/10/21/on-the-impossibility-of-separating-art-from-artist/.