Art and the Citizen—Through the PST Lens of Southern California

The Pacific Standard Time gathering of artists, through the generosity of the Getty and Hammer funding collaboration, portends an invaluable insight and commentary regarding the creative voice in Southern California following the armistice and conclusion of WWII.  David Wiles has written definitively on the role of artists as a citizen within society.  The author states:  “Today we are accustomed to thinking of ourselves as being, preeminently, individuals—that is, unique personalities complete with feelings that we assume are peculiar to ourselves—and it is an article of faith that we are endowed with free will that equips us to make democratic choices.  Seen through this contemporary lens, citizenship is a function of ‘me’, not ‘us’…Our modern common sense is challenged when we try to get inside the head of Aristotle, who declared nearly two and a half millennia ago:  ‘It is clear then that the state is of its nature prior to the individual’.  Most of Aristotle’s contemporaries would have agreed with him, and reasonably enough, for no human being can grow up or survive without social interaction.  From the Greek perspective, there was no distinction between selfhood and citizenship, because it is in the nature of developed human beings to gather themselves in communities.  A view from the ancient world gives us a critical purchase on what it is to be a ‘citizen’ and will help us understand how citizenship could, should, or might relate to what we have learned to call ‘the arts’.”

What are your thoughts/ideas/comments on David Weil’s attempt to tie the artist to citizenship through free will?

Author: roberttracyphd

Academic professor at the University of Nevada Las Vegas. I teach theory courses in Art and Architecture History. In addition, I also curate exhibitions on campus as well as in other venues nationally and internationally.

11 thoughts on “Art and the Citizen—Through the PST Lens of Southern California”

  1. David Weil’s attempt to tie the artist to citizenship through free will? Well depends on what free will really means to an artist and how free they are truly our. My thoughts include that even you can create anything how far can someone go to push the envelope before he or she has gone too far and things get out of hand. We all have limitations but sometimes the audience does not approve of what an artist has done even that few people see it.


  2. I agree with his viewpoint in terms that an artist cannot exist and thrive on his/her own. To belong to a collective group of people allows the individual to thrive and connect with others so that their art may thrive as well. I for the most part have worked alone but I found the best time for improvement came from working with my peers and competing with them in order so that we may strive for greatness together. I believe that if the Ferus group had not stuck together they would have fell into obscurity while working alone which would not have allowed for such an impact to have taken place.


  3. I agree with Weil’s attempt to tie the artist to citizenship. As artists, we are individuals entitled to our own styles and artistic choices. But as a group of individuals, artists form a community. Through the community, we as individuals with free will are able to grow and evolve our styles. I especially agree with the statement, “for no human being can grow up or survive without social interaction,” because artists have to push each other in order to reach our full potential.


  4. I feel as though David Weil was attempting to connect citizens in a community with art and its artist. An artist in a community has the freedom to create and share his thoughts and intentions through their work. A community also has a platform to share their thoughts and criticisms as well. The artist in this case needs the community as the community needs the artist.


  5. I tend to agree with David Weil, but I also think there are certain exceptions as well. While I do believe that art is all about self expression and truly is free, there seems to be a high critical eye involved in art. Artists can, and often do, make whatever they feel like but are ultimately only as successful as it’s popularity. Now, that is only in the commercial sense at least. Everyone has their own style with anything they do and we all have our own will that shapes how we live and who we are. Everyone also has a chance to grow by sharing with others and being a part of a community. But when we are in a group and form a community, then often times limits are set and standards are all people are concerned with. Going back to my point on being a successful artist, it doesn’t always matter how much effort you put into something or how “good” the finished product looks, but rather what others think about it. And when there is a group of critics or just a group in general, they often form a mob mentality where they may think differently than the group, but out of fear or hesitation they don’t say differently. So to Weil’s comparison, I think that sure, everyone has their unique inputs and contributions that make society that much better, but sadly it isn’t always about sharing everyone’s unique talents, but more often conforming to the “correct” way or be left to feel like an outcast.


  6. I agree with Weil’s when it comes to being an individual, but I think our individual art has to fit within the art community. Those of whom will be the ones viewing and using our art along with outsider collectors, so to me they actually have more say then I alone. I think it is ok to create a piece of art that the artist wants to do for him or herself, but I also feel today this comes at a high price of like-ability. Being an individual that stands out along side other artists makes the whole even stronger, just like how the Ferus artists about it.


  7. I think that Weil’s comments are valid. It is an interesting analogy because the artist of Pacific Standard Time chose to come together though they did not have to. Through this choice they were able to create a community of artist built on the freedom of choice. Their choice to come together as a community of artist led to a plethora of artwork that became distinctly SoCal art which is what leads me to think that Weil’s comments are valid. Though all of these artist produced their own work which may have seemed individual and unique, but it also contributed to the larger identity of California art.


  8. David Weil’s attempt to tie the artist to citizenship through free will is interesting to think about. When we create art, we generally have an idea and set out to create the piece. Sometimes we may be capable of starting and finishing a project all on our own, but generally at some point we ask for feedback on what we have created so far. This is especially true when I think back to my Graphic Design classes during our in class critiques. To create something, it truly takes a collective endeavor of multiple people working together and putting forward ideas to make each project that comes their way the best it can be.


  9. I think he’s saying that artists belong to a community, and that community has its own distinct features and ways of expressing their “citizenship” to that community. Every community has its own values and goals and features, and only by fitting those characteristics can you fit that community. Often, we focus on fitting into
    a community before we realize what we truly are on our own. Maybe it’s come to shape our view of what we believe an artist is supposed to be or looks like, or how we’re supposed to act. But we should use our free will to decide for ourselves.


  10. I agree with Zach, I also believe an artist in a community has the freedom to create and share his thoughts and intentions through their work, that is why I have high hope for the Las Vegas art scene. The SoCal gang did that really well and was able to put LA in art map. I also agree with Lansang when he said that he liked the statement – “for no human being can grow up or survive without social interaction,” because artists have to push each other in order to reach our full potential.” Well I can see that here working with other fellow students. I never felt I was competing with anyone. It was more like a big collaboration where we all help each other and we get excited with not just our work but each others work. We push each other to towards success no doubt about.


  11. I like David Weil’s statement. We, as artists, have our individualist style. However, we are our own community. He talks about modern way of thinking in terms of citizenship in comparison to an ancient world’s view of it. He addresses that we see ourselves as an ‘above’ being as we believe our function of a citizen is our own beings. Whether our not our talents remain individually, “for no human being can grow up or survive without social interaction.” We all have individual artistic talents that make our own little community strong.


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