What is Post-Cap Art? (A Manifesto)Return to previous page.
A while ago, my newspaper horoscope read: “Your lack of resources makes you unstoppable.” This, I decided, was the perfect distillation of the Post-Capitalist Art Movement.
In the last few decades, the idea of the lone, creative soul has succumbed to a new Nineteenth Century Academy—only this Academy is called the Corporation. Art has become synonymous with money, technology and spectacle and is further and further removed from what advances art—ideas. As art production becomes more specialized, the ideas it rests upon are often determined by the marketplace, technocrats or special interests, rather than the artist.
The Post-Capitalist or “Post-Cap” Art movement’s motto is “Less Money, More Imagination.” It emphasizes the social and intellectual act of creation over commercial and technical considerations. The movement reasserts the importance of the individual artist. Post-Cap posits that when art becomes business, it is diminished; the artist’s creative act is subordinated to commercial potential.
When art become business, its value is only a matter of success or failure. The creative process exists to please a hierarchy of interests rather than to take on important and controversial matters directly. And, perhaps most importantly, the artist repeats past successes rather than exploring new ideas because the lure of commercial success is so strong.
I founded the Post-Cap Movement in October, 2008 with Post-Cap muse Karen Winer in the midst of presenting a revival of Arthur Bicknell’s play “Moose Murders.” The production revisited the worst-reviewed play in Broadway history, a play that effectively put Mr. Bicknell on hiatus as an artist for a quarter century. Two years prior to the Broadway production of “Moose Murders,” Mr. Bicknell had presented a play, “My Great Dead Sister,” that was regarded as one of the best off-Broadway plays of 1981. His abrupt fall from grace and descent into no-artist’s land because of one failed play inspired Post-Cap’s examination of failure in the arts. Karen and I concluded that the demands of the marketplace and the expectations of returns on investment in the art world create a bottleneck for what is produced, and, consequently, what is accepted by audiences and critics.
This phenomenon of failure is replicated in all the arts. It is most notable in the theater because theater artists create in real time and in so doing, are the most vulnerable. Critical response to their artistry is immediate. Of all artists, theater people are most prone to panic when exposed to the toxin of failure. A bad review immediately affects the ability of the entire group to earn a living. Unlike film, there is no time to find new work before the old work is exposed; and unlike the world of art galleries, there is no gallery owner doing spin for a bad review. The theater artist lives and dies by the critic, and the money follows the critical response. Art is pressed into the service of pleasing critics, then backers, then the audience and, only lastly and forlornly, the artist.
We wondered what would happen if the capital threshold for creating art were lowered? What if, as in the case of the “Moose Murders” revival, we made a philosophy out of a do-it-yourself financing with absolutely no expectation of profit or advancing reputations? What if, amidst the debris of corporate financed art, the goal was to keep it simple and simply have fun? What if creating art in the Twenty-First Century happened on a playground rather than a minefield? What would the modern artist look like then?
Art can never be entirely divorced from money. Even Post-Cap artists have to earn a living. But if we financed our own projects and then made a conscious effort to use some profits from our ventures in order to finance and support other artists, could we change the commercial landscape of art? Could we underwrite ourselves as artists?
Thanks to two small arts organizations in Rochester, New York, we have been able to conduct our art experiment in a supportive and protected atmosphere. The Rochester Contemporary Art Center under the direction of Bleu Cease gave us our first chance. Going forward, the MuCCC Theater (Multi-Use Cultural Community Center) created by the extraordinary patron Doug Rice, has harbored us in our more ambitious theater works.
We have created visual, theatrical and musical works of art under the Post-Cap umbrella. In all cases, we have found remarkable people to work with. We have been astonished by the generosity of time and talent donated to these works and have been surprised by the joy that the collaborations revealed. Anxiety almost disappears. We don’t care at all about critics. To tell the truth, the audience itself can take us or leave us. They usually take us because the freed spirits that show up on stage are so attractive and energetic. In performance we redirect attention to the needs of the artist. And everyone loves a happy artist.
Don’t wait for the multiplex, or Broadway or a publishing house to entertain you. Go out and create great and meaningful art by yourself, with your friends and with your family. You can do it. I did. We did.
John Borek, Founder, Post-Cap Art