Does fame bring freedom or imprisonment?

Yesterday afternoon I had a discussion with a friend of mine, and fellow MA art student, about the effect of fame on the freedom of creativity. We had just had a two-hour lecture / seminar on intellectual property and copyright law and how it relates to creativity, and part of that debate centered around the concept of ‘fame’ when it is generated from an ‘idea’ or ‘expression of an idea’ in the form of art and how an artist can deal with the economic consequences of that fame in terms of the law. We were looking at how to protect the ‘expression of an idea’, or in other words, how to monopolise it.

My friend and I, after the lecture, went off on a tangent somewhat, and we talked about whether we actually wanted ‘fame’ or not and the effect that fame might have on creativity. She concluded that she did not want fame, in fact she had no interest at all in fame, as she felt that it would rob her of her freedom in the expression of her creativity. Her art now is very personal and very emotional. She feels compelled to create, something I have talked about here before. She does it because it is part of her. She isn’t thinking about the wider world when she’s making art.

Behind her argument about fame is the question: who are we creating for? Are we creating for ourselves? Are we creating to express an idea and to influence perception? Are we creating to sell our work and make money, so that someone has a piece of us on their wall? Are we creating to earn a living? Fame could come accidentally, whether we want it or not. It is highly unlikely, but it could happen and it does often happen by accident. 

Fame, I want to live forever

I feel a little different to her on this matter. I quite like the idea of a certain amount of fame. I would like to earn the respect of the art world, and be able to have the ‘freedom’ to make art without financial worries. I like the idea of being able to talk openly about art, seeing people appreciate my art and generating discussion and debate. I’m not expecting glittery fame, but academic fame would be nice.

However, as she said, the irony is that the more fame you have, the more eyes are on you, the more you might end up making art to satisfy others and not yourself, and, ergo, the less freedom you actually have.

I agree to a certain degree. I think fame gained by making art that is personal to you, or that comes from your own philosophical thinking, is much more difficult to maintain than fame gained from making art for other people. So I doubt this dilemma will ever be a reality for me as I can’t imagine changing my own ‘compel to create’ drive. Author Elizabeth Gilbert talked about this issue as she faced it after her success with Eat, Pray, Love which she wrote for herself, about herself. How does an artist, or writer, follow a hit? That is, when the freedom to experiment is taken away. That is when the question’Do I create for me or them?’ really comes into play.

I haven’t had to face this yet so I’m not going to worry too much. I guess as students we might also have the question: ‘Do I create to get good marks or do I create for me?’ but, if I am honest, I haven’t really worried about this. I worry that if I don’t create anything I’ll fail, but I haven’t felt a fear about the quality of my work during my degree and masters. I just do what I do. Whatever comes. If it is crap, so be it.

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