Salons. Workshops. Clubs. Collectives. Colonies.
I’ve always been interested in trying to form a group of writers and artists. Something to develop connections, experiment with work, create an audience, and to overall support the individual artist in their work. Unfortunately, it has never worked out. There are numerous of reason for it. In my own case, it was mostly my crippling inability to interact properly with people… at least after a certain length of time. However, I do think there are other causes for my failures.
One big issue is that a group MUST certain around something, and that something is usually political. This was actually one of my early mistakes with a “group” (originally meant to be a small publication) called Burro Char. In this case, it was centered around an idea of a form of literature that was developed out of both the techniques from the Surrealists (Automation) and the Oulipo (Constrained Techniques). I believed that in folding the two together, there could be the possibility of develop a near infinity amount of possibilities for each individual writer. There was also an ill-developed attempt to reflect the “organized-chaos” of our society in there. It never occurred to me that people wouldn’t jump to the idea. It also never occurred to me how many people who attempt to take credit of it. It left too much black and white in a scenario that I envisioned to be the ultimate shades of grey. It gave the impression that one needed to be interested or you get out. Then you have the groups where this IS the case.
There has been many groups in my personal experience that has had this take-it-or-leave-it attitude. I never got along well with them. However, many groups that I just saw perform have much the same mentality. It never made sense to me. It once sense, it’s a marketing ploy like no other. Marketing to who though? The literary industry isn’t, and hasn’t been, one that supports artistic endeavors for the sake of Art. It’s one based high on profits. If a writer can’t sell, what use are they? If this group can only bring in a dozen people, with most of that dozen just regulars attending that venue, then what use are they? Unfortunately, this seems to be driven more by ego. An exercise of ego supporting ego. If something has no monetary prospects, then we must rely the prospects of social status.
The most unfortunate part is that these issues have burrowed their way very early in a writer’s development – through the college system. In my own college, I’ve noticed that there really isn’t a develop group for writers and artists. There is a literary/art magazine, but it seems as if they are on a slight hiatus. Then the English department seems to have no visual representation whatsoever. This is a college that is known for producing some great writers, with a great creative writing program. Nothing.
There seems to be an obvious caution here. Artists, at least in this city, seem too protective of their work. I’ve found myself guilty of this time and time again. Who wants to share their work in an atmosphere where people seem to judge and reject over attempting to understand and interact? I’ve been lucky enough to experience the Graphic Arts community and there is indeed a world of difference. Comic Book Artists, for the most part, are leagues more supportive of each other than nearly any writer could be. Why? Well, there is definitely more money in it. (More money than zero at any case.) There is definitely a more wider and supportive audience. I also think that there is a wide diversity in styles that leave people feeling unchallenged by one another (most of the time). (Unlike writing, that seems to consistently universalize or market a single type of writing).
There should definitely be chances taken. I doubt that there will ever be a well-known group of writers, but there could definitely be one that attempts to develop literature as a whole – something that could attract people of all backgrounds. Who knows…