On Sport, Art & the Rules

By Dan Eastmond

Whilst culture in the 21 century is thriving - from London2012 to Twitter - the arts continue to struggle from crisis to crisis, shouting a hoarse battle cry for better state provision whilst squabbling over the trivialities of employment law.

The Avant-garde is disappearing, losing traction against the commodification of evolution and sinking into the quicksand of access agendas.

Over the past two or three decades we have successfully dismantled the ivory towers of high art, but have we at the same time turned off the tap of progress?

It was interesting spending so much time at Eton Dorney with our Games Walk performers, with many an hour in-between performances to watch races and ruminate on the differences between our cultural bedfellows, sport and art. Or The Arts and The Sports if you prefer.

In sport, athletes work hard to achieve astounding levels of excellence, but their superhuman feats don’t in any way alienate the spectator. This is because, whilst the levels of achievement may increase, the rules of participation rarely change. The gladiatorial 100 meters track race is the best example, it’s concept is simple, it’s execution unfathomable.

In the arts, particular for those artists, companies and organisations who place newness as paramount, the scenario is almost perfectly reversed. The concept is unfathomable, it’s execution simple.

The arts in the most recent centuries, has placed the profoundness of the idea, the quality of it’s truth, above the measure of it’s transmission. This presents the arts, still wrestling with a wish to make friends and a fashion for engagement with a conundrum of epic proportions. Currently, what we consider to be the very best in aesthetic achievement is also by it’s nature furthest from our popular understanding.

As the arts are pushed aside by more digestible, leaner, more democratic modes of cultural and aesthetic exchange, the trick for modern artists, companies and organisations will be to find a model, or even a moment, that rides the wave of our contemporary platforms and expectations, but is neither compromised nor enslaved by them.

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