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"Most of my crimes are of optimism"
Grace Jones, "This Is"

["Optimism" - Etymol. and Hist. 1. 1737 "philosophical doctrine which maintains that everything that exists is the best possible" (Mémoires de Trévoux, p.207 [about Leibniz's Essais de Théodicée]) 2. 1788 "disposition to take things on the right side" (Collin d'Harleville, L'Optimiste, II, 7 in Littré). Learned derivative of the Latin adj. optimus "the best" (superl. of bonus "good"); suff. -ism*]

Traditionally, the "enthusiastic" artist is in antiquity deprived of a total control of his work. He does not create: one creates through him. He acts only under the direction of a divine authority, of inspiration or of trance. From then on, the enthusiastic artist has no other alternative than optimism or pessimism. Driven by a force which escapes to him and which will happen in any case, it remains him the leisure to rejoice of his work or to worry about it. The romantic vulgate, precisely, feeds the fiction of the melancholic and tormented artist. As for the contemporary era, would it take the opposite view by painting the portrait of a cheerful and joyful artist?

Post-68 managerial theories base fulfillment at work on the idealized model of "artist's happiness". The image of the unhappy artist has been discarded, and the stereotype of the cheerful and optimistic artist has become the norm. Still fantasized, this representation induces a total erasure of the material and pragmatic stakes of the artist. Artist-elite or artist-marginal, that one places either too high, or too low on the social scale, he is in turn Democritus or Heraclitus, Polyanna or Cassandra.

However the stereotype does not drive out the work: the enthusiasm is also the fruit of a conquest. As Diderot remarked in his Lettre sur les aveugles à l'usage de ceux qui voient (Letter on the blind for the use of those who see), enthusiasm, like the gaze, is built and cultivated beyond its apparent spontaneity. For proof of this joyful work, the plastic diversity of about thirty artists; small plea against the sad passions.

(1). Short story published in 1913 by the American writer Eleanor H.Porter, Pollyanna is a classic of the literature for children. Passed by antonomasia in the English language, "Pollyanna" designates a person who is excessively and unfailingly optimistic and enthusiastic. Writer Ray Bradbury described himself as Janus, half Polyanna, half Cassandra in Weller, Sam (Spring 2010). "Ray Bradbury, The Art of Fiction No. 203". The Paris Review. Interview (192). Retrieved June 7, 2012

Elora Weill-Engerer, Art Critic / Curator Member of AICA (International Association of Art Critics)

 

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