By Alicia Montellanos
Jana Hunter, musician and singer of Lower Dens, recently raised a very important question relevant to the present consumption of entertainment: Who are artists working for? Are artists working for themselves or for the truth?
Hunter gave a lecture about politics in music at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston and admitted at the beginning of her lecture that she didn’t go to college and was not an expert in the topic she was about to present. In an attempt to justify why she was chosen to give this lecture, Hunter stated that perhaps the reason she was lecturing was her increasingly outspoken views about social issues, such as gender fluidity and racial discrimination. Another possible reason—and one that is rather obvious—is that she is an artist.
What is more important about this is that she has been given opportunities—and thus, a platform—to speak about social issues in the first place, not just in this lecture, but also in some interviews. The reason for this may be that Hunter is a bit more than just an artist; she is a famous artist.
Hunter explained that when an artist acquires any measure of fame, the artist is faced with the choice of either working for oneself or working for the truth. It is easy to choose the former and write about personal affairs, like love, as Hunter chose to do at an early point in her career. This choice is almost reflexive; it is instinctive. How can you blame someone for following his or her instincts?
But, in Hunter’s view, working for oneself is the lesser choice. This is because being part of a community outweighs the instinct to make art that can only convey meaning on a personal level. Just as Hunter believes musicians should be held to the same standard of working for the truth as we hold others (such as journalists, politicians, etc.), should we hold writers—novelists, poets, playwrights, etc.—to the same standard?
I think that answering this question affirmatively entails a responsibility on fame to serve the public. This means that writers may write about personal affairs, like love. But once writers reach a certain level of fame, and their art becomes a platform or enables them a platform, then writers are obligated to write about more substantial and social issues, about society and morality.