Excerpt "On Nonconformity" from Shape of Content by Ben Shahn

Topics: Art, Russia, Nonconformism Pages: 2 (263 words) Published: December 2, 2010
“Nonconformity is the basic pre-condition of art, as it is the pre-condition of good

thinking and therefore of growth and greatness in a people…conformity is derived from

the wholly venal business of catering to a popular market” (The Shape of Content, Ben

Shahn). This piece of writing speaks of how the general public is in love with works of

art, yet at the same time loathes the artists that created them, merely for being a little

different than the norm. If art was about “cookie-cutter” design, then according to the

reading, we should all be living in a place similar to Soviet Russia. Yes, it is extremely

important to lift up and honor the Working Man, but it is wrong to tear apart art

movements due to government, religion, sex, race, creed and so on. Art is something

which comes from the soul and nonconformity helps to rip these few individualists away

from the so-called commoners. Nonconformists explain reality in a way in which is

hardly ever described properly. Truthfully.

Why over so many years in history were nonconformists persecuted? Did the

witch burning public run out of actual threats like invasion from a foreign country or the

economy, or health care? Still the artist (nonconformist) pushes forward and creates

despite the enterprise of trials and tribunals. A favored line was about a modern day

politician that tried to have a design on a boat sail made illegal, yet it turned out to be a

legal design created and copyrighted for the Los Angeles Yacht Club.
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