On being ordinary

June 16, 2014

I was at a very interesting lecture by Constance Deveraux in UCD recently during which the issue of ‘excellence’ (as it related to the arts) was raised.

Achieving excellence has become a mainstream indicator of success and, a primary criterion by which the arts are valued and funded. One person commented that the argument for the intrinsic value of the arts had been lost…primarily, he believed, because of the attachment to quantitative indicators of success such as audience numbers, impact on social issues etc.

On reflection, I believe one of the reasons the intrinsic value argument may have been lost is because of the ‘excellence’ argument. In order to be excellent a work or an artist or anybody must in some respects be exclusive. In attaching itself to ‘excellence’ as an indicator the arts have reinforced the argument that to be excellent means to be exclusive. If the arts are going to win the intrinsic argument then the arts need to be ‘ordinary’ so ordinary, that they are taken for granted (in a good way) as an embedded part of our day to day activity.

The idea of exclusivity and excellence and ‘being the best’ sets us all up for failure and disappointment. What ever happened to ‘good enough’ as something to strive for?

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