Born Under Saturn

The Character and Conduct of Artists

Non fiction


In as much as it relies on departing from being closely hooked into a shared reality, all inspiration is could be framed as a form of madness, this is true. Born Under Saturn seems to seek remonstration from the belief that there is a cosmic, central origin to the artists’ character – the supposed characteristics of which (alienation, eccentricity, unhappiness, madness) undercut the practicalities of existing and participating in any form of productive communal activity. It is also a way to make money. This conception of the artist in alienation found form in the Renaissance, as part of a bid for artists to distinguish themselves from craftsmen, with whom they were often lumped together. Grasps at madness and eccentricity became methods of reifying their position and the objects they produced, in order to increase their market value. Where the skilled artisan had worked under the sign of light-fingered Mercury, the ambitious artist identified himself with the mysterious and brooding Saturn. Alienation, in effect, was a rung by which artists sought to climb the social ladder – as well as a means of perpetually distancing themselves from those who remained on the ground, through a process of cloud-casting mystification. That many of the world’s most financially successful artists are in fact shrewd, lucid and predominantly business-minded attests to the cynicism underpinning the performance.