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The New Cultural Paradigm
Editors’ Roundtable
Column by Bill Lasarow

Bill Lasarow, “Tin Cup with Pencils,” 2020, graphic composite

If you are staying at home these days, join the crowd, and please keep it that way. You are not just protecting yourself. The more of us able to stick with this practice the less the cost, immense that it will be even in a best case, and the quicker will be the recovery. This challenge is global, and the real time period is 12-18 months, the projected time it will take to develop and distribute the vaccine shots we all must take. Only at that point can normal life truly resume and not one single day prior. The rest of it is all variably about partial returns to make ourselves temporarily feel better, the happy talk of denial, and the malevolent propaganda of ethically vacuous self-interest.


There is a certain type of person that has an advantage these days, who may crawl back out of their dim cubbyholes on that blessed day only to pine to return to that isolation where they are free to work free of interruption. In the vernacular you might think of them as “artists” and “writers.” Not all of them, to be sure, but when part of the job description is that you will need to spend long stretches of time sequestered with art supplies or a simple keyboard (which creates less of a mess, something artists tend to revel in) it helps to have the right personality type. Most folks are more comfortable rubbing shoulders with one another, sharing workloads, drinks or gossip. I stick that majority with a very different term of endearment: “Normal.” And normal folks are suffering, like a lot, just trying to stay put. If you are one of those, my heart goes out to you. Console yourself with the knowledge that pandemics like this used to kill of one third of the population. That we live in a time when in 12 to 18 months we can come up with a vaccine to suddenly end it is actually pretty fucking great. Let us mourn our losses and still take solace for our good fortune.


Which brings me to the reality that the core reason for this VAS Weekly Newsletter has always been to engage professional art writers’ informed response to what visual artists do. It always seemed self-evident that galleries and museums exist to allow for this engagement to take place. OK, that was never quite true, but suddenly those platforms of intellectual and commercial exchange have gone away, if only for awhile. Whether the green shoots begin to emerge over the summer, return as a creative meadowland in the fall, and blossom anew by next spring is too early to say, and for now winter has come. But we have determined, in consultation with our contributing writers, that an art world of online exhibitions full of digitized replication is not our mettle. So this edition of the VAS Weekly Newsletter will be the final for now in this format, hopefully to return when we deem the time to be right.


That is not entirely bad news (for some it may even be something of a good riddance). Again in consultation with these same writers we are going to make the Weekly Newsletter more into their platform than it even has been. On the whole these are the type of people who, when you shut them in for awhile, no matter how they may procrastinate or prevaricate in normal times, suddenly they articulate and illuminate like it is nobody’s business. We thought it might be nice to exploit this historical moment and take advantage of this natural inclination. You can probably see where this is going.


It occurred to us that, rather than pretending, it might actually be better to keep it real. With this in mind we have invited our contributors to throw at least some caution to the wind and help us select what ignites their passion for the Word and the Idea for publication. Heaven forbid they might want to write about something other than art, or about art in a way previously considered unsuitable for publication. We are inviting them to do just that. This may be one of those times that try our souls, it is also just the right time for generosity of mind and spirit to prevail.


So let’s catch our breath (holding it in for ten seconds) and return in a couple of weeks with offerings from our most sacred interior. Exercises in the possibility of the Word to expand our otherwise too constricted space coming from a breed of explorers of our interiority who search out possibilities where we can choose to go if only we knew how. These are the kind of folks who can help us go there, the Sherpas trained as guides into the Himalayan mountain ranges of our imagination. 


Because it is my hope that their mission, to enable a bit of reading to put us on the virtual road trip, a mental rush in the midst of our prosaic obsession with toilet paper and Lysol, injects some fresh meaning into your day, you will notice that we will put out a virtual tin cup full of virtual pencils for each writer. Please drop something in as you see fit and (but of course) within your normal means, and take a pencil from that Draught of Life. We are not going to set up a subscription firewall or a gated intellectual community. But the regular fountain has been shut off for now, so it’s your privilege to express your appreciation. I hope that you will recognize those buttons and drop in a buck, a few bucks, maybe even ten now and again to tell these writers, not to mention the staff that supports the platform itself, that they done good. You’ll be right.

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