Pseudonymns in the art world

I call myself the Endless Slug as a means to identify myself to the art community.  The more that I get my work ‘out there’, the more I see a lack of such pseudonyms.  Artists are much more interested in the public knowing their real names.  I would love for the public to know my name as well – and I take little effort to hide it – but I have found a certain edge in using a catchy pseudonym.  People, like lemmings, are attracting to shiny happy cute things, especially if they are tiny (thank you Susan Stewart).  My real name is not very attractive, although I do like most of it.  However, I feel my own name is long and complicated.  I also have many names to choose from, some legal, some personal, some cultural, and some ritual.  So what did I choose to do when creating my art galleries online? I went with a whole new persona.  In reality, I might be a bit of a slug and seem endless, but one should not expect to find a lazy fat guy laying around the house all-the-time.

What I like about pseudonyms is the ability for one to become free to experiment or re-construct oneself within symbolic attachments to the name.  Writers have had much more freedom in what they write for centuries using false names or even anagrams, so why not painters?  I suppose it has something to do with galleries showing original one-of-a-kind work that the artist often shows up to as opposed to mass-producing and distributing a text to potential readers.  Back to this concept of ‘freedom’.  As an artist, I find myself with a certain sense of artistic freedom in producing the work.  I can say anything I like with it and any problems can be blamed on the fantasy image of self – the imagined self (c.f. Ben Andersen) – as opposed to taking any real responsibility for the image.

So here I wonder: in an age of messenger services and online avatars where the need for individuality marries the need for freedom from social responsibility, why do we not see more artists using pseudonyms?  Part of my conclusions thus far is that when producing a work of fine art, the artist must work with an element of responsibility.  Not only for him or herself, but for the community both immediate and diachronically down the road.  The artist’s work must continue to communicate and create a dialog to all that might see it or experience it.  The art must make us immortal.  Pseudonyms hide us from the world, they do not help us advertise, get into galleries, get into shows – false names only hold us back from ourselves, our lives, and our community.

So why do I have one still?  Because I need the money.  Buy stuff from the slug.

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