The Hunger Artist
The way art and artist are denoted in Kafka’s The Hunger Artist is something of interest to artists and the audiences. Kafka uses metaphors in his works so as to bring out a deeper meaning from his stories. In this book, The Hunger Artist, Kafka brings out suffering of artists as they try to do their work yet the audience does not recognize this suffering, but they are only concerned with the entertainment in the art. Artists may give explanations as to why they are in art to be a calling yet this is self deception because the motivation is not always brought about by choice. Artists get into art due to various aspects of their lives and art is not easy, it is full of suffering and exploitation.
In this Kafka’s work, Kafka explains the negative effect that industrialization has on art in general. The story explains how the traditional professional suffering was paying well in the last decades, but now people were living in a totally new world. The professional hunger artist seems to be very passionate about his job and sees no need to find a regular job. In the story, the artist barely looks at the clock in the cage, meaning that he does not bother about time. In regular jobs, people are driven by time, and clock is part and parcel of their lives in terms of economics. This shows the negative effects of industrialization on arts and artists. The artists may have great inspirations but continue to ignore their own suffering and destitution. At one point, one can see that the artist is no longer independent. He relies on the impresario to manage the artist’s work. The professional fasting artist no longer uses his free will because the show gets managed by the impresario.
Kafka displays work of art as a practice of self denial that is rooted in suffering. The artist’s work reflects a situation of painful continuation and he feels that there should be no limits to his fasting. People can be seen to appreciate the entertainment that art offers regardless of how the artist suffers. This shows that most art comes from such suffering but the spectators and audiences don’t consider this crucial aspect. At one point, the professional artist says that art is simple to do yet fasting is suffering (which means that suffering is simple).
The other thing about artists is that they depend on the audience and require their audience’s regular evaluation. The professional fasting artist needs to prove o the crowds that he does not cheat and his art is genuine. This can be seen in how he tries hard to clear people’s doubts that he can take some food during the fasting. There exists a need for artists to feel superior to the crowds which can be demonstrated by the way the artist tries to break the world record. As he was dying, he pursed his lips as if to kiss the overseer meaning that he wanted to use his body as a method of spreading love not suffering (Kafka 133).
There is so much exploitation that artists are exposed to. This is shown in the way the impresario is represented in the story. He takes advantage of the suffering artists and exploits the artistic work for his own gain. He takes pleasure and achievement from the work of a starved artist and behaves like a parasite would. The impresario is very careful not to let the professional hunger artist to die because he would lose his parasitic control. That seems to be the reason as to why the impresario saves the artist at the brink of death at the end of a performance. The worst part, the impresario leaves his victim (the professional hunger artist) whenever the food is not available.
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