Once more: art and capitalism

This is a post I left on Wet Canvas– a great resource if they confined themselves to technical questions, or were free from beholden to the status quo when posts ventured into more substantive questions about “Art” I think my welcome on this webpage is likely going to be short lived.

I know I have to tread carefully here. We have to live, to find a way to support our art. That’s a given. What’s not a given, is how we go about that, and–living in this Empire of Money and Death–what that means. And what it means to be dependent on utterly corrupted and corrupting gallery to investor pipeline.

There have to be other ways. Especially when you think of how that has come to define “success.” A form of success guarded by a system of gatekeepers, programed to exclude all but those deemed, first and foremost, most likely to produce work that will accrue in monetary value–as a commodity. Aesthetics comes in second.

How can one blame the gallery owners? They have to play the game–attract people with the money, the “investor class,” and are pressured to select artists they think will pass that test.

And for artists, the pressure begins with the first sales. What if they want to change course? To experiment? Bring something so unlike what has passed the market test that the gallery has no choice but to politely suggest they do more of … you know, what they’ve been doing.

Unless, for the very few, whose names have become the brand, the commodity.

All of which leaves art as entertainment for the oligarchy that’s won its wealth by exploiting workers, stealing the raw materials from “underdeveloped” nations, and by the profit of endless war. I mean really.. what does it mean to earn one’s living producing work to decorate corporate Human Resources waiting rooms… other than to have submitted to being nothing more than another something-less-than human resource?

Is art only to provide decor to the killer class? And ‘success’ reserved only for those who are willing slaves to their masters?

How do we defy the gatekeepers–all of them? The critics who are no more than servants to this same predatory system? Who have so successfully restricted women, blacks–anyone outside the presumed Western canon?

Capitalism destroys art. Capitalism corrupts and destroys artists. How do we find a way out of this?

Why can’t we pool or resources–draw on, encourage and help to develop the artistic aspirations of our communities? Create collectives where we can control how our art is used, and provide mutual support as we develop alternative ways to distribute our work, and alternative ways to support us?

I have a limited interest in arguing these issue, though I will be patient to explain them. What I would like, is to find artists who get it: who know that the whole “success” system is rigged (like the American USA election process), and any one artist, no matter how talented, has about as much chance of being one of the ‘winners’ as wining the lottery. And the effort to be one of those, means making oneself into a brand, and one’s art into a commodity. A total betrayal of everything that it means to make art.

The only existing alternative.. is… to go commercial.

I would prefer to give my work away to whoever wants it. I can’t. So I offer it on a sliding scale. Art that is only available to the privileged is a perversion. Thing is, can’t do this one by one. We have to create collectives, work together to create a wholly different mechanism. To become a part of the revolution. Cause if we can’t replace this late, zombie capitalist system… we are doomed to extinction. Cause they are hell bent on destroying as much life on this planet their power permits.

What are your thoughts? Again, I’m not into arguing this. If your only take is defending the status quo–pass go, go directly to EXIT. But if you have some inkling of what I’m saying here, and share my discomfort… maybe we have stuff we can talk about.

One thought on “Once more: art and capitalism

  1. Great questions. Certainly, diminishing commerce’s effect on our culture of exchange should be the goal of any serious artist. Musician Stephanie Rearick moonlights speaking about time banking. I don’t know what the implications of that are for the feasibility of her existence as artist. I suspect musicians count an advantage most fine artists do not — that of more frequent live performance. At any rate, as a means of exchange of real value, time banking is an interesting concept.


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