Soundtrack : Money, Pink Floyd
Image : Soul Receiver, Akeelah Bertram (2013)
Them: “you’re an artist, do you make money from art?”
Me: “no, not really”
Them: “so why do you do it?”
Me: “why not?”
Them: “you can’t live like that”
Me: “I’m alive”
I am an artist.
When discussing careers, people often challenge the value of my work; my arts education; and since activity is somehow an indicator of worth, my existence. Everyone from retail workers to ‘professionals’ will interrogate my choice to engage in the Arts. This investigation is primarily baffling as the aforementioned have made no financial contribution to my artistic engagement and yet act like a worried investor in Myself Ltd. Since footballers rank amongst the highest earners in the country I take comfort in the fact our ability to assign value is entirely flawed.
In a capitalist society, our conditioned outlook is to centre our lives on making money in order to ‘have a life’. I do a mixture of temp jobs, decorating and project work. And I am extremely good at not spending money. Art is not an activity to make money. No doubt there are artists making money out of their work, and good for them. They have sold out shows and that’s fantastic. Here it is important to note the difference between selling artwork you made and making artwork to sell. In fact, the latter is impossible as in this order you are making a product. Money is essential to art as nothing is free. You eat, you live, you need it at some level to make whatever you make. The relationship between your art and money defines whether you make art or produce a commodity.
If you think about what the buyer would like, what’s selling right now – you are making a product. Remove your autonomy and you have a commodity. Nothing wrong with that, it’s just not artwork. Artwork is uninhibited exploration, experimentation, freedom of thought and action. Autonomous thought. These creations that challenge and explore are often stolen – sorry – commodified by other industries – film/ design / etc., who must kowtow to their master/ the masses in order to fulfil their money making objective. Design is compromised art. That initial, autonomous thought is compressed into a commodity the consumer will accept; toting bastardised creations to the masses. Irony being, it is the design that ignores the masses/masters that are held in the highest regard as we intrinsically recognise the value of autonomy.
Many artists elect a life lacking money, believing the urge to create – freely create – is far more valuable then the necessity to earn money from those creations. They defend their autonomous thought against a system that would have them conform for profit.
If your objective is to make money you automatically have a master from whom you cannot be free. Caged by bodies, caged by systems; the only place you can be free is in your mind. In a reality increasingly manifesting Orwellian principles of universal mind control; defending a free mind, and reminding others of their captivity is the most valuable thing on earth. (hyperbole)
Follow : @theultiverse | @akeelahbertram
Click HERE for other Emerging Journal Articles.