by cybergrunge.net

ART & MONEY updated: 02/17/2022

We have a naive idealism that Art should be free, that it shouldn't be a commodity like everything else. The fact is that everything becomes a commodity in this economic system, whether we like it or not. So long as we live under capitalism, So long as we live under a system where people's ability to do "productive labor" determines whether or not they have food and shelter, we can't expect Art to be some sacred, magical thing. Art is a trade like any other, people spend years on their craft, and the people who do need to make money to pay bills and eat.

What is the alternative? Should Artists just suck it up and realize that they have wasted years of their life learning a completely useless skill which will get them nowhere in life and probably doom them to a life of poverty? I am myself ready to admit this, as an Artist.

Who then will make art, though, except yuppies and rich folks who have enough spare time? Will Artists have enough time after a 9-5 job to do their best work?

What do we expect Art to do for society? Should Artists starve just because the Art they make isn't popular?

"Web3.0" and NFT's are the hot topic in 2022. To many of us, what they signify is a new face to the old Art World: Inequity, Marketing, Money Laundering and Tax Fraud.

Art is one of the most unequal parts of the economy. A tiny few artists are able to make money, and even fewer can make enough to live on. For the vast majority, they not only can't make money from Art, music or things like that, but they LOSE money by pursuing creative work.

With the advent of tech platforms like Spotify, Youtube, Bandcamp, Soundcloud, Myspace, Facebook, Ebay, Etsy, et cetera, we were sold the idea that being an Artist could be sustainable, that Artists could be connected with everyday people who could support them.

This, like most everything involving Tech and the internet, was a complete failure. The same inequality thrives on platforms like Spotify and Youtube, even to a worse degree.

On top of the inequality, these huge platforms outsource the labor of creating content to individual "creators" who are paid practically nothing, while the platforms themselves make millions from investors and advertisers.

Before these platforms, Musicians had record labels, and Artists had managers, that did promotion, booking, organizing finances and all the other work needed to make money as a musician. Online platforms do basically none of this, leaving it up to "creators" to do, and they aren't paid for it.

Even worse, platforms like Facebook offered artists and creative workers the illusion that they could reach people through on-platform advertising. It was eventually revealed, though, that Facebook Ads largely resulted in bot-farm-manufactured fake engagements and fake follows et cetera, which not only ripped off people who thought they were going to get genuine engagement and reach, but actively hurt anyone who bought ads because the bot-farm engagements lead to those advertisers being flagged as abusive and de-prioritized in the algorithm.

This is all recent history, but before the era of the internet, Artists relied on rich patrons to fund their work, and there is a stark adage among artists:

"The best thing you can do for your career as an artist is die."

Many of the "great" artists throughout history have been impoverished, disabled, otherwise marginalized. They were often pariahs in their time, and only became considered "great" long after their death.

Under the Nazi's, Surrealists and Dadaists (arguably the movements most responsible for everything Art is today, from Pop Art to Punk Rock) were rounded up and killed - often because they were communists, but also because their Art represented to the Nazi's an inferior, "degenerate art." The Nazi's collected this "degenerate art" and displayed it in mockery, then burned or destroyed it along with the creators, if they could get their hands on them.

Why was this "degenerate art" such a threat? What is it about Art that is so powerful?

The "Frankfurt School" of Communists and Socialists in the 20th century claimed that there was a "culture industry" which served as a tool of the ruling class to subdue, misguide and pacify the masses. The theory was based on the communist Antonio Gramsci's idea of Cultural Hegemony - a theory he developed while imprisoned. Cultural Hegemony was the vast, decentralized network of social norms, explicit and implicit rules and standards, which all "reproduced" the dominant social order.

This notion that culture "brainwashes" us into accepting capitalism, tyranny, authority, and so on, has been proposed in many different ways, and it is an idea that comes up over and over again when we try to discuss how society operates.

While there is some value in it, it ultimately fails as a mode of analysis because it proposes that attitudes and ideas are more powerful than material conditions and interests.

It is in a way then, not surprising, that White Supremacists have appropriated the Frankfurt School's ideas of the Culture Industry to promote anti-semetism and conspiracy theories.

What is a different interpretation of Art and Culture, and what does its results look like? Does it look like the fight by women to be paid for household work? Does it look like unionization or the forming of cooperatives by Artists? Does it look like an outright dismissal of Art and Culture itself in favor of direct political struggle?

Should Art be part of political struggle, or should it be a motivation for struggle?

These are just some questions with no answers at the moment. CGRU/cybergrunge is working on addressing them and welcomes input on them. Thank you for reading.


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