Once they started cutting holes in the walls of buildings to get at Banksy art, you should’ve known something was wrong with this viewpoint. Yeah that’s right. Should have.
There was an interesting discussion today on twitter that I mostly caught the Ales Kot end of, where he was talking about how critics that are ending their criticism with buy this or buy that are devolving their viewpoint to become advertisements. There was some kind of snap back on that, because well…the dominant mode of criticism in every medium right now IS to talk about art as product. You review art, like you review refrigerators. If something is good, people need to “vote with their dollars”. If something is bad, or someone does something bad, their art needs to be boycotted. Our dialog with art has become poisoned by our inability to see things outside of the capitalist framework our lives have become dominated by. We speak like ads because everything in our life is an ad. And people say this is the only way. This is how artists justify becoming hired hands for the corporate art that inundates our lives. This is how audience’s justify talking more about the box office returns than the cinematography. We talk about things in terms of how they are hyped. How they are promoted. Are they over promoted, are they under promoted. Are they rated, overrated, underrated. We see art as a series of ratings 1 to 10 thumb stars.
And my thing is that what is the logical endpoint of this line of thought? That hole in the wall up above is the endpoint. You want to make art a thing, you want to make it money, then what you are going to end up with are these literal holes in the community. This line of thinking is self-annihilation. It takes away our ability to see art, because we can only see money. And if all we see is our world in terms of money, then we ourselves become measured by money, and then you end up with the wealthy betting on our lives. People become numbers, they become statistics, what’s 5 dead, what’s six million(godwin all up in here).
But it hasn’t always been this way.
Art existed BEFORE money. Money is an idea. Money is not a real thing. Money is a representation of power within a particular kind of social arrangement, which you can exchange for goods and services in place of say, bartering or sharing those resources. Economics is a way of seeing, it is not all-time.
And here’s where we get into it, because what people say is that art is a product and you buy it. But what I say is that that insidious viewpoint is the improper, unhealthy, encroachment of an economic viewpoint That seeks to subvert the power of art to shape and change our communities, by bringing it under the almighty power of money. The moment they got you talking about how many basquiats you can hang on your wall, is the minute you’re not talking about what is in those basquiat paintings. What’s being said.
Money is not a real thing. I said that. I say it again. Money is an idea. That paper in your wallet is the antiquated representation of a system that fluctuates wildly beyond your control and awareness. You think prices go up or prices go down? No the value of your money is going up or down. And by value I mean the idea of your money. How much worth your money has is totally dependent upon faith in your government. Money is church. Money is religion. And I’m not even saying money is bad. The society we live in, you need money to get by. But what I’m saying is that you need to realize, money is not real. And you can define it’s boundaries.
Art is not product. Art is not for sale no matter how much you buy it for. When you buy a comic book, for antiquated sake, let’s say you don’t buy a digital comic, but an actual comic on real legit paper. You owning those pages—that doesn’t mean you own art. You can’t own art. You can have every square inch of your house wall papered with Klimts, and all that is is wallpaper.
Art is a relationship between you and an experience beyond yourself that has been created by the third party which is sometimes called the artist. When you buy a piece of art, the relationship of money isn’t to that art you have bought, it is to the person to whom the money is going to. Art is not something you buy. Art can be seen for free, it can be seen for more money than you’ll ever see in your entire life—but it is not something you buy. Art is a relationship like love. It describes an induced state of mind.
This state of mind which is one of the most amazing and sublime things our wretched stupid thing called humans can do—you telling me you own a piece of art is like me running up into the nearest church telling them I own God because I bought a bible. It is absurd. But it is accepted. It is accepted because corporations and governments have conspired to subvert art by confusing you. Confusing the experience. In the same way that the pastor passes around that collection plate, and what you tithe is somehow something to do with the divine and not just you putting coin from one man’s pocket to another.
We’ve confused our relationship to money, and that money’s relationship to the artist, as a relationship to art.
And here’s my thing, you can do what you want. This is just my viewpoint on the thing. Both as a critic and as an artist. But understand that the way you’re doing it is a choice. It is not an ineffable truth that art should be viewed in terms of money. That is an imposed truth, and it is a rubric you as a critic or audience member decide to use. And in a world with a greater disparity between the wealthiest among us and the poorest of us, consider the endpoint of what you’re pushing. If you write an amazing piece of criticism of a piece of art, and in the end you don’t call for people to act as consumers to the work you’ve talked about—I mean—do you think people who value what you have to say are for some reason not also going to be interested in buying the work? The notion that if you don’t tell people to buy the work you’re talking about, that it won’t get bought, is a false imposed notion. And this whole long stupid screed I’ve written here, that bless you if you made it through the thing, is my most likely futile attempts to rail against that notion and point out that we don’t have to be like this. We don’t have to cut holes in our community. It doesn’t have to be like this.
These are the two things I’m talking about:
1. Saying that when an artist makes corporate art so they can put a roof over their head, that excuses weak art, or the stifling of greater creativity because of an unhealthy corporate system.
2. That the only way we can talk about things is in terms of whether the reader should buy it or not.
3. That art is successful if it sells.
I want to find the code of words and art that breaks down the system that those are a part of.
I know the way I wrote this comes off like I’m trying to tell people what to do, but it’s really just the way I write. I say ideas out loud to think about them too. I like discussion. I change ideas on things all of the time. That I write like this is mostly the result of listening to too much hiphop in my formative writing years.
My soundtrack to this whole thing was “Gotta Have It” off Watch the Throne. So maybe you play that that’s what this sounded like coming out of my head.