What It Is: What's An Artist Worth Today?
I don't want to be an artist. I AM an artist, but when it comes to choosing a role to play in society, I am not willing to accept the prospects given to artists. Even the notion of an artist is an anachronism today. It's an old world signifier in a new world that doesn't value any old world truths, so what could it possibly stand for? As far as I can tell today's artist is someone who does not take charge of their own destiny, and instead relies on validation and gratification in the form of approval from the incumbent capitalist institution. The height of art today is not making great art, and it is not even making great business from your art. The ultimate goal for an artist today is having an art-based business that is popular online regardless of the quality of the art, or the fiscal viability of the business. And yet the typical artist of today is someone who has absolutely no control over their ability to succeed in business. So to be even more specific to our present context, today's artist is a delusional person who will spend their life amassing expectations while making no preparations. Why would anyone choose to be an artist?
Lately I've been really pressing myself to think deeply about culture and internet. We are undoubtedly better off for having access to more information. But what we've done with that information has been reductive, regressive, and ultimately destructive. When you had a question before the internet seeking out the answer necessarily drew you into the cultures where the answers were to be found. So that meant that finding answers wasn't just about accessing data, finding answers was about broadening your understanding of the world around you in order to gain access to information. If you went to the library to get a book to answer a question you would be exposed to other related books and ideas in the process, and you might even meet someone asking the same questions as you. You would set out into the terrestrial world moving about and experiencing things in hopes of ascertaining something that might allow you to participate in the grander reality where your answer was to be found. Today when we have questions we use google to find the data independent of any kind of broader understanding of the world that data came from. These data-based answers are not part of an invisible network that reveals culture, humanity, nature, and ultimately ourselves. These answers from google are nodes in a network that can only depict data. Data has no context, and so it cannot broaden our understanding of the context that we're in. Data can't change what we can participate in, data can only change how we associate with the worldwide network of data. The difference between life before and after the internet is tremendous, and I don't think anyone is talking about it.
All of the conversations that we do have about these massive changes are rooted in capitalism. For instance just look at the Defiant Ones, a doc about Jimmy Iovine and Dr Dre. Their work together has been profoundly impactful on culture and the world at large. And yet when it came time to tell their story they are not the Exceptional Ones, they are the Defiant Ones. Even as their great stature is exclqimed it can only be recognized in relation to the capitalist institution. And further, the great achievements being revered are not those of culture, but those of culture as a vehicle for capitalism. We only got this story because Dre and Jimmy made one of the biggest deals in the history of music with one of the biggest corporations in the world.
We are living in times when the truth is not what it seems, and nearly anything that seems to be anything turns out to be little more than capitalism shucking and jiving it's way into the future. Use your intention people, because your illusion has been co-opted against you.