Lebenskünstler

to the degree that art embraces its status as a “profession” is the degree to which it acquiesces to instrumental rationality – Even more stuff I said on facebook with the really challenging, thoughtful, responses removed

Posted in Uncategorized by Randall Szott on 09/16/2013

When does a favor become “labor?” And as I’ve asked a thousand times before, who is *not* a “cultural producer?” That is, isn’t *everyone* making culture all the time? Therefore, why should the state subsidize only artist/curator errr…cultural producers that “count,” and not everyone else? Because the immeasurable impact/enrichment argument applies equally well to backyard gardeners and attentive parents doesn’t it?

You mentioned not helping friends…exploitation is a social relationship…something *experienced* not merely witnessed, or observed by an “expert.”

So, to you an internship is no “favor,” but to someone else it just might be.

And it sounds to me like your reserving some “specialness” for artists which is very convenient, but doesn’t stand up to scrutiny in my opinion

You ever see parents at a playground? Or see gardening clubs, email lists etc?

Ok. Drop the word internship. Use favor. If I’m preparing a meal for a big party and I need an “intern” to help me set the table, make drinks etc. I will hire a server. Get where I’m going?

Of course it is a fabrication, one that artists (self-interestedly) often accept. There is historical privilege that comes with being an artist and now that it is being diminished they are getting agitated. Not unlike men, whites, etc.

“I just don’t understand why certain people deserve compensation and others don’t for whatever kind of work is deemed important” – this is EXACTLY *my* question right? Why should artists be subsidized and not gardeners? Why should Gallery 400 get a grant and not a parent run play group?

If a friend of mine asks me to take care of their kid for the day, should I reject it unless I get paid?

You see, if art is merely a business relationship, not an endeavor among friends, then that is an “art” I have little time for. It might as well be data entry no? Because it seem to me artists often want it both ways – to be compensated based on some market model (wages, benefits), but not be obligated to perform under such a model….

I do hope you see how weird this is – like the most capitalist mind of all, every human sphere is to be monetized under your model. The only expression of gratitude is $$$. The only reward for a favor…errr….labor is $$$.

So, unpaid internships are undermining your wages and you (along with many others) are proposing a strike or boycott which is understandable, but live by the market, die by the market. What if, no one cares? I mean I haven’t been making art for like 20 years, haven’t been curating, haven’t been writing (in the “professional” sense). It has been a “protest” of a certain kind – and one that brings you face to face with a certain determination of “value.” If I’ve learned anything it is how useless the entire enterprise is – but it is liberating. Because having given up the notion that what I was doing was special allowed me to see the value in what everyone else is doing – the fly fishers,the role players, the whittlers, the bird watchers, the pick up basketball players, the fantasy football commissioners, etc. But maybe that was a lesson unique to me and my own hang ups…

But you haven’t done anything to clear up my confusion! I still don’t get why art folks want the govt. to support their hobby and not hot rod builders? Everyone for themselves?

Oh and art is no “personal choice?” You sound like a true liberal (as opposed to a communitarian) with your public/private compartmentalization. Smoking is also a choice but has deep social consequences. I would argue having children and raising them poorly has far deeper social consequences than making a shitty painting.

Furthermore, what is “provocative” for me is to see a group of folks who have lost their historical privilege griping about getting it back rather than wanting a more egalitarian distribution of “prestige” and or resources. The breakdown of high and low is celebrated in some corners of the art world until it translates into *actual* effects then the wagons get circled….

Parenting was only one example of “cultural production.”

It isn’t the zygote, it is the cascade of social effects.

And to the degree that art embraces its status as a “profession” is the degree to which it acquiesces to instrumental rationality.

And yeah I like my culture like my politics to be broad and inclusive….

You keep focusing on *one* example of mine. And it is not children that are culture/cultural production, but *parenting.* And “affective labor” is another silly term – Pardon me while I “work” at crying during this rom-com. And man I’m getting all upset by your comments, who will pay me for this uncompensated emotional “labor?”

I do appreciate you providing a normative definition of art, one that falls neatly into the subject of my forthcoming book. Privileging “critique” while certainly fashionable in the late 20th and 21st centuries reeks of grad school syllabus syndrome. It is dogma, but that doesn’t make it definitive.

But back to the notion of art as a “profession.” Why then if it is such, should it alone be exempt from the market?

Also, what is the benefit of your narrow definition of culture? Who benefits from the exclusion of non-“professionals” of so-called “cultural production” other than alleged experts?

Re: professional cultural producers

Let’s do the same with politics. We’ll leave everything in the hands of professional politicians. Let those who are properly trained tend to that stuff and let all the plebes do what they do best – acquiesce to those in the know.

2 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Jeff said, on 09/16/2013 at 15:57

    Some questions here get to the nub of what and how art is valued. The repeated question of public money, to my mind, frames the future in terms of what the nation state’s role will be in it. It’s not simply about whether certain other forms of cultural production should get public funding, but rather, what the purpose/s of public funding is/are. Is public funding a symbolic gesture in which a nation state’s officials speak its electorate’s identity on that electorate’s behalf? Does globalisation diminish or enhance the importance of this gesture?
    Public funding could be abandoned so that the various cultural activities stated above are given no more privilege (i.e. by the state) than art. But this doesn’t in itself do away with art as a profession. There would still be the private sector. But would that mean that an exclusively privatised art would become subsumed under instrumental rationality (arbitrary labour for payment) and therefore lose what makes it differ from other kinds of labour? And should that, as the questions about the privileging of art as a profession attest, really matter? Is art’s ‘specialness’ merely a social construct, a matter of economics?
    I feel the urge to start reading Sandel earlier than planned.

  2. Randall Szott said, on 09/17/2013 at 09:11

    I am making several arguments – One is that I see no substantive reason why art alone should be an activity subsidized by the government. Another is that I feel that conceptualizing art as “labor” or “work” is a mistake. And that professionalization (which needn’t necessarily mean solely economic things) of arenas of meaning making or political affairs is also a mistake (or at the least is something that should serve extremely narrow purposes and not be a desired outcome for most folks)…


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: