Saturday, June 15, 2013

On Free Art

The problem of what do with my work has been a weight on my mind and spirit for months now. What I should do, if I listened to convention: get high quality photos, a nice portfolio, look for galleries that would like to give me a showing, hope that somewhere down the line, I might sell a few pieces, at the least—have some compensation for materials. If I worked hard at promotion, I might even claw my way a few notches up the art food chain. This depressed me on more levels than I can describe. I don’t want to be salesmen. I mean, I really don’t want, more than don’t want. The prospect of being an agent in the transformation of my work into commodities was making me sick. Emotionally and physically sick. Getting out of the Capitalist Womb is part of why I do this—why I want to make art. Contradicts everything else in my life, where and how I live, the people I choose to be with, the kind of world I want to live in. But an artist deserves to be paid for our work, I’m told, and how can I disagree?
 So I compare, ask people who know about these things, and see what kind of prices I should ask. You know how it goes—if you ask cheap, the “market” will peg you as cheap. If you believe in your work, you have to show that by the price you place on them. And if they sold, of course. If I could get them before the eyes of the “right” people, convince the “right” people… that is, people with money, if I were to be successful in this venture, I would be making (for me… who did not earn $50,000 life time earnings until my mid 40’s), rather decent money. and yes, this was not a small enticement... this was a very seductive prospect—and poison. Pure poison. Emotional evil fantasy poison to soul…
 On a material level, I’m running out places to put the pieces I make. I hang as many as I can around the Ox, in my room. But have begun to stack them against a wall in a store room. I’d begun to imagine destroying my work as I made it. A kind of Zen fantasy. But then—even before I put it those terms, I realized that what really was bothering me, was that no one could see them. The selling was important, but in a lesser way. Yeah, I’d like, and deserve, and la la la, but the real point of selling—is to make them visible! To send my children out into the world where they can live on their own terms. Not that compensation isn’t deserved, but that these are two different ends, and of the two—there can be no question, that the nightmare for me, was that I do this and no one sees them. Whether they like them or they don’t… critical approval… so much noise. That’s not my business—because I don’t OWN them… not what they are. And what are, will only happen as they become real for others.
 I wrote a post last night on FaceBook—and none this stuff was in my mind, not consciously—an impulse… made easier by a few glasses of wine. I thought—I’ll give them away. FREE ART. Such a sense of liberation. Even the next morning. Cold sober (would that all posts on such impulses ended this way!) Most of the thoughts above followed after.
And then I began to think about conditions. At first I thought—ok… if someone sells a piece, I can ask for some part of the sale. But no… I want to give them to others for their pleasure, not for some idea of future profit. Not even mine. But I can ask for contributions from those who can afford it, right? And if they do give pleasure—I can trust that will happen. So… a kind of indefinite loan. If you have a piece for a few months, and want a different one? Why not? A circulating loan. And for those who would like to help support this work, maybe an option of a monthly pledge, the amount determined solely by what that individual feels would be comfortable for them? So it’s not just art for the rich. And this offers… if I can keep making pieces, a real possibility of some modest compensation—which is all I could realistically hope for on the Art Market model—and they won’t be stacked up against a wall in a store room. And if the cops raid the Ox, and I’m disappeared in some secret rendition, they won’t all be taken and lost! (this is not paranoia. This American. If you don’t believe it. Wake up!) Not to go into this now… but these are not new ideas. I’ve thought of this kind of arrangement in terms of an artist’s collective. For artists who want to say FUCK CAPITALISM as much as I do, and yet—hope both for some compensation and to see their babies circulate in the world. Enough! Solidarity/Imagination/Resistance!

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