Unless you are already rich or already have privileged access to the participation platforms, then you’ve got little to lose, so be as honest as you like, woopde doo. But for the most part, poor artists can’t afford honesty. For one thing it keeps you out of the game. For many reasons, in contemporary art there is nothing more grotesque for an artist to be so one sided. And worse if this one sided-ness is trying to put forward their own internal debate! Didactic positions are painful because our democratic institutions look away from the most pressing problems that you and I face. They fail to provide the platforms for the debates that they are paid to create as "critics and conscience" of a democratic society.
A role our Universities for example, are asked to “accept” and whose failure to, continues to ripple disastrously out into our communities. Demonstrated in not the least by perhaps the one million NZers that register but don’t vote. When the leaders of a country, the role models are not held responsible, what chance do the lower plebs in the system have of sticking their necks out as critics and surviving? When the example is not there to see, who’s going to do it? The systems broke and we know it. Of course out of politeness I am bound to say that in this they/ we are not unique, that it is a contemporary phenomenon and all of that. But as a once inspiring artist and academic, and someone who still respects the system of scholar ship’s potential for independence from profit motives and powers corrupting influence, I am astonished by the tenacity of this issue in refusing to be engaged with. Just layers of art game market privilege, standing at their posts spinning the point away from the target.
For the longest time, the idea of making the world I wanted to live in drove me to do what I did. I came to art thinking that it was the place where I could be the most free and to pay for this freedom with articulate connections to this society, culture and other ideas that support me. But twenty years later my research, experimentalism and fun has discovered only the same fact that it began with. That Money is the root and the sum of 'all art' and that I can't generate enough of it as an artist to live as an artist, which is why I don’t consider myself an artist. At the same time that ‘art’ is making more money than ever I feel it is over due to recognize that most art, creative enterprises have little to do with the professional industry that dominates so that what art perpetually celebrates is money and all us alternatives just endlessly add our support for this fact with our dare to dream differently being just the difference the mainstream needs to delude itself with, while the businesses as usual drives through.
In this way Art can not be honest. It must constantly hide its origins, its financial base, it’s economics to keep aloft the dream that it celebrates 'interpretation', 'beauty' or some other universal or local love. Nope, it take money, or time that takes money to make art, and though everything is potentially art in terms of what it is the art of? Only a very limited list is regularly acknowledged and considered. The making of money in art is like the banished devil that keeps both heaven and hell a polar machine, setting parameters to harvest earths soul (and soul being the invention of those who have nothing left, having everything else taken already!). I want to face this head on fearlessly and graduate from this school yard. This is a glass ceiling, false and shitty. Art’s just the pupae stage people, neither alive or dead, indeterminate, it’s the next stage which really matters, what you do with your: time/money! What does that art do!!
For the longest time I was fine with the brutally hierarchical judgmental and rude nature of the art biz. Due in large part of my own consideration as being better at the tricks than most. Not to mention I enjoyed a certain internalisation of that cultural myth that the artist was special, at the top of the social pyramid, with kings and queens, aristocracy and other living gods. I saw it as an inevitable par for the course of participating in a scene that had enormous benefits and access for those that are allowed, or fight their way in.
In many ways this hasn't changed I still see myself as better than most (at the tricks) however I have not been paid a share of the wealth I think I have generated. This happens for a number of reasons, all sound like sour grapes, but there is wine in them grapes. Now, I simply desire to change the rules and goal of the game to recognize where my effort has visibly accumulated, and continues to fuel ideas of connection as the point of being.
Looking back I see now that I tried to be a State artist, more than a 'free marketeer' though of course that distinction between has been lost (temporarily or permanent?) As a kind of state propagandist, one that fought hazily on behalf of, as a citizen for transparent and democratic principles I tried to maneuver in such a way that would be supported and bought by the state and their various institutions. Starting off with more traditional contemporary objects, exhibitions and events (including the naming and founding of the contemporary edition of Enjoy Public Art Gallery) and culminating with the more recent hybrids to be released (the never ending sales pitch).
The idea was by being visible, by openly testing the systems of the various institutions I was a part of, (and the particular individuals whose job they were) I would make visible this idea of democracy in a very real way, actually see what it is, how it is when it gets something like me going through it’s channels.
At this stage I have found it constructive to acknowledge that so far I have completely failed at the objective of being a State Democracy poster boy. This is in-spite of the amount of support I have received, to make work or to look for work. Through both CNZ and WINZ I estimate the number to be around $130,000 mark, from 1990, my first year at University where I was paid by the government to attend and 2010 where my State funded art project “The Beneficiary’s Office’ saw us being discriminated and illegally abused and intimidated from any future support. Hypothetically $6,500 dollars of sales a year for twenty years is not to sneeze at, but in reality it doesn't break down like that, it doesn't make a roof over head or keep the air warm, pay rent or bills. It's not seen as sustainable, not enough to grow within the discipline, succeed on it's terms or participate at the investment levels say your average state employee. It and you are a burden, a smudge to be erased from the clean consciousness of good New Zealanders and their once proudly independent friendliness now a paranoid hiding under wing fierceness.
Those very real strings attached to that $130,000, from a WINZ, participation in the industrialization of abuse and intimidation of the working class, the majorly of the people I saw around me. Though now there are a lot more middle class people applying for bad welfare, of which across the class divide both 50% of those that apply don't get. Good welfare invisible and for the rich is woven into general existence like deliberately blurred lines, ghosts that bind confusion to the poor with arms that whisper we’ll keep you warm freezing them for live export to another bad welfare war. Family support, Accommodation supplement, family tax credit, working for family in work tax credit. It’s called the charity model of welfare, if you don't fit our criteria (do what we say) then you are not fit for support.
How's them hard won freedoms of citizenship, the privacy of your life’s details free from scrutiny and aspersion, working out? What do I know of how the federal reserve of this country (see USA) setting the levels of unemployment at a permanent 5% or above, as the principle way in which they control inflation? What do you know of how this works?
Why I no longer call my self an artist (Oh well, so what!) I don't want my hard work to be sucked into that game, this particular market that claims none of this is happening and if it is it has nothing to do with how I’m getting paid! I’ll look forward in a degenerate way to someone buying art from a non-artist like the billion others structurally locked out of occupying the top of the pyramid. I’m turning the pyramid over, it has three equal sides. There are some artists that put their profits into their art and make their economic stream visible, but I couldn't name them. Or distinguish this behavior from those supported by private or public institutions.
That's because as some one greater than I must have said, the name of the art game is to obscure the origins of your economic base, these are luxury goods and for that illusion to be drawn the labor and economic base of such must be hidden. Just like the sweat shops and the wage slave, only ignorance is bliss, honest knowledge hurts participation, sales and profits. So shift the goal of art to something you have already achieved, by being a living participant in life on this planet. And reach for and articulate the style, type etc of art you already do and how it fits into the sustainable wheel of life and death in a way that supports what you hold important, that you value. Be prepared to share that value.
There are vague suggestions of exceptions to this rule that I know of, Hans Haacke, Ai Wei Wei, Damien Hurst, Santiago Sierra come to mind, certainly not an exhaustive list (only men allowed to mirror the hypocrisy of our social systems managed by machines, since woman are the ultimate self replicating machine men fear!) and I look forward to being better informed. But I guess I'd have to say that these guys now just enforce the rule as in the exception proves the rule, certainly these guys don't seem to suffer from a lack of financial support. And we all know that during these fabricated 'dark times', while the public is being asked to take cuts in all areas of shared wealth public services, education, health; the art market is experiencing unprecedented boom times. such a surprise. Art is money and as a community conceptualist, (hypothetically) pro democracy propagandist, I believe that I'm moving into the bigger market where we talk about this (capitalism vs democracy) ground first, purchase my services and the reality of this before we wax on to the other qualities, even if those other qualities are more personally valued.
As a community conceptualist, a public volunteer I am available for hire. And the strings attached to this is a form of graduation. The idea of a pure artist, independent of the constraints of market servitude is deadly. As I've said else where, art to me is a form up pupae, where it is neither alive or dead. This indeterminate quality always favors those that dominate meaning and perpetuate the power of the status quo. Radical change blunted. To evolve past the artist/ art one must graduate past the cul-de-sac question 'what is art'? And answer "what is it the art of" with a bold claim of invention and reevaluation revelation. In the creation of a specific titles, painter, sculptor, plumber, fireman, these ways that people make money from art and as art forms, these artists need to wake from the fog of the 'pupae' stage and come clean. Be honest about the work they are doing and their intention to make the work and the works products more sustainable more wholelistic, better for all of us in a perpetual revelation cycle of clear articulation. That's what being an adult is about. Standing against the exploitation built into the system. It's hard to do, that is well understood.
I'll continue to make work, work make, no one it seems gets to escape that personae brick, but it should be acknowledged that while my work is afforded some access, some acknowledgement of existence (ah existence, my greatest strategy for inclusion!), though I have tried to sell my work for these past twenty five years, it has completely failed as a business. This is important, as many fail in the business of art, but the detail is in how I failed. As celebrated artist Simon Denny recently put it in a 2015 interview in the latest White Fungus Magazine " He (me) was a challenging conversation partner and always did things that I felt were productive explorations of important issues and great exhibition experiences at the same time. That's something I really responded to - there was clearly critique involved." I failed while being praised for my success. This is the art of honesty.