Nmherman on Wed, 24 Nov 1999 17:18:50 +0100 (CET)

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Re: <nettime> Oz's talking about Luther Blissett

In a message dated 11/23/1999 9:43:05 AM Central Standard Time, 
luther@syntac.net writes:

> >are you against the idea of an artist making money from their work? I have 
>  >particular spin on this idea - I prefer NOT to make a career out of my 
>  >(writing) because I don't wish to put my art under any sort of "survival" 
>  >pressure, but I respect and understand the decision of other artists who 
>  >want to do that.

I think this is a pretty interesting question.  If we call everything
"art," then you are either for or against people having money.  If we call
some things art and some things by another name, there is a possibility of
money only being exchanged for the non-art activity.  The area we call
"art" could be completely excluded from the cash economy. 

Sometimes we wish to give money to people who are doing things we like. 
Call it a gift, geras, honor-prize.  What would it mean to never exchange
money for any kind of art?  After all, if no art is copyright you can just
make your own copy for free.  It is possible that some artists could
decide not to earn or accept any financial reward directly from their art. 
Thus all music would be free, all writing, all painting, all sculpture,
film, video, and entertainment. 

We don't realize the enormous consequences of charging money for art.  The
first and permanent result of art for pay is the creation of a hierarchy,
a professional class.  This is analgous to the caste systems of more
ancient cultures, but the arbitrary and conventional process of selection
goes unnoticed if the illusion of a free market prevails.  If everyone has
access to an art medium--painting for example--there can be no harm or
hypocrisy in profit-making by the most talented and competitive painters. 
Of course this logic is the mirror of the corporate ethos, ridiculous on
its face but accepted wisdom nonetheless. 

The danger of a digital stock market is that money looks after itself,
first and foremost.  At least in the USA, preserving the value of
investments is a top governmental priority.  Recession is not an option
even if the economy is disastrously out of balance with concrete and
verifiable externalities. 

No one wants to deny him or herself the convenience and gratification of
payment, endorsement, ordination, whatever.  However, we may be entering a
stage in history for which the commercial (profit-seeking) mechanism of
media production is completely unsuitable and possibly dangerous. 
Antitrust law has been used in the past to protect diversity for producers
and consumers.  But when actual market presence for a given activity is
limited to unrealized and unrecognized potential, an externality caused by
insufficient capitalization, monopoly practices can become confused with
simple efficiency. 

Which way is the global market going on the issues of copyright and the
super-corporation in media production?  More or less along the path set by
Reagan when he canceled the Fairness in Reporting Act and allowed
telecommunication to self-regulate.  Viacom expunges uncomfortable content
from its Chinese broadcasts in order to stay in with the government there. 
These kinds of problems may ultimately prove to be irrelevant and
inevitable, should the multinationals actually achieve the utopia they're
planning.  From my personal perspective however, I doubt the prospects of
the WTO most seriously and consider intervention now to be the number one
job of everybody. 

To the extent that artists remain in their prescribed economic niche, they
will have no effect on the larger developments of the next fifty years. 
But this is nothing new.  Artists have always posed a threat to economic
interests because markets can only be organized through media. 

Max Herman
The Genius 2000 Project

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