Rant 1/8/14

‘Class and Art’

The existence of a class system in the arts is something few artists are inclined to admit to. Even those of a left-wing persuasion can get quite defensive if you suggest that some of their contemporaries are more equal than others. There are a number of reasons for this. They may be cultivating friendships with well connected “blue chip” art celebrities, or maybe they can see the finish line themselves but don’t want to be caught kicking clods of earth in the faces of their also-ran mates. The dismaying truth is that most artists are conservatives.

Naturally, building networks on the way up means keeping quiet about the rules of the game. If you don’t understand how to play it, don’t ask. Artists pretend to believe that the ‘art world’ is an international community of sympathetic souls stuffed with integrity, selflessly dedicated to the cultural cause, and bursting with bonhomie. And to be fair, some are. The ones that have a life in the arts that is. The earnest strugglers who clamber into positions of communal responsibility in teaching, setting up studios and running public galleries. These worthy, semi-pauperised foot soldiers, too nice to say no, find themselves gaping with astonishment at the antics of their more career-minded contemporaries. The ones that seem to command respect, while shamelessly brown-nosing, bigging themselves up and kicking everyone in the teeth.

As money gets tighter those artists with a genuine feeling for the wellbeing of the arts community may find themselves being shot by both sides in the fight for an equitable distribution of opportunities. Well, it’s an age-old problem. But just in time, a group of hard working, well-organised, politically literate individuals have jump-started the Artists Union England and it looks like a runner. Surplus Value seriously advocates joining as soon as possible. In the arts, the owners of the means of distribution are corporate interests and needless to say, critical or politically motivated art is out of the question. As state violence ramps up and civil liberties are eroded, artists need to create peer-to-peer networks, seize the channels of communication and make their dissenting voices heard.

www.artistsunionengland.org.uk

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