The Art Uncertainty Principle

March 21, 2017

We hate sell outs.

A bit of it is driven by jealousy of their financial windfall but the anger kicks in when an artist (apparently) trades autonomy for money.

We imagine the buyers are the most evil kind of giant corporations, ready to muzzle & cage the wild, unbounded creativity we once loved. The untamed will be synthesized and packaged into a carefully orchestrated sideshow - reduced to a gimmick for merchandising. The unique will be replaced by a pale, homogenized ghost of the original; approved for all audiences.

There's generally a strong aversion to speculative work but there is also purity to it. Producing something with no guarantee of compensation is the kind of expression that seems most genuine. We have a word for that: amateur.

Money dilutes art. It undermines motive, authenticity and freedom.

But money is a crucial part of the equation. Art needs money. Artists need money to survive. Many embrace the starving artist lifestyle an consider their struggle a badge of honor but that isn't healthy.

There such a strong aversion to "sell outs" that it has become a slur, a couple of four letter words which, like their more crass cousins, carry immense destructive power. Along the way, success has become tangled up with selling out to the point where they have become nearly synonymous.

How can we fix it? How do you fund art without changing it?

Filed under: art

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