The perennial question among most creative people I know is not what to create, but how to create: how am I going to write this book/play/polemic and also pay the rent? It’s a tricky balance. Apart from a lucky few writers who get big advances or grants, most novelists cannot live off their work. They need a second (or even third) job to keep on writing.
This admission, by novelist Brigid Delaney in the Guardian, may prompt readers to wonder whether we have a surplus of such “creative people,” more than the market can support. More than is required. Certainly, the career prospects of being a novelist, playwright or unspecified creative person don’t sound terribly good:
Last year, the Sydney Morning Herald published a fairly depressing article on Australian writers’ income. It reported authors earn on average $11,000 a year – approximately one-sixth of average annual income. And these are the lucky writers – the ones getting published.
And as we’ve seen, the situation is very similar in other areas of the arts. Again, I can’t help feeling there’s a message here about supply and demand, dreary things like that. Something to bear in mind when, say, leaving school or choosing your degree course. The glamour of the artistic and literary life is, I fear, beginning to look quite thin:
The question of where to live on such a low income while trying to write becomes crucial: in the middle of nowhere with cheap rent, or in the city where day jobs help pay for housing? Compromise clouds every decision.
And this simply will not do. You see, creative people, that’s people like Ms Delaney, must live in locales befitting their importance, not their budget. You, taxpayer, come hither. And bring your wallet.
The city of Sydney recently tried to address the problem of artists being priced out by introducing six rent-subsidised studio spaces in Darlinghurst. Those chosen get a year-lease and pay reduced rent of $250 a week on a one-bedroom with work studio.
Creative people, being so creative, deserve nothing less than special treatment. I mean, you can’t expect a creative person to write at any old desk in any old room in any old part of town. What’s needed is a lifestyle at some other sucker’s expense. And so that garret has to be in a fashionable suburb or somewhere happening, where the creative vibrations are at their strongest and genius will surely follow. And that pad of choice has to come before the publishing deal and film rights and the swimming pool full of cash. Indeed, it has to materialise before the book itself, or any part thereof. How else can their brilliance flourish, as it most surely will, what with all that creativity. Our betters just need a little cake before they eat those damn vegetables. And possibly ice cream. Here’s some money that other, less glamorous people had to actually earn. You fabulous creature, you.
One might have thought that buskers got their money from passers-by, depending on whether or not they were any good. Apparently, it is much more sensible to take money from taxpayers and simply hand it over.
Despite his extensive commentary on the subject, Mr Smith still hasn’t specified any actual remark that offended him sufficiently to vandalise the free speech wall then boast about it online. Regardless of its content, the free speech wall is, we’re told, “an act of violence.” A “microaggression.” And so Mr Smith feels obliged and entitled to retaliate, in order to pre-empt any hate (as defined by him) that might potentially occur at some point in the future. A line of moral reasoning that’s rather bold and which gives our saviour enormous scope for “forceful resistance” against almost anything he doesn’t like, even if it hasn’t happened yet.
March was of course the month of The Incident, a “level 3” violation of school behaviour, following which a classroom of seven-year-olds were urged to “share their feelings” about a partly-chewed pastry. Other highlights included students at the University of Tennessee being enlightened by a lesbian bondage expert, a reminder of the wickedness that is racist hair, and further evidence of the Arts Council’s discernment and competence. Qualities best illustrated by the £60 million West Bromwich arts centre, which promised to “make the arts more accessible” and two years after opening had failed to attract a single paying customer.
Over the past two weeks, over 3.5m people have watched the YouTube clip… documenting my 28 day performance piece, Casting Off My Womb… The short clip… gives an overview of the work in which I used skeins of wool lodged in my vaginal tunnel to knit a long passage, marking one full menstrual cycle.
Yes, a mighty work. Colossal in its scope and profundity.
My image and work have been consumed, contemplated and commented on by millions across the globe. It’s interesting then, that all of this electronic crackle and buzz has not altered my identification with it at all… The response to the clip was immediate, massive and, for the most part, negative, marked with fear and repulsion. The word “ick” features heavily, as do “eww,” “gross” and “whyyyy?”
Well, pulling wool out of whatever bodily orifice it’s been crammed into, especially wool that’s smeared with menstrual blood, isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, or idea of a rich aesthetic experience. In much the same way that the audience for viewing used tampons and used toilet paper is somewhat niche and limited. But then I’m sure Ms Jenkins knew that before she began, and indeed was counting on it. For the talentless, transgression is the only card to play. It’s therefore unsurprising that mockery, bewilderment and mild repulsion are insufficient to prompt Ms Jenkins to rethink her artistic medium and life choices more generally. Clearly, she is impervious to mere public feedback and is happy to construe disdain as in fact an affirmation:
Commentators seem to be genuinely outraged that I would dare to do something that they view as strange and repulsive with my body without displaying shame. Women putting themselves forward in any capacity in the world is frowned upon, and for a woman to put herself forward in a way that is not designed to be attractive or pleasing is downright seditious. People are incensed!
Yes, incensed, outraged and afraid. The patriarchy trembles. Proof, if proof were needed, of just how radical and daring Ms Jenkins really is.
The Balakrishnans, however, had a falling out with the Communist Party of England (Marxist-Leninist) over small doctrinal questions such as how many class enemies could be shot on the edge of a mass grave. Such differences over tiny matters led to immediate expulsions and excommunications. The Balakrishnans were expelled from the CPE(M-L) for “conspiratorial and splittist activities,” splittist being a technical term for anyone who disagreed with the leader of the groupuscule from which he was allegedly producing a split. Considering that the groupuscule always viewed itself in the vanguard of the whole world’s proletariat, splittism was a very serious offence: It risked confusing the world proletariat and leading them to mistake its own interests by following the splittist faction instead of the true, real Marxist-Leninists.
The thing that makes me laugh the most is that I am considered a right-winger by people on the academic left. Only people on the academic left are sufficiently narrow-minded to call me a right-winger. In fact, I’m a liberal, but I’m a civil libertarian liberal, an old-fashioned liberal, who not only believes in the decent society that helps its most unfortunate members survive, but who also happens to believe in freedom. So much of the left today doesn’t believe in liberty, especially the academic left. There’s something wrong with calling the academic left liberalism – they’re not liberals at all. They’re really leftist totalitarians.
Marc Sidwell on the bloat and dysfunction of the Arts Council:
The Arts Council was designed as a short-term expedient, operating on a modest budget carefully spent and with costs tightly controlled, as they had been in wartime... It was not designed to serve as a permanent substitute for public initiative and taste, and certainly not to administer a budget almost 80 times larger than it initially enjoyed.
[If true,] the one-in-four statistic would mean that every year, millions of young women graduate who have suffered the most terrifying assault, short of murder, that a woman can experience. Such a crime wave would require nothing less than a state of emergency — Take Back the Night rallies and 24-hour hotlines would hardly be adequate to counter this tsunami of sexual violence. Admissions policies letting in tens of thousands of vicious criminals would require a complete revision, perhaps banning boys entirely. The nation’s nearly 10 million female undergrads would need to take the most stringent safety precautions. Certainly, they would have to alter their sexual behaviour radically to avoid falling prey to the rape epidemic. None of this crisis response occurs, of course — because the crisis doesn’t exist.
As usual, feel free to add your own links and snippets in the comments.
Art has not shocked, provoked or otherwise challenged for years now. The belief that it does, should or could is almost endearingly quaint when one hears it voiced… If you doubt this, then try to think of a novel, play, film or piece of installation art which, for example, seriously criticises the doctrine of multiculturalism. With a tiny number of honourable and genuinely brave exceptions — Lloyd Newson’s DV8 dance troupe’s 2011 production of Can We Talk About This? being one — there is a deafening silence on what is one of the most urgent issues of our time. Similarly, the chances of the BBC commissioning a drama which explores the experiences of an ageing white couple in an area transformed by mass immigration — surely a subject with real dramatic potential — are virtually nil. And if such a project ever did see the light of transmission, the audience could be forgiven for predicting quite accurately all the conclusions that would inevitably be drawn.
On a whole host of issues — foreign aid, climate change, social inequality — the viewer, gallery-goer and novel-reader, far from being shocked, provoked or given even a slightly alternative perspective, generally know exactly what they are going to get. For our cultural establishment, there is a right and a wrong way of looking at such issues and as a result the arts, far from being “challenging” or “cutting edge,” have essentially become the providers of window dressing, a sort of visual aid unit, for the views and assumptions of the political and media class.
If a person is born with great intelligence and this enables him to create wealth, he might not “deserve” it, but neither do those lucky enough to be born in a world containing this person, so they do not deserve the fruits of that wealth, nor do they have the right to seize it on some spurious redistributionist, Rawlsian grounds.
A couple of weeks back, cancer patient Bill Elliot, in a defiant appearance on Fox News, discussed the cancellation of his insurance and what he intended to do about it. He’s now being audited. Insurance agent C Steven Tucker, who quaintly insists that the whimsies of the hyper-regulatory bureaucracy do not trump your legal rights, saw the interview and reached out to Mr Elliot to help him. And he’s now being audited. As the Instapundit likes to remind us, Barack Obama has “joked” publicly about siccing the IRS on his enemies. With all this coincidence about, we should be grateful the President is not (yet) doing prison-rape gags.
How many makes a pattern?
As usual, feel free to share your own links and snippets in the comments.
The owner of a building in Queens used a crew of painters to work overnight and paint over graffiti on a warehouse in Long Island City, wiping clean a canvas that was used by thousands of artists over the years to transform an otherwise nondescript, abandoned brick building in a working-class neighbourhood into 5Pointz, a mecca for street artists from around the world. By morning, the work of some 1,500 artists had been wiped clean, the Brobdingnagian bubble letters and the colourful cartoons spray painted on the building’s brick walls all covered in a fresh coat of white paint. “We are supposed to be the vandals, but this is the biggest rag and disrespect in the history of graffiti,” said Marie Cecile Flageul, an unofficial curator for 5Pointz.
The moral of the story, gentlemen, is buy your own canvas.