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Old 08-05-2010, 10:07 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Art vs Capitalism, can they co-exist?

Its a simple question but one I think could make for an interesting discussion. Film, music, literature, drama, ect are all influenced by the need to turn a profit which usually means having to create with the largest of audiences in mind. Certainly a gifted artist can still create a masterpiece with a large audience in mind but in a battle between artistic integrity and the bottom line I think we can all agree that the former is usually sacrificed in favor of the latter. So what does that mean for us and our society? Are brilliant artists being forced to create down to the level of the lowest common denominator in favor of maximizing profits and does the overall work suffer as a result? Obviously great works do exist but you also have to wonder if the most brilliant musical minds are composing pop songs for Miley Cyrus (god I hope not) instead of creating musical masterpieces. How many great writers are churning out scripts for bad sitcoms and paint by the number Hollywood films?

I guess the overall point here is weather or not our modern culture is suffering as a result. Do you feel its a problem or has the market done a good job at producing sufficient works of art for both our own needs and to pass down to future generations?

If it is a problem how do you feel we should fix it?
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Old 08-05-2010, 10:21 PM   #2 (permalink)
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You mean Boston?

...

I'm a big dummy but I think art exists at the local level where money is just another social lubricant like who you know and what kinda beer you brought to the party. I reckon nothing that you can buy at Wal-Mart is something that you could consider art without taking off your $400 emo eyeglasses.

I don't think the "market" produces art. They produce consumable goods that they can trade for our money. That's what they do best.

And I don't think you fix it.

I think you just have to know where to find it. It's like: "Don't try to bottle Jesus and give him to the masses. Those that want Jesus will find him."
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Old 08-05-2010, 10:40 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Well sure and at the local level creativity can flourish and often does very well but seems to stumble somewhat as it moves into bigger markets. The "market" in this case are studios, record labels, publishers (anyone who puts up the money to produce a piece of work) who use art as a good to make money and in turn tend to dictate the direction it takes to maximize profits (whats actually sold to the public for example). Has that system in turn hurt the quality of work it produces?

Not really sure myself but I think a good argument could be made one way or the other.

And yes Boston is a fine example of what I'm talking about
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Old 08-05-2010, 10:49 PM   #4 (permalink)
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I'm all about some Boston.

...

I think The System (TM) often neuters "art" to make it palatable to a larger audience. More sweet syrup for the masses, ya know.

I see "main stream" as a bunch of niches. The Misfits, for example, are main stream horror punk. But they're not on your local radio station.

All the bands that the Misfits inspired represent the kind of underground that you find yourself in once you go beyond the contents of the Best Buy rack.

You get a taste for the genre in that niche and suddenly you're listening to less popular bands like American Werewolves, Nim Vind, and The Vladimirs.

...

I know nothing of music and art, so I'll try not to put my foot in my mouth.
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Old 08-05-2010, 11:03 PM   #5 (permalink)
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No you're not that far off the mark, I've thrived on underground music for years...its the only think I can tolerate most of the time and it often produces better quality work in my opinion, But I'm not sure the same can be said for the average joe or really the vast majority of public who often subsist on an whatever the mainstream (for lack of a better word) decides is profitable enough to release.

The Misfits did kick all kinds of ass back in the day, I didn't even know they were still around until I happened across them playing in a VERY small venue just down the road from me...I dare say they still kick all kinds of ass.
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Old 08-06-2010, 07:58 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Art can easily coexist with Capitalism provided artists produce work worth purchasing.

Unfortunately that rarely happens these days as most of the 'art' I see could be produced by a child.
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Old 08-06-2010, 08:21 AM   #7 (permalink)
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my mother in law is a real artist. she doesn't want to make art that people want to buy, she wants to make art that she feels inspired to make and then hopefully someone will buy it.

she stood firm to that belief for many years. Only now has she realized that she likes living above a poor starving artists lifestyle so she's trying to make more marketable items so that she can do the things she wants to do. Not much different than the movie or recording studios. Make something that makes money and then they will let you make something more artistic.
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Old 08-06-2010, 08:51 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cynthetiq View Post
my mother in law is a real artist. she doesn't want to make art that people want to buy, she wants to make art that she feels inspired to make and then hopefully someone will buy it.
I've always been under the impression that the meaning of being an artist is that artists do what they want and how they want in regards to their work. Artists work for themselves and don't care what the market tells them. This is just what I've always thought, I'm not an artist of any kind.

Mainstream music is like any other genre of music, but for whatever reason they are deemed more marketable and can bring in more cash.

All this pop shit will go away sometime to be replaced by a new sound that makes more money, just like any other fad and trend in history.
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Old 08-06-2010, 09:55 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Quote:
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I think The System (TM) often neuters "art" to make it palatable to a larger audience. More sweet syrup for the masses, ya know.
I've always looked at it the other way around: so-called artists will neuter their art to fit into the system.

I look at art as more than just art vs. trash; I see art as having degrees. Art generally can be considered "something created." I think that's fair in many cases. However, those who seek a market when creating vs. those who create for the sake of the creation will probably yield different results. Let's compare David Foster Wallace with Dan Brown---okay, let's not.

That said, capitalism implies the use of material wealth for ownership and production. A lot of art is generated within that. But what makes the art marketable depends on how demand is generated and how it naturally comes to be. Art industries can be brutal to the artist; they usually are.

It is always viewed as a high-risk venture to say you want to create art for a living. The failure rate could possibly be worse than that of small-business startups. In many ways, they're essentially the same thing...just a different set of perspectives regarding product and markets.

But professional artists are made and spayed by the markets. To be a professional artist, you have to have a strong business sense (or at least pay someone who does). There's no way around it.

However, in more socialized countries, arts may have more public support financially.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Slims View Post
Art can easily coexist with Capitalism provided artists produce work worth purchasing.

Unfortunately that rarely happens these days as most of the 'art' I see could be produced by a child.
This only seems to work if most of what you see as "art" is expressionist painting. Did you have other things in mind?

Regardless, I haven't found many children's paintings to be that good.
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Old 08-06-2010, 10:26 AM   #10 (permalink)
 
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depends on what you understand "art" to mean. also on what you understand "capitalism" to be. in any kind of strict sense, no matter the popularity of a given artist, the production of artworks has no relation to capitalist forms of organization at all. not even in andy warhol's factory.

but there's a segment of industrial design that's produces quite lovely prototypes of mass production purposes. is that art? why not? a well-designed tent can be a lovely environment and its contemplation fill you with all kinds of suitably lofty sentiments if that's what you've been told that experiencing an environment called "art" is supposed to do.

anyway, this is an obvious question since duchamp was moved by the repressive tolerance corporation art history division from a guy who signed a urinal at a parisian show in 1919 to some fold in the zeitgeist. while that happened, duchamp was playing chess. mostly.

you know, it really doesn't matter what an "artist" does so much as it matters what the officially sanctioned "taste creators" of the repressive tolerance corporation art critics division say about what they do. and alot of the time the "artists" that you read about are quite dead by the time the repressive tolerance corportion, cataloguing of everything division gets hold of them. quite dead and buried and so they don't have to get paid and aren't around to tell the academic types that what they're saying is one-dimensional.

but i digress.

i think people make work because they want to. they make work in situations that are shaped and/or limited by resources. the making of stuff is quite different from the selling of stuff is also different but less from the structuring of demand for stuff.

because the reality is that people like to like what they're told they like to like and they like to freely like it in the way they're told they like liking it.

why left to their own devices people have trouble distinguishing a child's work from a conceptual art piece.
and they think that they could make such pieces even though they never have and likely never will because, usually, when they try they figure out that they can't. but it's always easier to think you could and not do anything to dissuade yourself. that way you can also imagine that there's no particular skill or effort or anything else that informs making stuff, that it's all disposable, all a commodity that entertains you or doesn't because all that really matters is the entertainment of the Consumer because they have the Cash and so they rule the Scene even though they are quite obedient in their relations to the Scene and only pick up on the fact that there is one because someone told them it was there and while they're there they're typically too afraid of fucking up somehow to venture an actual engagement with the work they're experiencing but after the fact, when the imaginary social pressure's off, it's all child's play anyone could do it.

except they don't.
and you don't either.

but i digress.

capitalism as a mode of production is characterized by the subordination of all relations to monetary relations. seems to me that the op is a neat little encapsulation of that subordination.

there's a way in which the question is real simple.
you could say that making "art" environments and capitalism have nothing to do with each other except that the people making the environments grow up in the same space of social reproduction as the folk who do not make those environments, so are working with similar dispositions even if one of the effects of working in a focused way on a craft for a long time is to transform aspects of those dispositions into something else. maybe.

the question seems to me, really, why isn't it important to the overall capitalist order in the united states in particular that art be supported?
the united states spends alot of money on weapons systems. maybe that's the kind of art we really like, the kind that kills people in great number and looks shiny in parades. o and representational painting. and linear narrative. and repetitive song structures that work in 4. 1 2 3 4, like you're marching. hi ho.

why is it so difficult for artists to actually make a living?
it's in the main because capitalism in its united states form is dominated by people who see in art environments a mode of critique and they don't like it. they can't control it and the people who make that stuff are malcontents and every last one of them would quit their day job if they could and why should they be allowed to do that unless they can produce something that Entertains the Sovereign Consumer in which case they're ok. like a pet. a monkey maybe.
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Old 08-06-2010, 10:36 AM   #11 (permalink)
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Great post, rb.
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Old 08-06-2010, 10:41 AM   #12 (permalink)
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Art & capitalism can coexist because they do. They aren't in competition. If they were art would win because it always has. What speaks to us isn't often what puts bread in our pockets. The song about money talking wasn't art, as far as I can tell, but had a lot of truth in it.

(Singing & dancing, running away from the bank.)
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Old 08-06-2010, 12:35 PM   #13 (permalink)
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Good discussion folks, I've enjoyed reading it.

My thought process behind this question really isn't so much art vs capitalism (that's part of it) as it is how does the system we operate in is effecting gifted artists and what they create. I wrote in the OP, somewhat tongue in cheek, that our most gifted musicians are writing pop songs but sadly there is some of truth to it. Successfully writing a top 40 hit or a commercial jingle more often then not will yield an artist significantly more money then writing an an opera or symphony (of course that depends on weather or not you feel a great musical work has any value beyond entertainment then it probably doesn't matter), its easier to do and you can produce a lot more work. There are musicians out there right now who have attended the best musical schools in the world sitting at a piano trying to come up with a hook for the next teen pop star rather then trying to perfect an aria.

How many times have you gotten into a great underground band only to watch them sign to a major label and suddenly their dynamic, interesting sound has been replaced with mediocre, streamlined, radio friendly tunes? A record label will expect a band they sign to yield a profit and to do so the artist will have to either temper his sound for wider appeal or risk getting dropped and going back to work at Burger King. The band initially had that sound because it was made up of talented musicians and songwriters capable of creating something significant and influential yet to make a real living that talent is instead being used to create something more designed for mass consumption then any other reason. Whatever statement or impact they wanted to make has long since been lost by the time the final product finds its way to the public possibly rendering from being something great to just mildly interesting.

Now I'm focusing on music here because I'm more familiar with it but I can't imagine its much different for other art genres. But are brilliant visual artists spending their best years at a computer creating graphics for car ads? Sculptors creating corporate art to sit in the lobby of a new skyscraper, playwrights having to work with in the confines of what sells on Broadway...ect ect

Anyway it does depend on how you define art or what you actually do consider to be art, certainly beauty is in the eye of the beholder. But I have wondered if the overall quality and abundance of great works has suffered in the process. I'm not entirely sure myself, which is why I thought it might make for an interesting discussion and it has.
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Old 08-06-2010, 01:01 PM   #14 (permalink)
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