To be more specific, there are three primary ways in which modern artists have resolved the problem of their livelihood: they have taken second jobs, they have found patrons to support them, or they have managed to place the work itself on the market and pay the rent with fees and royalties. The underlying structure that is common to all of these—a double economy and the conversion of market wealth to gift wealth—may be easiest to see in the case of the artist who has taken a secondary job, some work more or less unrelated to his art—night watchman, merchant seaman, Berlitz teacher, doctor, or insurance executive … The second job frees his art from the burden of financial responsibility so that when he is creating the work he may turn from questions of market value and labor in the protected gift-sphere. He earns a wage in the marketplace and gives it to his art.
The case of patronage (or nowadays, grants) is a little more subtle. The artist who takes a second job becomes, in a sense, his own patron: he decides his work is worthy of support, just as the patron does, but then he himself must go out and raise the cash. The artist who manages to attract an actual patron may seem to be less involved with the market. The patron’s support is not a wage or a fee for service but a gift given in recognition of the artist’s own. With patronage, the artist’s livelihood seems to lie wholly within the gift-sphere in which the work is made. Continue reading “GIFTS”
The laboratory of individual creativity transmutes the basest metals of daily life into gold through a revolutionary alchemy. The prime objective is to dissolve slave consciousness, consciousness of impotence, by releasing creativity’s magnetic power; impotence is magically dispelled as creative energy surges forth, genius serene in its self-assurance. So sterile on the plane of the race for prestige in the Spectacle, megalomania is an important phase in the struggle of the self against the combined forces of conditioning. The creative spark, which is the spark of true life, shines all the more brightly in the night of nihilism which at present envelopes us. As the project of a better organization of survival aborts, the sparks will become more and more numerous and gradually coalesce into a single light, the promise of a new organization based this time on the harmonizing of individual wills. History is leading us to the crossroads where radical subjectivity is destined to encounter the possibility of changing the world. The crossroads of the reversal of perspective. Continue reading “SPONTANEOUS CREATIVITY”
We escape too rarely from the grip of dualism. Dualism is a hell of which heaven is a part. We have forever been confronted by an agonising reality, the vicissitudes of a good and evil that are strictly interchangeable. A reality organised and patched up for centuries by a worldwide culture in which imbecility trumps intelligence and universalising thought mulls interminably over platitudes: le mort saisit le vif; after the rain comes the sunshine; everything becomes wearisome, everything breaks; six of one and half a dozen of the other; the wheel of fortune revolves around a void. Each of us is driven to the edge of a swamp where there is no choice but to plunge in and drift in a state of nausea for a lifetime before drowning.
Despite the spectacle of everyday horror sustained by the media’s lies, are we not on the point of reconnecting with the evolutionary process due to overwhelm our present state of survival, which is a social jungle where the laws of predation hold sway and make our existence ever more unliveable?
The fact that Bosch was, historically speaking, a premature Renaissance man also marks him out as the alchemist of an ongoing mutation. He belongs to the tradition of those who, by peering deeply and without indulgence into themselves, have obstinately advanced the excavation of our desperately inhuman history. The dream of a society where life triumphs over the contempt visited on us by the rule of the commodity is not an illusory restoration of some golden age, but instead the way out of the nightmare that chokes us ever more tightly each day. Bosch’s contribution is to have held up a looking-glass to our anguish as well as to our irrepressible will to live. A looking-glass that we must pass through if we are to make our way beyond the realities it reflects.
A Thousand Erotic Games
Raoul Vaneigem writes about Hieronymus Bosch in the London Review of Books
It is impossible to understand how millions & millions of people all obey a sickly collection of gentlemen that call themselves Government! The word, I expect, frightens people. It is a form of planetary hypnosis, & very unhealthy. It has been going on for years, I said. And it only occurred to relatively few to disobey & make what they call revolutions. If they won their revolutions, which they occasionally did, they made more governments, sometimes more cruel & stupid than the last. Men are very difficult to understand, said Carmella. Let’s hope they all freeze to death. I am sure it would be very pleasant & healthy for human beings to have no authority whatever. They would have to think for themselves, instead of always being told what to do & think by advertisements, cinemas, policemen, & parliaments.
Leonora Carrington, The Hearing Trumpet
Later he said, “I apologise, Mr. Rennie, I don’t believe that. I believe this church will be knocked down, but first the mural must be made perfect. When a thing is perfect it is eternal. It can be destroyed afterward, or slowly decay, but its perfection is safe in the past, which is the only inevitable part of the universe. No government, no force, no God can make what has been not have been. The past is eternal and every day our abortions fall into it: love affairs we bungled, homes we damaged, children we couldn’t be kind to. Let you and I, Mr. Rennie, make eternity a present of a complete, perfect, harmonious, utterly harmless thing; something whose every part is the result of intelligent, loving care; something which isn’t a destructive weapon and can’t be sold at a profit by public-spirited businessmen. And remember, Mr. Rennie, we’re doing nothing novel. For five or six thousand years Egyptian and Etruscan and Chinese artists put their best work into graves which were never opened. The old Greeks and Romans had as many Leonardos, Rembrandts and Cézannes as we have, all painting on plaster that’s turned to powder now, apart from a few square yards in Pompeii. I’m not sorry. There are too many colour photographs of the Great Art of the Past. If it didn’t have colour reproduction, the mid-twentieth century would have no reason to think itself artistic at all . . . and if it didn’t have you and me, Mr. Rennie.”
“Stop condescending to me,” said a voice.
Thaw started and dropped his brush, for it was three o’clock in the morning. He laughed shakily and climbed down the ladder, saying, “I will never condescend to you again, Mr. Rennie, if you promise not to speak to me when you aren’t here. Excuse me, I’m a little tired.”
Alasdair Gray, Lanark: A Life in Four Books