Artists have something to accomplish in this society. Regardless of forms or media, our times require the presence of art and the commitment of artists to contest the values of this world. We need musicians and writers, painters and dancers, photographers and actors, web designers and dramatists We need artists who speak truth to power, who connect us to human realities that technologies shroud and the prevailing forces of political and corporate power would have suppressed. But where are these artists?
Oh, there are an abundance of individuals trained and skilled in the arts. They rush stages and “networking opportunities” everywhere to showoff their chops, to promote themselves to the next level, to grab a headline, to meme their way into fame or greater fame and a millionaire lifestyle. They push, they tug, they bully, they whore themselves without limit, delivering work that is as tiresome and irrelevant and vapid as their ethics.
…what is clear is that West, Rhianna and Jay-Z would like us to see them as individualists and rebels. But they are neither. They are outlandish, I’ll give them that. However, individualists and rebels don’t contort and distort and exploit themselves in order to pander to markets and audiences, nor do rebels become millionaires. In fact I will posit an idea that should be obvious but may shock and, even, cause outrage: One cannot become wealthy or maintain wealth and be in rebellion against the forces and values of this society. To be rich, to even be merely “well off” in America today, requires a compromise of ones principles and identity to the point of irrelevancy. We may take this logic one step further: To be rich and powerful in today’s America is to be a slave.
American culture is a wasteland of prosperous “artists” producing little of any enduring consequence. The corrupting influence is money. Whether we look at young successful “artists” or at the repackaging of old successful artists, it’s all the same. Money is the single constant and degrading factor.
So what should the serious artist do? What position should that artist take when counterculture is mainstream and money is the single motivating force in that stream?