i'm only asking artists whose work i like to not be pieces of shit with no self respect!! is that so much to ask?!!! is it so hard?!!!!!!

So i don't care about the "what is Art" or "what is Art's purpose" question. "Who is the Artist and what is their purpose", however, is a question i've been looking into. Whereas an abstract concept of art doesn't provide much grounding for a discussion to get started, focusing instead on artists allows us to focus on social formations on the basis of who gets labeled as such. A concrete starting point. Also i am (sometimes) an "artist", allegedly, so i have a vested interest in figuring out what this means.

I've ranted and ranted about this, and will get this out of the way: i believe "artist" is a conceptual device to obscure class, and the effective role of "artists" in society. When "artist" self-identify as such, they do not identify with specific socioeconomic formations and roles (at least not explicitly), and instead locate themselves in the abstract concept of Creativity and Artistry. Which noone can define.
I think this serves the interests of bourgeois artists.

There are very different scenes of "artists" that have essentially nothing in common. The NFT bullshit that is happening of late has brought these divisions to the surface in much more blatant ways than before, though they were always there. While some artist scenes revile NFTs almost universally, and are the constant victims of art theft from crypto freaks, other scenes are diving in headfirst. Two observations here, that are just my own limited experience but i feel rather confident about:

What, then, distinguishes these scenes? That's right baby we're gonna talk about class.
If you want to draw lines between these scenes, it's a lot easier to look at where they make their money, and who they consider peers - than to look at what kind of artistic output they produce. While the line between amateur communities, hustle wannabes, and established art circuit professionals / celebs is increasingly blurred, it's still easy to identify who among the artists resembles an industry worker, or an artisan (a increasingly unsustainable remnant of an old economic system); and who resembles a consultant, a manager, an influencer.


Let us attempt a few comparisons / find more descriptive names for at least some subsets of who we call "artists" nowadays

the artist as the court jester

I started writing this article after skimming through this wretched article, which includes an interview by Holly Herndon, an incredibly talented composer whose work i absolutely love AND despicable tool of the crypto freak circus:

The parenthetical DAO of the series’ title stands for “decentralized autonomous organization,” an administrative tool that uses a blockchain to distribute authority and responsibility across a group. Herndon and Dryhurst celebrate this new form of collectivity not through a reasoned argument about the blockchain’s advantages, but by mythmaking, by creating an intuitive emotional way of understanding it.

Brian Droitcour, writing for artnews.com about Holly Herndon and Mat Dryhurst's NFT series 'Crossing the Interface (DAO)'

This incredibly revealing quote admits in plaintext to near indifference about the subject of study, to a total absence of rigorous investigation. The superficiality of the art process laid bare should really give pause to the artists in question, were they not self absorbed in the importance of their 'myths'.
The allusion to mythmaking is really telling: the artist understands themself as one who creates narratives (that is a common thread through contemporary artist verbiage, and we'll get back to that), but the artist doesn't ask for whose sake. In the case of crypto, an intently arcane financial device where the obscurity of the system is part of its selling point to those who want to evade tax and regulations, this mythology serves some very specific interests over others. What some artists will call poetic myths functions quite transparently as the propaganda arm of these techs, that are just in practice extremely destructive investment vessels. In other words, it's artwashing.

While this article puts this shit on display with rare honesty, it is a widespread mode of operation throughout the arts. As one of those 'intersection of art and technology' types, i've seen a previous wave of this stuff happen with so-called AI, when Herndon and many others were creating works that hyped up visions of artificial intelligence that had no relation to what neural networks are in practice, and what practical uses they find. I am reminded of Ash Koosha's "virtual singer" YONA, sold as an AI author (it's a computer program you made, take some credit for god's sake), which is similar to how Herndon talks about "her own A.I. ‘baby’, Spawn" for her album Proto. Grimes, in the meantime, made a fascist song about AI overlords. Arca's brand of transhumanist PlayStation advertisement hasn't gone all the way bad as far as i know but she's on thin fucking ice.
These artists are all undeniably skilled technicians (and i include aesthetic taste as a skill you can develop, i do not subscribe to divisions between technique, literacy and taste); and i know about them only because i've been into their work. Yet, they suck, and quite franckly make their works so much poorer by participating in these grifts!

At the moment, art is an excuse, or a pretext maybe, to roll out the infrastructure: the cryptoinfrastructure, the Web 3.0 infrastructure. And the slogan is this magic spell of the N.F.T. It’s really a magic spell, because it doesn’t mean anything! It just means: I own you, and somehow, by magic cryptoincantations, I will enter it on the blockchain. But because it sounds complicated or high-tech, it draws so much attention, right? It’s just basically a mechanism of disinformation. The more confusing it gets, the more attention is drawn or used up by it.
It really does seem that the rhetoric around N.F.T.s — and around crypto more generally, I’d say — draws so much on the modernist figure of the artist. Individual creativity, free of institutions, finally unleashed.
I mean, I’m witnessing it at least for the third time: this implementation of new infrastructure with the same kind of sloganeering and propaganda. “It will be more democratic. It will be more accessible. There will be equal opportunity. Everyone will get information. The middlemen will be taken out.” I mean, how often am I going to hear it? How often are people going to fall for it?

Hito Steyerl, in an interview with Jason Farago for the NYT

Beyond this specific niche, there is a definite continuity here with some of the art that was made in the past in the european tradition: a throughline between medieval epics, renaissance portraiture, modern philanthropic groveling. Artists whose primary role is that of the storyteller of the upper class, who dignifies and mythologizes the rulers. So here we have it: the artist as a despicable court jester.

(By the way while writing this i realized that Ash Koosha, whose music i also really like(d), has wiped all of his profiles and works and is now the CEO of a web3 mobile game platform cloud startup, or whatever new dimension of hell we're looking at here)

Medium article by Ash Koosha, listed as cofounder and CEO of 2 wacky named grift web3 startups. The article title reads: 3D internet is Here: Cloud Games as Spaces for web 3.0 DAOs


Which i guess leads me to the other comparison:

the artist as the entrepreneur

There is a significant overlap between some subsets of the artist group and entrepreneurs - though they prefer words like "innovators" and "explorers". Both are the lapdogs of the true bourgeois, not rich enough to be part of that class but acting in their interest in exchange for a step-up from being normal working people (the horror).
The purpose of entrepreneurs is to innovate/explore/disrupt, in other terms find new avenues for capital fruition. The dynamic between small enterprise and big capitalists was already there in the time of Marx, who describes in volumes I and II of Capital how these small businesses and "innovators" act as the technological development arm of capital: they have the flexibility to come up with new techniques to outrun competition, but always eventually fall apart because they do not have the vast capital reserves required to sustain regular economic crises. At which point, big capitalists can take over and appropriate these new techniques when the small biz find themselves at the edge of bankruptcy, and expand the application of new techniques and technologies to industrial scale.
(I didn't write down the reference to the actual Marx quotes though so you'll have to trust me on this one, soz)

This artist subclass in particular experts at wielding language aesthetically as a tool for obfuscation. See: any artist statement, but also diversity circuit freak shit.

Jacket from Colin Self's track Emblem, reading: Elation and the prioritization of relief are strategies of resistance, the imperative inquiry, non-universal solutions through a practice of becoming-with, and celebrated negotiation of difference, naively reified endlessly for the sake of survival.

Great track Colin but what does any of this mean. It's sounds!

This use of language as a tool for obfuscation of meaning, rather than real rigorous analysis, is extremely common among entrepreneurs where aesthetic hype cycles are central to investor pitches that the entire economic order relies on. (It is similarly common in academia, but i don't have a real take on academia to shoehorn here).

In the economic sense, "technological innovation" is a very broad definition, that encompasses not only the literal meaning (machines) but also management techniques, regulation loopholes, anything that increases the productivity of the production process. While artists' role in this is not to come up with new innovations, artists are experts at using language aesthetically to coopt anything, "innovators" in the aesthetic presentation field. They play a symbiotic role with the entrepreneurs who come up with the more technical aspects of these schemes by creating mystified justifications for them, whether we're talking about crypto (democratizing the web through decentralized protocols?), gig work (reclaiming individuality and freedom through the hustle?), etc.
(And then there's also very straightforward cases, such as This Person Does Not Exist, an AI art project that the cops use to stalk targets - and more generally the plethora of AI / generative art websites that came up lately and whitewash the very ugly ethical basis and potential of this technology).

There's another parallel i want to draw here between artists and other not-quite-bourgeois lapdogs of the ruling class.

the artist as the bourgeois failson

I have long lost the reference to this paper, so you'll have to trust me on this one too: a study was conducted a few years back in France where they compared the income gap between working people and their parents, based on occupation. The results were a bit all over the place, with doctors and surgeons among those who got richer than their parents, cadres mostly staying at their parents' income level, etc. What struck me is that artists were by a significant margin the ones with the widest negative gap - meaning, they make a LOT less than their parents. This has two implications: being an artist doesn't pay well, but becoming an artist requires generational wealth.
The fact that most artists have wealthy parents is widely known, even if it is rarely seriously confronted. To be able to sustain a career in a field that pays almost nothing, one needs to have other safety nets, and the primary one in the absence of a solid welfare state is familial wealth.

I had a bit here in my draft where i compared artists to feudal clergy (a place where the spare sons of the nobles were sent, so that the first heir could inherit the estate without competition, while the other sons could be kept contained in an institution where they can further the position of their family with connections and ideology manufacture BUT would not have legitimate heirs of their own) - the idea being that bourgeois artists are similarly failsons of the bourgeois who don't have the capacity to inherit their forebears fortune, so they're sent to The Arts so they can just make their dynasty look better while not building a meaningful corporate empire that could threaten the unity of the estate. This comparison isn't really rigorous at all so i won't spend more time on it, i just thought the concept of a bourgeois failson containment zoo was funny.

That said, Althusser's theory of ideological state apparatuses is an interesting point of reference here. He uses the term to describe all institutions that reproduce ideology across generations. Althusser points to the church as the core ideological state apparatus of the western feudal era, and to education as the one of modern capitalism. But i think it's also evident that mass-media is also becoming increasingly central to ideological reproduction, in an era of massive instantaneous distribution, and ballooning media franchises and monopolies. I will get back to ideological state apparatuses later.

the artist as an outmoded artisan

What about the smalltime hustling artists then, those who juggle freelance gigs and commissions and personal work in the hopes of building a sustainable career? These people are often just workers, if autonomous ones, who just happen to work in a field ripe with mythologies about what art is, what artists do, and so on. They are the result of the same forces as the artists described as entrepreneurs, except they are on the working class side of the spectrum and therefore instead of finding new avenues for their enterprise they struggle day-to-day to find another client to sell their labor to so they can pay rent. No investments and innovations, only the hustle.
I think the argument here that this mode of production - autonomous individual craftsmanship - is a vestige of old modes of production and is increasingly unsustainable as industrialization expands is correct. Much like the entrepreneurs, these artists will eventually be displaced by big capitalists who raid whatever niche they exist in with much more productive methods, and much more capital. Contrary to entrepreneurs though, the hustlers are a lot less likely to bounce up and start another grift in a new field; they are more likely to be absorbed as standard issue workers into the newly industrial field, or to find themselves completely out of work.

It's important to reckon with the fact that this artisan subclass is itself an exceptional minority, and not the one most deserving of concern. There exists a much broader underclass that doesn't get to be a true artist: workers in industrialized fields (including at this point all "creative workers" in large studios, agencies, and content farms). The horrible NFT monkeys were created by people hired on fiverr for poverty wages, and they do not get to be Artists in any social or institutional sense.


Some points in common between the artists as described through these different metaphors:


Gramsci's theory of intellectuals

Antonio Gramsci wrote in his Prison Diaries about the role of the intellectuals in society - defining intellectuals as all people who, develop special skills that set them apart from the average working person. The scientist, the specialist, the doctor, the artist, the journalist, the academic, etc. are all intellectuals: their value in the eyes of capitalist society is not in their ability to exert manual labor, but in their ability to understand systems and lead workers. This category more or less perfectly overlaps with the middle class: a subclass that does not exist with its own interests like the working class and the owning class do, but that straddles that line and includes both prospective capitalists and workers with special privileges - we are coming back to the idea of a class of symbionts that attach themselves to the capitalist class for their own benefit. Traditional intellectuals are those that emerge from dedicated education systems, which work to the benefit of the dominant class and tend to select bourgeois and petty-bourgeois candidates.

It is worth noting that the elaboration of intellectual strata in concrete reality does not take place on the terrain of abstract democracy but in accordance with very concrete traditional historical processes. Strata have grown up which traditionaly "produce" intellectuals and these strata coincide with those which have specialised in "saving", i.e. the petty and middle landed bourgeoisie and certain strata of the petty and middle urban bourgeoisie.

Antonio Gramsci, Selections from the Prison Notebooks

I highly recommend this video essay from Kay and Skittles, which critiques Bong Joon Ho's Snowpiercer through the lens of Gramsci's intellectuals framework, and does a fantastic job at explaining it.
The main critique of traditional intellectuals is that they understand themselves as existing outside of class, as neutral agents with no class interests and no ideology warping their "objective" reading of the world.

Since these various categories of traditional intellectuals experience through an "esprit de corps" their uninterrupted historical continuity and their special qualification, they thus put themselves forward as autonomous and independent of the dominant social group. This self- assessment is not without consequences in the ideological and political field, consequences of wide-ranging import.
The whole of idealist philosophy can easily be connected with this position assumed by the social complex of intellectuals and can be defined as the expression of that social utopia by which the intellectuals think of themselves as "independent", autonomous, endowed with a character of their own, etc

Antonio Gramsci, Selections from the Prison Notebooks

Simply put, an education and a career of academic pursuits does not mean you exist outside of society. You still have a class background, you still perform labour in class society in the interest of one group or another. You still have political allegiances, biases, interests. And the danger comes from obfuscating those things, from allowing The Intellectual to be considered a class in its own right, that exists above the petty political squabbling of the rest of us.

Kay & Skittles, Snowpiercer: Class And Intellectuals

Central to the way that traditional intellectuals (ie. intellectuals who came into this social role through existing power structures, who primarily come from the bourgeoisie or the middle class) see themselves is this sense of superiority in intelligence, this idea that their primary role is to lead the working class who simply cannot come up with ideas or complex analyses by themselves. Kay & Skittles recognizes in the video that there is a real basis for this way of thinking: lack of access to resources, education, time and knowledge makes it harder for the working class to develop certain skills; constant oppression under capitalism doesn't only damage the body, but it also limits intellectual development. However, there is a tendency, explicit and implicit, to naturalize these barriers into an attitude of superiority that is deemed inherent: to understand intellectuals as people endowed with a particular genius or creativity, with a Special Brain. And in the age of near-total literacy and unprecedented access to resources and instant communication across the planet, these material barriers are increasingly weak.

Viewed this way, the idea put forward by Bong Joon-Ho in Snowpiercer and to some extent in Parasite that the working class simply does not have the means to truly understand their own conditions,their own place in the social-economic order, through no fault of their own but through their lack of access to the realms of The Intellectual reveals itself to be: Patently false, pretty condescending, and showing a narrow view of what an intellectual is.

Kay & Skittles, Snowpiercer: Class And Intellectuals

It is also itself an ideological mistake to think that the kind of intellectual development that is bestowed by academic education is more valuable than that which comes from the lived experience of working people. In the many discourse cycles we've had lately about "low skilled work" in the context of the pandemic, or the recent efforts in imperial settler culture to recognize the advanced and scientific native land stewardship in North America, it has become obvious that even work that is seen as lowbrow and easy always involves technical expertise, specialized knowledge, unique experience passed down to trainees. What's more, the "superior education" that traditional intellectuals benefit from is itself ripe with warped ideology, special interests, and massive blind spots; and spending too much time in academia can very much make you the dumbest motherfucker on earth.

This will just be an ad-hoc selection based on things i've read recently, but let us now look at some ways in which artists, creative entrepreneurs and media influencers talk about our/their role As Artists, emphasis mine:

But if assets are just made up narratives about the future, perhaps we can create other stories where the value of the future is brought into the present with the intention of decapitalising these chains and make it socially and politically expensive to keep adding blocks in them, until blockchain infrastructures eventually turn into abandoned ghostchains.

Geraldine Juárez, The Ghostchain. (Or taking things for what they are)

The Argentinian, Berlin-based artist is curious about using AI not to represent the natural world so much as to raise questions about how humans represent it.

Brian Droitcour, writing for artnews.com about Sofia Crespo and Dark Fractures Studio's {Specimen no. 2, Amylococcus}

I think of the role of the artist, of the opportunity of the artist, as to be able to say to the audience, hey, this dark dream you’ve been sold? It’s not the only dream in town, and here, dream a better one with me. Dream a hundred different ones. There is an alternative. Let’s imagine our way out of this reality together.
I think video games can be powerful tools for struggle. Through playful transformation and reimagining systems, structures, societies, and worlds, video games can invite people to see the possibility of transformation in the material world at a time when neoliberalism — and capitalist realism — tells us THERE IS NO ALTERNATIVE. We can counter this stifling of the imagination.

Meghna Jayanth - White Protagonism and Imperial Pleasures in Game Design

If this blog was a serious piece of writing i would do an effort to look for other examples and not pick literally the last 3 things i've read, but i know i've seen many other pieces, interviews, statements, talks that echo the language we see here: storytelling, dreaming, interrogating, imagining - not with people, but at people, or "for" them. Independently of the other points and analysis that these pieces provide (some good, some utterly mediocre (hello artnews)), we see a pattern emerge.

It seems a lot of artists understand their responsibility as that of someone who bestows the gift of imagination upon the masses, someone who can create narratives to illuminate the confusion of the stupid stupid little normie. The purpose of storytelling is to allow people to think at all, it appears.
The artists have exactly as much depth of existence as everyone, but they had the time and means to develop tools to communicate it in specific ways, and access to specific platforms. Any attempt to naturalize these privileges into an intellectual, emotional, creative superiority of artists over the rest of the people is absolute garbage, and should be treated with the disdain it deserves.
In addition to this, there is also a complete absence of any material grounding to these understandings. Who is giving power to the artist, and who is the artist giving power to? What structures does the artist enable? Are stories really what we need, let alone what we're missing?? Surely all we need to end capitalism is for these dumbasses to learn to imagine, maybe i'll make a videogame to help and put it on the app store (?).

I will once again insist on my firmly held, if under researched, belief: that the primary motivation behind art is vanity, and that there is no problem with that, but it should be contended with rather than obfuscated. That vanity can be a productive and positive force if it extends beyond the individual, and is a communal force of solidarity and social pride.

Against the mystification of the artist as one who illuminates the people, let's proceed to an inversion: the social mass of the people, collectively, come up with new formations, new ideologies, a culture. Artists have the finger on that pulse, and the resources to summarize it. The artist is a catalyst that precipitates culture out of social trends, and everyday motions of society.
But whose catalyst? In the current way that society allows artists to exist, they mostly live apart from the people - and until that changes, the culture that they will keep enshrining is that of the ruling class, while that of the oppressed classes is looked upon with disdain, or appropriated without due credit or regard.

Althusser's ideological state apparatuses

I brought it up briefly in comparing artists and clergy, but i didn't talk properly about the structure of ideological state apparatuses.
Althusser defines ideological state apparatuses as the institutions that ensure the continual reproduction of the relations of production, and capitalist ideology. In other word, institutions that ensure that workers understand themselves as workers, bourgeois as bourgeois, etc - and that the values that people need to share to work together under this system are taught to everyone, according to their social class, across generations.
He makes the distinction between repressive state apparatuses, which enforce these conditions and relations through violence (the army, the police, the judicial system, etc); and ideological state apparatuses, that operate on the terrain of ideology - though all institutions straddle these definitions, and just lean more heavily on one side or the other.

What are the Ideological State Apparatuses (ISAs)?
They must not be confused with the (repressive) State apparatus. Remember that in Marxist theory, the State Apparatus (SA) contains: the Government, the Administration, the Army, the Police, the Courts, the Prisons, etc., which constitute what I shall in future call the Repressive State Apparatus. Repressive suggests that the State Apparatus in question ‘functions by violence’ – at least ultimately (since repression, e.g. administrative repression, may take non-physical forms).
I shall call Ideological State Apparatuses a certain number of realities which present themselves to the immediate observer in the form of distinct and specialized institutions. I propose an empirical list of these which will obviously have to be examined in detail, tested, corrected and re-organized. With all the reservations implied by this requirement, we can for the moment regard the following institutions as Ideological State Apparatuses (the order in which I have listed them has no particular significance):
- the religious ISA (the system of the different churches),
- the educational ISA (the system of the different public and private ‘schools’),
- the family ISA,
- the legal ISA,
- the political ISA (the political system, including the different parties),
- the trade-union ISA,
- the communications ISA (press, radio and television, etc.),
- the cultural ISA (literature, the arts, sports, etc.).
[T]he (Repressive) State Apparatus functions massively and predominantly by repression (including physical repression), while functioning secondarily by ideology. (There is no such thing as a purely repressive apparatus.) For example, the Army and the Police also function by ideology both to ensure their own cohesion and reproduction, and in the ‘values’ they propound externally.
In the same way, but inversely, it is essential to say that for their part the Ideological State Apparatuses function massively and predominantly by ideology, but they also function secondarily by repression, even if ultimately, but only ultimately, this is very attenuated and concealed, even symbolic. (There is no such thing as a purely ideological apparatus.) Thus Schools and Churches use suitable methods of punishment, expulsion, selection, etc., to ‘discipline’ not only their shepherds, but also their flocks. The same is true of the Family.... The same is true of the cultural IS Apparatus (censorship, among other things), etc.

Louis Althusser, Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses

The main point i want to make here is that artists don't operate in a vacuum, and that the institutions that they navigate select which artists carry influence, and on what terms, and to what audiences. In addition, while we might think of the effect of ideological state apparatuses based on their output (the content of the education that schools deliver, the kind of art that gets displayed in galleries, the teachings of religious institutions...), their effect is also - primarily, i would argue - delivered by the structural framework that they put in place (in the case of the education system: the hierarchy between teacher and student, the grading system, the competition between students. in the case of the gallery circuits: awards and shows reinforcing the lie of "meritocracy", the construction of the artist figure as primarily an individual, the construction and policing of a certain language and etiquette, the hierarchy between the artist and the audience and the gallery worker. etc).
I think it is a mistake to focus our criticism of art on the finished art pieces, and that what art gets made is determined in the last instance by who is allowed to make art, and on what terms. This is going back to my arguments about idealism in the indie games scenes, and the refusal to interrogate the industry from the starting point of its production and distribution processes. It is also a mistake to interrogate things with an individualistic lens, rather than understanding art, and the structures in which it exists, as collective and social.

This is crucial because artists keep upholding fantasies of subverting systems that are vastly beyond their power, by partaking in them. Several net artists are celebrating art that "subverts" the crypto hype by partaking in it and pulling banksy-esque stunts (banksy famously destroyed the gallery system with his art, freeing us from our shackles (?)).
(To be fair to this specific person, the artist who made the stunt doesn't express illusions of this action having any real consequences - the same can't be said of the elated tweets that brought it to my attention, however.)
As i commented on twitter about the conclusion of this otherwise sharp analysis piece: noone like The Artists to correctly identify every circuit they navigate as a circle of hell and immediately pivot to "but thanks to the mysterious power of Narratives and Subversion we can take the machine down, by partaking in it :^)".

This even includes artists like Holly Herndon who regularly talk with some amount of clarity about the ways that concepts like AI, automation, and the like are only tools that obfuscate increasingly exploited labour - yet her work consistently fosters the hype cycles that surround these technologies. Having a point doesn't mean that your work will efficiently deliver it - further: the ways through which your work is delivered and promoted have more impact on the building of hype and the establishment of trends than its content.

Tweet by @everestpipkin: my biggest mistake as an artist working with technology was thinking i could tell stories about individuals caught up inside big platforms without those stories being taken as, or flattened into, endorsement of those platforms


It shouldn't take a lot of work to figure out that the people who are pushing web3 do not give a flipping fuck about some artist's local stunt, and that if anything the publicity might just benefit them.
Just... a bloated sense of self-importance, and a complete lack of any assessment of power or scientific rigor.

beyond the dunks

Okay we've called artists every insult in the book, now to spin things around: what can we do, as people who fall loosely within the artist social category, to make things better?

In his theory of intellectuals, Gramsci talks of the organic intellectuals that emerge from both classes - he puts them in opposition to traditional intellectuals, or traditional intelligentsia. He is referring to people who develop advanced technical skills within their field, and become specialists, emerging as intellectuals not through straightforward inheritance or education but through developments within their class. The bourgeois class developed a lot of such roles during industrialization through the complexification of the productive process: administrators, managers, lawyers and other specialists of law and accounting, and arguably the upper strata of engineers, designers, developers, etc. But the working class also produces its own organic intellectuals, whether we're talking about workers who develop an advanced technical ability in their field, or who emerge as popular theorists of working class thought. I would argue da share zOne is such an organic working class intellectual in the culture field o7

famous @dasharez0ne macro: JUST WALK OUT - You can leave!!! work - social thing - movies - home - class - dentist - clothes shoppi - too fancy weed store - cops if ur quick - friend ships - IF IT SUCKS.. HIT DA BRICKS!! - real winners quit


We have to strive for an inversion of the relationship that bourgeois-aligned artists have to the people: where they see themselves as those who bestow the gift of imagination/storytelling/brainhaving to the common people, we must create an artist with a responsibility towards the people. To use the language that we've seen used by crypto-gallery circuit freaks, let us ask what mythmaking for the people looks like: participating actively in the community, art as a strengthening element in the social fabric.

This question of the responsibility of the intellectual or specialist to the people that allow them to exist is not unique to artists. Che Guevara came to this conclusion when investigating his own responsibility as a doctor, in On Revolutionary Medicine:

And now we have come to the nucleus of the problem we have before us at this time. Today one finally has the right and even the duty to be, above all things, a revolutionary doctor, that is to say a man who utilizes the technical knowledge of his profession in the service of the revolution and the people. But now old questions reappear: How does one actually carry out a work of social welfare? How does one unite individual endeavour with the needs of society?
We must, then, begin to erase our old concepts and begin to draw closer and closer to the people and to be increasingly aware. We must approach them not as before. You are all going to say, 'No. I like the people. I love talking to workers and peasants, and I go here or there on Sundays to see such and such.' Everybody has done it. But we have done it practising charity, and what we have to practice today is solidarity. We should not go to the people and say, 'Here we are. We come to give you the charity of our presence, to teach you our science, to show you your errors, your lack of culture, your ignorance of elementary things.' We should go instead with an inquiring mind and a humble spirit to learn at that great source of wisdom that is the people.

Che Guevara, On Revolutionary Medicine

The most immediate application of art to class struggle is agitprop. Many artists have been dabbling into it, whether already established as artists, or more loosely as posters and accidental microcelebrities.
Agitprop is a very specific subset of art though, and i've argued that shoehorning politics into an art practice isn't always productive. How do we move beyond agitprop, and create art by and for the working class? As argued earlier, the core of this issue is a structural one, and in the absence of working class structures and institutions, working class art doesn't get funded and the reproduction of artists as a primarily bourgeois social category continues. We need structures, and we need organized working class culture.

Putting class at the forefront of these discussions is absolutely crucial. For all calls to "organize artists" or "support the arts", we get answers that are just small business subsidization projects or entrepreneur pyramid schemes (as we see with NFTs now). Organizing needs to happen on the basis of class, not made up categories that serve no real purpose other than the obfuscation of inequalities.

The public art that was created under the soviet union is often regarded as dystopian, thanks to a now century-long ideological campaign by the capitalist ruling class. The wide diversity of art that was made in the USSR is denied, while its most visible pieces of public propaganda are looked upon as "tainted art", for they lack the "freedom of artistry" that "true art" requires - after all, god forbid artists celebrate something that the people's state achieved. The fact that all crypto art functions in the exact same way, except in the service of private crypto platforms and monopolies instead of achievements of a revolutionary state, is completely absent from the narrative. The intellectuals, once again, think of themselves as independent from politics and structures even when that is most blatantly false.

The panel "Victory" on the wall of the administrative building of the National Сancer Institute in Kyiv, Galina Zubchenko & Grygoryi Pryshedko

Mosaic panel on the main building of the Institute of Macromolecular Chemistry of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine. Stepan Kirichenko, Roman Kirichenko & Nadiya Klein

Decorative panel on the building of specialized school №52. unknown artist.

All pictures from sovietmosaicsinukraine.org

In a context closer to those of us stuck in the capitalist imperial core, it's important to remember that just a few decades ago the balance of power was less one-sided than it is today, and major institutions that put the working class at the forefront did exist in the core. The Canadian National Film Board, today a hollowed-out funding device, was for a time the material basis for a significant part of the left-leaning artistic output that came out of Canada, in particular in documentary filmmaking and in the animation sector. It didn't exist as such on its own either - it was part of a broader left movement in the context of the cold war, with other institutions that have today lost a lot of their weight: parties, unions, etc. Whether such institutions still have potential as they are today depends on each specific political context, and requires rigorous investigation, but the idea of left institutions in the capitalist core isn't impossible or even too far-fetched.
I honestly know very little about NFB history beyond the big lines, but friends flagged this book to look into it further: Malek Khouri - Filming Politics: Communism and the Portrayal of the Working Class at the National Film Board of Canada, 1939-46 (Cinemas Off Centre). It's on libgen.

What i think is important about the example of the NFB is the formal and informal connections between it (primarily an Arts institution) and non-art working class institutions. The countless amateur artist communities that exist today are a first step towards working class culture institutions, but i think to reach the sustainability and class-consciousness we need, we must cultivate links with explicitly working class structures that do not center art and culture. Such links ground the institutions into the concrete life of the people, and are a barrier against them twisting into yet another pettybouj grift playground.

In the absence of solid working class institutions, we can still look to the art that marginalized and oppressed peoples and nations make for guidance. What strikes me is that where bourgeois-brainwormed artists struggle to understand their position in the struggle as its leaders, working class artists often understand their practice as a bonding agent in their community, deeply rooted in the people it celebrates rather than trying to broadcast to an abstract outside "audience" its "ideas". We see here a blurring of the bourgeois line between Artists and Audience; and a completely different understanding of the purpose of art and culture in the service of the common good, documenting + giving grounds to the life of the people. Not as a passive document but as an active social interaction. Culture is social, and individual artists are not its actors.
(It's important to make the distinction here between working class artists whose priority and allegiance is to their community, and the many artists from marginalized groups who still attempt to become bourgeois-type artists, who are typically the ones that get platformed by bourgeois platforms. Such artists, even though they often appeal to axes of marginalization, will often have a much more declarative attitude that is not turned towards a social practice but rather towards themselves, and an external audience that they will insist owes them attention).

(Also: art is generally speaking not productive. Art objects are rarely produced for a definite outcome, and if a need develops for a specific kind of art product, it quickly becomes a common commodity with an industrial production process: see all forms of mass media, and prior to it, other forms of artisanal creative work that are now completely industrialized. A few artisans might be able to keep making boutique versions of these commodities, but these essentially become luxury products that cater to a specific market niche, if the goal is to make money off it. And then their production is still capitalist (small biz owners are still biz owners!), or at the very least artisanal-entreprenarial. If art cannot sustain itself as a production process, then it is a leisure activity, and therefore access to artmaking depends on access to leisure time and spare material resources. Institutions that extend access and resources are then needed for the working class to be able to enjoy it, whether we're talking about art funding and art spaces, or more generally efforts to liberate people's time and life from work.)

I think this also answers the conundrum that left-type artists sometimes get into arguments about. Where some on the left will argue that all art is bourgeois indulgence, and that making music or films or poetry has no place in the struggle; some tend to react with a counter argument that often reveals the exceptionalist intellectual ideology we just decried: artists are important because they have the exclusive gift of imagination, or whatever. I think the correct counterpoint to the idea that art doesn't belong in the struggle is that artmaking is a living and social process through which the working class can understand itself on its own terms, create its own culture and pry apart the propaganda of the ruling class, and provide the basis for a solidarity that can withstand the constant assault of the bourgeoisie. Culture is one of the terrains through which the bourgeoisie imposes itself, working class culture needs the strength to confront it. Artists are not the sole source or the makers of that culture, but they can be its documentarians, the technicians with the skillset to enshrine that culture in more long-standing forms.

Towards: culture not as the spontaneous creation of pieces through feats of individual genius, but culture that exists through the social coming-together of people.

An while we're at it: against crypto and tech art's deceitful fetish for trustless, humanless, asocial systems and art practices; towards an arts culture of solidarity, trust and respect.


Domino brainstorm for this post, going over most of its arguments in a much more concise format, if ur curious.

This post follows several of the same trains of thought as my previous one re:authorship and ownership, though that one was even more convoluted and confused. Same title gimmick too, it's a one trick poney show circus.