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news / journal 06.04.2017 Words:Jemimah Tarasov
Photography: All photography by Jemimah Tarasov

Art, Money & Selling Out, p.1

That there is a conflict between art and money is nothing new. If you see art as a profession, and (by extension) art as a commodity, then you accept a degree of compromise as inevitable. Art has worked through a system of commissions and grants since the Renaissance, and the notion of “selling out” is certainly not unique to this generation.

What is unique perhaps, is the internet, and the degree of accessibility and (over) exposure it allows.  While it is easier than ever to both consume and publish works online, artist income in real terms has not risen in recent years.1 In 2007-08, the median annual creative income for an artist was $7000. Meanwhile, cuts to arts funding is widespread.2

The situation is not clear cut. On one side, artists are expected to be moral, uncompromising, and disinterested in money. On the other, this ideal is only achievable for the upper classes. If we refuse to take money for art, or provide arts funding, are we locking out everyone but the most elite?

I spoke to two artists I admire. The first is Jordan Leekspin, who runs the record label Lacklustre Records, and is about to launch a publishing label. The second is Aditi Razdan, who edits Demos Journal, works for the East Asia Forum Magazine, and has had work republished in the Kashmir Times.


ADITI RAZDAN


Do you think taking money for writing is compromising?

I don’t think so.  Anyone is welcome to create art or writing that is completely unedited/’uncompromised’, but they also cannot expect anyone to take the time to absorb or read their creation. While taking money may seem like you have to temper your creativity, it also usually means that the intended audience will understand/enjoy it more.

The compromise then is not about remuneration, but whether or not you are trying to spread an idea or if the creation is self indulgent. I occasionally indulge myself with my creativity, and if it is completely untouched/unpaid, it usually doesn’t really make any waves. So I guess you have to decide why you are creating, and if you are privileged enough to just create unpaid art for yourself.

To what degree is writing as a career, or even as a hobby, something which is inaccessible to the working class? Is having time to create inherently privileged?

I think the ability to write about whatever you want is a privilege- freedom of knowledge is a class right not everyone is afforded. However, writing in general, with expertise and/or through a stable, defined framework is less of a privilege and more of a skill/line of work. Of course, getting into a line of work requiring these skills, and having that expertise is what may be inaccessible to certain socio-economic classes.

Would you write for free? If so under what conditions?

Yes, I have before and I still do so. There would have to be something in it for me to do unpaid, creative labour. Whether it be for a publication I edit, or if it gives me free publicity for a cause or belief I have that I don’t necessarily expect a publication to pay me for.

That being said, publications who don’t pay for work cannot expect the amount of time spent editing/writing on a piece. I will not change a piece drastically if you aren’t paying for my time- I will just send it elsewhere or not publish it.  I feel this way as an editor of an unpaid publication, I won’t ask for huge changes and I find it incredibly entitled/demanding when editors expect a wealth of changes to a piece and won’t pay you for it.


JORDAN LEEKSPIN


Is art a commodity? Is taking money for art always a compromise?

No, not always – of course that depends on who is making it and why. Are we as consumers forcing artists to alter their work in order to guarantee sales or grants?

What do you think of grants in general?

Potentially very powerful – [it] allows the lens to be widened and can make it accessible. [But you need to think of] terms and conditions behind grants and the way they are awarded and for what reasons? For the most part I personally feel like taking a grant can result in a compromise of vision.

The Art Not Apart program is one of the biggest arts programs in Canberra, pays substantial money to artists, and promotes an artistic community. However it has also been criticised as supporting corporate interests and furthering gentrification. What do you think?

ANA provides a space in the mainstream for some artists and creatives that may not have been able to occupy it. However this space is also exclusive of artists who spend and continue to spend time, money, etc all year round – not just one day – to foster community amongst Canberra’s arts world. It appears to be like a corporate initiative that offers no real insight or pathway into the actual arts community- then again this is coming from the outside- and am blissfully unaware how it may actually function.

Would you apply the same criticism to ANA as to Record Store Day? Why?

Yes – I think that any “day” or “event” that commercialises a subculture can and often does exclude the people that participate ordinarily in that activity/subculture. Record Store Day results in delays at pressing plants for ordinary labels, making their products inaccessible. Reissues and wider consumer interest has now also raised prices and make it harder for people to interact – but also widens the market to a new audience so it’s a double edged sword?

You are an artist who works a ridiculous number of hours in hospitality. Do you think that the art community in general is inaccessible to the working class?

No, not inherently – in a sense working a lot makes anything inaccessible. Making art costs money, and to get money you have to work – thus it can be difficult to balance the two effectively. Here I can see why people can find funding and grants super handy- affording them time and money to produce art.


Useful Links 
Standard fees for artists in Australia


Jemimah Tarasov is a law student & writer. She likes Helen Garner, interviewing people and receiving flowers.

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