Art and Money

public records May 19, 2019

I didn’t think a place like Public Records still existed in New York. It’s a huge, light-filled space with a state-of-the-art sound system. I’m still not sure what really goes on here because something always seems to be happening all hours of the day; a hallmark of the experimental spirit that New York is sorely lacking today because of the high cost of living.

Low cost of living is an essential ingredient for creativity because what is meaningful to us isn’t always monetizable; we have to be free to experiment without the mandate to make money. As virtuality and reality rapidly converge, not many experiences are left which cannot be transmitted digitally and freely. At this rate, it will become impossible to monetize art in the near future. I wonder how many poets are making a living as poets today. In music, you either make millions of dollars or no money; very few options exist to make a decent living.

In some ways, it would be liberating if there was no way to make money from art; new generations of artists would feel no pressure to make money from art and their success wouldn’t be measured by how much they earn from art. The creative process would be entirely liberated from the pressure to monetize if it was not possible to make money from it.

In that world, which we are already half way in, the economic goal for artists would be to keep the overhead low and to set up a way to earn money that allows them to flexibly trade time and income depending on which they need more at any given time.

What makes New York hostile to creativity is this enslavement to money. Because the cost of living is so high, the only way to pursue art is to turn it into a career, to master and follow the rules of the existing structure of monetization.

Wittgenstein refused to join any political organizations because he felt he had to remain free to think and change his mind. Our attachment to societal structures, whether political, economical, or cultural, stifle our creativity because what is meaningful about creativity is precisely that it has the power to restructure our society.