Skype Chat 4.6: Economics of Being an Artist

This week Jonathan catalysed a discussion on how economic strategies affect artists. We talked about the value of time over money and possible government interventions such as universal basic income, universal basic services. The talked ended with the idea of artists’ cooperatives and tactics to access resources to continue working as artists.

Ideas on vocation, or calling, spanned the spectrum from  Homo habilis and Homo sapiens to  Homo ludens: the inventor, the thinker, and the game player. Deep-rooted intentions in artistic practice are something I wrote about briefly in this recent post. Whatever the motivation, money is clearly useful and time is precious. Universal basic income and services in an ideal world would free the artist from having to think about gathering survival resources. We do not live in an ideal world, but talking about such things feeds vision. As far as I am concerned, that is the underlying process an artist works with. It is not only the eyesight. It is also the act of seeing into the future, seeing something beyond what is being experienced in the now, using the imagination to create narratives and solve problems. These are things that create surprising and novel things. They enrich and change the world. 

I have found the lamentable situation where artists do not work unless they have funding. To stymie oneself in such a way is a sad state of affairs. All you need is paper and a pencil to create a world. All else is a scaling up of ideas. One can always work as an artist, to expect work to be funded a priori before picking up the tools is putting the artist in the position of labour. This is a compromise of idea and vision. It is perfectly valid to look for funding for projects and ambitious work but to not create in the interim? That brings into question many things, intention, motivation, viability.

We finished with a link from Jonathan to a European cooperative:

The UK is not part of this organisation but it perhaps is not needed. There are different organisation here that function variously to cover what smart does. The UK is actually quite advanced with respect to this and processes are well developed, from procurement, invoicing, information etc. Organisations such as AN, Axis (which has been scaled down), DACS, Arts Councils. The main difference is that the arts, professional actually make a contract with Smart. Smart then partners the worker(s) through the processes for the completion of a project, mentoring and dealing with organisational issues. Each country has its own way of doing things and in fact, the respective site for each nation is quite different in how it explains the workings of the organisation. However, Smart has an overarching structure so I imagine that workers can work across borders with relative ease.

The biggest difference at first sight between the UK and Smart countries is that in the UK, the artist is pretty well on their own at the outset and has to harvest expertise and help from a fragmented infrastructure. Smart appears to be a place to go which can help bring these decisions in one place. Obviously being in the UK this is not of any immediate use but with Brexit looking it may prove useful in the future in the event of possible relocations.

Smart Coop

Smart enables workers, entrepreneurs and organisations to invoice, to work together with other professionals and to manage a budget on an occasional or a long-term basis. Smart places the worker, bearer of economic and social value, at the centre of its mission, so that he/she can acquire social rights and develop his or her professional activities to the fullest.