To Sell or not To Sell

[this mail was sent to Artist Regina Célia Pinto, keepster of Museum of the essential and beyond that at as my contribution to the debate being held there]

Dear Regina,

The debate you are holding at touches some very emotional strings in me, so I send you this response, cc-ing it to the Rhizome netartnewslist because something similar seems to be going on there as well and I think your applaudible initiative deserves the attention of its members fully.

My position in regard to payment for net artists is the same as my position regarding selling art in general. So I would agree with most people here who raise arguments for net art as being specifically suited to be offered free of charge, but I cannot see it as being fundamentally different for net artists then for other artists. Let me further this by taking myself as an example.

I have been a poet since I can remember and I only very recently turned to publishing on the net in ways that can be considered as net art. Previously I just used the net to make my texts available to whomever would want to read them. I preferred that to (trying to) publish them through traditional channels like poetry magazines or publishers of printed poetry. I preferred that because I felt that turning my poetry into a product on todays market would be a kind of betrayal to the work itself.

Now poetry published in printed form may not be a real product in the sense that it makes money for those who do the publishing bit- in a ‘small’ language like Dutch, the chances for a publisher to gain a single cent from it are less than zero – I felt and still feel that the very act of putting it out there as a product you can buy, inflicts it with the very virus that it tries to withstand, just by being poetry.

This feeling I sometimes utter in sentences like: ‘society is fundamentally hostile to art’. It stems from my conviction that the society we live in is a catastrophical piece of machinery that by its very nature tries to silence everything that exposes it as such. I fear that even the net is in great danger of being silenced the same way. I realise those convictions and fears aren’t shared by many, so I point them out as an underlying assumption, so people can stop reading this here and turn the telly on instead of wasting their time with my pessimistic mumbling about.

So, to continue, I did welcome the arrival of internet as an escape route out of the dilemma, because of course, without the internet the poet is very limited as to the amount of readers she will get. Internet is the perfect way to ensure that people are able to get at your texts without them having to be made public in any economical system. The only thing you need is (a friend who has) a computer with an internet connection. No more need to inscribe yourself into the established economical order if you did not like that order, which was perfect for me.

However the publication part is only half of the dilemma. The other being that you need time to produce art, in my case poetry, and since some months now, net art. Artistic creation time is like any other time attributed to individuals: you have to earn it. This is one of the most efficient ways in which our society is hostile to art. One could argue that artists that are any good are rewarded by society with prizes, commisions and revenues of publications, and thus society enables true artists to continue and spent their time (=money) on producing art, but I would disagree and say that the economical machine driving us is very selective and very carefull in it’s selection of art. This Deleuzian machine generally only selects to gratify that art that by the very act of gratifying it, it can turn into harmless objects. Wild rebellion can take place in harmless objects. Put Sid Vicious in a box and let him scream all he could, the effect would be very entertaining indeed. Publication within the machine renders art harmless. Acknowledgement of an artist of the powerfull media in this world degrades her and her work to objects of entertainment. It’s a very simple process of encapsulation. You can’t escape it. So these are really very interesting times for an artist to live in: the chinese way, a curse.

But despair or sadness is not an efficient way to tackle any problem, so let’s not indulge in those drab feelings, as Foucault correctly pointed out.

Let’s, with a Wittgensteinian twist, see what is the case, and draw our conclusions. Or rather our deliberated and sound advice for non-artists and artists alike

NO! It is not too late: we have 24 hours to go.

The following takes place between 0:.00 and 1:00

The following only applies to real artists. You can tell a real artist from a fake artist by driving a wooden stake through her heart: if she survives, it’s a true artist all right.

Persons (individuals living on this planet) are social processes. Descriptions of social processes are being made available constantly by persons who call themselves sociologists.

Artists are dead persons. They have ceased to exist as social processes and have become artistic processes. Gilles Deleuze once said “we are all dead”. He was referring to himself and other artists.

Although they are dead persons, artists still are productive processes. But instead of producing social goods, they produce artistic goods, what is commonly known as Art (for clarity, I will capitalise that word from now on so as to distinguish Art made by true Artists and art made by manufacturers of artfull objects, whom I consider in no way to be lesser persons, on the contrary…)

Becoming an artistic process is not ‘transcending’ or ‘descending’, it is simply a change of state. Therefor, artists are in no way above or below live persons. The most accurate position to put them in would be something like (in the java language) Integer.parseInt(person)-Integer.parseInt(value_of_live), but I’m afraid that will not compute.

Becoming an artistic process is not a volutile act. (Sh)it happens. Although many artists consider themselves to be artist of their own choice, there is overwhelming proof to the thesis that declaring onseself an artist, is an act of consciousness after the event. A correcter timeline would be that at a given point in time society declares you’re dead as a person and that sometime later you’ve come to realise that and act accordingly. I could quote Frank Zappa here, but to avoid confusion, I think I’ll leave that and just hint at how he proclaimed the essential sexlessness of artistic processes.

Although artists are no longer persons, they still share a lot of processes with regular persons. Most artists have social security numbers, drive cars, eat, sleap and have sex. Artists do what persons do, but the conscious artist knows she’s doing it while being dead.

This can lead to some dramatic situations, one could document the consequences in highly rated and soap series probably. Imagine a newly wed artist telling her partner she’s really dead and that it would be unwise for her to have children. Or a daddy-artist trying to explain to his teenage daughter she had better stop seeing that awkard kid or she’ll end up dead like him.

Financially being dead puts the artist in an awkward position. She can continue to do what persons do to make a living, but making a living is just what they by their very nature can’t do. So even though some artists are really very brilliant and capable people, somehow they never quite succeed in what’s easy for far lesser talented persons. They question themselves while brushing their teeth. They ask themselves why they brush teeth that belong to a dead person. They should just hurry and brush their teeth or they’ll be late for the meeting, but instead they suddenly start smacking their faces in the mirror and someone has to call an ambulance.

It follows that persons caring about Art should support the dead person living as an artist by all means they can imagine. They shouldn’t bother trying to keep the artist alive for any other reason that the art she produces because it can’t be done. Allways remember that artists are dead persons consuming (a lot of) resources and producing art, nothing much more. If you don’t value art, cut on your expences and drop the dead meat.
Persons should know that counting on the artist’s goodwill to produce something of immediate value to them as a social process will only lead to frustration because :
artists are very bad at producing such goods because they don’t feel the goods the same way as you do

artists don’t care about your world the same way because they are being excluded from it

artists will only produce such goods to keep communicating with you

Artists are very keen on communicating with live persons. This is understandably so because they remember very well being alive and they keep longing back to that situation. Some artists have made great works of art referring to some Arcadia or Atlantis or some other Aland where things used to be better. They are referring to how things used to be before they ended up dead

If you’re a person and you value Art, do not throw too much money at artists. Throwing too much money at them risks bringing them back to live. Good revival therapies do exist for artists, but they are very expensive, involving swimming pools situated in areas of advantageous climat, numerous hired persons of exceptional beauty doing everything the artist wants them to do and a carefull mix of potent drugs and food substitutes to clear the artists mind of every memory of being dead.

If you’re a person and you value life, do not send your children to Art schools. This used to be a good way to protect your children from Art, but things have changed rapidly over the years: because there are so very few people left who care about Art, nowadays Art schools are crowded with Artists pretending to be persons. You can make them out by the devastated look they have on their faces while teaching art. They are thus afflicted because they feel they are wasting their time and should be making Art instead, or at least teach Art, not art.

If you’re an artist and you value life, try and convince some persons to treat you to a decent revival therapy. Or make up a business plan for your next project and convince major networks you are now ready to sell out (better ask your partner to do it for you). Or join some self-aid groups like the characters in the Fighting Club movie to feel sorry for yourself in an efficient way.

If you’r an Artist and you value Art: hide. Wait till this blows over and the next season of 24 is on. My guess is it won’t be about Artists

Hope this helps,


Dirk Vekemans, Central Cathedral Authoring Process
@ the Neue Kathedrale des erotischen Elends

This website uses the awesome plugin.