We live in an economic system that demands currency in exchange for life. Money for food. Rent for shelter. Dollars for clothes. Insurance (and everything you own + a GoFundMe) for healthcare.
To be a professional, a career artist, to attempt to make art the labor that is the focus of your life is to be forced to create art which is in part or in whole, a product of commercialization. Commercial Artwork. To do otherwise, to refuse to make generally palatable hang it in every dorm room and play it on the pop radio station is to condemn yourself to poverty. Obscurity. If you take it to a complete commitment, death.
There can be no totally self expressive art under capitalism that is not itself suicidal. To commit yourself to expression without tolerating commercialism is to take on the weight of perpetual financial hardship, if there was even a choice to begin with.
When I busk I am becoming a product. Selling myself, my body, my hands and voice in exchange for the gift of not dying of hunger, heat and cold, from the illness that has been dogging me my whole life.
Yet authenticity is a cornerstone of punk. Of hip hop. Of art considered real. Yet when the pressure of capitalism demands commercialisable art, what authenticity can there be when everything you make has part and parcel the question of “can I sell this?”.
This leads me to ask myself: is the punkest punk, the most authentic art, the art made when one is ready and willing to die for it? When the concept of starving because no one will buy your art, because what you’ve made it so much yourself as to be unpalatable to most, because the more of yourself you put in your art the harder it is to compromise and accepting that inevitable death not with rebellion or spite but simply noticing that it will come and acting in such a way that death has no hold.
Is that punk? Or am I just another poser sellout wanna-be yuppie?
There can be no authentic art career under capitalism that is not created by an artist ready and willing to die. Because to create totally non-commercial art is to know that it won’t bring you the resources capitalism requires for survival. And within that demands, at least, a tolerance for poverty. Or a trust fund.