What Value Does an Artist Have?

I was shocked and saddened yesterday to see Benoit Paillé on Instagram livestreaming his campervan, upside down in a snowy ditch somewhere in the boonies near New Brunswick, Canada.

That van was Benoit's home and his workshop. He lost both of those in the crash, along with the cameras he uses to make his living and the printer he uses to sell prints to customers.

Seeing that bought some things to light in my mind that I suppose I've been slow to catch on.

It feels ghoulish liking and commenting on Instagram posts showing someone in a deep state of loss and vulnerability, but that's what the we have to do to get past the algorithms created by Big Tech.

Apparently the guys (and they're all guys) running these companies are the new rockstars. But all they're doing is leading the charge in the increasing demise of the middle class. 2020 shows the stark contrast between the haves and the have-notes.

The remaining $2.5 trillion came via mostly forgivable loans and handouts to businesses. But don’t let the name “paycheck protection program” fool you — recipients were not required to actually protect any paychecks. The final tally is about $1 trillion in direct aid to those who truly needed it, $1 trillion to the actual pandemic response … and a $3 trillion wealth transfer to the rich and powerful. We’re calling it: The Great Grift.

The situation here in the UK is no different. The Tory government has handed out over £8bn in contracts to their friends and party sponsors.

The contracts that have been made public are only a part of the total. Citing the urgency of the pandemic, the government cast aside the usual transparency rules and awarded contracts worth billions of dollars without competitive bidding. To date, just over half of all of the contracts awarded in the first seven months remain concealed from the public, according to the National Audit Office, a watchdog agency.

And during all this, artists, like Benoit, now find themselves unable to work, in a society where, through cronyism and market manipulation millions of people find their paychecks only decreasing year after year.

The middle class is being destroyed and the result is an increasing transfer of wealth to mega-corps controlled by the ultra-wealthy. Why buy music from an artist when you can subscribe (or better yet, listen to music free) on Spotify? Why buy an original artwork when you can simply buy some mass-produced tat from Zara or H&M?

Seeing the photos and video that Benoit posted yesterday showed me we can't carry on with the way things are. If you can spare something, help Benoit get back on his feet, buy some music from an indie artist on Bandcamp, buy some original art from an artist in your city.

Art is valuable and important and as a society we need to do better in enabling brilliant people to make amazing work.