"If it's for the money, you're not doing art. You're doing commerce."
July 21, 2015 10:34 AM   Subscribe

 
If you’re doing it for the money, you’re not doing art. You’re doing commerce.

This attitude is what allows artists to be ripped off and exploited. It needs to die. Preferably in a fire.
posted by NoxAeternum at 10:36 AM on July 21, 2015 [31 favorites]


This attitude is what allows artists to be ripped off and exploited. It needs to die. Preferably in a fire.

I get why a person might say this. I really do. But it's a shame that it's come to that, because what really needs to die is the reverse: the idea that everything needs to be monetizable in order to have value is pretty much destroying our culture.

Rock on, Lydia.
posted by mondo dentro at 10:49 AM on July 21, 2015 [22 favorites]


This attitude is what allows artists to be ripped off and exploited. It needs to die. Preferably in a fire.

I get why a person might say this. I really do. But it's a shame that it's come to that, because what really needs to die is the reverse: the idea that everything needs to be monetizable in order to have value is pretty much destroying our culture.


The reverse of “If it's for the money, you're not doing art.” is “Even if it's for the money, you can still be doing art.”
The reverse of “Everything needs to be monetizeable in order to have value.” is “Things can have value even if they can't be monetized.”

It's fun to think of the two as opposites, but that's not the case. Both of them are important.
posted by Going To Maine at 10:59 AM on July 21, 2015 [27 favorites]


More on point, Nicolas Jaar's Other People Label just reissued Conspiracy of Women, and will be reissuing Teenage Jesus and the Jerks's album
posted by Going To Maine at 11:02 AM on July 21, 2015


I get why a person might say this. I really do. But it's a shame that it's come to that, because what really needs to die is the reverse: the idea that everything needs to be monetizable in order to have value is pretty much destroying our culture.

And where did I say that, exactly? Please, point out where I said that the only source of value is money.

Because my point is that hey, if you want to "do it for the art", that's perfectly fine. But if you want to use a skill that you have honed to make a living and get paid, that is also and just as equally fine. Because when you start saying that they aren't equal choices - when you start saying that choosing to make money makes you a lesser individual - that's when you open the door to exploitation. And we see this not just with art, but with any sort of profession where "for the love of" gets trotted out.
posted by NoxAeternum at 11:04 AM on July 21, 2015 [5 favorites]


the idea that everything needs to be monetizable in order to have value is pretty much destroying our culture.

This is the conclusion I have a problem with. I agree that the ethos of profit and capitalism has seeped into everything, and can be quite toxic--especially to ambitious, substantial creative work--but I do not agree that our culture is being 'destroyed'. Some aspects of our culture are undesirable at the moment, but our culture is, and always has been, us. So if we don't like our culture, we don't like us, so let's treat the cause and not the symptom.

Also, 'destroyed' strongly implies some model or standard or correct way that culture ought to be, or perfect way that it once was, and I think that's bullshit. Culture shouldn't be anything other than us and how we express ourselves and communicate, etc., and it's never been perfect and there never was a golden age.

If we don't like our contemporary culture, OK, I can accept that, and agree with a lot of it. But nothing has been destroyed. It's just evolved into something other than what many would prefer and/or consider healthy, and rather than sit around wringing my hands about it, I'd rather roll up my sleeves and get on with the work of helping to create the kind of culture I'd like to see instead.

(Maybe I just like liking things and don't want to spend my time or fill my head with what I don't like and why.)
posted by LooseFilter at 11:07 AM on July 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


If you’re doing it for the money, you’re not doing art. You’re doing commerce.

This attitude is what allows artists to be ripped off and exploited. It needs to die. Preferably in a fire.


There's a massive gulf of difference between doing art for money and working and trying to earn money from your art. Some people are going to make art whether they ever earn a dime for it or not because doing that's part of how they process their experiences and relate to the world, or it's just a pastime they enjoy and can afford to spend their time on. But it seems to me there's no shame in admitting you wouldn't mind selling your art, too, if that's what you want to do and people want to buy it. There's a lot of dishonesty--even self-deception--in the culture about how important selling art really is to the people who make it. But I'm not sure it's even possible to make anything anyone would mistake for actual art only to make money. People can spot purely commercial products and entertainment and call them out for what they are pretty easily, I think, although there's a lot of work (especially in expensive mediums like film) that blurs the boundaries. And sometimes it's the artists who make the most brazenly commercial products that crow the loudest about doing it solely for the art.

"It's not men that are the enemy," she clarifies. "It's the system that's run by men. It's never been men. It's always men in positions of power. I used to be called 'The Great Exaggerator.' Can't exaggerate reality."

Love this quote. That's a really good way to put it. It's an evil system that benefits individual men whether they are personally evil or not, not just the idea that all men are evil and collaborating on purpose to keep things this way. Don't think I can sign on to the idea that patriarchal culture has any problem with people pursuing pleasure, though. It seems to me the ultimate form of rebellion is self-control now, because just about everything in our world tries to tempt it away from us and use pleasure to get us to let our guard down and neglect our long-term interests in favor of decisions that make us feel more in the moment (you know, that place where people buy things without thinking their purchases through).

This is a great article/interview. Thanks!
posted by saulgoodman at 11:08 AM on July 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


So Shakespeare = not art

Bach = not art

Picasso = not art

This idea that artists shouldn't be paid is a 20th century construct. Historically, being an artist was a career choice not an amateur undertaking. Society valued it enough to (in some cases) fund the artist's entire career.

Anyhow there's much more to discuss in these articles than the hyperbolic punk rock pull quote. I mean, honestly, even all of the greats of punk rock got paid. Maybe not always what they deserved but for a time, music was their career not their hobby.
posted by Joey Michaels at 11:16 AM on July 21, 2015 [10 favorites]


In V. Vale's recently published book of interviews with Lunch, she talks in some detail about the sacrifices she's made to be able to focus largely on art that doesn't turn a profit (being effectively nomadic/homeless, owning very little, living where the art funding is). She seems like someone who has a very clear idea about what art she wants to make, and what compromises she's willing to make to do it - and willing to put up with the consequences, year in and out, for decades.

Not everyone has the health, stamina, ability, or independence to do that, though, obviously - so I don't agree with her sometimes black and white assessment of art vs. commerce. But I do have a lot of respect for Lunch as someone who is fearless enough to stick her neck out and risk discomfort, poverty, and uncertainty to execute her vision of what it means to be an artist. And to do it for a long, long time.
posted by ryanshepard at 11:20 AM on July 21, 2015 [5 favorites]


But I'm not sure it's even possible to make anything anyone would mistake for actual art only to make money.

I couldn't disagree more. Artists have been doing art for the money for centuries-in fact the patron-commission system has been traditionally the standard for art production. It's only in the last century we really bought into the pretentious "Ahhht for Ahhht's sake" line, and that's mainly an excuse to make money from showings and similar venues.

Basically, whenever an artist says something like the title line, they're selling you something. Usually themselves. Oh and hey, Lydia Lunch is working on a book to be published soon. Surprise, surprise.
posted by happyroach at 11:24 AM on July 21, 2015 [7 favorites]


Yes, let's argue about the single pullquote used for the FPP rather than the talk about any of the stuff in the links.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 11:25 AM on July 21, 2015 [6 favorites]


But I'm not sure it's even possible to make anything anyone would mistake for actual art only to make money.

Pretty much anything by Michelangelo or Mozart that you've ever heard of fits that description. Literally any work of architecture ever fits that description.
posted by LionIndex at 11:26 AM on July 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


Yes, let's argue about the single pullquote used for the FPP rather than the talk about any of the stuff in the links.

Agreed. And her comments on patriarchy are a lot more interesting.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:27 AM on July 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


One of my all-time favorites is her cover of Tom Waits' "Heartattack And Vine" (feat. Nels Cline).
posted by Hairy Lobster at 11:33 AM on July 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


Nels Cline? I wouldn't have guessed that there're so few degrees of separation between Lydia Lunch and Wilco.
posted by mr. digits at 11:56 AM on July 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


Nels Cline and all of the Wilco guys are pretty damn cool dudes - except for the one that borrowed the keg hand cart from the Hungry Brain.
posted by wotsac at 11:59 AM on July 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


Oh, if I were to make a "top 5 favorite bands" list they'd be strong contenders and I've heard some Uncle Tupelo punk covers, but I don't follow music closely.
posted by mr. digits at 12:03 PM on July 21, 2015


Nels Cline? I wouldn't have guessed that there're so few degrees of separation between Lydia Lunch and Wilco.

Maybe you know already, but Nels Cline had a pretty long, pre-Wilco career. He gets around a few scenes. The Nels Cline Singers were still active as of 2014.
posted by Going To Maine at 12:05 PM on July 21, 2015


Back to Lunch, that being said -- her book ought to be... bold? Before reading the articles I was wondering how the contemporary Lunch would compare to the earlier one who filmed some highly NSFW stuff with Kern and Rollins, but if describing herself as a "faggot truck driver in a Mae West body" is any indication then age has not waxed her dauntlessness.
posted by mr. digits at 12:18 PM on July 21, 2015


Wow. Such Arrogance. So superiority.
After Melbourne, Lunch will return to Woodstock to write her next book, a tome about sex which she says will stand in stark contrast to her previous work. “I’m into pleasure rebellion,” she says, lighting a cigarette. “I’ve shared all my misery and tragedy but in my personal life I’m a cheerleader, an optimist. That aspect of myself is not shared. Once you are free from trauma, you are going to luxuriate in pleasure and happiness – personal pleasure. A divine gluttony, I should say.”

For this book, she’s done “a lot of research with one person”, whom she declines to name. “It took me this long to find someone who is going to inspire what I think is going to be a great work of art and needs to enter literature. Sex is often portrayed so badly, 50 shades of what? It’s insulting, so shallow.”
So, she's been homeless at times during her career. Is this a badge of honor? Really? I am homeless. Does that make me all morally superior to folks who are more materially well off?

Jebus.

The sad thing is that I agree with a lot of her points. I just can't stand the hostility and arrogance enough to finish reading the article. I have spent a lot of years contemplating the reality that, for some things, if you are doing it FOR the money, yeah, it tends to undercut the real value. I think this is the piece missing in the discussion on the blue about emotional labor: That we expect it to be done for free not as a means to oppress women but because if people do not genuinely care and are, in fact, just doing it for the money, it tends to seriously undermine the actual quality. See the recent discussion on the blue about the doctor who intentionally misdiagnosed people as having cancer merely to line his pockets.

I think a better discussion is how to best monetize things such that actual value is not undermined by the act of paying for it. We shouldn't expect good people to all be starving artists or the like. But it is an actual problem that how one gets compensated and why one does a particular thing can have material impact on its genuine worth and value.
posted by Michele in California at 12:19 PM on July 21, 2015 [7 favorites]


the idea that Shakespeare did not write for money is just plain wrong...He and fellow dramatists were paid for plays they wrote, and Ben Jonson, a contemporary, probably was the most successful of the group, though Shakespeare also got stakes in the theater he wrote for.

as for writing and art, Sam Johnson said this:

"No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money."
Boswell: Life
posted by Postroad at 12:35 PM on July 21, 2015


Wow. Such Arrogance. So superiority.

you really don't think someone who does what she does for nearly 40 years and is willing to suffer homelessness for it is going to be a meek and mild little princess about it, do you?

someone like her is going to be arrogant - it comes with the territory
posted by pyramid termite at 1:08 PM on July 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


Maybe you missed the part where I stated I am currently homeless.

She is not much older than I am. I have been doing a lot of things for a lot of decades because I believe they are the right thing to do. Those choices are part of why I am homeless and destitute. I don't see it as a mark of moral superiority and I would very much like to get off the street in the near future.

Perhaps you can come up with a different argument as to why someone like her "should" be arrogant. Because it doesn't wash with me.

Thanks.
posted by Michele in California at 1:18 PM on July 21, 2015 [5 favorites]


Man, to paraphrase an old poster:

FUCK THIS THREAD, FEED LYDIA LUNCH
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 1:44 PM on July 21, 2015


Happy Roach--I don't want to feed a derail, but my point with that comment is nothing about lofty, artsy pretension but only that an artist has to have something they actually want to say or some idea they want to develop. Sure, maybe they plan to make money from the start when they set out to make it art. But if they've got no idea or point to make behind the art they're making other than "let me make some money with some kind of bullshit," it's not going to sell anyway. And people don't call it art, anyway, because they see it for what it is (usually an entertaining commercial for something else).
posted by saulgoodman at 1:52 PM on July 21, 2015


The idea that you can separate art from commerce in a capitalist culture is laughably naive.
posted by grumpybear69 at 1:55 PM on July 21, 2015


But if they've got no idea or point to make behind the art they're making other than "let me make some money with some kind of bullshit," it's not going to sell anyway. And people don't call it art, anyway, because they see it for what it is (usually an entertaining commercial for something else).

In fairness, "let me make some money with some kind of bullshit" often doesn't work most places, not just in art. Thomas Kincaid might not see himself as a high artist, but I doubt he goes to be bed convinced that he's just deedling around with a paint brush, or that he began his career with only the vague goal of creating "some kind of bullshit".
posted by Going To Maine at 2:10 PM on July 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


Lydia Lunch. Situationist poster child. Her art: A marginally bankable brand of invective. Courtney Love's singing voice sounds exactly like hers, but Lydia never had a hit pop song because none of the songs makes remotely good listening. Likewise with the other fields traditionally known as "the arts" she's picked up and used splattershot like a weapon.
posted by gorgor_balabala at 2:13 PM on July 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


gorgor_balabala:
"none of the songs makes remotely good listening to me"
FTFY
posted by Hairy Lobster at 2:22 PM on July 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


Perhaps you can come up with a different argument as to why someone like her "should" be arrogant.

perhaps you can come up with where i used the word "should" in my argument

perhaps you can explain to me why misquoting me isn't an act of arrogance and moral superiority in itself

i'm tired of crap like this and don't talk to people who do it
posted by pyramid termite at 3:11 PM on July 21, 2015


i'm tired of crap like this and don't talk to people who do it

Irony.

There was no intent to misquote you. It doesn't look like you are really trying to communicate with me. You appear to be shooting down my opinion based on the idea that Ms. Lunch earned her moral superiority by being homeless. Meanwhile, you attack me. If homelessness confers greater morality, where is your respect for me? You seem to have none. I think your argument is specious and hypocritical.

Anyway, there are lots of people in the world who are angry and critical and not actually doing anything effective to make the world a better place. That isn't something homeless or formerly homeless people have a monopoly on. I also have no reason to believe that kind of anger is even necessarily more common among the homeless. I will suggest her anger is probably more about her lack of commercial success. Claiming to be inherently morally superior to Madonna and other commercially successful artists is a way to salve her ego and make her feel better about her lack of success.

I wrestle with my own feelings about such things. It would be easy for me to take the same positions she takes. I am angry about some aspects of my life, and I think justifiably so. But I think it is a lot more complicated than simply dismissing money as morally corrupt and anyone who has commercial success as morally inferior. I think that is just bitterness. If she really wants to be morally superior, she should pioneer a better answer.

Last, I will note her name comes from stealing food to feed her band mates. I am sure she can come up with a twisted justification for how stealing to eat is morally superior to trying to monetize your art work. But you can rest assured I won't agree with it.
posted by Michele in California at 4:11 PM on July 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


I have to agree with Michele in California, Lunch's self-importance strays more than a bit into narcissism. A self-important artist rarely makes compelling work--there are certainly exceptions, and it takes a healthy self-regard to think your work is even worth sharing, let alone great, but her whole ethos on this really seems to spring from her assumption that what she is offering is Important and Meaningful.

Except that the creator of any work doesn't get to decide that. The rest of us do.
posted by LooseFilter at 5:32 PM on July 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


I am sure she can come up with a twisted justification for how stealing to eat is morally superior to trying to monetize your art work. But you can rest assured I won't agree with it.

You wouldn't? Because personally I can't think of a more morally justifiable form of theft than stealing to eat (except maybe stealing medicine).

And I think pyramid termite's point was that someone who's taken their lumps, even through some serious hard times, and is still staying true to their work over the decades can probably be forgiven for sounding a little full of themselves. I don't think there's anything controversial about that. But then, veteran artists of all stripes speak in such grand, self-important terms that I tend gloss over it and pay more attention to the substance of what they're saying rather than whether or not I approve of their tone.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 6:19 PM on July 21, 2015


You wouldn't? Because personally I can't think of a more morally justifiable form of theft than stealing to eat (except maybe stealing medicine).

Stealing to eat to maintain the "purity" of one's art is not morally justifiable, at least in my book. It's choosing to take from others when one is quite capable of actually compensating others, just to preserve one's sense of artistic integrity.

Which, to respond to your earlier comment, is why it actually is important to discuss the ethos underlying the statement that you dismissed as a "pullquote". Because it says that artists who do actually choose to use their talents to provide for themselves are somehow inferior, somehow impure. And that sort of bullshit needs to be called out and denounced.
posted by NoxAeternum at 6:30 PM on July 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


Lunch fled New York in 2004 when Bush won a second term: “I couldn’t take it.”

In a weird way, I respect Lunch for doing this. A lot of people talked about leaving the States after Bush was re-elected, but you really have to be motivated and/or pissed off to actually go through with it.
posted by spoobnooble II: electric bugaboo at 7:21 PM on July 21, 2015


Nox, I think you misread me here, because I didn't dismiss the statement; I was trying to call attention to the fact that there were like links with words and stuff underneath that sentence, and I thought it'd be a good idea to talk about that rather than hang onto and argue about the headline.

Also, do we know Lunch had the capability of paying her bandmates at the time this apocryphal story took place? Because quite often, this is how you eat when you're starting out in a band. But since this thread appears to by and large be the Shit On Lydia Lunch thread and we're going out of our way to look for the worst about even the most obvious things she's said here, I guess that's par for the course. Later.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 7:23 PM on July 21, 2015


I liked her music and can remember watching badly copied bootlegs of her movies as a teenager, but she's not someone I ever knew much about. It's interesting how polarizing she still seems to be.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:43 PM on July 21, 2015


I've met her. She wasn't particularly arrogant; she knew where she stood, she knew what she wanted, and she had a healthy self-esteem. Why shouldn't she? She managed to become a living legend while making no compromises, in a scene full of abrasive personalities. She has strong opinions, and she expects others to have their own too. In any case, she was nothing but gracious to a twerp like me, and the friends she was with are all very sweet people, so she's just fine in my book. No need to take her down, better take oneself up instead.
posted by Spanner Nic at 8:06 PM on July 21, 2015 [4 favorites]


Death Valley 69 (Sonic Youth feat. Lydia Lunch), in which Lunch emits one of the great wails in rock history (wail starts just before 5:00 in the video)

I will suggest her anger is probably more about her lack of commercial success. Claiming to be inherently morally superior to Madonna and other commercially successful artists is a way to salve her ego and make her feel better about her lack of success.

I dunno. It seems like, in order to be angry about your lack of commercial success, you'd need to have at some point in your career believed that commercial success might be an option. Like a lot of early punks (Patti Smith, Richard Hell, et al), Lydia Lunch is basically a full-on post-romantic decadent for whom the artist is necessarily an outcast, outlaw and freaker-out of squares. When she says "I would be humiliated if I found out that anything I did actually became a commercial success," I think she means it, though of course you're not a real post-romantic decadent if you're not constantly hamming it up, striking the requisite poses and generally protesting too much. It's easy to see why this stuff would be irritating and off-putting to many (largely because it's supposed to be irritating and off-putting, at least to the aforementioned squares), but some people, such as myself, eat it up.

Stealing to eat to maintain the "purity" of one's art is not morally justifiable, at least in my book.

Gotta go with the classic on this one: "An artist [. . .] is completely amoral in that he will rob, borrow, beg, or steal from anybody and everybody to get the work done. [. . .] The writer’s only responsibility is to his art. He will be completely ruthless if he is a good one." (Again, of course, largely a put-on or at least an intentionally melodramatic overstatement, but what do you expect from an artist? The truth?)
posted by DaDaDaDave at 8:50 PM on July 21, 2015 [4 favorites]


Well, I was not looking to shit on Lydia Lunch. I suggested that a better discussion is about, yes, how you get compensated can negatively impact the quality of your work but that doesn't really justify her describing some commercially successful artists as her "enemies" and vilifying them. It does not sound to me like she means that these specific people actually are her personal enemies -- i.e. that they made their money by stealing her creative work and cheating her out of her share or something like that.

I think if you are going to talk smack about your moral superiority and how depraved others are for taking money for their art, you open yourself up to such questions. I am on the street for medical reasons. I can justify a lot of things based on that and I am pretty angry that I cannot get more support. Conventional treatment for my condition is very expensive and would come out of tax payer pockets. It really makes me crazy that I could legally spend so much of other people's money to stay sick and die a slow torturous death but I cannot get support for doing something cheaper and more effective. Yet, I have not become a thief in 3.5 years on the street.

So I feel perfectly fine with saying, yeah, she is full of crap if she wants to say she has moral superiority over people who do art for money and this justifies stealing to eat. I would have a lot more respect for her if she admitted that doing good work, whether art work or anything else, and also monetizing it is a hard problem to solve and she just isn't good at the commercializing part of that or hasn't figured it out yet. It is a hard problem to solve. But she is guilty of what people here are decrying: She is tearing down other artists. I see no justification for her doing that. It looks to me like petty jealousy, not some kind of genuine critique.

You do what you gotta do to survive. But, yes, she is basically suggesting that theft makes her morally superior to commercially successful artists. Sorry, I cannot agree.
posted by Michele in California at 10:11 AM on July 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


FTFY
Oh, no, I should clarify: On a listenabiliity scale, Lydia Lunch's songs are uniformly down at the bottom near the feral moans of large gangs of cats. But several of them are on my VERY short regular playlist.
posted by gorgor_balabala at 3:07 PM on July 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


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