The bourgeois system that funds the arts has now trickled down to the artists themselves, whose ranks have become ever more dominated by the bourgeois. Its no lie that the bourgeois have forever and always made up a large proportion of the artists in this world, but never before has this same bourgeois been simultaneously considered the
for progressive change. Art at the forefront of cultural exchange is populated by bourgeois conservatives whose only aim is to maintain the system from within, in order to ensure continued support for themselves. By supporting neo-liberal agendas, even if that is not intentional, or even consciously understood, artists are undermining a system that got them to the very place they now find themselves, and without even thinking about it they are setting fire to the bridges that have taken them there. Private funding, as Andrea Fraser points out, invariably comes from the tax relief providing such funding itself provides, thus removing funds from the public purse. The rise of crowd funding works in a similar way, even a worse way for those people that actually give. By removing the need for artists to seek money from the public domain, governments begin to lose the need to even think about putting money aside for the cultural institutions, expecting that they will constantly be able to ‘self-fund’, through these crowd funding type activities. Those that pay into these funds are, in effect, paying an extra tax: they are not paying any less in their normal tax bill than they were before, and now they are paying something extra through their well intended, philanthropic acts of giving.
People feel good when they give, and those that have asked for funds feel good too. Everyone feels better, but the situation is worse, because this feeling of ‘doing good’ is entirely superficial. Its chief result is the dwindling of publicly available funds for the support of the arts. It may be that the idea for all this was first sown when a museum decided to ask the public for a donation on entry. Initially these funds were little bonuses, extra for the museum to use for good, to heighten and improve offers to the public, but over time this method has led to the institutions, the arts and the artists becoming reliant on support from the public directly, feudally, not through public funding brought about by allocation of tax revenues. Revenues that have now been appropriated for bailing out banks, which are then sold back to the private sector at a loss. The arts are the poor, waiting for Robin Hood to come galloping along, all the while King John is building his walls and defending himself against Robin Hood more and more effectively, making Hood’s visits to the poor less frequent, and less fruitful. Eventually the poor start to hate Hood.
But what has happened here, these times beyond metaphorical saviours, is something a little different. If we go back to Fraser’s comment, ‘…the enormously successful culture war … has effectively identified class privilege and hierarchy with cultural and educational rather than economic capital, and … has facilitated the success of right-wing populists in convincing this population to vote for its own dispossession and impoverishment.’.
That’s it, that’s the thing. There in clear words, the hierarchy is now one where those that can afford to be artists are, those that can’t aren’t, simple as. The middle-classes are artists, but the middle-classes do not make up the majority of the voices. The majority of artists live in free thinking leftist city societies. But the majority of society, of people, don’t. Artists, myself included, have been living in a bubble, and we are not aware of, or receptive to, the needs and wants of a majority public who, for the most part, don't actually look at, care for (or crowd fund), art. There might be more artists than ever before, but more of those artists than ever before don’t represent, come from, or even want to be a part of the society that makes up a majority. Even when they do come from it, they aspire to become like their idols; high on up the art ladder. They don’t aspire to change anything, they only dream of escape. If they escape, they feel great, they keep making work, but the work becomes staid, stagnant or unduly preachy (most of the time). If they don’t, they can’t or don’t keep making work. And if, on the off chance, they keep making work, it’ll stay locked up in the attic because no-one comes to visit an artist in their bedroom, and there aren’t a lot of publicly funded, even philanthropic, art studios out there for them to populate.