Recent debates in Ireland around artists & our lowly economic status have brought back into public debate some age old questions such as:
Are artists superior beings in any way?
No. Artists are biologically the exact same species as everyone else. Artists are not more intelligent than anyone else. Artists are not on a higher spiritual or moral plane than anyone else.
Artists are simply those whose lucky life & inclination have allowed the long-term pursuit of artistic labour – which in a capitalist society is an enormous privilege as most potential artists are economically and socially excluded from artistic practice.
Is everyone an artist?
No. Everyone is creative – that is everyone has the ability to make new things out of existing things to hand. And everyone should be allowed & encouraged to pursue creative activities of their choice.
Everyone can benefit from exploring their creativity.
But not everyone, far far from everyone, will produce original & unique work worthy of profound contemplation by other people – to do this requires unusual talent & dedication, obsessive pursuit of the end goal, years & years of labour. If everyone was an artist, no-one would have anything to eat!
Should artists receive a special subsidy just for being artists?
No. We should be paid a fair wage for our labour like anyone else. Ideally we would work for the benefit of society eg in schools for a certain ammount of time per year or week & be given a living wage in return.
This, by the way, is a live & i think controversial constitutional issue in Ireland re Aosdana, which provides a basic income to an exclusive cadre who choose themselves – a recipe for elitist nepotism. I dont really see how the supreme court, for example, could find in favour of certain self-selected writers receiving a lifelong state subsidy, while midwives dont?
Either no-one should get a basic income or everyone should & we need to recognise that home-helps, nurses, bincollectors etc are as important to society as artists are.