We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

How will the artist fare when UKIP take over?

This was the question asked on the Guardian

“How will the artist fare when The Ukip take over?”

And I was moved to reply thus:

Well if ‘the artist’ does something that people care enough about to pay for willingly (for example ‘the artist’ formerly and once again known as Prince…said to be not short a bob or two), then they will continue to do just fine.

But come the UKIP revolution, for the most part I imagine ‘the artist’ currently funding their decaf macchiatos by gnawing on the public teat, justly receiving money from the appropriately taxed philistine lumpen-proletariat (who inexplicably stay away from Ken Loach films in droves) … oh dear, I fear they may indeed have to get a real job. Oh the humanity! Damn you Farage! Damn you to hell!

Or more likely, ‘the artist’ will just find a different way to live off the forcibly appropriated money of others, of which the many and varied ways are always advertised in the Guardian.

Thus I council against despair. Indeed, after a challenging period of adjustment for the bourgeois left, I foresee ‘the artist’ eventually living happily ever after, regardless of the brutality of the Farage Brownshirts, by becoming a Diversity Enforcement Officer for some tier of local government.

51 comments to How will the artist fare when UKIP take over?

  • Paul Marks

    Very good post Perry.

    There is no need for the government to fund the arts. In the United Kingdom there was no regular government funding for the arts till World War II (in the United States it was the mid 1960s).

    The idea that ballet, opera, painting, sculpture (and so on) are in a better state now that before the government got involved is absurd.

    “But now the people can experience them….”

    As Frank Johnson used to point out (he died a few years ago) this is the opposite of the truth.

    Before World War II an ordinary working man could afford (for example) to see the an Opera production (the Karl Rosen used to go round on a private train – putting on productions all over the country). And YES there was a market among ordinary people for high culture in the 1930s – in spite of the depressed economy.

    Try getting tickets for a top opera production now.

    As Perry says “the state is not your friend”.

  • Hang on, dude. Challenging people’s preconceptions and really making them think using only stuff that you’ve found in a skip is one the hardest things anyone can ever do. These heroes deserve every stolen penny!

  • RAB

    I went round the Tate Modern at the end of January… some good stuff fair enough, but the utter banality of most of it, especially the installations fair took my breath away.

  • Sam Duncan

    Absolutely true, Paul. There wasn’t just a market for opera among the “working classes”; when the touring opera companies travelled around, they’d use local amateur societies to provide or augment their choruses. And there always was a local amateur society, full of ordinary working people. These augmented companies would sing in small towns and church halls that the subsidised companies’ “outreach” programmes can only imagine. This arrangement continued after WWII, but gradually died out as the subsidised companies took over. And now the people who once sang with the professionals can barely afford to attend their lavish productions. So much for bringing opera to the masses.

    Frank Johnson was very good about reminding people of this. Heck, he was very good, full stop. I wonder what he’d make of today’s Telegraph.

    The Carl Rosa Company still exists, though; it’s the only unsubsidised opera company left in Britain.

  • CaptDMO

    Without reading the Guardian bit….
    Can we all agree on what “Artist” means?
    How about “Professional”?
    Does the word “mechanic” or “labor” pop up anywhere?
    And while we’re at it, “educated”!

  • Kevin B

    While I agree that art should be unsubsidised, I will take slight issue with the “try getting tickets for a top opera now” meme.

    If you’re a soft southener like me, simply log on to the Royal Opera House website and buy them. True, you might have to pay the best part of £200 for them but if you enjoy Opera, it’s worth it.

    I’ve recently seen a cracking Carmen and a spectacular Turandot and I’m sure my upcoming visit to La Traviata will be just as entertaining.

    I’ve never been to an Opera North production so I can’t comment on those, but the ROH get the top stars in the top productions and all for less than a week’s old age pension.

    I don’t know what following your football team in Europe will cost, or even in the Premier league for a season but I bet it’s more than I’ll spend on Opera this year, even including my week in Verona.

    You pays your money and takes your choice.

  • Lee Moore

    Kevin : “You pays your money and takes your choice”

    If opera buffs paid their money and took their choice it would be fine. It’s the paying my money and taking their choice that bothers me.

  • Billy Brice

    justly receiving money from the appropriately taxed philistine lumpen-proletariat (who inexplicably stay away from Ken Loach films in droves

    As a proud paid up card carrying member of the lumpenproletariat, I gotta say that put a smile on my face. Seriously, who the FUCK watches that wanker’s films??? The idea that cunt gets a penny of my money is the kind of shit that gives me “anger management issues”

    Indeed, after a challenging period of adjustment for the bourgeois left

    They’ll never ever forgive you for pointing out what they are.

    Nice one.

  • veryretired

    One of the most enduring of the many con jobs that collectivism has sold over the years is the claim that artists are free under a system of state sponsorship, but oppressed by a system of individual choice in art.

    This is part and parcel of the larger fallacy that the state is a benign entity which may be trusted with control over most, if not all, aspects of our lives, while the free individual is a dangerous threat whose very existence is a prelude to chaos, and the tyranny of uncontrolled commerce.

    It is the underlying theme of the movie “The Lives of Others”, and is very clearly stated in “The Lost City”, to mention a couple of readily available artistic refutations of the collectivists’ claims.

    The stultifying banality of “socialist realism” anywhere, and the gruesomely talentless and meaningless crap being peddled as art in the highly subsidized post-modern art scene in the west today, would clearly indicate to any sensible person that the state is the death of art, but, in plain fact, most people simply ignore 99.9% of it all, and it’s hard to blame them.

    Art is a totally human form of symbolic expression, appealing to both the mind and the emotions of the creator and the viewer. By its very nature, it is an individualistic enterprise on the part of the maker, who creates the piece out of his or her internal desires and needs, and even more so, in some ways, on the part of the viewer, who might react to one painting very powerfully, while being unmoved by myriad others.

    I happen to love, and enjoy on multiple levels, the work of the Impressionists. I recently read a very nice novel about Renoir’s painting of the luncheon of the boating party, and it repeatedly points out that he painted because he had to express what was inside him in a way that pleased his own esthetic, and rejected the dictates of the official Salon.

    Being a very visual person, I respond to the immediacy of their work, and am constantly reminded that their vision and talent is something I can enjoy, but not share or possess, just as I cannot possess the musical talents of the artists I enjoy in that medium.

    The rise of collectivist, subsidized art has had the same result as the influence of collectivism’s ideology in any area of human life—a crippling stultification of any artistic endeavor the ideology can touch, and the total debasement of the very idea of art in order to camouflage the destructiveness of the philosophy behind it.

    Some people, for very good and rational reasons, despise collectivism for its grand effects in so many large aspects of our lives, whether economics or politics or whatever.

    But I am a simple child, and what I see are the children who never receive the education they desperately require, who never develop a true appreciation of great art, or music, or literature, because they’ve been told that the crap they see and hear each day is art, so why bother?

    I see my ordinary neighbors struggling each day to afford the artificially inflated costs of living and raising their families, worried about jobs that disappear and are not replaced, trying to live in a culture that has increasingly turned against them, and has, instead, become the plaything of detached tranzis with no true values or loyalties beyond reaching a position of influence and staying there.

    Collectivist ideology is a form of gangrene—whatever it infects, it putrefies.

  • Julie near Chicago

    £200 for an opera ticket?:

    My father-in-law, a poor working-class immigrant from Germany, used to stand in line so as to be able to attend the opera in Germany. True, he sat in the Peanut Gallery, if he could get a seat at all, but he told us there was a large working-class attendance.

    He came to America in 1924. (I don’t remember how old he was then, but I think he’d have been right around 20.)

  • Tono-Bungay


    It is the underlying theme of the movie “The Lives of Others”, and is very clearly stated in “The Lost City”, to mention a couple of readily available artistic refutations of the collectivists’ claims.

    Alternately, you might refer people to the life of Isaac Babel and what “socialist realism” did for his writing (and him).

  • Nick BTF! Gray

    Paul, sorry to correct you, but the CIA recently admitted that they had funded some of the eccentric artistic movements in the USA, to ‘prove’ that the West embraced artistic freedom and expression, and the communist East didn’t. this was in the forties and fifties. That’s a kind of public government support. (I wonder if they funded the James Bond movies?)

  • Kevin B

    Julie, you will be pleased to know that you can still queue for cheaper tickets in the gods, (or buy on line in advance; the modern day equivalent) at ROH. A few tickets are priced at under a tenner but I’ve never seen these available, but a lot of seats in the gods go for £38.

    My point with the £196 top price ticket was that for three day’s wages the average guy can get the best seats at the opera and for many here it’s only a day’s wages. Excellent value in my opinion. What better entertainment than Coronation Street plots, sublime music and the greatest singers in the world. And if you can’t get there, they do occasional simulcasts in a cinema near you.

    It is of course shameful that Arts Council England subsidised the Royal Opera House to the tune of £26 million in 11/12, (although that includes the Royal Ballet), but that sum was £2 million less than in 10/11 and is being cut annually. That amounts to 24% of ROH income and I hope that the evil tories keep cutting into it or, better yet, that nasty Nige gets in and cuts the lot. ROH will survive and, I believe, thrive without sucking at the taxpayer’s teat and those enterprises that can’t survive the axing of Arts Council England don’t deserve to.

    Oh, and what vr said.

  • Paul Marks

    Interesting news Sam.

    veryretired and others – yes indeed.

  • Pat

    “How will the artist fare when The Ukip take over?”

    When.

  • Tono, Isaak Babel was one of those people who were devoured by the very system they helped create: a communist killed by communists. I find it hard to see that in less than karmic terms.

  • AndrewZ

    Perhaps the most significant thing about this article is that the editors of The Guardian are sufficiently worried about UKIP to think it worth running a stupid scare story about what might happen if they were in charge.

  • Jaded Voluntaryist

    Despite the sneers of the avante garde, I have long considered that one of the best artists of the 20th century was Norman Rockwell. He never needed an arts grant to flog his stuff.

    For the most part it looks nice on a living room wall, wont put you off your tea, and despite claims of being overly syrupy was often subtly but cleverly subversive.

    If the abolition of state funding for the arts results in more Rockwells and less Emins, I’m all for it.

  • Tono-Bungay


    Tono, Isaak Babel was one of those people who were devoured by the very system they helped create: a communist killed by communists. I find it hard to see that in less than karmic terms.

    Yes, that’s one way of viewing what happened to him, certainly.

    I’ll try positing another: Babel went through a variation of what voters in America go through every four years. That is, they elect a new president in the hopes that the new chap and his cronies will somehow be better than the old one and *his* cronies.

    (Naturally, once a presidental hopeful attains power, they are free to do whatever they wish.)

    So, yes, I agree that Babel was hoist with his own petard. However, speaking for myself, when I try to contemplate what life under the Czar must have been like, I am faced with the likelihood that I, too, might have been grasping at straws if a pedlar came around claiming to offer a better way of life.

    It appears to me that every new regime (elected or otherwise) is smiley-faced and sweet-smelling when they first show up on the scene. It’s only later (when the bodies start stacking up) that the hapless masses who backed them realize that hope has triumphed over experience yet again, and that the new lot are different from the old lot in name only. :/

    (NB: None of this is an endorsement of Communism. I’m only attempting to point out that the old gag Babel fell for isn’t all that much different than the one that voters in so-called “democracies” fall for on a regular basis in the present day.)

  • And unlike our contemporaries, Babel may have had even more of an excuse based on lack of precedence to learn from.

  • hennesli

    “If the abolition of state funding for the arts results in more Rockwells and less Emins, I’m all for it.”

    fairly unlikely considering how well artists such as Emin and Hirst have done out of the market.

  • PersonFromPorlock

    Rockwell’s America never existed, but there was once an America that wanted to believe it did – and that ‘wanting’ counts for something. Rockwell illustrated a shared ideal, brilliantly.

    —–

    Let’s keep in mind that much great art in the past was subsidized. But by individuals, not the state. It seems likely that if the state were to bow out, individual benefactors would step forward again.

  • Jaded Voluntaryist

    If this isn’t the most Samizdata-friendly Rockwell painting ever, I’ll eat my non-existent hat.

    Subtle, but oh so clever ;)

  • Mr Ed

    The child looking away, is he a future KGB Border Guard, looking for a long shot at a fleeing Kulak-peasant?

    Or is that what he was told to say by his parents should he be regarded as not being a ‘socially-friendly’ element?

  • ‘Twas ever thus, whether it was from the Florentine Camera, the Vatican Popes or Exxon/Mobil, many great artists have always required sponsorship of some kind, for the simple reason that great art is not necessarily popular art (which affords its creator sufficient income to ply his trade).

    Allow me, please, to offer the perspective of the artist in all this.

    I agree that the State has no business in sponsoring art; but speaking as a struggling writer myself, I have to admit that if a wealthy patron said, “Here’s a few grand; write a book about the Goblin Regiment in the modern British Army,” I’d take the money and write the thing even though fantasy novels give me a sharp pain in the balls. (Being a realistic kind of person, I find Tolkien, Lovecraft etc practically unreadable, just so everyone knows where I’m coming from.)

    This situation is abetted by publishers, who inform me that historically-accurate novels about 1900 Budapest will not sell, but neo-erotic works of nubile vampires and comely shape-shifters are what Today’s Reading Public will pay for. The fact that I can’t bring myself to write even a chapter of the latter nonsense condemns me to poverty as a writer; but if the Hungarian government were to offer me a few hundred spondulicks to write the Budapest novel, I’d grab it with both hands. Until such time, however, I’m doomed.

  • Julie near Chicago

    JV, I wonder if that was done as a commissioned “propaganda painting.” (Which would reflect ill upon neither its artistry, nor its “message,” nor Mr. Rockwell’s integrity.) In any case, you’re sure right about that.

    Mr. Ed, I prefer to believe the latter….

  • Jaded Voluntaryist

    Julie according to Wikipedia the painting was commissioned by look magazine as part of a series of articles on the soviet union. It was taken from an actual photo, but Rockwell added in the boy looking out the window. That act has been interpreted as a deliberate subversion of the photo and a statement in favor of non conformity.

  • What is the name of the painting JV?

  • Jaded Voluntaryist

    Russian Schoolroom, Alisa.

  • Tono-Bungay


    The child looking away, is he a future KGB Border Guard, looking for a long shot at a fleeing Kulak-peasant?

    Contemplating taking up pole vaulting and making a trip to the Berlin Wall as a young teenager, I should think.
    ;)

    At the risk of sounding flippant, communism’s chief offense (for me, at least) was the fact that it was so boring. I really feel for that young kid whose attention is drawn elsewhere and can only imagine what growing up under such a system must have been like.

  • It wasn’t, Tono. But I have to say that it did feel…futureless…

  • Tono-Bungay


    The fact that I can’t bring myself to write even a chapter of the latter nonsense condemns me to poverty as a writer; but if the Hungarian government were to offer me a few hundred spondulicks to write the Budapest novel, I’d grab it with both hands. Until such time, however, I’m doomed.

    If it’s any consolation, my limited understanding is that most writers are ‘doomed’ inasmuch as the gap between what they want to write about and what Today’s Reading Public is willing to pay for is unbridgeable in about 80% of cases (at least).

    Seriously: the next time you are talking with a publisher, ask him/her how many of the authors in his/her stable are writing for a living and how many are writing on the side (and must hold down day jobs in order to make ends meet). It’s possible I might the exact number wrong, but I should be very surprised indeed if the proportion they name isn’t a lopsided one.

  • Tono-Bungay


    It wasn’t, Tono. But I have to say that it did feel…futureless…

    Strangely enough, that’s the exact same sensation I feel living in the West these days. ;)

    (Oh, don’t mind me. I’m always like this when I run out of deep-fried Mars bars.) :(

  • Mr Ed

    I imagine life in the Eastern Bloc as having been like going to one long Labour Party Conference fringe meeting after the bar has closed, having only the carpet to eat, and listening to people who make you want to punch them make endless speeches denouncing the Tories, Capitalists, Bankers, Estate Agents, Landlords, Farmers and Americans and stressing the need for more Diversity and Equality, Peace and Foreign Aid, knowing that they only really want to start killing people, and knowing that they can, and they know that they will get away with it, if permission is given. However, they can’t ask for permission, they can only anticipate it, from the higher people in the Party who loathe them for their murderous insincerity and willingness to collaborate in their own enslavement.

  • Tono-Bungay


    It wasn’t, Tono. But I have to say that it did feel…futureless…

    By “futureless” do you mean “bleak” (i.e. palpably hopeless)? Or was it difficult to make any sort of emotional investment in the future in those times?

    Is there a book you could recommend that would give one a good feel for what living under communism was like in terms of day-to-day existence?

  • Tono, I was speaking purely from a child’s perspective, as this was the context (because of the painting), and because I myself left as a teenager. I really can’t relate any more from a personal standpoint of a child who had a fairly good childhood, but who nonetheless felt what I was looking for the most accurate adjective to describe, stopping at ‘futureless’. It didn’t feel hopeless or bleak, it felt like there was no future to imagine. I was interested in all kinds of things as child (most notably, medicine and linguistics, believe it or not). But my personal interests notwithstanding, when I tried to imagine what I would like to be doing, or who I would like to be like, or anything like that – there was nothing to imagine. And it did change drastically after I left. Mind you, I really am talking about a feeling, nothing that ever took a form or shape of an actual thought.

  • Nick BTF! Gray

    Alisa, I thought girls were good at expressing feelings! It’s us brutish men who can’t!

  • veryretired

    Years ago, a man of some distinction managed to escape the SU, and was interviewed after he had gotten to the US, and lived here for awhile.

    The interviewer asked the obvious “What’s the difference?” question, but the answer so startled him in its unexpected nature, that the interview just stopped for a few moments.

    The refugee said, “When you deal with anyone in authority under communism, they look at you with dead eyes set in faces of stone. Here, people have human faces.”

    All the good little progs are in a perpetual state of confusion and disappointment every time another collectivist dream crashes, just as it is now in Venezuela, or in the grotesque “100%” nightmare that is North Korea.

    It doesn’t fail because of poor implementation, or sabotage by wreckers, or some nebulous failure of will or spirit—it fails because it is inhuman at its very core, in its basic tenets and founding assumptions.

    It fails because, by its very nature, it is death for any human being to practice it.

  • Nick BTF! Gray

    An Australian wrote a good book, called ‘Designer Tribalism’, in which he showed that all these variants of communism are throwbacks to tribal ways. Perhaps some people are genetically more tribal, group-minded, than others?

  • Julie near Chicago

    Found it! Painted 1967. Thanks very much, JV!

    T-B, thank you for your questions to Alisa, and Alisa, thank you for your responses. I think you express yourself very well, because I have quite a vivid feeling of how your “futurelessness” must have felt.

    VR — which defector?

  • Tono-Bungay


    Mind you, I really am talking about a feeling, nothing that ever took a form or shape of an actual thought.

    Yes, I suppose that some feelings are really quite ineffable and there’s no way to know what they are like short of experiencing them yourself firsthand.

    I appreciate you giving it a try, though. :) I hope I didn’t come across as ‘putting you on the spot’ or anything like that. It’s just that most of the stuff written about the old Soviet Union tends to look at the extremes (e.g. life in the gulags) as opposed to the day-to-day stuff, hence my question.

    Thank you for the reply. [wave]

  • Very retired

    Sorry, Julie, don’t remember a name, just the striking comment. Probably back in the 70’s or maybe 80’s around Soltzyenitzen time. Sorry about butchering the spelling.

  • Julie near Chicago

    VR,

    On UT, I’ve seen Bezmenov, Kalugin, Maltsev, and I feel as though I’m forgetting a couple more. Anyway, I’m always interested in the defectors and other Soviet or Russian emigrés. Thanks for the remark, and for your reply. :>)

  • Mr Ed

    There is a book written by a Ukranian Soveit Army defector Viktor Suvorov (a pseudonym, as if ‘Andy McNab’ called himself ‘the Duke of Wellington’) called The Liberators which is a semi-autobiographical account of a junior officer’s life in the Soviet Army in the 1960s, including the invasion of Czechoslovakia.

    Suvorov has described life in the Army as freer than civilian life, he started his life in a village and could not leave without an internal passport so he had to blackmail and bribe his way out of the village and ended up in the Army. The book is very well written and translated, often blackly funny, and has many echoes for anyone who has ever been a civil servant.

  • Mr Ed

    Some ‘artists’ are already worried. The BBC worries about decriminalisation of the Licence Fee costing it £200,000,000, or should that be it will lose that much loot, as it will not ‘cost’ it anything, any more than locking my car costs a thief a chance to steal it.
    Weasel of the Day, the Rt. Hon. James Purnell

    Mr Purnell added downgrading licence fee evasion to a civil offence would penalise the poor.
    “Either you have a low penalty – in which case the evasion rates would go up and everyone would have to pay a higher licence fee – or a penalty which is higher and more difficult to pay,” he said.

    http://m.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-26542352

  • Julie near Chicago

    Mr. Ed, Suvorov, Icebreaker too. Thanks for the reminder … his books are on the list but as yet unread. :>(

    I’d like to read Gouzenko’s books, too. So little time, so much to read….

  • Julie near Chicago

    By the way, Wikipedia has a list of “Soviet and Eastern Bloc Defectors”:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Soviet_and_Eastern_Bloc_defectors

  • Tono, I left you another comment earlier today, but don’t see it here…oh well, I may try again tomorrow:-/

    (Editor’s note: hmmm, I don’t see anything pending from you in the spam filters!)

  • I know, I don’t recall seeing the moderation message either – I think I may have messed something up myself. In any case, I lost the momentum, so some other time…

  • Tono-Bungay


    In any case, I lost the momentum, so some other time…

    Understood. Even though the InterTubes ate your answering remarks, I’m grateful that you thought my jottings worth your while enough to try to respond to them nonetheless. [tips hat]