Mark Pritchard, 26 January 2014

Subverting and avoiding the Economic Rationalism in my art practice

(Sunday Session 1, Ant Group)

Initiator: Mark Pritchard [email protected]

Preamble: This provocation comes in the context of the many important conversations

about money, financial transparency, and economics. I gave it as an alternate lens,

without wanting to devalue the importance of those conversations.


We looked at the possibility of shifting the way we thinking about the

payments/costs/benefits of art practice. We need to be paid in more ways than the

financial, and we are benefiting ourselves and others in ways that are more than

financial. We expressed a desire to raise the value conversation above economics.

We articulated the possibility that talking about money makes us very un-generous in

many ways.

“When I’m working in the industry I need to get paid money”

… so when are we not in the industry? Words like amateur, community,

non-professional, emerging, volunteer, and fringe are thrown around, and these words

have the capacity to value and devalue the art that we make under those banners.

… what do we get paid in when we’re ‘not in the industry’? Happiness, appreciation,

artistic enrichment, fulfilment, professional development, therapy, self-expression,

cultural development, amusement, community engagement. Why and how does the

financial benefit become the bottom line when we enter the industry? How can

something be taken seriously without being commodified?

… what do I not get paid in when I work in the industry? How are the other sectors

more enriching than the industry? Do we realise when we don’t get paid the things we

actually want to get paid in? How do we lose them and how can we get them back?

… why is getting paid and being in ‘the industry’ the holy grail of art practice?

Sometimes you watch a piece of theatre and you genuinely feel like the artist has

GIFTED the work to you. You feel GENEROSITY.

—- Related to this point, there was a suggestion that there can also be nobility in

being ‘indebted’. There’s a piety and humility that comes with this idea.

The obsession with money can bring that right down.

Getting paid can actually be dehumanising. If I got paid for sex I would think about sex


I appreciate when we share food in a creative process. I appreciate sharing a glass of

wine with my collaborators after rehearsals. I appreciate sleeping in when I know that

I’ll do much better work afterwards. I don’t like being forced to take a break when the

schedule says I should. I appreciate hearing from the artists after the show is closed. I

appreciate pulling an all-nighter because we want to rewrite it. I like doing work that is

important to all of us, work that isn’t just a job. I can feel the difference between a

paycheque and genuine gratitude. I appreciate being appreciated. Is it possible to set

a ‘minimum wage’ for the non-monetary things I need to be paid?

Who are the players in this conversation about value?

- Audiences

- Funding bodies

- Landlords

- Producers

- Artists

- Bystanders

- My friends who don’t work in the arts and think I haven’t made it yet

Because the world is run in the language of economics, we need to be able to

articulate ourselves in that language. Art is not about money, and we need to lift the

conversation up above economics. It’s difficult to articulate in a climate of economic

rationalism, but other sectors actually envy how much non-monetary wealth we earn,

and can get better about arguing how much non-monetary value we contribute to our


***We’re not here to make money. We’re doing it because we believe in it, we get

something else out of it, so lets get good at talking about that too. ***

In collaborations

Finance is only part of the conversation. When I see a job posted on Ideas Tap, and

can see how much money you’re going to pay me, but its hard to see what else you’re

going to pay me. Do you actually want to collaborate with me, or do you just want me

to support you? Both are valuable, but I want to know. How much

time/love/creativity/knowledge/etc can you afford to pay me? You say it’ll be a good

learning experience but what does that mean? Will you want to have a glass of wine

after rehearsals? Are you a good cook?

Are we effectively and consistently talking about the non-financial ways in which we

should demand to get paid? Can we say “I’m getting paid, but I’m not getting


We also find intrinsic value in doing work. We don’t want these benefits to become

weapons used to argue for us not being paid, but we want to acknowledge that they

are real tangible parts of the transaction. How do we make sure that when we are

getting paid, that we don’t stop pursuing and giving the other things we expect?

“I left the acting profession when it lost that generosity. When I was only getting paid in


“I generally find artists outside the theatre paradigm (like live art, performance art,

gaming) to be a lot more generous than people in the theatre”

Some references that came up, for you to explore at home:

- Nassim Nicholas’ idea of the Anti-Fragile. He argues that big economies are more

fragile than small economies. Can we strengthen the local bartering aspects of what

we do? The small economy of exchange and mutual benefit that happens within the

collective can be forgotted when we look at the bigger economies (like money).

- The President of Uruguay

- The Transition Movement

- BMQ have stopped releasing their annual profits alone, they now list all the things

they gained in the year.

- Mary Miller’s DCMS Speech on Wed 22nd January, in which she totally changed the

language she was using around this debate

Within this consideration of other currencies of exchange, can we stop considering

funding bodies as sponsors as jut cash registers? When is in-kind support better than

money? What else can the give? And what unspoken things are we receiving when

they give us money?

MONA in Tasmania is particularly interesting as a case study – it receives no

government funding, its completely self-funded by the owner David Walsh, and it has

so much more authenticity and generosity – and generosity towards it - than any

gallery I’ve ever visited.

In the public sphere in particular, how can we talk about these values without

becoming airy-fairy? We can all talk about the intrinsic value of walking into a

rainforest, but not about the value of art.

When we talk about theatre we don’t effectively capture the qualitative value of the

experience. STATISTICS NEED TO BE SCRAPPED. We’re never going to be able to

comparatively measure this stuff. Can we make videos of value for arts and culture to

capture the quality of the experience – that might speak louder.

No one questions the value of someone carrying the Olympic torch. They’re not in it

for the money.

Maybe there’s also worth in talking about how the artist is enriched by the process of

making a work. We enjoy a sportsperson doing well, we want to be around them,

model ourselves after them, absorb their success and learn from their ethos. Their

successes and failures are our successes and failures. We win when our team wins.

Scientists also have a great television presence. TV scientists do a lot for the public

appreciation of the inherent value of science.

How do we/should we get people to have a patriotic stake in “arts and culture”?


Mark Pritchard


Kevin Shen

Li-E Chen

Dan Hutton

Amelia Bird

Jonathon Petherbridge

Alex James

Oana Catalina Mihai

And other bees, butterflies, and anonymous players