I'm a multi-disciplinary artist living and working in Brooklyn. Posting what I make and what I see. Also: manbartlett.com
As much as I want to be at Liberty Plaza right now, I am stuck in my studio. Glued to my phone and its updates, but needing to keep working and hustling to try to find a few hundred dollars before: my studio landlord loses his patience (I still owe him $100 for Oct rent), my phone is shut off (owe ~$200), my website is turned off (overdue hosting fee of $190.80). All of which are pretty imminent. My current account balances total somewhere around $70, with no idea of when the next sale/check might come. There are always a few things on the horizon, and there are. But at the moment that horizon feels pretty far out.
Why am I sharing this?
First: I AM NOT COMPLAINING OR WHINING. I am making these choices. These are facts that I share as information. To attempt to close a gap between the perception of this artist and the current financial reality of this artist. And to be clear, finances aside, I have an amazing life. I am happy. Culturally rich. Financially poor.
I AM NOT LOOKING FOR A HANDOUT. I am looking for a radically new way of approaching my existence on this planet. I haven’t quite found that yet, but I am making a lot of observations about how I don’t want to be.
I’m becoming increasingly weary of the smoke and mirrors game in some sections of the art world. We are rewarded on our perceived value. It’s speculative. Even if you’re not in a big market we are valued based off of an essentially fabricated reality. I’ve been hustling the last few years and have had some amazing professional opportunities and a ton of support from amazing people, despite not having gallery representation. Some of this has been a result of how well I sell the positive cheery “Man Bartlett,” and some of this has been carried on the backs of how you perceive “Man Bartlett.” I don’t know how much has been a result of the actual work I’m making, which is the reason I’m still doing this at all. I’d like to think a majority, but I am not that naive. We all have agendas, to varying degrees, but I BELIEVE in the work. Fiercely. I’m willing to set off some smoke and angle some mirrors because of this belief. And I’ve structured my life around being able to be as lean as possible to see those beliefs through.
But above all, I should be accountable, responsible and transparent. After all, that is what I’m/many of us are asking of the corporations (specifically banks) who have so royally fucked us over, and of the politicians on both sides of the aisle who have helped them. To that end, while I’m coming out I didn’t pay my taxes in 2009 or last year because I am afraid to, and lack the means and desire to have someone help me sort it out. Afraid I wouldn’t be able to afford what I owe. I think about this on a near daily basis. It weighs on my chest. Yet until recently I’ve been able to better compartmentalize it.
What’s been mulling around in my head ever since I started checking out the #OWS protests, is the commodification of ideas. And specifically the idea of art as commodity. For some reason, the commodity is bothering me a lot more recently. Seeing the latest auction numbers made me a little more sick to my stomach. Powhida, Dalton, Ben Davis and many others have talked about it at great length, maybe I’m finally coming around. Or maybe I’m just getting bitter and need a break from everything. By tomorrow I could be singing roses and drawing hearts. Today I’m ready to fold. But not before I post this. ;)