I’ve been thinking about something and I’m really fucking angry about it. I’m angry about Capital A Art. Art made into money maker. Art made into pontificating on a BBC documentary. Art made into summer insta moments whilst pretentiously making some statement on climate change.
Why is it that I often feel like I never see actual poor people, like me, in art galleries. Why don’t I see kids from different backgrounds in galleries? People who’ve got no money. Kids who’s mums and dads haven’t got any money. And I know, ur gonna say that you can’t tell when people are poor, or from a council estate or from the shit bit of the village, or the city, or from the big fat poncy houses on the Woodstock road when they’re in a gallery space..
Well you bloody can if you’re standing in the Olafur Eliasson show and a dad turns to his son and says: “oh hugo won’t it be lovely when you can tell all your new friends at Harrow that you came to see this show”
Despite the constancy of being told so, access to culture has not been made available to all. People in poverty, people from working class backgrounds, people without more than a secondary school education, are made to feel like art isn’t for them. Accessibility is a huge issue – as @cioconnor v. eloquently put in her massive twitter thread about disabled access at the Tate, that you should definitely read. Institutions rarely think about anything outside of the middle ground. This means anyone functioning at that level and above accesses things without any hindrance without realising their privilege. Anyone operating below this middle bar, either financially, educationally, on the basis of ability, or LITERALLY ANYTHING that means you find going to an exhibition d i f f i c u l t is at a huge disadvantage.
Further to this, the institutions which showcase art are actively made inaccessible to people without money, education, or free time.
This is, I think, because of three things:
- the language used by the institution, the way the exhibitions are set up, and the prices for the paid exhibitions are engineered in a way to make art hard to access. I’m not saying we need to “dumb down” art – because working class does not equate stupidity. But I do think there needs to be less of an expectation that everyone in the world is gonna enjoy the stuffy, middle class, and quite frankly gate keeping way we talk about art. Like it’s church, or capital or something. Art is everything, and we should be able to talk about it like it was last nights episode of love island bc it isn’t far off most of the time.
- Exhibitions are stupid expensive. How can u expect a family of five to take all their kids to go and see an exhibition at the tate when it costs £20 each for adults and can be another £15 for three kids? Even if you’ve got less kids, or there’s only one of you – sometimes finding £18 for an exhibition is too much. Esp. where the concessions price is £17 which is a MEASLY £1 discount. £18 is a weekly food shop for some people, man.
- WHO has actually got time to go see a show, tho? Yeah yeah yeah – I know ‘you’ve got to make time for art’ – but if you’re working three jobs, or your job is physical and takes all the drive out of you and on your days off you’re recuperating – or you’ve a young family and taking care of them takes up all your time – please tell me when you’re able to experience art and culture for yourself in an institutional environment? Tell me. Mark it out on a calendar or something. I need to know.
Capitalism has made art a commodity. And it shouldn’t be. It’s for everyone. It’s a vital resource that everyone should be able to access without bars.
The fundamentals for a life without poverty are five things:
- A job and the necessary education
- Time to spend not doing your job or learning things directly to do with your job.
Without free time we’re not out of poverty.
Without a job we’re not out of poverty.
Without adequate housing (a home. Not a ‘unit’) we’re not out of poverty
Without healthy food we’re not out of poverty.
Without adequate clothing we’re not out of poverty.
TIME is something that’s not addressed. Time. so simple – let’s get everyone back in work again by giving them 0 hour contracts and unstable working situations… but that means no one can have any time to DO anything because they might be called upon to pick up a shift. or they might lose vital hours at work so they don’t have enough money to do anything.
time is so important. It literally IS money to a lot of people. The phrase isn’t just an old saying. I don’t get the bus to work bc If i did I may as well have not worked for half an hour that day. I ride my bike. I could take time off work to go see an exhibition – but I also could b at work earning more money to feed myself and to pay my rent. I worked out once that my rent costs 3 weeks of work. I only have one week of work to spend on myself and that’s also eaten up by bills. An exhibition at the Tate is two hours work for me. If I was on minimum wage it would be three.
Art should be there to alleviate the pain of living life. To reflect you back to yourself. To show you something new. To change your world view. To be beautiful. To make you cry. To make you hate it. To be ugly. To be amazing. To be fucking awful. It shouldn’t cost you three whole hours of your working day. An Exhibition should cost you one hour at the most.
What can we do about it, I hear you ask. We’re not legislators or big important people. But that’s just the point. The big important people are few. There aren’t very many of them simply because they don’t like to share. There are loads of us. Loads. Who don’t have any money, who don’t have any time, and who can’t do anything aside from scratch out a measly little living on the surface of earth. Life is about so. Much. more. Than that.
The Art World talks about art like it’s church. There’s a reason no one goes to church any more (apart from those of us who do but like that’s not v. many of us tbh) less than a million people turn up to their local CofE churches. English Christianity has a certain kind of doctrinal language about it that alienates people. I think that The Art World does the same thing. It’s like putting the bible in Latin when we talk about art using the next big word, the next big movement. It’s like saying ‘dont ask too many questions. Just believe. Believing is most important even if you doubt your belief.’ If God is real u should be able to question him. If Art is real (i am using capitals here. Capital G God. Capital A Art) then you should be able to question it and you shouldn’t be shouted down because you don’t know what the difference between Pop Art and Op Art is.
My sister’s a mum of three with a full time job and full time child care commitments. She literally doesn’t care about hauntology. She doesn’t know who Derrida is. She doesn’t care that Foucault is really important when you’re trying to understand Y or Z artist. What she does know if that she likes David Hockney and she thinks Rothko is beautiful and it would be really nice for her if she could see more art. I have friends I’ve known for years, who I’ve worked in Bars with, or in Sainsbury’s with, or at McDonalds with who all LIKE art when they look at it, but always said stuff like: “art is boring”, “art’s rubbish”, “art’s for girls, “I just don’t get art”. I used to think I didn’t get art. In my first year of uni i had this weird chip on my shoulder that I just didnt understand how you could read a painting because its not a book and thats because people spoke about art in a way that alienated me. People didn’t talk about books like that because books had stories. I could read them and feel things. I felt things when I looked at paintings, but I couldn’t understand the way people spoke about them.
One day it clicked in my head. I went to see some art show with my mum and we talked about art, and I realised paintings are like books and really there’s no fundamental difference between them. Everything is art. Music is art. Books are art. Installations are art. Life is art. You don’t need to understand this way of talking about art, that you get taught at university like it’s some big boys club and suddenly you’re allowed in, in order to LIKE art. Art is just there to be looked at and thought about and it’s okay if you don’t understand it because the artist is dead anyway what do you think about it. What does it make you think about. What does it make you feel? There is no understanding art. Art just IS.
If I’m honest, and this is one hell of an admission, I don’t think I really thought about thinking about art until I watched Mona Lisa Smile and realised that art isn’t stuffy old boys talking about the portraits of kings and queens, or paintings of boats. That you don’t need to regurgitate a textbook in order to look at art and think about it and E N J O Y I T
You shouldn’t need a masters in contemporary art theory from goldsmiths, and a big bank balance to take yourself and maybe your family to the tate to look at some paintings or some sculptures or any fucking thing thats on at a big museum somewhere. Even small places alienate normal people. You’re going to look at art to learn something about art. To feel something about art. To love it. To hate it. To have your mind changed by it.
If you already KNOW everything why would you even bother going to an art gallery?
Who fucking cares?
The more we keep art out of compulsory education. The more we tell people it’s not important. The more it becomes a “rich people thing”. The more people think it’s not for them. The more thay think it’s not important because it’s not business, because it’s not going to serve them any purpose in getting a job and being a good cog in the wider machine of “nation”.
Art is for everyone. Whether it’s a stupid sculpture in the middle fo a room. Or a painting of clouds that makes you cry. or , i don’t know, it can be literally ANYTHING. A poem that describes how you’re feeling. A piece of video installatio that makes you question your humanity. Something that shows you how someone you thought was completely different to you is actually fundamentally the same. Feels the same. Has the same responses.
The more we make art divisive. The more we stop and hinder people from being able to access it freely. The more enclosed and inhibited society becomes.
Art is for men who drive lorries.
Art is for kids who like football.
Art is for girls who climb trees
Art is for girls who like to go clubbing
Art is for swimming teachers
Art is for boys who aren’t v. cool. but is also cool enough for cool people.
Art is for single parents
Art is for the unemployed
Art is for those with six jobs
Art’s probably there for billionaires too, but they mostly own it all ANYWAY.
Art is for kids and mums and dads and aunts and uncles and grannies and granddads who’re just getting by.
And I am angry that right now it’s not being made available to everyone.