Over the past few weeks I have watched as a bizarre hostage situation of sorts has played out on social media. An acclaimed professional in my field (inasmuch as an “acclaimed professional” in the arts is simply the person most visible and most conforming to the young-girl archetype) has been posing a series of utterly inane questions to the creatives who follow her: what inspires you? How do you like to create? What kind of equipment has improved your process? Invariably a gaggle of older, white, monied, gadget-flush men respond in earnest. I cannot possibly bring myself to care about their answers, because they are categorically irrelevant to me, and I suspect the industry professional can’t either. These answerers are, however, the people who dole out the most money to people like us when we are able to create work. The line of questioning, then, appears to be less about obtaining useful information than it is about interrogation procedure.
Establish rapport. Through rapport establish control. A source that goes silent is lost for good. Keep them on your side.
Now that we live in quarantine, the role of the industry professional is exclusively confined to networking, because the industry itself cannot take place. We are expected to cling to relevance, to repost old work with optimistically musing captions, to engage in meaningless, where’s-the-beef dialogue in the hopes of securing future work whenever our uncertain timeline allows. “You’re stuck here with me, and the me you are stuck here with is a facsimile designed for your interest,” this display says. It is unfiltered old-world nostalgia: the assumption that industry will continue uninterrupted when going outside no longer kills people. The assumption that one can continue to enjoy the same safety, financial security and validation that being in the public eye afforded before, even though the public eye is radically redefining itself. The assumption that keeping the smiling veil of capitalist inanities up is the key to successfully weathering a global catastrophe. The reality of our situation is stagnation; stagnation is uncomfortably close to death. The charade of old-world productivity is a USO cigarette girl doting on our pleasure as the world burns. Sound of Nero fiddling in the distance.
I am clearly not a fan of networking or its function. I am blunt to a fault; I am unwilling to compromise my ideological purity by lying; it is too obvious when I want things. My work can speak for itself. If I need things I can ask for them outright, because I’m not a sociopath. I am fully in favor of letting the veil come down. The freelance assignments I have taken on in quarantine have grated; I grow incensed that someone expects me to serve them and not myself during this time. The theatre of capitalist performance has finally given me a respite, and you expect me to pull myself out of the wings and act out normalcy for you? Why am I to pretend that your interest in me is significant? Because it enforces extant power structures, which are the only things that make you feel valuable? What do I get out of it? Money? I can get money by means that don’t turn me into a sham. I don’t want to take on work that doesn’t acknowledge the reality of myself and the current situation. Any work produced in that state will be fundamentally valueless. It can’t exist in a vacuum, with my soul sucked out, safely outside the glass. The assumption that I will be desperate as to play along is a loaded one. It assumes reductiveness along gender and class lines: who gives money and who receives it, who employs and who is employed, who is secure and who is insecure, who is willing to compromise their integrity in exchange for security.
If my choices are irrelevance or self-obliteration, I’m taking irrelevance.