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What would you like to do?
About an artist after scarcity.

The Artist, Aftward

Imagine with me: you are an artist in a post-scarcity world. You work across mediums, producing whatever sparks your interest. What scarcity exists in the world is a shared burden and is not weaponized or monetized, so that need is effectively abolished. There are still exchange mediums, dollar-likes that subcultures and regional associations use as fungible tokens, but their purviews are solely those things that do not pertain to survival, if only because the permanent price of those goods -- such as food or housing or medicine -- is zero.

But you, an artist, do not produce works for survival. You express yourself through your art for your own reasons, because that is what you want to do.


If you have ever lived in a capitalist society, you might be thinking, "How is it possible to provide a good life for everyone? Who pays for it?" The short answer is everyone, naturally. The principle economic question facing a society is, "How can we get what we have to where it is needed?" and this can be answered with as many rationales as there have been societies in the universe. Economies have organized on gift-giving and senses of social responsibility for tens of thousands of years, often to great success at considerable scale, and it is not naive to suspect that with all our discoveries in all that time that we could achieve at least the same.

Capitalist propaganda urges you to accept that it is the only viable path to guarding the welfare of all people, but we all know it's a lie. Whose welfare does it guard, when the only backstop for the rest of us is death of exposure? The trouble I encounter often is that even if people accept salient criticism of capitalism or voice it themselves, they still believe that there is no real alternative. They shy from speculation out of despair. They mumble something about how communism failed, or the absolute anarchy of burning everything down. But even those things are capitalist propaganda. Communist thought continues to inspire egalitarian movements and ambitious societies around the world, and no serious revolutionary desires merely to destroy. The revolution, the permanent one that strives everlong, is about creating something new and better, always and forever. But during a time of monsters, struggle is necessary to birth that world.

Capitalism in America has fomented a mass failure of imagination in order to create an illusion of its everlasting inviolability. It is crucial now that Americans embrace the inquiry prompted by the apparent and accelerating abandonment by governments of their mandates of governance. The dread sweeps up into your chest whenever you think about it, that you are inside of the dead cat as it falls; that you are waiting for it to bounce. All the visions in your head about that future, about balkanization and civil war and thermonuclear annihilation, are possibilities that will play out over decades. We must answer the questions of right now: how do we protect and provide for each other in this time of perpetual crisis? The reality of needing an answer, for yourself and your community, will drive you through the despair you were taught to feel. Once you accept that other ways are possible, the doors of your mind will open and you will find that answer.

Art After Rent

You have a roof. Your fridge is plugged in and full besides. The commissary down the block is always well-stocked and the clerks never mention payment. A rail network can take you all over Turtle Island, should you ever feel the call. A local artist association maintains infrastructure like a printworks and tool library, which is open to the public.

There are a few types of scrip you keep, for the societies-within-societies that you frequent. They represent certified favors, obligations, or shares. Sometimes they are just cool and that is the sum of their explanation. Sometimes you trade them for artisinal things, objets d'art of all forms, and in turn people trade you them for your works. These tokens do not rule anything at all, but they still lubricate the edges between people and peoples. Myriad are the moments, however, when evaluating a thing in scrip is considered gauche or outright propertarian. Some things should belong to no one.

But whether to trade a work for scrip is always an open question. You are fed, housed, and in general your needs are in good care. You don't need scrip to live. You could make a run of zines, print a thousand stickers, paint a wall, syndicate a story to the world entire, whatever you might wonder, essentially to your heart's content. Perhaps you accept commissions for scrip, or on barter, or you maintain an open free queue just for the heck of it. You work as much as you want, on what you want, and still the work you do for others is compensated to whatever degree you prefer. In general you don't charge scrip because it limits access, and you do not express yourself for the few. Or perhaps you do, and you have your own relationship to what scrip means; no one would stop you because scrip has no power over life and death. The choice is always yours, to a degree that is unknown under capitalism.

Art Under Rent

There is a myth that artists are failing to be compensated fairly today, in a unique fashion uniquely addressed by yet another blockchain scam, NFTs or Non-Fungible Tokens. As is always the case, scammers fool whales into paying for a database entry, but the especial cruelty this time is that the object referred to in the entry is already a scarcity-immune good: a digital image. This is property fetishization, brazen and damning.

The underlying reality that artists are not being compensated fairly is unfortunately true of all labor under capitalism, and this grows more acute every year. Mass death is normal now, and the sudden absence of near a million workers is astonishingly misread as a sudden apathy for work. Never have the most crucial jobs been more deadly. Capital's axiomatic threat, work or die, has finally ascended to work and die. Colonialism's deadliest child wears a mask of gore, the subject of a death cult more vicious than any before it. The cruelty of this age is wanton. Inshallah it ends swiftly.

The solution is not a scam. The solution is a transformation of the basis of production, of social relation, of the very way of things. Let the scale of it terrify you. Don't dance around how little has to change, because everything has to change. What afterward resembles before will seem uncanny, even out of place; alien and alone in a landscape of compassion and solidarity. Confront your discomfort and accept the totality of this moment, this crucial and decisive instant in the collective now. Sail across the ocean of your trepidation and seize the resolve your dreams demand.

As the prevailing order unravels, two threads glint in the dissolving braid: the world after, and the world to come. See the good and feel the hope in that future that follows all our hard work, the bright and vivid sensations of unthinkable delights and anxieties unknown. Prepare for the future that precedes it, for it is dire indeed. We will have to stand together if we want to survive, if we want to plant the seeds for those who come after, and they after them. The bounty of that far-off harvest begins with us and our sacrifice. The transformation starts with you and I.

But comrade, I believe in us. Believe with me.

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