The Body as a Commodity

Issue #09: The Money Issue

Although we can’t deny our inextricable compliance in and reliance on systems of money and capitalism and the commodification of the performance arts, no matter how indirectly, we can relish in the idea of the capitalist-free body – even if you do need to stretch your imagination to get there. But I guess that’s part of it. Creativity is the future.

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I was recently told at a Creative Arts Career panel at uni, designed to help us on our career pathways, that ‘Creativity is the future.’[1] We were congratulated for our choices in our studies and our forthcoming careers. I promptly gave myself a pat on the back, smiling widely before the thought dawned on me (my smile faltering a little): ‘What happens to ‘art’ and ‘creativity’ when it is institutionalized, mechanized and potentially swallowed and used by the machine of capitalism? Or it is this a positive growth, an inflation, a step in the right direction? The thing that we artists have all be waiting for! As we stomp our feet and cry out loud… Hurrah! Capitalism!’ Okay, okay, a little far, but you catch my drift…

What exactly does happen when we attach money to art? Does the concept of ‘money’ and ‘riches’ actually work with art? Money seemingly does not make art constitutive, unlike other things in the world. Money seemingly does not make performance art constitutive. However, unfortunately there is an inextricable, indirect link in most aspects of Western life between capitalism and money.

Can we look at the performing arts as a commodity? Yes, unfortunately. Indirectly, we have to. I am currently sitting on a pile of imaginary and real Fee-HELP debt which I am happily accruing whilst I complete my degree in a creative, performing arts discipline. I also fork out money for shows, classes and body work. I also feed and water my body; nourishing it with a weather-proof house, and a warm bed. Although the direct act of performance art is hard to pin down due to its ethereal, ineffable nature, the movements of life around it place performance arts in an indirect relationship with money.

Adversely, the ineffability of live performance, also make it the hardest to pin down directly as a commodity. It happens in an instant and then it is gone, leaving us with a resonance of an experience. It is entirely of the body, which apart from the essentially external reliance on money and goods, exist without money. Theoretically, from conception, to birth, to movement through space – the body can exist without a singular monetary exchange. Stretching our mind to the idea of a ‘capitalist-free’ body, we can view performance art as a sense of freedom from these rules, regulations and ideas that keep our economy flowing in a certain direction. It is an artistic experience of the body – the ‘capitalist-free’ body.

Furthermore, we can consider the money to performance art relationship as a structured improvisation. The money is the structure and the freedom of speech, while expression is the improvisation. There are financially concerned concepts and ideas in place to stop you from floundering around in the space going ‘gah gah,’[2] however, you have the ability to artistically say, do and make whatever you want. Performance art exists as a glimpse and chance of freedom from the shackles of capitalism, which is the beauty and place of art in our money-driven society. It becomes an opportunity to think and take time to look around, use your brain, feel your body, and experience the world around you through your own experience and your own body.

Although we can’t deny our inextricable compliance in and reliance on systems of money and capitalism and the commodification of the performance arts, no matter how indirectly, we can relish in the idea of the capitalist-free body – even if you do need to stretch your imagination to get there. But I guess that’s part of it. Creativity is the future. Performance arts in our lives, and in our society, provide an opportunity for thought, provocation, independence and freedom amongst the red tape of capitalism and the commodification of experience and life. Long live the arts (even post George Brandis)!

 


[1] Prof. M Allen, Head of Arts & Education, 31 August 2015.

[2] Brown, T & Brunel, L unknown year, l’atelier des choregraphes, Éditions Bougé, Paris: 22