In the business world, art can be a fickle bitch (apologies to any readers whose names happen to be “Art” who may, indeed, be fickle bitches. Though I digress).
The corporatization (and monetization) of human artistic expression usually begins when the business world notices the work of an artist— because of their individuality, which engenders the “rarity” that gives their work value in the eyes of others. But too often the ham-handed corporate money men are incapable of recognizing the necessity of that individuality to the quality of the work being created, and mistakenly try to pigeonhole it into some pre-existing format so they can mass produce it and slap a price tag on it.
Whenever a new pipeline is created that funnels money between creators and consumers, the greedy and unscrupulous can always be expected to set up waystations at every bend in the route to siphon extra cash along the way. Once a corporation begins to regard their working artists less as a collective group of valued individuals and more as a faceless mass of silent nobodies, such excesses become commonplace. Those who manage such abusive companies might exhibit pangs of conscience, but they usually go right on dispensing douchebaggery in the traditional model of classic white liberal guilt: they tell everyone “how bad they feel” about what they do, but apparently don’t really feel bad ENOUGH to actually stop doing it.
Society conditions us to base our system of valuation on certain systemic variables: location, context, pre-assigned social expectation. But if we can’t peek around the filter of our sociological expectations, how can we correctly gauge what we see and experience? A beautiful masterpiece hanging on the wall of a shabby junk shop probably won’t be appreciated for its own merits by most who see it. Move it to the Louvre, and suddenly everyone extolls its obvious superiority. So… what changed the value of the painting? Only the context in which it appeared: the junk shop. NOT the individual artistic quality of the painting itself.
The suppression of personal individuality is perhaps the worst form of oppression we heap atop one another. Our modern social milieu suppresses the individual to a near-unfathomable extreme; conformity in lifestyle, philosophy, and religion are subliminally trumpeted as the highest goal of our collective society. But appreciation of individuality and the even-handed application of the law across all social boundaries are the interpersonal lubricants that enable us to thrive as an ordered, cooperative society (serving as a formal rejection of unjust suppression). We instinctively know when fair is fair, and collectively recoil when injustice is brought to light. The inevitable recognition of true worth, and the ultimate bestowal of its proper reward, permeates all our best myths. We take it for granted that the best of us will manage to live happily ever after.
Except we can’t be happy for long. Human psychology, shaped by instinctive evolutionary survival strategy, rewards our momentary happiness according to the law of diminishing returns. Our contentment fades, forcing us to regain it through some new means. Our happiness only comes in small doses for a limited time, after which— again— we must hunt. Perhaps happiness isn’t a “goal” at all; merely the fleeting reward we receive for achievement and the successful expression of our individual personality in defiance of anonymity.
We are ourselves artworks of our own creation. Price tags cannot define our worth.