The Commissioning of a Pamphlet Cautioning Against “The Artist’s Life”

In late 2017, a company called Stampout Creative was commissioned by the new chancellor to assist in eradicating the last of any delusional minds still seeking to pursue a “career” in the “arts.” It was the sight of several old people at a poetry reading, still clinging to the notion that their words were making a difference or being heard, that the chancellor happened to make an appearance at as a show of “good will” that prompted this sudden “benevolent toward humankind” urge.

Later that week, at a meeting he had called, at which his closest advisors and the most influential lawmakers were present, the chancellor explained, “I don’t know why it has been done in the past–encouraging children to believe in ‘dreams’ that will lead to their dispossession and financial ruin,” he began, stroking the left end of his mustache as he ruminated. “It’s one thing to allow ‘healthy expression’ in a school environment, but I find it shocking in its unnecessariness the extent to which teachers and parents persist in encouraging these moldable minds to further pursue these ‘goals’ when it’s very clear that there can be no source of good to come from it. Only crippling disappointment over not having achieved that which they were promised–self-actualization, or something. Fulfillment through the ‘meaning’ of art. Well, it stops now. And I want to make it this administration’s top priority to aid me in ending the incitement for people to create anything other than an economic upturn with the increased pocket money they’ll have from not pursuing art.”

The chancellor exhaled in near exasperation over the furor of intensity with which he just communicated his combined outrage and concern. And as he made way for a new definition of “fascist regime under the guise of giving people what they didn’t know they needed,” the poets and the fiction writers and the painters and the sculptors went about their day in the outside world, blissfully unaware that someone was about to save them. Specifically a team overpaid copywriters and graphic designers that would, in the future, be the only accepted form of “artists,” for at least their “art” yielded profit. That being said, Jeremy Horst, a 31-year-old originally from Baltimore, was given the task, as lead copywriter on the project, of coming up with a series of “clever” reasons for abstaining from the “artist’s life,” ones that would stick out in kids’ and adults’ minds alike and gradually permeate them so intensely that to ever admit to wanting to be an artist would be too great a source of shame and ostracism. With such an important responsibility at hand, Jeremy sat down at his ornately crafted glasstop desk to brainstorm some of the most succinct reasons for why becoming an artist was the worst possible life choice a person could make and/or have a predilection toward. Though he would never admit it now, he himself had once had dreams of being a novelist, the kind that would be on a bestseller list, but not the kind that had to be Stephen King to do it. More F. Scott Fitzgeraldian than that–elated prose that was also accessible to the masses, if you will. With this secret former aspiration in mind, Jeremy knew he wasn’t going to have much trouble completing this (very well paid) assignment quickly and easily.

After his assistant, a gaunt, angular-faced short-haired blonde twenty one-year-old, brought him a cappuccino to his specifications (light on the “froth,” soy milk, Kimbo coffee–purchased from abroad at the expense of the company–and in a cup no bigger than five inches in diameter), Jeremy felt ready to work. Staring at his screen for a brief moment before delving right in, he commenced to cut to the quick of what made wanting to be an artist so embarrassing and, in the long run, hollow:

“Choosing the ‘artist’s life’ will always, without fail, leave you destitute. The delusions of fame, accolades, respect or anyone even absorbing your art in a fashion not consumable in under thirty seconds should never be succumbed to. For your own safety, the preservation of what dignity you have to begin with as an average citizen, do not seek to live out the falsely glamorized notions of what it means to be an ‘artist.’ Whether it’s writing, painting, collaging–or, worst of all, performance art–the importance of suppressing these urges cannot be overestimated.”

Jeremy paused momentarily to envision what sort of graphic might be placed underneath this first block of copy. He made a note in his email to suggest a homeless person begging for money, the ultimate visual manifestation of what would always become of the true artist. The one who wouldn’t compromise his integrity for the sake of being “edited” by a member of the last of the patrons–the ilk that themselves cannot create but somehow believe their opinion on how to “improve” something is valuable, since they themselves offer no value in this realm other than money. After finishing his visual suggestion for copy block one, Jeremy dove back in.

“If it’s awe and appreciation you believe will come of choosing the ‘artist’s life,’ you’ll be met with a perpetual dead end. Blocked at every turn by lack of job opportunity for such ‘inventiveness’ of your kind. Unless, of course, you pursue the government-approved creative fields of copywriting or graphic design.” Jeremy took another luxuriant sip from his five-inch cup before proceeding once more. “Those who chase down the ersatz fantasy of what it means to ‘be an artist’ will also be ten times more likely to die alone, never having a chance at finding a romantic match as a result of their lack of financial viability. For no one is attracted to someone blatantly poverty-stricken–with tatters in their clothes and holes in their shoes. It most assuredly does not make for an ‘attractive mate,’ and everyone will be able to tell that you have nothing of monetary worth to offer, for a significant other can’t prosper on a poem alone, or at all.”

Jeremy stopped once again to make the suggestion of adding a man offering a crumpled up piece of paper to a woman looking disgusted and perplexed. “The number of disadvantages to chasing down the ‘artist’s life’ cannot be overexaggerated. In addition to being poor and loveless, you will also suffer from no one remembering who you are, generating no legacy–as you so hope to with your ‘art’–as a result of becoming a lonely, miserable soul clinging every day to the vain hope that someday–any day now–the right person will recognize your genius and come banging down your door to help you promote your ‘work.'”

Jeremy let out an unwitting sigh of self-satisfaction over just how vitriolic he could be toward an artist. To further go for the artist’s jugular, Jeremy added, “Yoko and John might have once said ‘Woman Is the Nigger of the World,’ but the truth is ‘the artist’ is the nigger of the world.” Jeremy knew the chancellor wouldn’t mind veering toward such blatant racism and fierce fear-mongering if it meant expunging the final vestiges of any artistic inclinations. That night, when he went home, the gratification of having almost single-handedly (apart from the chancellor) decimated any smidgen of hope for furthering the already feigned fostering of the “artist’s life” overtook him. He felt all at once a combined sense of overpowering sadness and relief. And then, he walked into his closet, pushed aside the rack filled with all of his suit jackets and opened a safe containing the manuscript he had relegated to the back burner long ago to seek out greener pastures (as in money, green for a reason because it paves the way toward a greener pasture always).

******

It only took about one year to notice the palpable difference the forceful and dogged distribution of the pamphlets had made in the global climate. Jeremy even heard that an underground enclave had to be started to foster those of the “art” community that still remained, concealing their intentions because of how effectively Jeremy had inflicted a sense of humiliation upon anyone left. Then again, he only knew this because he was the founder, and it had perhaps been his underlying intention all along to prevent others from making art so as to, as his creative agency was called, stamp out all competition, so that when the time was right, he would emerge as the only artist on the planet to turn to when people at last discovered that they had gone bankrupt in a far more detrimental manner.

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