A distinction I often make, to explain why an artist feels differently and prioritizes differently (or should).
And, as I have come to realize today, will probably also respond differently to crisis (or should!),
is by comparing artists to the other group, one I have called “builders and sustainers”.
Which are two groups;
The builders on one hand, who may even be creators but because the only acceptable direction of that creation is upwards (and not downwards) they are not creators in an artistic sense.
But creators in a productive sense.
And the other group are the sustainers or the service providers.
They are there to make sure everybody’s assets, including their bodies, are taken care of or even upgraded.
In theory, or globally, there is an equal amount of builders and sustainers necessary, but with many labor/”partial builders” being relocated to Asia and other low-income countries, more sustainers are needed than builders.
At least in the west.
We do not build our own products, but we are still dependent on the caretakers of our society being physically present.
However, because the majority of the service industry is work that used to be done by women, which means for a long time free or unpaid or it was not done for example education for everyone;
The costs of sustaining something, or providing services to those who did not have those in the past, are usually not calculated.
Nor let’s say “happily paid”.
This is one of the major flaws of capitalism;
Everything that was done by slaves or women 2000 years ago, or for people who would have been slaves or marginalized in those times, is still underpaid and undervalued to this day.
Knowing all that, it is perhaps no surprise that within this group of builders and sustainers, which we will refer to as “normal society”, they’ve got a lot on their minds as it is.
Even if we don’t start counting in Roman times, but take the industrial revolution as a starting point of modern society, one can see the improvements that were made did not come from an artist making a beautiful escapist painting that made people forget their worries.
They came from people starting revolutions, refusing to leave until the thing was sorted.
Or it came from artists who were knee-deep into politics, and who did not provide a band-aid for the soul;
They gave you a sledge hammer to tear the institutions down.
The artists who mattered in the times and for the times, were the ones who jumped right into the builder and sustainer world and gave the bad guys a beating they would not soon forget.
Now first of all, if I would create art to be remembered, I would not recommend creating something that is current.
The best way to be remembered is to be practical, make stuff that sells, to not be too much of a nitpick with your principles, and to blatantly fill your pockets.
This is also usually the art that makes it through the ages because once someone has either paid a lot for your work, or made a lot of money from your work, your legacy is much better protected.
And who was right and who was wrong is soon forgotten.
Do we still remember which bands played South African resorts during apartheid?
Even the ones who were adults in the 80s will have forgotten.
Another example is the fascist promotion movie Triumph des Willens. From what I have come to understand Leni Reifenstahl was not a fascist: She was a smart business woman.
So from a financial perspective, what to create in the Covid crisis is really simple:
Something that sells.
So those are, in my opinion, the two purest options:
Either you get yourself dirty and put yourself in service of a 2000 year old battle of capitalism, emancipation, and worker repression. Which would mean finding out which groups are unfairly hit by Covid regulations (my pro-tip would be to look at the group under 25) and then you are going to support them.
Or, alternatively, you simply suck the world dry until the final penny.
As noble as the first option sounded, and as tempting the second, I could not make up my mind between the two.
I did not want to create something that was justified just because it “was good”. Or a protest or something.
And I also did not want to create a new Triumph des Willens.
The only thing I really wanted?
Was to destroy all my work and start living like a hermit.
In the words of Luke Skywalker when he isolated himself on a deserted planet and then a deserted island:
“I came to this island to die.”
But before I destroyed the map to my new offline whereabouts to disappear forever, and before I sunk my X-wing into the ocean so that I could not change my mind and leave,
I figured the least I owed myself, was to cut the decision in half:
Starting with the work I have created under pseudonym.
I have been using that name for over 15 years, to write books about sex and I write diaries, and I was not “done” there!
I wanted to stay.
But there was a big problem;
That work was related to sex, in particular sex as a single, and therefor the entire work was based on a freedom we no longer have.
And also on a mood I am no longer in.
There is nothing more off-putting than calculating if you’re willing to cough your lungs out with a week long fever, all by yourself in your house where no one dares to enter;
If you’re willing to die, kill your friends, colleagues, or family members you’re going to see in the upcoming 10 days, just because you could not keep your pants on?
Call me crazy, but for me, that kind of knocks the fun out of it.
Under the current circumstances I really don’t have anything inspiring to say. Nor to do!
And it really is not just the physical risks, it’s as if an entire mental world has been poisoned.
Covid has crept into our minds.
To see Covid as something we need, or even can, contain if only we all stay inside, is a political choice. It is a mindset of control, of trying to keep nature from killing us.
Sex is the exact opposite.
Sex is knowing that you’re going to die, and that the only thing that will save you from the pointlessness of it all is to have sex.
That is an entirely different paradigm than trying to contain a pandemic.
I simply refuse to have conversation about “are you sneezing” “have you been vaccinated”, in social situations and in particular when it comes to sex.
Until we can freely stand next to each other, feel each other up, kiss, cheat, live secret lives and so on, without having to deal with DEATH?
I really can’t see myself having a sex life again.
The spark is out, to give just another Star Wars quote.
I m leaving sex to the married people.
And I may have said that with sarcasm in my voice.
So after yesterday, after the day I decided having a pen name was pointless and that it could be safely abandoned, today was the day I would decide on what to do with the work under my real name.
Something I did not start, until recently.
And even now I still wonder:
Have I started?
Or am I one leg out?
Have I committed to being a writer under my real name, after quitting teaching yoga, or am I still coasting, waiting, hesitating?
Do I even want to be known under my real name?
Would I not be much happier destroying it?
If I delete all my social media profiles, my websites, my Linkedin;
Do I still exist?
If I stop following the news, how will I see the world?
If mid-Covid I would stop informing myself, would it be like taking the red pill in the Matrix?
Will I see a world the others can’t?
Is there a law that says I have to open my email?
What if I closed my email and just stopped existing digitally?
Can I still be a creator, if I don’t exist digitally?
Do I still exist?
Where my decisions on my pseudonym had revolved around the actual work (writing, books) and what to do with it, my thoughts about my work under my real name, centered around:
If there is no “I”, do I still exist?
Can I exist in work alone?
I believe in art coming from the things you encounter everyday. This can be online, but also in the real world.
I feel NOW is the time, to turn my back on the digital world (without turning my back to the people who want to interact with me),
and to find out what my art is, if I only show up for:
Coming from 24 hours where I could only just keep myself from destroying all my accounts and all my work, that sounded surprisingly constructive.
With sex as my main value taken out of the equation, my new life reflects my temporary main values in times of Covid:
Art & Real connections.
Tomorrow I will resume creating under my real name and I will start making books from the work I did under my pen name.
I will be offline the majority of the time, for the upcoming months if not years.
I will not be checking any news, other than a quick headsup before I go out the door, to make sure I do not get fined.
My work will no longer be current.
Because I believe my work does not lie within the world of the builders and the sustainers. It lies “just” in being a creator.
I think I never quite fully explained what the big difference is, between builders and sustainers on one hand, and creators on the other, did I?
It is very relevant.
The big difference is that builders and sustainers, keep things as they are or make them better.
But the creators, artists, are not just the creators of worlds.
They are also the destroyers of it.
They’re the ones offering you the red pill.
Suzanne L. Beenackers
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