Artists have been used as tools to further agendas for generations. Artists themselves have been party to, time and time again to be work-horses and act only like tools to accept regular wages. So why is it a surprise when on a day like today it has come to be where apps and automated tools have been made off their backs out of jobs they were paid to do or images artists themselves have uploaded online out of their own free will?
Ghostwriters and artists have happily done work by commodifying their talents and labored like robots, many times, setting their rates conveniently for as low as $5 instead of $500. But now, why is there such a hue and cry for help when these very people have fueled the fire for all these past 20 years of globalization? I hear that some artists today who were part of such artists’ farms admit they are lucky if they are even getting paid at all. AI has taken their jobs is what I understand.
Where were they three decades ago?
For a good 30 years, at least my experience says that trying to coexist and work with an art community as an artist to uplift the community along with myself wherever I lived and worked, has never improved anything because I was too weak as a lone artist facing a tendency to be struck down. The reason was that every artist wanted a competitive edge over the other artist. But what artists failed to see is that they needed to work with each other than against each other’s interests and see how we could complement each other. Somehow, artists wanted immediate gratification and loved being in a popularity contest to start with and fell for immediate cash. I wish artists had an entrepreneurial mindset and could plan ahead 5 or 10 years, but instead, they were great at paving the way to do work for a pittance to get them a means to live day to day. And hence became important actors for the vices of capitalism to play out so seamlessly.
Thankfully, this indifference at every turn reminded me to look inside myself to find the missing answers to sustain without external help. So technology played a huge role even as early as the 1980s when I first started working on the 286s.
This attitude was the same across all disciplines of art, be it animation art, video design, fine art, etc. The contemporary art world also kept it as contemporary as can be with some walking around with a stiff upper lip if you know what I mean. ;o) There has been segregation at every level between desks, departments, sectors, and industries within the art world. In the contemporary art world it is the privileged who get an unfair advantage as it is well-known today and these elite guard whatever they have like gold against the naturally talented artists (without even a college degree often times) who are blocked from access to the real deal. So in such an unjust world why work hard where biases are openly and extravagantly authenticated? So I have not even cared to play that game. This is a very early lesson I learned from an artist whose studio I went to hang out at in the early 1990s. Because I was still a graduate student I never was expected to pay to use his studio while the artist wanted to gather some young students around him to feel like a teacher. Today I can interpret it that way after seeing decades later that this artist loves to deny remembering his formative years when these young students made the fabric of his growth possible and his success if any today (although it was a win-win for both the student and the artist). Why do artists guard their art as if it was such a treasure? When will art become something that needs to be part of everyone’s lifestyle to make humanity and living better. In such a divided world it is no wonder there is no living rich naturally talented artist of course with the exception of artists like Picasso. He too lived a privileged life like a few who some feel worth a special mention and who’s works are auctioned off with pride today.
Artists the past decade happily went on youtube and did their own tutorials to teach. So everything is out there for the taking. Artists did everything there is possible for their consumers just for those few seconds of fame or to hold a trophy to win an award or be paid royalties by online hosting platforms. The saga goes on isn’t it today. Some fellow artists in my position will agree.
My latest experience was a strike down by a self-proclaimed advocate of artists and the undeniable rudeness was with such arrogance. No doubt the initial few years were lonely with such bad behavior from fellow artists and bosses but the rest of at least 25 years were simply a rich experience because the personal learning and accomplishments surpassed cruel co-workers and attitude from a community that normally should have cared. In time, leading a constructive introspective world I learned how to understand and recognize a fair-minded superior and why in some cases they had to stay silent if an artist who misbehaves once in a while because they have to give the benefit of the doubt to every artist before they are able to make an informed decision for the betterment of the department or company. And so it is in the interests of an artist to enjoy a work-place and after a tenure move on to other endeavors that better their position. The enjoyment was every single day, so life has made one stronger and better in such circumstances with every encounter, at least for me.
Then there are some artists who are very happy to stay complacent or play along with any bad bosses who want to divide and manage (divide and rule) to their own advantage when their personalities were just a story of self-erosion while good artists move on with their spirits only elevated with new opportunities as they have many occasions of defining themselves and emerging above a flock.
Any cut-throat competition I could only see that it has not gotten them anywhere because in the end their art has been consumed and regurgitated elsewhere several times down the supply chain that they won’t even be able to recognize it leave alone that they no more hold any rights to it. Just as it is so difficult to claim ownership of the art Ai has scraped off the internet all artist’s works.
I am so glad when I started posting online nearly 2 decades ago, I remembered that I have to post only stuff I did not care to lose. My intent was only to showcase, so much so that when Facebook notified perhaps by 2011 that they own what we post on their platform, I was not surprised or angry. And today it is proof our posts on their platform were data they or all these Ai enablers used to train.
The attitude of “self-fulness” Excuse me I just made that word up….artists instead of exercising conscious selflessness, I found the same experience even when I outsourced from time to time, some of my extra artistic requirements, there was a complete lack of commitment to timing, promise or respect for the payment I made to humans I outsourced to and more importantly there was lack of transparency and sadly sometimes even deceptive behavior with dis-gratitude.. This left me in a dilemma and mistrust of such a system and so I held back any plans to scale up.
But this did not stop me from giving opportunities to people who wanted to get my help for a pittance. I rather did it for close to free to test their authenticity. But in time, I figured that doing random work for random people was also not a good way to spend a meaningful life as an artist who had a choice. I invested in the risks I took and this really started in the year 2006 and I found out step by step spending dollars to enrich myself. I rather spend it on my learning and for charity to the needy than line some pockets I don’t want to fill.
Thanks to the past 11 years of working by myself as a solo entrepreneur, being my own peon too, and investing in knowledge and technology, and research, the coming of age of AI could not have come at a better time when I needed so much of automation I don’t have enough hands to make. And the fact is Ai is here to stay and take humanity to the next level and this revelation is what it is. If we resist and fight it we stay behind while we all miss the bus.
I am so ready after nearly 5 years into my journey as my own content producer and publisher. Content Production and putting a brand to your own work is not a privilege anymore it is a given so grab this opportunity in time, when access has become universal, and make it useful for the good of yourself and the universe.
I feel on top of the world because as an artistic business person, there is so much I look forward to I can’t wait to get started in this new AI era. Best wishes to all of us who can embrace this change wholeheartedly with inclusivity and knowledge-share.
Disclaimer: This is an op-ed and the opinion shared here is only the author’s based on her life experience in the regions she has worked and lived in. She has her footprint as an artist on 3 continents spanning 3 decades.
Published originally on substack.