Written by Adam Holzrichter.
I want to talk about guilt, sympathy, flattery, and using such tactics in relationships. More specifically, in marketing. Compare tendencies of highly manipulative people in public to those of artists. Blurring the lines of normal social conventions is what artists do. Taking the path or road less-traveled is what often leads to a romanticized story of human suffering. People have always preferred artists who suffer for their beliefs. It’s a sort of sadist voyeurism which permeates the halls of history. But how does an artist today go about successfully mining the public’s sympathies? I have been guilty of using these tactics on social media during manic mood swings, and at some of my lowest points of depression. For example: during the beginning of the Covid-19 lockdown I experienced an 80% drop off in art sales, followed by another 10-15% during and after the George Floyd protests/widespread social upheaval. Myself and many others attempted to try pivoting our business model to merely survive, but mostly to no avail. It was not the time to be selling our wares.
Do you see what I did there? See how I roped you in to feel sympathy for my unfortunate situation on the back of a larger societal moment which overshadowed my own suffering, and then inserted my true agenda? This is something we see everywhere in the modern world. It’s in our romantic and familial relationships. We see it on the street with a homeless veteran who I overhear telling passers-by that it’s his birthday (somehow every day). It’s a desperate act befitting pity, and gets perceived as not virtuous to be so desperate. It “weakens your brand” and pushes entire communities away. Someone ought to inform these bemoaning people with handmade cardboard signs asking for money to help lift their lives up. Someone should tell them that $20 will not save their life. What they need to do is to put their best foot forward and offer something more digestible than their pleas for help.
I’d like to come to a place where sales no longer affect the relationship to my art. That will be a good piece of Earth to stand on. Whether I get there with or without the marketplace is something I am becoming indifferent about. The fact remains that what you do should not be compromised by the ever-flowing stream of cultural happenings. When you become a work of the system is when you lose your work.
In the end, is it better to have a person’s pity or respect? How in the Hell do you acquire the latter? I believe it’s by suffering until your suffering is no longer suffering at all. That’s when you’re on to something worth paying attention to. I’m not advocating to be a martyr by any standpoint. Just be a common sufferer. Everyone suffers, and no one cares until it’s far too late for anyone to make a dent. That’s one of the greatest beauties of being alive. We truly all must save ourselves from ourselves and each other.