Artsploitation

Artsploitation is the process of exploiting artists to produce art at no cost. It is often a technique employed by entrepreneurs to get artists to work or little or nothing, claiming there are opportunities for non-financial reward such as:

– a development opportunity

– a chance to make new contacts

– “do it for free now and there may be paid work in the future”

Artsploitation is now endemic even in businesses and organsiations who have real budgets to fund their work. For example, in the film industry, technical crew, producers, directors can get paid but the writers and actors queue up to be offered the chance at success or fame, and offered expenses only, nothing, or even a demand to pay to work.

Artsploitation is norming in the arts and casting web sites mostly offer unpaid “jobs” or “expenses only” jobs aplenty. Artists are told their work and skills are “valuable” on all levels but financial.

The increase in artsploitation has, paradoxically, led to an explosion in artistic projects but also a drop in the amount and level of paid work that can actually sustain an artist’s career.

Some artsploiters have turned artsploitation into an art, not just creaming off budgets for personal gain, but actually managing to hide budgets in “costs” that make the project appear to be a loss-maker, subsidised by the benevolent investor who “would pay the artist if it were possible” but who unfortunately is not even able to cover their own costs, thus offering the artist an unpaid opportunity to at least practice their art and publish it for free, which “surely is better than nothing.”

It’s been sad to watch actor’s pay decline and decline as more and more of them are artsploited, to a point where many projects are now little more than vanity projects with artists literally paying, for example, to show their work at arts festivals. It’s become the norm. Sustainable, paid work is slipping ever further into the realms of fantasy. An actor who asks to be paid above Equity minimum is a “trouble maker” and “arrogant”.

Art sometimes is just a labour of love, where the urge to create happens whether there is money or not. This will also be important. But the line between emergent spontaneous creativity, and the right of artists to be paid a living wage for their work in order to not live on the street, is blurring unhealthily. The process of “speculating to accumulate” is being fed upon by vulture-like greed merchants as well as well intentioned, but unimaginative arts makers. Sometimes arts projects should NOT happen unless ALL the professionals involved get a decent wage out of it.

A recommended link relating to this topic here.

Thanks to Sue Bradley for stimulating these thoughts.

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