Communities and Contempt

Parasitic Computing
A compelling takeaway I didn’t include in my post about Richard Nash‘s speech was his emphasis on how writers crave community. This was his lead into a demand-based publishing model, and had a queasy resonance for me. I applied to graduate school for this reason — I wanted to find other writers and gather a group of people together whom I could snipe and gossip about writing with. But this was an error. I don’t think it’s what I nor anyone else needs as an “artist.”

Community is a distraction, one concealing the hierarchies of a dying industry and glomming up the cozy entry-level inefficiencies that once made it possible to make a living as a freelance writer or hack journalist. Community is comfortable, but ultimately inimical to individual achievement. In the nebulous non-being between becoming amateur and professional one is encouraged to wallow in the same ideas as one’s peers, and a close-knit community becomes a self-reinforcing echo chamber of status, etc. The only people accelerated and empowered by such an environment are sociopaths — at least at the level I’m at.

The game changes once you’ve built something worth protecting, which is why [visual] artist colonies (grouped studios, shared leases etc.) and arguably the upper-tiers of the art school swindle function so well — they generate income and reduce inefficiencies — but there is no artistic benefit. And, until every individual component of an artistic community is capable of producing income, community is just another parasite drooping off the withering flanks of postpostindustrial cultural production.

2 Comments »

  1. Richard Nash says:

    Pretty Nietzschean, James! I think what you’ve described is true, though not the only truth. Humans need shelter and adventure. Prospecting or foraging on your own the whole time is simply too physically and emotionally debilitating, sucking up too many resources that can be used for creativity. Beckett was someone who knew when to write something for TV so’s he could hang with actors and producers and techies and such. JOyce knew when he needed some acolytes around him. But if you nestle in the comfort of your community the whole time you will not grow, either artistically or economically, as you describe above…

  2. Jamie says:

    Yeah. And if you’re going to define yourself by what you are not, then the not still needs to exist….

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