The Marxist in the Gallery: Pondering Success in a Capitalist System

Author's Note: The use of the word "Marxist" is used extremely broadly, on a personal level I find my beliefs to be more complex and far more nuisanced than one label can provide

One's got to wonder if raising your voice against the norm, y'know, calling out the ugly in the status quo, just puts a cap on your dreams of making it big within this capitalist circus we're all part of. Let's be real here, biting the hand that feeds you? Not a good strategy for success under capitalism if you ask me.

Take the big shot art galleries for instance, you know, the ones that host billioniares and celebrities, the ones that decide who is and isn't a true "artiste". I'm pretty sure the last thing they want is an artist in their ranks who'd be happy to see a can of tomato soup heaved at their work in the name of fighting climate collapse and fossil fuels. (Would be fitting for most of my works anyway.) For a someone like me, what the hell does "making it" even mean in a system like this? Should I pack my bags for LA, snag a swanky mansion, and live it up like the 1%, all while podcasting about leftist politics? That seems to be the move right now, and that whole picture just don't sit right with me.

Honestly, it's tough to even imagine a world where I'm not busting my ass at some dead-end job, barely making ends meet. Daydreaming about the day I can scrape together enough to rent, not own (let's face it, that ship sailed for my generation and was barely at the dock for the millennials) an apartment that isn't falling apart. One without holes in the floors covered by boards and rugs about, maybe one with more than a porthole for a window-Hell maybe even two windows! Can you imagine? Two windows? Insane.

Welcome to America, my friends. If you haven't seen the social mobility scores here, take it from me, they're nothing to write home about. I might've stood a better chance back in 16th-century Italy, hoping for a rich family to play patron. As it stands, I'm not holding my breath for mainstream success, the whole "Erik Houdini Exhibition - Now Open!" thing. Let's face it, it's less about quality, content, or creative chops (not that I'm proclaiming to be the best at any of these), and more about who you know and how thick your wallet is. I mean, come on, how many folks from south Louisiana trailer parks end up well-off, let alone well-known? My grandpa dreamt of being a musician, apparently played he a mean blues drum too. Guess what? He's a crack addict, whom my earliest memories of are meeting him in prison. Big dog, we are playing a game of blackjack where the house always wins and a whole lot of us have been dealt UNO cards.

When I think about success, my dreams aren't exactly extravagant. I want to buy a home for my folks so they can kick rent to the curb, maybe get one for myself too. Basically, just escape the cycle. If I could do it without becoming a permanant debt servant to Sallie Mae I might even go to college! Big dreams, huh? And yeah, a Wikipedia page would be sick as hell too. It's kinda like getting a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for me.

Now, if I really do make it big, and I don't mean the "only paying 500 dollars a month for a 5000 dollar deductible health plan, great job benefits!" kind of big, but the real, meaningful kind of success that lets you escape being a pawn in the capitalist game. If that happens, I'd probably run for office or something. (Not that change can come from within the capitalist system, but hey, can't hurt to move that overton window right?) You know, do something more revolutionary than just another lefty podcaster siphoning off viewers' cash to fund a petite bourgeois lifestyle. Lots of "praxis" on Twitch these days. I'd make sure the money is put to good use, give it to the real pipe-hitting activists, the folks out there protesting Cop City, groups like Food Not Bombs. Really do what, as an indivdual attempting to battle a collective issue, can do. And I'd keep pushing for a worker's revolution.

The reality is, even if I had the potential for success, it might never happen. The gatekeepers of success and their ideas are often diametrically opposed to what I believe in. I mean, you don't see JP Morgan lining up to fund an exhibit for a someone with anti-capitalist beliefs, do you? Of course, this doesn't matter, to paraphrase Miles Davis, even if no one saw my art, I'd still be compelled to create it. Also, Rage Against the Machine won a Grammy so maybe I'm just talking out of my ass.