Newspaper article lists artists as top non-essential workers during a pandemic

A partial transcript of my episode 14 of THE ART MOVEMENT. Click here to listen to the show.

“Finally, we have arrived at the shit show. One that I cannot help but address in my radio program that completely revolves around art and thoughts, and that says a lot about the world that we live in today. In an article on June 14, the Singapore Sunday Times revealed the results of a commissioned survey on people’s perceptions of essential jobs within the context of a pandemic.

Results were collated from the responses of around 1000 participants aged 16 and above, with a nationally representative sampling across age, gender and income groups, and was carried out by a Singapore-based consumer research firm.

The top five jobs Singaporeans believed to be the most essentials were doctors and nurses, cleaners, garbage collectors, hawkers (i didn’t even know what that was…) and delivery men. But the 5 non-essential jobs were: at number 5, Human resource manager; number 4, Business consultant; number 3, social media manager and PR specialist; 2, Telemarketer and you know where this is going. At number 1, artist. So, artists beat telemarketers! That baffles me!

Ok, so this is an obnoxious list to begin with but this is the age of information we live in. It’s all about provoking people, less about informing people. In any case, let’s face it, the majority of people in any country looks down on artists. And these are the same people that watch movies, play video games, listen to music, read books and consume copious amounts of porn every day. And by the way, these are all art forms, of course

I am forced to once again talk about how artists tend to be underpaid for the work that they do, most are freelancers who will never see a pension and who are destined to be exposed to a day-by-day stress whereby they depend on a non-fixed income based on commissions, often not bound by contracts. Just today, I found out that freelance workers within the film and television sector cannot apply for UK government funding schemes and I’m not surprised, therefore, that this is a country that voted for Brexit. I have nothing against Britain but as far as I am concerned, I am stating a fact that points to a general lack of culture.

But let’s think about this. Can you imagine a world without art? If you can, it most likely would entail being sucked into a black hole for all eternity, which is probably what hell is like, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Essentially, I also believe that people generally think that art is a guy wearing a striped shirt and a beret, with a curly mustache , a glass of wine in one hand and a paintbrush in another and paints a landscape portrait every now and again or worse, draws a couple of lines and calls it art. And that’s probably what the people who put this list together think of when they hear the word artist. You want to know how I know? I’m not kidding when I say that the “artist” they hired to make the illustrations for this list was commissioned to do a minimalist drawing of exactly this caricature of an artist that I just described! Although I must admit that it looks more like Mario than Salvador Dali.

Again, this newspaper was published in Singapore but it doesn’t matter as, since then, the list has gone viral and many of the people who have shared it have expressed their disgust and outrage over it. But listen, the way I see it, if they were to ask that very same question in any other country in the world, with the possible exception of France — although I’m not so sure anymore — you think that the list wouldn’t point out to the same result?

My hopes of the quarantine shining a light on the importance of art have been shattered once again. But this has really been the destiny of art since the industrial revolution. The way I see it, the majority of people don’t think twice about snubbing art simply because they don’t have a single clue about what art is. The question is, who do we blame for that?

A statement on the research does say that “Just like junk food, this might be a situation where previously adaptive mechanisms get exploited now that we have unprecedented access to novel curiosities.”

Click here to buy my book of thoughts on film, Eye of the Beholder, on Amazon!

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