I am captivated by a post a friend wrote this week about her consideration of the intrinsic value of art:
And I commented that I thought that art has value and that original thoughts, concepts, ideas, art, etc., do have value and I compared an 99 cent eBook to the cost of a Slurpee or a pack of gum or a bag of chips because sometimes that’s how I compare the value of things. (I think that offended her.) Would I pay more for a book or a movie than I would for a quick trip to 7-Eleven?
Hell yes. And at what point does something that has no intrinsic value have intrinsic value? When does “gilding the lily” equate into greater worth and value? For example (you’re now entering my mind, buckle up): food. Tomato sauce. Basic: tomatoes, water, heat it, and eat. It’s OK, but it’s not great. So we add salt. Better. Then maybe a dash of olive oil. And some fresh basil. Now we’re on to something… what about a dash of garlic? And some oregano… Do you see where I’m going with this? (GAWD I hope so, I don’t.) I’m going here: that a basic thing: story, painting, shirt, sauce has value even if it’s undeveloped. Add some texture or ‘love’ to it and suddenly, it’s better. That’s why we value it. That’s why we will pay more for it.
And for me, this isn’t just because of the fact that this is what the market will bear and that this is because people are used to paying for books and movies. It’s because as a writer, I know that I work hard (even on a blog post: looking / creating pictures, going after links and doing a little research from time to time takes effort and I’m cool with that because it helps round out the experience) and if I created the concept, the throughput and the end product –and it’s original and entertaining — and if people have historically paid for this kind of thing before, that people should pay for it. I argued that because art has an intangible value: it speaks to us, moves us and entertains us and that its value is in the heart of the beholder (I hate Hallmark’s “Precious Moments” line, but other people love it and I’m sure they’d look at my obsession with Matisse’s “Jazz” and cut outs period with What the What faces).
Another friend of mine and I once used to equate the value of things with the price of Gap t-shirts, which were $10 at the time. “Is it worth a Gap t-shirt?” or “You know, you could get three Gap Ts for that…” or my favorite, “That’s a non-consumable, so it’s worth it…” and we would act accordingly.
Is this wrong?
Am I alone in comparing supposedly intrinsically worthless things to their consumable / non-consumable status and / or value? Maybe it’s generational, as I suggested to my friend on her blog.
In the case of the .99 eBook, sometimes you get what you pay for. I have bought some bombs for 2.99 and I have to say that I’ve been impressed by some free books. But I always love a bargain. The perfect recipe is providing something that people will enjoy at a cost that doesn’t make them feel like they’ve been suckered.
So here are my questions and I’d really love some feedback (in fact I’d always love some feedback!):
1) Do you feel art has value?
2) As a person, regardless of your art, would you equate the value of your output with the value of something unartistic?
Please let me know. The very existence of the universe depends on it.
UPDATE (9/19 3pm) here’s what I said on my fan page: “if we (as a collective) don’t value art, then … what? the entire creative process, literally, is art. i think it’s nuts to even have this discussion, but when i thought about the cost of a book vs. a bag of chips — that cigarettes cost more than a book, that gum could cost more than a book (chocolate, that’s an entirely different discussion, please…) then it got my head spinning. it’s important.” I know I made a joke about the universe depending on it, but it’s sorta not a joke. If we don’t value our craft, then why bother…?