Art PayingMay 2, 2014
At the launch of her new album recently, Liz Green addressed the sold-out crowd with a quote from her dad. Apparently his attempts at engaging with her international creative lifestyle revolve around numbers – how many songs have you got now, then? How many records? How many people are on it? How much money?
“Basically”, she says, “I’m not going to be able to pay for his old peoples’ home”
I was asked, at that show, as occasionally I am, “Is art paying?” and I’m never sure how to respond to this. Do they want to know if I have a Ferrari? Do they want a go in my red car? My helicopter? Are they getting impatient? Do they need to get somewhere really fast?
Just recently I moved out of the greatest home I’ve ever chosen for myself, a sort of halfway-house for the terminally musical, called Iron Mountain. I’m occupying instead a studio space in Hope Mill, and technically living nowhere, for the duration of the summer tour, and ongoing. I like to upset things that are comfortable. I travel a lot, not least to visit my partner in Paris/Holland. But I like to cook. How do I answer the Ferrari question?
What are the wages of this work?
Is it the validation? Is it that stranger’s tearful response to a piece, someone else’s lingering gaze, is it the identity? “Who, me? Oh, I’m in the band. It’s no big deal. I get it all the time”. It lured a lot of us in, in the first place. It’s embarrassing. Are these in fact the wages, after all?
Or is it the work itself? The material? “I am immortalised”, said my friend Louis Barabbas, when recently he found Bridie Jackson’s LP with his song on it. He was half joking. For him, is it the imprint of some vulnerable part of ourselves, that we probably don’t even know, that might just survive long enough for someone we’ll never meet to appreciate somehow, to recognise in themselves, are these invisible things the wages of this work?
Or is it in fact the circle of thieves themselves. Those others like us who find themselves good for no other vocation. Drawn together by necessity, but held there by a flailing love, and a bent but irresistible code of honour. Are my connections with these people the wages of the work, for me.
Has the function I serve brought me anything more valuable? Commodity, currency or ornament, I don’t know if it has.
But when asked the Ferrari question, I might respond, Do you see me breathing? Do you see me working? Do you seem me sharing the best of myself? And are the things I share worthwhile? Is art paying? You tell me.
Liz Green’s album Haul Away! is out on PIAS International now: www.lizgreenmusic.co.uk
I’m joining her on tour, as accompanist as well as appearing as support for the German leg, and I’m going to have an awesome time.