Re: [rumori] gifts

From: Sal Randolph (
Date: Wed May 01 2002 - 07:50:30 PDT

Some thoughts on this interesting exchange, a bit rambling:

I think there is a problem with framing the discussion about the uses of the
gift economy in terms of how an artist makes a living. One important point
is that most aritists don't make a living directly from their work anyway
and the vast majority of artmaking is wildly unprofitable. What is
interesting is the tendency to keep forgetting or repressing this idea.

It's not that the money economy dominates our lives, it's that it dominates
our minds.

There are a thousand things we do every day as a pleasure or a gift and we
do not begrudge them. Our lives are filled with unprofitable activities --
in fact everything in our lives exept our jobs. And even in our jobs much
of what we contribute is really a gift.

Generally speaking, everything we do to earn the respect and admiration of
our colleagues is part of a gift economy intertwined with and hidden by the
finanacial transactions that are the ostensible purpose of work life.
Social prestige is a hallmark, an indication that the gift economy is at

The gift economy is not about the exchange of material goods -- it is not
primarily about sustenance. That is something more like barter. The gift
economy is aobut symbolic exchanges which create and sustain human

Obviously rumori itself is an example of a small gift economy. We don't
read or write to rumori in the hopes of financial gain -- that is not the
kind of sustenance it provides.

The thing about the money economy is that it is stark -- profitiability is
worth. If you feel that your product is of value and "should" be paid for,
there is a quick test, a test which most small businesses fail. Can you
sell enough to make more money than you spend?

Businesses, when they work, generally proceed by paying most of their
attention to what people need and want, and then trying to provide it. From
customer to product. Art usually goes the other way, from artist to
product. This is one reason why it's so hard to make a living as an artists
-- most artists aren't interested in doing what every profitable business
requires at its most basic level: creating something because there is a
demand for it.

I'd like to hold up the idea of keeping art closer to the domains, not just
of the gift, but of pleasure. The idea of art as leisure makes us anxious
(hobby! hobby!), but maybe it's time to reexamine that, to think about why.



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