Tuesday, 16 November 2010

My romantic relationship with money

My romantic relationship with money.

I don’t know if it’s still a popular fantasy or who it was ever popular with… but there’s certainly the idea put about of the ‘romantic starving artist’. Back in my 20’s it wasn’t so much the done thing, in the crowd I hung out with it was more the fantasy of taking a lot of drugs and ‘live fast, die young’…many of us did. the reality of that wasn’t so romantic either.

But money, yep it is something I have dirty fantasies about. Standing about in a quite nice theatre the other day ( I had a free ticket) in the midst of someone else’s ‘consciousness raising’ performance, well more of a harangue to the middle classes about their own selfishness. I watched the audience laugh uproariously at being so insulted. I found myself bitterly wondering how much these people earned (I don’t know maybe they are all in hock up to their eyeballs) I also spent a bit of time thinking about how I had missed paying the rent….again. shit.

Of course luckily I know that being poor is so much more morally sound than having cash, so at least I had the high ground of sneering. Because money is dirty, you don’t know where its been, all those different hands touching it…..NEVER EVER put money in your mouth, unless you are being well paid to do so.

So my fantasies, lately I have been getting all hot and bothered dreaming about money raining down on me from the heavens, not the heavy stuff….pennies would hurt. I want the light folding stuff to drift down gently, caressing me as it falls, stroking me softly with the promise of bills paid, worries secured away, free time and free meals.

A friend suggested I take up forgery…. I pointed out I can’t draw (what kind of an artist am i) and then she suggested instead I might just photocopy a £50 note.
I pointed out I don’t have one of those either – that I would have to cadge one in the street ‘excuse me sir would you have a £50 pound note? I just want to borrow it… I will bring it right back I promise! Oh…and would you have the price of a double sided photocopy??’

if you are really poor no one thinks its romantic at all, they just want you to go away. Because its no ones fault but your own, I don’t know why it’s called ‘the American dream’ as that ‘bootstraps’ mentality which promotes the belief that if people would just bloody try harder they wouldn’t be in any sort of mess seems to be applied in many cultures. Isn’t that the moral excuse of capitalism?

Its also the kind of thinking where any sort of drib or drab of charity should be received with drooling gratitude. ‘thank you so much for gracing me with your righteous coinage, I will be forever in your debt….and I do mean forever’ Ah the saintly benefactor!

ive been practicing a highly refined form of begging for a few years now, as one of the groups I am part of sometimes receive funding grants.... it's one of the ways that richer EU countries feel better and push a bit of influence into the world 'elsewhere'. but jesus the time and mental health points attached to writing these funding applications is something else. Sadly the flow of money is never particularly secure… too bad if the death threats and burn out are getting you down sometimes ‘we are very sorry but we do not currently have further capacity to support your organisation at present’ (no notice given). Its a tricky process and we don’t take just any bastards money, we like to vet our donors thoroughly…. sometimes I wish the process could be more physically intimate.

The funny thing is the kind of rights these people expect in return for dishing out a bit of money are incredible, its bloody amazing what you can buy with €5,000 these days. No seriously it’s enough to have 4 or 5 people completely at your beck and call. You can request all sorts of private information and expect literally months of report writing, justifications for how this money has been spent and of course sound assurances that none of this has been spent on living costs – meals/rent/bills – any of those day to day fripperies - as you have to make sure these sodding human rights activists and artists don’t rip you off!

I got a debt collectors notice the other day, this one scared me because I opened it ..usually I just throw them onto the large pile by the door. Honestly it’s not worth anything to read the nasty things these people say, the threats they make. But I did open it and in this case staring at the allotted sum I began to tot up exactly how that money was squandered. What kind of greedy riotous behaviour I had been indulging in to rack up such a mountain of debt. I thought about submitting a ‘funding report’ to my bank manager as for that particular amount they got a LOT.

First off there was the 6 weeks spent in Serbia helping to organise a grass roots activist conference, I managed to fit in a short nervous breakdown and survive some bursts of indirect violence from fascists (I didn’t go in to the office that day). Then I went on a tour of the new east/west European border with a group of activists doing a bit of an independent investigation of how many new prisons (politely know as refugee reception centres) are being built, and the interesting patterns of influence exerted by funders on NGO projects in those areas. Plus taking another little jaunt to see what is happening to people being deported into and held in the so called ‘buffer states’.

I then spent a bit of time mucking around doing support work with women in detention prisons in the UK and setting up the Queer Beograd collective with my friends in Serbia. Yet another few thousand quid pissed up the wall. I’m sure I could provide some nice pictures of the events, maybe a time line, difficult to exactly quantify the results…. At times my ability to stop deportations has been I admit CRAP. But hell I tried.

I have to apologise for the tone of self righteousness privilege that is creeping in here as clearly I have been swanning about with a RED passport indulging in the sort of trouble making we could well do without. Talking to a ‘funding advisor’ recently (and what sort of a fucking job is that?) I was advised to ‘keep making your work whether you get funding or not’ I almost fell on the floor laughing as I wonder what the fuck these people think I have been doing? Are there people who make those sorts of choices? i admit im guilty of the kind of arrogance where I think I will carry on with making that frivolous shit we call ‘art’ whether I have money or not. I don’t know what kind of value im assigning to the production of culture, and political activism or why I just can’t admit it’s a luxury I can’t afford.

Back to cash…I know it’s a sore point but I am short of a few quid and when it comes down to it im hawking the only thing I have - ME – so yes, offers and ideas jotted down on a £50 quid note please, use more if you need extra space to fill out your ideas and im sure that together we can come up with some sort of a creative solution.

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