Art and Content

I think this bears repeating as it points out that the choice of name is descriptive of one’s intentions towards the output. As a Craftsperson (studio Potter) who makes a living producing objects some people call art and some people call vessels, I’m constantly in the midst of personal struggles over expression and profit. Some days I’m concerned that I’m filling the world with objects that no one wants and the next that I’m selling out by giving them what they love. Artists can spend a lot of time feeling guilty for making money doing what they love and can also spend as much time hating the world for ignoring what they are passionate about. Being your own publicist only makes the situation more complicated.
I inclined to be someone who makes art and someone who makes products but not “content.” When I publicize my work it shouldn’t be for the likes or the shares (I’ll admit it sometimes is) but for the relationships with the people it reaches and their financial support that allows me to continue to do what I like and (I hope) am good at,

I love topics like this. :heart:


Wowzers, what a fountain of wisdom you all are. There are so many wonderful thoughts in this thread. It’s a lot to take in. I’m going to grab a handful of walnuts and watch Network.

This is staggeringly good and will require more thought and walnuts.

Ok yeah actually Network was like the perfect watch this evening. God bless you Paddy. “We’re in the boredom killing business”, says Howard Beale.


I wish to be content.


There is supposedly a saying in Bali: “We have no art. We do everything as beautifully as possible.”

If that’s true, it’s lovely.


I’ve been wrestling with this conundrum for 37 years.

And I think it’s very similar to the position we used to find ourselves in when it came to promotion, which can be awfully tedious, exhausting, and can easily lead one to think less of one’s art.

I have found it useful to think about the process temporally - I create art. But to make a living I have to help sell it and it becomes product. It doesn’t stop being what I created, the nomenclature changes depending upon the environment. It’s almost a philosophy of language issue. But I see no need to overly complicate it.

I make stuff. Then I work to help sell it.

I would think this logic applies equally to the idea of content.


Do you feel like this linguistic shift is meaningful or important?

i don’t think it’s a shift. these are semantic divisions that have always existed, they’re just expressed differently according to different contexts.
art vs. craft, art vs. content…walnuts are also considered ‘produce’… another word i compare ‘content’ to: these are the words capitalistic marketing mindsets came up with to drive a more focused form of ‘consumption’…
‘produce’ is produced for consumption similar to ‘content’ being merely that which is contained within a framework of consumption, to me, ‘content’ is the same as ‘produce’: who creates ‘content’? a ‘producer’:stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:
(tangent: walnuts are considered produce, but it’s mostly the ‘content’ of the walnut’s shell we care about… whereas producers of content, often just create a cookie-cutter workflow/template to create many iterations of the same idea to maximize output from that same idea, thus more often producing a ‘shell’ that they value above and beyond any ‘content’…
we could also easily swap the words ‘network’ and ‘framework’, because ‘social networks’ these days mostly strive to achieve some ‘framework’ for consumption)

these semantic juxtapositions remind me that in other forms it might be ‘duty-to-family vs. duty-to-church’, ‘loyalty-to-god vs. loyalty-to-country’…
semantics get twisted based on political agendas. and that’s why words have less meaning over time, they’re expressions someone else came up with to trick us into thinking we have our own individual way of ‘creating’ or ‘contributing’… but by limiting ourselves to just these poles of abstraction to perceive ‘how we act’, we fail to contribute anything much more than more consumption.

we literally live in a ‘Society of the Spectacle’:

“The more [they identify] with the dominant images of need, the less [they understand their] own life and [their] own desires. The spectacle’s estrangement from the acting subject is expressed by the fact that the individual’s gestures are no longer [their] own; they are the gestures of someone else who represents them…”
― Guy Debord, The Society of the Spectacle [brackets added here by me where pronouns were changed to promote more inclusiveness]

makes me think that language is more often than not, confused by ego to promote agendas, and if you want to create with pure intent, you almost have to ‘undefine’ all the actions which are most sacred to you(forget what the words/classifications meant to you), in order to keep them free of bias and manipulation.
i just try to live in resonance with my heart and trust that it’ll find its own way to keep thriving(another way to put it, still based around a ‘sell’: what if we all were NOT meant to sell anything, but instead to keep making something true to our hearts until it’s good enough to sell itself, at which point, it’s not even a sale, because everyone who was attracted to it deemed it that much of a necessity, they were going to resonate with it somehow anyways even beyond any point of trade).

:point_up: ya, i feel this meaning of the word most.
to be content, we must not allow ourselves to be contained by content :wink:… perhaps even create something that is the opposite of a ‘container’… something that frees and opens things into an absolute/ever-changing existence rather than a confined representation…
i feel like ending by rolling on a floor of ellipses here

… … …


This thread has definitly made me write down that in 2022 I want to focus more on art / work than content. For some reason I had this feeling that you should produce some content to build up a bit of a following. But then I start thinking: following of what? more content? Nonono !I want to focus on making work. Then the content will be to support that work.

I really think there are too many examples of people basicly stopping making music to make Youtube videos in stead, because they get more activity there. Which is of course totally cool, but not where I would personally like to end up I think.

I still have to let this both marinate and cook in the back of my head for a bit, but I definitly want to decide on a direction for the next year and see how that goes.


another word for the soup: provider

as in “i saw it on IG” rather than remembering the artist’s name


I was enjoying the idea that you might mean “content” in the sense of satisfied…


Yes that’s what I meant, although I’m always open to multiple interpretations.


I think where you consume the thing matters a lot here. Elevator music is a good example, often it’s forgettable content for the passenger. For those tasked with making “good elevator music” there’s probably plenty of craftsmanship in creating that “content”. Seeing it on Instagram is a different context than seeing it in a museum. Both might be labeled as content curators but the intention of the museum attendants I’d bet are more receptive than the Instagram feed consumers. Makes me think about when I hear Rage Against The Machine playing on the overhead PA system quietly at my local convenience store. The thing itself is art but the usage of it might turn it into content. I might also miss some fantastic art on Instagram because I’m consuming it “like content”. I think I’d be making content if I made the thing with the intention of using it for the internet feed, advertising, or mass production and changed my style to facilitate that usage. I think if an artist really likes elevator music and wants to make some, it can be done with love, care, skill, intention, and so on. I’m not sure if you surveyed the hundreds of people that’d consume the elevator music it it’d be decisively described as content or art. I’d guess that the most sublime elevator music would still lean towards the content side of things but that’s just me. :slight_smile:

I would love to hear others ideas of anti-content or discontent!


Lots of great observations here!

It reminds me of the story of the famous violinist who showed up at a train station and played music. Nobody cared and then later he played a sold out show in a concert hall or something.

Btw. I found this information about the story but the point is still there: it seems that some of the difference between art and content is actually how it is presented and as a result how it is experienced.


I too dislike the use of content with a passion. No matter what kind of work it denotes it reduces it to filling just one function - being filler. And to me that is setting the bar really low for your work.

It’s a really bad tent. I prefer intent.

(greetings from the capital of puns)

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Okay, so the meaning of words and actions can be worked out. A piece can be framed, reframed, and cross branded to our liking. Fair enough.

If we were the only players on the board, etymology and modern meaning could be navigated. History has shown that people can do this, and live.

But we are not alone any longer. All of the relationships in question have now been mediated by algorithms that have non-human/art agendas.

Those algorithms, honestly, are the real context now. They have preempted us before we even begin to create anything. So if any of you feel “gamed” like I do, that’s the reason why.

Dave realized this on Discovery One while he was contending with HAL, Ripley finally extracted this truth from Mother on the Nostromo. Both of them only figured it out when they were far out in space.

We are in a similar predicament. The fact of the matter is that no matter how far we get online, every mile of track has been laid for the purpose of contextualizing and/or taxing us.

George Carlin’s “big club” bit comes to mind.


i find getting into considering art vs content on these social media platforms is useful in theory, but extremely dangerous in practice.

in general it’s easy to be judgemental when you’ve a thirty-thousand foot view of something. especially in the thirty-plus age demographic of college-educated graduates where a lot of folks have established themselves and are deeply embedded in supportive communities of likeminded people that have never needed anything like instagram or youtube to direct attention anywhere.

consider the average person:

  • without a college degree (67.9% in the US, >90% in the world [this is conservative, current percentage of the world with degrees is somewhere between 6-8% but finding a source other than ‘huffpost said that bloomberg said the ADB and Harvard said this’ is difficult])
  • has probably been to a large music concert (52% in 2018, nielsen via billboard)

the kind of worldview that informs a socioeconomic value judgement like “i don’t post my art on instagram because once i do it’s not art” is supported by a vast amount of education, informed opinion on several different topics, and cultural background. it only might appear intuitive because its supports are second nature.

this bit is a little more anecdotal and i’m making a few more generalizations–the kind of person that goes to underground art or music shows consistently has some kind of refined, sophisticated taste and doesn’t generally engage in what is generally circulated to the masses through mainstream media. this preference might come through education, their culture, or their community but again it’s a niche or at least a subset of broader sensibilities and people.

a person would be extremely, extremely fortunate to experience either of the above. and to think of teenagers who are having to spend their most transformative years locked down during the pandemic and whose only performance medium is online streaming and media sharing platforms, it is very likely that many people’s first experience and contribution to anything that resembles what is considered art by you, lines, or anywhere else will be on these platforms.

but since it’s on an ad-revenue fueled platform the art isn’t art?
if that’s the case, art is doomed, but i don’t buy it. there will continue to be genuine art proliferated on these and similar platforms because making and viewing art is a necessity for human existence.
whether it’s worthy of your consumption is a personal choice.

something that grounds me when considering these discussions/arguments is the oxford dictionary definition of advertisement:
a notice or announcement in a public medium promoting a product, service, or event or publicizing a job vacancy..
i don’t care who you are or what you do, you’re not getting away from that.


oh this resonates. the performance anxiety i witnessed (by nearly a dozen of the worlds best circus performers) prior letting in an audience of waldorf elementary kids… the vibe caught me and i started asking the co-performers absurd questions like “what bpm do you want”

because the kids are honest and ruthless @instantjuggler


Beyond trying to nail down the “intent” of “creating” some piece of media, I’m not sure how we’d ever determine whether this or that was content of a strictly advertising/promotional nature and therefore not art/music/work.

What we can much easier do, though, is understand how a buncha tech bros and advertising goons managed to convince musicians/photographers/artists to devalue their own work to such an extent that the musicians/photographers/artista were supposed to be grateful that these non-artists, non-musicians possessing dubious skills (see David Graeber’s 2015 book Bullshit Jobs) might consider “helping” them “promote” their “content.”

I personally saw one period of this happen in the late 90s-early 2000s dotcom culture of San Francisco, at companies like GarageBand (not the app, a brief-lived startup) and eMusic, and shortly thereafter at Pandora, Gracenote, Google, and the like. I saw it daily when myself or musicians I knew were asked to produce “content” for “free” because it was allegedly going to provide “exposure” for us. This still goes on; I have a close friend who books live bands for corporate events, and a lot of his time is wasted dealing with these freeloaders. We’ve both got sucked into these gigs before, and not only do you not get paid, there’s no time as a musician I was treated more like shit than at a free gig hosted by tech bros where we were promised “exposure.” Benn Jordan just posed a variant of this, so it’s clear the scam is still active. Content is “stuff you kinda found somewhere,” rather than labor that someone did that should be valued.

So I’ve gotten pretty allergic to the concept of “content” (anaphylactic shock level allergy), since it was clear to me that it was the leading rhetorical shift intended to render art/music/photography so that it no longer had any value. There is no concept of “high content” that matches “high art,” there is no “classical content” that would be commensurate with “classical music,” and the general vibe of content is that it has no vibe at all. It’s the same kind of discursive shift that led to the equally dubious concept of “collateral damage” (as opposed to, you know, massacred civilians). In both cases, it’s designed to render something that once you’d be passionate about into something utterly emotionless, valueless, and meaningless.

Above I use the term value/valuation quite a bit; my thinking around that term comes from current lit in valuation studies, including Antoine Hennion, and lots of stuff published in the Journal of Cultural Economy. There’s different approaches to this, but the most interesting share in common an attention not just to exchange/use value or the pricing of commodities, but to how values (as in, moral values) are embedded in phenomenon or performed in their circulation. Content, in this way of thinking, would then be former artworks/musical works that were stripped of all value in order to place them outside the normal compensation (for licensing, performance, broadcast, distribution, etc). But this renders them incapable of embodying moral values, too. If we want to continue believing that art/music/photography can change the world, it won’t do so by becoming “content,” it will do so for being what it is and being perceived as what it is.


This is so deep. And such a great topic.

To me, there is a line, perhaps fuzzy but often not, between that which honors spirit and that which degrades it.

It’s not as simple as capitalism is evil, just take a look at some other historical systems and you will find similar desecrations, even where the systems are supposedly based on a spiritual perspective.

We are each born with a huge capacity for wonder, insight, discovery, connection, and so much more.

And the world we inhabit is vast, mysterious, beautiful and terrifying.

To me, artists are attempting to “make something” in response to all this. To the extent they do so, they enrich their own lives, and to the extent they share their work with us, they enrich our lives.

Since we all have to eat, there is nothing inherently wrong with making a living from one’s “art” or “craft.”

However, to the extent the work is used to confuse, control, manipulate or otherwise devalue the deep humanity of others, it becomes advertising, propaganda, mind control or worse.

The same “art” piece can be used in different ways.

I believe it is rather rare for individual artists to have the kind of power to be able to effectively manipulate the population in a control context. But clearly that kind of power resides in the hands of governments, corporations, religions…

How an artist chooses to align with or resist such powerful entities is of vital importance…

Grateful for this conversation :pray:t2:


I see the word “content” as value-neutral. It accurately describes the reality in which we live: to make money, musicians need to create as quickly as possible (& play the personal branding game) to feed the algorithmic machine. I don’t like that this is the case, but the problem isn’t with the word “content”; it’s with reality itself.

As a glass-half-full person, though, I try to be optimistic about it. There have always been giant hurdles to making money as a musician. Until recently, the hurdle was signing to a major label and then not getting crushed inside the industry machine. Today, however, musicians can do it themselves. This is a better paradigm! It’s far from the best situation of course… but it’s better.


that’s why i’m always just ready to roll with 90bpm at any moment, in any place, for any reason…