Art Is History/Art Is Commerce

It seems almost comical that we are suddenly thrust into a time of corporate greed and power that art can be made to casually disappear in order to save a few dollars. We are in a time when the malfeasance and poor business practices of corporations and mega-corporations has filtered down to the creative side where it’s not just people being fired but whole projects being locked away in vaults. 

Again, we’re not talking about projects, we’re not talking about things in development, no, we’re talking about FINISHED works, which are being made to go away, purportedly permanently. 

Here’s where we acknowledge that yes, sure, movies, and television/streaming programs are part of the heavily commercial side of art. They are commerce. To say that is ALL they are is nonsense though because there is still a craft in making them, there is still an art in creating them and, even in the most crass of pieces, there is still a flicker of art within it. 

What we miss, in the idea that this art is purely commerce is that art is a part of our history. It is part of who we are. What we are. It informs us about our place in the world at this moment. 

It’s interesting to listen to Quentin Tarantino and Roger Avary’s podcast The Video Archives and they talk about how much fun it is to watch some movies to see what style was at that moment in time, and what an area of the world looked like, because they are right. Too quickly we forget these things. 

Even in our obsession with a decade like the 1980’s. 

We embrace a lot of it but forget the struggle for the LGBTQIA+ community, how volatile race relations became. How the PMRC tried to impose their conservative will on music. 

There’s a lot that we forget. 

We need art to remind us. 

Listen to a song like ‘Startin’ Up A Posse’, an all but forgotten Anthrax song from an EP but it directly comments on the PMRC and their interest in curtailing ‘inappropriate’ language and themes in music. 

It’s a silly song but comments on a serious issue, one that musician Dee Snider went to Washington to fight – and was lauded for his work. 

Sure, a BATGIRL film, a few streaming shows, some animated series, none of that seems like it’s anything to mourn unless you’re a fan or worked on those things but we are missing how very easy it is for someone in a boardroom or in an office making millions of dollars can just shrug and erase something from our sight. 

We don’t have a right to these things but if it’s that easy and casual to shovel that much money into a pit and bury, to hide that much work, what else can we lose?

We are seeing videogames late in their development being canceled. 

Movies are being shot and then shelved – a practice that isn’t new at all, if you know Hollywood history at all. 

Albums are vaulted – some intentionally, some because of record label drama. 

Television shows disappear all the time, some reappearing in syndication but many, many of them just put into the vault because they didn’t live up to expectations or didn’t make it long enough to be considered for syndication. 

So much art that is hidden away, a few times by creators but mostly by people holding the purse strings. 

And again, we are not owed anything, but with our cultural obsession and connection to media, media has become our history and part of our document. So while we are not OWED any of this, what is history owed? It’s harrowing enough to consider the music, books, movies, plays, musicals, paintings, sculptures, etc., that didn’t make it through history, but here we are willfully hiding it away to save money on taxes. 

We won’t cut board profits or CEO salaries but we will certainly hide away works of art to make it seem like we didn’t mismanage our money. 

Truly, when all is said and all is done, this is about property, and it’s up to whomever ‘owns’ this stuff to do with it as they will, much like someone can buy up a Renoir and hide it away in a vault so it is theirs alone, ownership is the key. The art is secondary. 

I wonder though if there isn’t a way to free the art and relieve the culpability. A way to say, release those vaulted items to a museum for showings there but not for mass release. 

It is impossible, it is unthinkable – we don’t want to damage ‘the brand’, you know – but it’s a far out idea that maybe one day, could be heard. 

Art is personal though, it is linked to a moment, to a creator (or creators) and the hope is that it touches someone in a way that is meaningful. Not all art is meant for all people, and maybe the act of creating it was enough to change the creators and the world. 

Perhaps that is the history that matters, the change it enacted by its being created and even, in its being ‘destroyed’. 


I just know that it’s sad to see so much creation locked away to save some money because there’s not real repercussions for people’s screw up and poor leadership if you go high enough up the ladder. 


I create things. Go buy some of them in the bookstore!


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