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Objects as Capital



'I'm not interested in objects'

'There is no need for art objects'

'I stopped painting because I saw it as useless'

'What isn't your art?' ' It isn't painting where I make these massive things and sell them for millions'


Painter as perfect capitalist. Painter as producer of market objects.


As the late Mark Fisher says in Capitalist Realism, 'It's easier to imagine the end of the world than it is to imagine the end of capitalism'. In his melancholia, he recognised that the failure of the left is an imaginative one – the state of hopelessness and apathy, existing in the vacuum where the future and imagination should be is capitalism's ultimate psychological stain.

In my ten month journey of alternative arts education, my only institutional arts education, I have been exposed to the belief, which I had never encountered in my 'normal' life, that painting is a useless, time consuming and ultimately capitalist pursuit. Mainly from those who align themselves to the left, to the progressive. As my, self-imposed and gradual, shame and shyness about 'being a painter' or a 'producer or objects' grew, I became dislocated from my practice through the fear that 'people like me' prop up the system; even if I choose to not sell my paintings, the object itself is superfluous. Excessive.

Why was I holding onto the ghost of the ultimate object of normativity, of old dead white hetero men? 'Community based' or 'socially engaged' art practice is the done thing – it's anti-capital, it's progressive, it's collaborative, it leaves no objects.

This growing sense of dread that I, read as ‘a leftist, working class, mixed-race-black woman' was not a 'real' artist but was also in denial about harbouring a capitalist dream of being alienated from my labour in return for cold hard cash, was heavy. In periods of self-reflection, I thought these people were right and I could be convinced. After-all, we're on the same side, right? I'll put down my paintbrush – it seems to be that this way of living is at odds with my morality.


So, this is how I became alienated from myself.


In this hole of introspection, a thought. What if, just if, this shame I am being handed is not my own? Not belonging to anyone but the spectre of capitalism, itself? The slow sound of the left crushing itself.

Coming out of the other side (am I deluding myself?) I can now see that the inability to see art objects, any objects, as able to function in any way on any level outside of capitalism, is capitalist thought in action. A reveal, that in pointing the finger at the painter, the painting, the object reflects backwards to the void of imagination.

To think, to doubt that when someone tells you that they paint to create space for their own imagination, to act and labour for labour's sake, to create an object that is the product of a state of mind, a feeling, a moment in time, is to doubt the possibility of objects beyond capitalism. To refuse to listen to those who exist happily outside of the art world is the failure of the left. To refuse to hear someone who refuses to be alienated from their labour is fear itself.