Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Is "Artist" a non-essential job?

A Chart has been circulating on Facebook suggesting that an "Artist" ranks #1 in the list of Top 5 Non-Essential Jobs.

Cue apoplexy amongst many artists on Facebook!  

Much hurt all round Facebook who now feel people do not appreciate artists!

screendump from Facebook

Some of the more popular comments on my FB Page

Some of the more popular comments on my FB Page when I posted another version of the chart - (which had chopped an essential word from the top text
Considering everything we've been amusing ourselves with that's been keeping us all sane over the last while, I'd say artists should definitely be on the essential list
Considering everything you touch, sit on use has been designed by someone who started out at art school
I’m not trying to be greedy but I have two cleaning jobs and I’m an artist!! I’m an underpaid essential and an underpaid non-essential!! LOL And shouldn’t that read “delivery person”!!
Artists not important...Ha...then just take away all entertainment, go back to using DOS on computers, Burn all museums...all museums, burn most libaries, tear down many historical buildings, and so on...oh and all clothes on style sack and all colours gray. No patterns. The problem with being an artist is that we are so ingrained into part of society we are actually invisible. We are on par with the air you breathe.
Seriously though, like many have already pointed out, what sort of grey world do people want to live in with no film, tv, music, graphics, museums, galleries, clothes, shoes, ....oh I could go on! Who the hell even designed that page of the newspaper? A graphic artist! I despair!
Let them be for a week without books, radio, streaming music & video, games, telly... They'll kill each other
HOWEVER This is a bit more complicated than that - as I shall explain.

Why you should not get apoplectic too quickly

Stop and read the text at the top of the graphic - as I did when I saw the same poll on another FB account with a long textual explanation - rather than a quick quip

The author - Yan Neng - was one of the people who responded to the poll. 
It generated 179 comments and 788 shares!!

Now for the PUNCHLINE!
  1. This survey was of a group of 1,000 (only) people in SINGAPORE and was intended only to relate to Singapore.
  2. "The Sunday Times" in the headline is NOT THE Sunday Times (published in London) - rather it is the Sunday edition of The Straits Times - in SINGAPORE.
  3. It can only ever have been intended to relate to the current Covid context of SINGAPORE.
This is the text that many people did not see
The Sunday Times asks 1,000 respondents which are the jobs which are most crucial in keeping Singapore going, and also how much people will pay for essential services so that workers in the sector may get a wage boost
The purpose of the poll was all about identifying those who people would be willing to pay more to RIGHT NOW - to make sure they got their essential service.  

By including the non-essential jobs, they muddied the water and the reception it got online - as artists became more and more incensed.....

In addition, the author of the FB post I saw provided an explanation of the survey 
I'm not gonna lie. I’ve friends who are artists who are hurt by this survey and I do feel guilty, but I don’t think my answers will change.
We weren’t told the purpose of the survey is a frivolous article; it came off like it was a government survey trying to suss out if they should implement some sort of minimum wage. And come on, when you place people who handles the garbage disposal next to an artist, how could I rank both as equally essential? The former, I need everyday; the latter, I love art and can enjoy the art they’ve already made everyday.
In my mind, there were also a distinction between a pure artist and a designer when I was doing the survey. I thought about performance artists who sat in an exhibit holding people’s hands, or people who painted on an easel. While their work can be amazing (I’ve been touched by such art), I don’t know how essential it is right now in today’s Cov19 context.
With regards to the minimum wage impression, I also didn’t feel inclined to pick workers who were already more appreciated in their day to day as “essential” (HR managers probably earn more than a cleaner).
Keep in mind, these professions were given to us as choices — it wasn’t as if the surveyees spontaneously suggested artists as inessential.
EDIT: after some discussions below, I just wanted to add I also think there's also a difference between "essential" and "valuable". I'm a writer and I'll gladly admit I'm not essential in today's context and climate. However, I do find my work *valuable*. Whether or not my work is essential has no bearing on the value my work brings. The survey asked for "essential" and I did the survey keeping "essential" in mind. This term was defined in the survey: "we mean someone who is engaged in work deemed necessary to meet basic needs of human survival and well-being, such as food, health, safety and cleaning".
 Here are some of the comments he got.
if you are willing to brave the storm of angry people possibly coming at you, post it as a shareable status.
At the end of the day, this is just data. Data of public perception of artists and not the inherent worth of artists. It's feedback lor.
And this feedback means that we/Artists still have a lot of work to do to bridge public perception and sentiments.
There's a difference between essential and important.
For example. Sex is arguably not an essential part for a person's existence. But I don't think people are going to deny it's importance.
I think there's nothing wrong with what you did. Artists are always going to be necassary and important but like many others, not essential. The point of the article was to focus on the underpaid but i feel by adding in the top 5 non essentials, it has really diluted the point of the article.
It's an interesting phenomenon and perspective. 

Artists may be valuable - but in the context of the Pandemic the population at large (in Singapore) did not regard them as "essential" to daily life.

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