Be (In)Visible at ALL Times / by Mark Gubb


This is a post I made to start the year on my various social medias. To clarify, I don’t think I’m especially important and talking about my own posts feels horribly naval-gazing but it deserves some context.

There are lots of problems with the art world and the systems we exist within, but the above is a huge one. Just before Xmas I attended the Punk Scholars Network conference at Leicester DMU, ‘Doing Metal, Being Punk’. It was excellent. One of the presentations that really struck a chord was a paper by Sally-Anne Gross and Dr George Musgrave about the important research they’ve done in to musician’s mental health. Check this link out for an article about it and a link to key findings, it makes for fascinating, if depressing, reading. Everything they have discovered could, I am confident, be mapped directly on to visual artists - insecure working conditions, confused notions of ‘success’, financial pressures etc.

One thing that really struck me was their findings around the pressure to be constantly providing new ‘content’. I’m paraphrasing their excellent research, but the thrust of it is that to remain visible and relevant, musicians need to be uploading new tracks as often as possible - weekly, daily, whatever - a crippling and impossible rate of production, all to satisfy the clamour for online visibility and the vain hope that visibility translates in to being picked up and heard.

In terms of our industry, Instagram appears to be a fair equivalent. How many times have you heard or been given the professional advice, ‘Post once a day to Instagram and/or twitter etc’? Build that online brand and visibility. Of course that doesn’t necessarily have to be a new piece of work, but it’s a piece of you all the same. 

Do you really owe your industry that much access to your creativity? And even if you’re prepared to do it, do you think it’s healthy that your industry increasingly requests that of you? Yes, there’s always a game to play, you want your work and creativity to be seen, but it should surely be on (y)our own terms, including how much and how often.

Artists have always had an ebb and flow of moments of visibility and moments in the shadows. I believe, each is as important as the other. The idea we need to be on show and visible all the time seems extremely unhealthy and counter-productive to experiment and risk. It serves no-one other than lazy curators who want thumb-swipes in the comfort of their office to replace getting on a train or bus to meet with an artist in their studio/workspace. Our environment.  

Equally, I’m not sharpening a stick to prod curators, it’s just a plea to take a breath, for your own mental health, and consider how much these things serve YOU as opposed to other people.