Behind every good company there are good people, behind bad companies there are good people. What makes a company bad?
The above made me reflect on companies that can do everything without ever being made personally accountable for anything. Companies might get sued but rarely does anyone go to jail. An individual, on the other hand, will be sued and made accountable for their actions. If they can’t pay or have committed a criminal action, they go to jail.
The privilege of the company construct is given to the few who have nothing to say, the many shall remain silent and follow.
I was thinking about street artists, artists and people with conscience* who, in bring their message to the world, are forced to remain anonymous for fear of being sued or being charged with criminal offences.
* = Collectively known as artists for the purposes of this text.
Companies can continue doing their evilness and nothing happens because they are a company construct. I am thinking of weapon manufacturers, banks, consultancies, social network companies and the rest that bring society no benefit whatsoever but continue pushing their destructive products and messages onto the society. Suing them ends up changing nothing or, at best, results in insignificant monetary fines but absolutely no personal accountability.
Companies also have no need to act anonymously they can build trust with other companies and combine their forces to produce even more of what we do not need. Artists have a harder time joining forces since trust can only be obtained through criminal acts.
Artists who try to spotlight societal failings need to rebel and perform illegal acts (for example, the vandalisation of advertising is an offence in many countries) and thus they need to remain anonymous. This brings with it a feeling of mistrust, isolation and perhaps even paranoia. Artists end up trusting only their very close friends. The only way to gain trust is through crime, making the whole situation even worse. Compare this with the operation of large criminal organisations.
What society requires is a company construct for artists. Company construct being a legal construct that protects the artists against personal attack and personal financial loss. Just as real companies protect those in charge (who ironically enjoy anonymity) and those performing illegal actions in the name of the company.
Now if an artist collective were to setup a company to protect them against fines and criminal charges, how would their actions be defined as being performed in the name of the company? How do real companies do this? By having 9to5 working hours? Or by enslaving employees to the company by paying salaries? Or by having a boss who told them do something thereby removing their own personal moral responsibility while performing their tasks?
Probably the simplest thing would be to pay the artist for their time in creating their work, not as a commission but as a salary job. This makes the artist a salaried employee and not an independent entity delivering works of art to a company.
If a company would pay, say a symbolic salary of 1 Euro/Dollar/Pound/Yen/Colourful-Paper per month to an artist for them to bring the company message to various walls, then the wall owners could not sue the artist, since they were working as an employee and were told to do it. So the wall owners would have to sue the company who was paying their
artists employees at the time. (Note: the company message would originate from its employees of course.)
As for criminal charges: If an employee is caught performing an illegal act (say climbing a railway yard fence), they would of course first resign their position within the company, say they were profusely sorry and then the lawyers would start arguing. Eventually everyone forgets what actually happened, our spaceship Earth continues its journey through the universal darkness and done. No one needs to spend time in prison since no one can remember what they were actually arguing about.
Another nice feature would be that this artistic company could incorporate in some tax haven, meaning it is even harder to sue them. With all the letterbox companies, you do not know which company employed whom at said moment when the crime was committed. So perhaps each artwork actually becomes a new shell/holding/letterbox company. (As an aside: This is exactly what movie production companies do: each movie is another holding company with limited liabilities, if the movie fails or budget runs out or whatever, sue the holding company to obtain your lost funds but not the large powerful rich parent company.)
Of course some would say that creating a company that exclusively protects artist in their “illegal” activities might not be a company at all. Well, one could simply declare the company as an “artistic endeavour for universal societal good”. Any employee caught performing illegal activities is of course a “rogue employee”, a “black sheep” and how could they possible perform such an action: We, as an artistic endeavour for the universal societal good company, in no way condone their actions the press release would read. Sounds familiar? We are not talking about a bank or consultancy or even the political class, who are morally upstanding entities, we are talking about the illegal activities of artists of conscience.
Alternatively, we could level the playing field for everyone by removing the company construct altogether and start making individuals who perform morally and legally questionable actions in the name of their company responsible for their actions. I only added this to point out that there are no alternatives.
Art becomes products and artists become employees. Is that the future of non-conformal societal comment?
I am in no way condoning nor endorsing criminal acts nor any other acts deemed unacceptable by the societal majority.
I have constructed a pure thought experiment and any application of it is not condoned by me.
I explicitly take no responsibility for the actions of others.
By the way, please don’t forget to read the DISCLAIMER.
[Part of the Taboo Tiles series.]