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I think that we need to come together (you know I’m down)

On August 28 2020, Miriam and Chelsea entered a conversation around impacts of jealousy and competitiveness in their emerging arts practices and how this has affected the way they engage in their art communities. This piece reflects this conversation with hopes to continue the conversation with others. They have used collaboration as a tool to bring the artists together, foster friendship and support each other through vulnerability. The headings are drawn from songs and lyrics featured in a playlist made by the authors.

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Miriam and Chelsea are both emerging artists and writers in Kaurna-Adelaide.
Miriam and Chelsea are both emerging artists and writers in Kaurna-Adelaide.


You know the feeling
—  Christine and the Queens

Jealousy can easily creep up when insecurities about your own practice grow, unchecked. Comparisons with graduate classmates, specifically those with whom you can identify as being of similar age and background are inevitable. It’s easy to let competitive feelings overwhelm you when you’re still finding your practice and place in the arts. Upon graduating and entering the cycle of grants and exhibitions, anxieties can be exacerbated. As artists, we are in an intricate system of institutionalised networks with no one measure of success. These ambiguous pathways in an industry so reliant on external funding and unpaid labour often incubate competition and comparison leading to burn-out, bitterness and jealousy.

No wind or waterfall could stall me
and then...
— Cat Power

Ambition is a solitary path to reach personal goals whereas competition implies a hierarchy of success; pitting yourself against others. Whilst some artists display healthy competitiveness, there’s a fine line before it becomes toxic and impacts people around you. Through shifting our mindset from competition to ambition we can utilise this drive to develop and push our art practices further towards our goals whilst remaining connected to the community.

Don't know how to keep loving you
— Julia Jacklin

Fine Arts Degrees introduce competition through grades and awards. External factors like art prizes can help motivate and inspire young artists, however facing constant rejection can diminish the original internal drive to create. For example, a graduate show should be a celebration in itself and yet the inclusion of awards diminishes the experience for most. Alternatively, an awards night or email announcement would make a time and place for this celebration, separate to sharing your art and starting dialogues with new audiences. Focusing on hierarchy sets a negative tone for life after institutions. In some ways it prepares us for rejection, but it also primes us to compete with our peers or think that exhibiting alone is not enough.

How can we as artists sustain our passion when we are in an industry that utilises external validation to build careers? One solution could be the consideration of long-term, personalised sustainability plans. Taking time away from the arts (especially from social media) may allow you to reset, re-prioritise, come back with and maintain a healthier practice and mindset. Moving between galleries and studios will help you find where you fit best. When you do experience rejection it is integral to have a support network of people within and outside of your art community.

My biggest enemy is me
— Lady Gaga

Often jealousy can be a side-effect of poor self-worth or insecurities around your arts practice. Addressing these issues can be the beginning of important self-reflection and is key in opening these conversations further. While it’s easy to be distracted by or concerned with artists around you, it is crucial to dedicate energy to continue to develop your own work. By focusing on ourselves we are able to unlearn jealousy and competitiveness and through this introspection we can actively celebrate others’ achievements.

You fucked the world up now, we'll fuck it all back down
— Janelle Monáe feat. Zoë Kravitz

There are countless factors that impact our formative years in the art world and these are not limited to our own insecurities and competitive feelings. University debt, entry level job scarcity, high living costs and the expectations of unpaid labour plague young, emerging artists. This is especially poignant in 2020 amidst the wide-ranging economic, social and cultural fallout of the global pandemic. It is important to remember also that monetary opportunities are not as glamorous as they appear when you factor in taxes, project and living costs. We all know exposure doesn’t pay the bills.

I’ve got good things goin’ on
— Wafia

It’s possible to seek connections through community as sources of growth and reciprocity. Collaboration can be used as a tool to learn from others and create safe spaces to work through feelings of insecurity as we have done here through co-authorship. When we open ourselves up to our community we are able to find moments of connection and surprise with people who share and validate our beliefs. These relationships should offer alternative perspectives including healthy criticism and feedback, subsequently enriching our lives and practices.

We cannot let jealousy and competitiveness govern our passion for making or our activism for better conditions for artists. There needs to be unity which will solidify sustainability, positive networks and collaboration. Instead of focusing on the individual, we encourage turning to your community, addressing insecurities, starting conversations, working with others, learning and developing your practice. Remember, we’ve got good things goin’ on.