What is Your Worth? by Matthias Ortmann

The commonly held belief whereby “you are only as good as your last film”, or piece of work or project, is to be questioned. In fact, it is the one truism the artist has to not only rid but to actively oppose. As a slogan for self-exhortation it might work. But where does it actually come from. What paradigm does it enshrine in the public conscience? These implicit notions have to be refuted as consumerist thinking. The output quota needs to be maintained or raised in any totalitarian system like that of mass production and capacity utilization – but in art? If the purpose be anything other, or more, than self-reproduction bent on increase, then we have to be free in our minds to resort to alternative approaches. What could be more detrimental to experimentation and assured audacity based on the knowledge of self than this blind rush? Artists need to resist, they ought to be in the way of any current that is timely but not enlightened.


Man is as good as he can be. Self-respecting individuals know that. They know that an endless reservoir of goodness resides within their core being and the capacity for improvement allows for errors and the necessary detour as well. It is actually provided for and our learning is based on it; it depends on it. Not every luxury is useless, but art is; and that’s where its true value comes from. That’s why it is necessary. Consumption, exploitation, management of resources and the flow of capital – they are not all that is relevant. These may shape the world but they are not human qualities but answer to needs and imperatives we better question in time lest our lives be dictated by the regime they impose. Terror is a mental condition. Cultural health is a common good but it is not in itself democratic. For it to be accessible to all and to serve the societal and personal good at the same time, it must never be serviceable to power. The artist, then, is hard to govern, and he should be. It is in his nature to be subversive.

So, are you really only “as good as your last project”? Or your next? Are you that easily measured, defined and valued? Are you seriously asking for a price tag? If you invest yourself fully, your whole heart and being for all you are worth, then you can resist! At any time, under any conditions, no matter how oppressive they become. Then you will learn what you are made of, how “good” you really are. History knows no heroes, only courage.

Based in Berlin, Mathias Ortmann writes profoundly and intensively about Singapore films. Many of his writings can be found on the Sinema website. This thought piece by Mathias is written exclusively for SINdie.

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