25 Sep

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See some of Artbollocks Theatre, series 2 at the Outcasting: Fourth Wall Festival of artists’ moving image work in Cardiff this October. Various dates from October 6th at Porter’s Bar Cinema, then at ATRiuM, University of South Wales from October 13th. Other screening programmes continue throughout the month at different venues, including Chapter. Launch on October 1st, 4-7pm. Even leaving myself aside (which is both hard to do and extremely foolish because I’m AMAZING) there are some great artists, commissions and films in this one. Anyone who doesn’t like it or doesn’t find it appealing is dead to me. YOU HEAR? Dead.

New art bollockers brought to justice soon in Artbollocks Theatre 3: Super Cop.

Also, bloody hell, how did it get to be October already?


28 Jun



A 26 minute barrage of bollocks, compiled from series two of Artbollocks Theatre with a new disturbing laugh track and inappropriate library music. I know, just what you always wanted. The writing of many artists, gallerists and curators is a tragedy, so I’m repeating it as comedy.

You can also check out my new Artbollocks Theatre channel on Vimeo. There’s now a facility there for you to leave me a small tip with PayPal or your magic pretend money kurejittokādo if you like Artbollocks Theatre WHICH I KNOW YOU DO BABY. It’s like Kickstarter, but I’ve already done it so that’s better, surely? You could even regard tipping as if you’re in the USA, and you have to leave a tip or your “ass” will be shot by the waitress and you will probably die. Or something like that.

I’ll leave it up to you, though. If you want to die, obviously it’s your decision.


“I could go on, but I’m probably boring you.”


21 Oct


I’ve been saying for years that old projectors and other modernist paraphernalia in art galleries are tropes, affectations, bourgeois set dressing rather than meaningful vehicles for a 21st century artist to express themselves. Here is artist Hito Steyerl’s splendid volley against the practice. She nailed it.

Next time I see another 16mm film projector rattling away in a gallery I will personally kidnap it and take the poor thing to a pensioners home. There is usually no intrinsic reason whatsoever for the use of 16mm film nowadays except for making moving images look pretentious, expensive and vaguely modernist, all prepackaged with a whiff of WASPish art history. It made sense to use Bolexes in 1968, and indeed people used them to brilliant end. But today people use cellphones, Kinnect sensors and After Effects to deal with the present and shape it. And if artists do not expose themselves to the workflow and economies that come with contemporary means of production, they become souvenir peddlers. Or worse trying to conveniently package a bygone radical moment as a collectors item.

On this blog, see also TACITA DEAN (congratulations, you’ve made a screensaver twenty meters high) and ARSENALE VI: FILM PROJECTOR MORATORIUM, PLEASE


20 Oct


The Louvre is shortly to open a new facility in Abu Dhabi, designed by Jean Nouvel and looking like some kind of Logan’s Run shit that nobody who knew anything about art would ever want to show art in, as is usual for 21st century art silos. Talk about sterile. An outpost of the Guggenheim is also in progress, which will probably be equally austere, inhumane, architect-cool and ghastly. Having realised that they probably need some art or something– even if most of the walls are wonky or fifty meters from floor level– the gold-plated Arabic Louvre flagship store just announced the loan of 300 art works from French institutions. So let’s explore beautiful Abu Dhabi as it uses up the Earth’s precious resources to water lawns in the desert, let’s check out some of the art works being pimped out by the French to the jolly Emirs, and on the way we can have a wee think about what made the land of liberté, égalité, fraternité lose their damn minds and decide to have a gigantic art baby with the United Arab Emirates.


Leonardo da Vinci, ‘La Belle Ferronière’, 1495–99.

La Belle Ferronière will need to cover up that whorish hair and stop making insolent eye contact if she doesn’t want a taste of the whip.

I mean, does her husband, father or brother even know she’s out? According to Human Rights Watch and probably anybody else with eyes, ears and a rudimentary sense of right and wrong, the way Sharia is applied in the UAE systematically discriminates against women. Rape victims can face prison sentences of a year or more. Yes, you read that right. Victims of rape are prosecuted. Being raped is an “extramarital relation”, which is illegal. Women can’t marry without permission from a male guardian. It is illegal for a Muslim woman to marry a non-Muslim man; this is considered “fornication” and therefore worthy of corporal punishment. Kissing in public is also against the law, and can lead to deportation if you’re lucky enough to be a foreigner. Worse if you’re not. In the UAE, flogging (between 80 and 200 lashes) and stoning to death are legal punishments for offences including adultery, premarital sex and prostitution. Not just in theory, either; these barbaric punishments are regularly carried out. The UAE refuses to ratify the UN Convention on the elimination of torture.

Bonus fun fact: Apostasy (renouncing or denying religion, i.e. Islam) carries the death penalty too! Renouncing other religions is probably fine because only one religion is allowed anyway. Don’t worry, though; even if you’re a devout follower of Islam there are still many great opportunities for you to be abused, executed or unjustifiably detained in the UAE!

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16 Oct

Mr Barlow the vampire, from "Salem's Lot' It just seems appropriate in some way.

The New York-based group W.A.G.E. have for some time been advocating better pay and conditions for artists, and more accountability by the organisations and businesses who profit materially from their labour. Now they’ve launched a certification system for places that meet their guidelines of voluntarily and fairly remunerating artists. I won’t add too much commentary because I suggest you go over there and read it all if you’re an artist or you work with artists, whether you’re based in the USA or not.

Among all the professionals who participate in this economy, artists are often alone among those whose contributions go uncompensated. While many non-profit arts organizations provide fees to artists for some forms of participation, fees are rarely provided for the most basic contributions artists make. Exhibition budgets include compensation for curators, writers, insurers, shippers, designers, printers, preparators, caterers and event organizers, among many others, but rarely for the artists on whom the exhibition itself depends.

Definitions of various types of work, or working relationships, that an artist may have with an arts organisation and for which they should be paid.

Their fee calculator. Note that their minimum levels, although quite low, are still far more than many artists currently get. This is just as true in the UK as it is elsewhere, even though the UK– despite vicious ideological cuts by the Conservatives and their so-called “austerity” measures, not to mention a tiny fraction of GDP funding it all to begin with– has one of the world’s most generous, functional and comprehensive systems of state funding for the arts. It just doesn’t filter through to artists, for the most part. As W.A.G.E. point out, and I have noted many times, none of these publicly funded places would think of telling their caterers or printers that they shouldn’t expect to be paid because “there’s no budget for it.” Their attitude seems to be thanks for the lifeblood, hope you don’t die so we can bleed you some more later.

The W.A.G.E. minimum fee for a solo exhibition is only $1000 (€790 or £630), for example. Bear in mind that most artists are lucky to have one solo exhibition per year. At these rates she or he would need to have one for every month of the year to earn the meagre pre-tax figure of $12,000 PA. For an artist talk or reading, the W.A.G.E. minimum is $150 (€120 or £95). Although these are minimums and obviously the hope is that organisations voluntarily pay more if they can, it should be emphasised that these are not ambitious figures by any reasonable standard and they’re setting the bar very low. Which is not a dig at W.A.G.E. in any manner whatsoever. It’s just indicative of how disgracefully and contemptuously the art world has learned to treat it’s most precious assets, i.e. artists.

The W.A.G.E. wo/manifesto:



14 Oct

CatSharkRoombaVia Le Guardian.

1) Marc Kirschner, founder and CEO, TenduTV/Cultureband
Plan ahead (more than you think): Where a lot of the arts organisations we work with are going wrong is that they don’t plan long-term enough. A lot will post a video related to an upcoming performance two weeks or less in advance, which is simply not enough time to generate interest in the video or to maximise the potential long-term benefits of that piece of content within YouTube’s algorithms.

Can everybody who does PR, marketing and audience development for galleries, public talks, readings, gigs, festivals and venues please pay very close attention to what Marc is saying here? It’s nice when your friends spontaneously call you or send you a message about doing something, having a coffee or a swift pint, just hanging out and catching up, or whatever. Shoestring, artist-run places can be somewhat forgiven for this one because they usually work bloody hard and don’t have full time staff or very much money. Major commercial or publicly funded spaces can’t be forgiven for it. A MAJOR ART GALLERY IS NOT MY FRIEND. I’m not at its beck and it doesn’t get to call me up when it’s in the mood or because it’s having a last minute flap that nobody seems to be interested. Maybe it’s because they never tell people anything or get their shit together until it’s too late. The first I know about an exhibition or event shouldn’t be two weeks (or worse, two days, and worse still two hours) before it’s happening. Two weeks, two days and/or two hours before is when I should be additionally getting a reminder. I don’t even know how many times I would happily have gone to things if I’d had more than twenty seconds notice. In many cases I would have bought a ticket, i.e. given them money, which is the whole point of your marketing job, Mr or Ms Marketing.

On the other hand, many galleries seem not to care if nobody sees the art. Indeed many of them seem more comfortable if nobody sees the art, so I don’t forsee many of them rushing to accommodate YouTube’s audience-maximising algorithms.

2) Simon Walker, chief strategy officer, Rightster
Influence: What we are seeing is the emergence of a new set of influencers…  it was only last month the rest of the industry noticed that sitting on the front row next to Anna Wintour was a bunch of YouTube kids who have suddenly got the same kind of editorial power as the editor of Vogue.

The question for the arts sector is: who are the new influencers?

My emphasis on the last sentence. This gentleman is from Rightster, beneficiaries of a £1.8 million Arts Council grant for a new arts video network. (Previously on Career Suicide…) The team working on that project seriously need to take Rightster’s own advice if they don’t want the ACE MCN to turn into another pointless money pit, or the art world equivalent of a shark cat riding a Roomba. The latter is a particularly big trap lying in wait, because most contemporary art that gets covered in the mainstream media already doesn’t have any more depth than a video of a shark cat riding a Roomba.

There definitely are new influencers in the visual arts, and they most certainly ain’t critical darlings like Ryan Gander, Ai Wei Wei, or Grayson Perry, critics from national newspapers or big art magazines, or dead horse floggers like Emin or Hirst, despite the fact that they and their ilk are still constantly pimping their dreary old work and flapping their dreary old mouths in the mainstream media. Mainly because the mainstream media and mainstream galleries are too fucking lazy to even follow an artist they don’t know on Twitter, let alone to go outside their own postcode and actively cultivate artists who are doing interesting, original stuff.

“Influencers” sounds too much like influenza (and comes from the same Latin root), by the way. Nobody wants that. It’s an autocorrect mistake in waiting: “Up to 100 million people died during the influencer outbreak.” These people are paid enough and they’re meant to be good with words; they should be able to come up with a better one.

PS: Talking of influenza, this blog has more readers per month than most of the printed art magazines in Britain. Just saying…


1 Oct



“This video work is an ontologically complex vehicle for the exploration of domestic space, oscillating between the predatory subtexts of the manufactured consumer sphere and its products, and an ironic postmodernist subversion of so-called “innocence” in nature.”

The Arts Council has just awarded a “seedcorn investment” £1.8 million grant to Rightster, the “global b2b video network for distribution, content-sourcing, audience engagement and monetisation”, via the National Lottery. That’s a large seed corn, approaching inexplicable James and the Giant Peach proportions. It’s in aid of a new YouTube-based multichannel network (MCN) for the arts. You never know, it may be brilliant. It may open up opportunities and wider audiences for lots of previously undersupported, excluded or underappreciated artists who deserve more recognition and reward. Stranger things have happened. Maybe they’ll genuinely bring in people other than the usual suspects and the same boring old brand name artists who really don’t need any more help. They need to do some proper research and outreach, look properly at what artists are really doing and really interested in right now instead of just going straight to the established galleries who don’t have a bloody clue about either of these things. They’re always 5-10 years behind the actual practice of most artists. Bypass institutional curators entirely, because they only know what and who they like, not what’s really happening at ground level. The AC’s previous effort, The Space, seems well-intentioned and appears to be doing something even though to me their website is such a usability horrorshow and so sparse in its content that I can’t tell what exactly they’re doing or what they’re hoping to achieve. I’m not even being sarcastic. Seriously, if anybody can explain it to me, feel free.

I really fear, though, that MCNACE* will simply favour an art world version of the lowest common denominator trash that racks up the views everywhere else on YouTube, facilitated by corporate interests like Rightster– unknown to most people, who still somehow manage to delude themselves that there’s any kind of indie, grassroots creativity or spontaneity to million hit+ channels. I’d love them to prove me wrong, but at the moment I really don’t see how it makes sense to tackle an inherently minority interest aesthetic realm like the arts with the same toolbox as uncomplicated, zero-subtext, zero-craft virals about people wearing GoPros as they leap off a cliff, or cats riding Roombas.

The biggest clue to the purpose and mentality behind these MCNs is in the very name: “channel”, like on your TV, programmed, commissioned, corralled and controlled in exactly the same way except that the investment in production and artists’ development is a fraction of what broadcasters have been accustomed to. It’s what they’ve been trying to do with varying degrees of failure since the internet became a genuinely mass medium. Does anybody remember “web portals”? And if so, do you know anyone who liked them? Start planning your new video art practice now, but only on subjects like kittens, pugs, various other pets in costumes or boxes or otherwise doing human-like stuff, screamingunhingedrunk commentaries while you play video games, what you bought when you went shopping, your dinner, reactions to or parodies of other YouTube videos, setting fire to things, cruel and psychopathic pranks, unfunny skits with you wearing a wig, drippy low-fi ukelele or piano covers of pop songs, etc.

Also, from the same link and presented in the same no biggie, FYI, just-thought-you-should-know spirit as the press release:

“Rightster applied for the MCN grant commission in May 2014. In July 2014 they bought Base79**, a company in which Arts Council Chair, Sir Peter Bazalgette, had a shareholding (declared in the Arts Council’s register of interests in November 2013).  Rightster’s purchase of Base79 is a cash+shares transaction, the shares dependent on Base79’s future performance, so Sir Peter Bazalgette has a potential interest in Rightster. He has not been party to the decision to award the grant to Rightster.”

* Somebody from Rightster should contact me privately to discuss licensing this name for use on all the channel’s branding. <Tony Soprano voice> I’d like a taste of that £1.8 million, just like Baz… you know… POTENTIALLY.

** Base79 is an existing MCN, which seems fairly ghastly.


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