ARTBOLLOCKS THEATRE: DOG LOVERS SPECIAL

4 May

doge

Dramatic readings of the worst artist statements, gallery press releases and art criticism. All real! Oh how I wish they weren’t. In this super special edition with added PERFORMANCE ART that will make Marina admit defeat, pack her money bags and retire at last:

Q: Does your promotional material and critical text need to have any relation to or mention of what is actually in the exhibition?

A: Apparently not. Just write about looking at a dog in a sort of vaguely prose poem that reads like some stoned high school kid’s notebook scribbles. Apart from listing the names of the artists and mentioning that it’s an MA degree show, there is no mention whatsoever of what we might see, what’s interesting about it, what media the artists are working in, or why we might want to go. So it’s not just a horrible, pretentious piece of writing, it’s also a complete failure in terms of promotion and as a way of documenting or describing the exhibition for those of us (i.e. 99% of us) who will never see it.

In keeping with the bogus stoner profundity of the text, I made some impromptu, dog-related interpretive performance art that you can also “enjoy” in this video.

They face off in the room. He looks into her eyes and she looks into his. She sees him looking at her looking at him looking at her looking at him looking at her and she feels self-conscious so focuses on the detail. The brown that pretends to be black and the nostril that pretends to be still. She tries not to blink, but it’s hard work. She blinks.

She tries to maintain the kind of eye contact you might have when your eyeballs don’t actually touch. But with or without contact, the in-between-ness remains, even if it is only as membranous liquid or coagulated tears or the crust that separates wet from dry. The space between prevails with an unknown exchange rate. She wonders how long they would have to touch before they would conglomerate…or was the still, stale air of judgment and opinion already mattering between them.

She looks again, imagining a bird’s eye view and a hind sight too. She tries to allow the image to surprise her: tiny hairs and the space behind the ears and the eyelid twitch and the nervous tick.

Is this what an encounter feels like? I try to find words to say but this moment escapes language. Are you, too, intoxicated with life? It all rises viscously around us, like an ocean storm and meaty tiptoes and a packet of midnight howls.

Are we feeling something together? Are we becoming something and then meaning something and then all the magic sensations in our bodily pits…We dance on the threshold of a primal immediacy, and weigh each other against the wild and untamed. A half sunken waltz to an ensemble of smells, crystallizing endlessly between offering and protecting ourselves.

Still I wonder if my vision is stubbornly dogged, or worse, dogmatic. Tell me if I am seeing you or just an actor performing the real you.

What does he stand for? What have I made him stand for? He sits but his size is not reduced…broad shoulders and square jaw.

I want to sing to him but he stands. And lifts a leg. In lieu of mine, he is suddenly estranged from this romantic fiction. He flees with his fleas and his nervous tick too. A diagonal escape into his own self-referential future, going blind, making me invisible as he madly gnaws at his own tale.

His trace is brutal, and yet the space has shifted. And in the end, making art and meeting a dog can be much the same thing.

DEGENERATION AREA

31 Jul

monopoly manVia artist Mimei Thompson on the F***book, news of a property developer soon to be bulldozing over a hundred artist studios near Hackney Road in London. They’ll be replaced by a twenty storey tower with “workspace” (whatever that is) and 170 homes including “a number of affordable”. Britain’s cities and towns desperately need more and better housing accessible to everyone regardless of their income, but we all know what the “number” of affordable units will be: as few as possible, probably with a separate door so the poors don’t rub their poor all over the investment/money laundering boxes of all the Chinese, Russian and Arab one percenters who are just about the only people who can buy these places. Affordable is a laughably– and conveniently– ill-defined and slippery developers’ term anyway.

Don’t worry, though, the loss of this artist community (who stupidly, inconveniently brought life to a rundown area and made it attractive to developers in the first place) will not go unmarked. The developers and Eastside Educational Trust are offering a princely £1000 sculpture prize. “The winning artist will receive funds to make their sculpture, as well as a £1,000 cash prize, and the exciting chance to have their piece exhibited as a public work of art.” It’s probably not conscious, but note that they avoid the word “work” in favour of the word “piece”. The page linked here gives the number of new homes as “over 200″. An attempt to contact them about the prize met with– oops or not oops?– an out of office autoreply stating that the person responsible wouldn’t be back until the second week of August. That’s how bothered they are in whether artists actually apply for it or not, anyway. UPDATE: See below.

Continue reading

ARE YOU VALID?

27 Jul

LikeSome new research on artists working outside the gallery system has just been published by Axis [1]: Validation Beyond the Gallery. As an artist who has little interest in making objects that can be sold, collected or otherwise institutionalised, as a relative outsider (and Outsider) even among the outlying group of artists who feel the same [2], and as somebody doing ongoing work related to artists’ livelihoods and pay, there’s some interesting stuff in there. The only caveat I’d add is that the study is by their own description qualitative [3], i.e. an interpretation of narrative from only 25 participants, so personally I’d be very cautious about forming policy or drawing universal conclusions from such an incredibly small sample of participants.

Having said that, the TLDR version will perhaps be unsurprising to anyone with any experience in the matters under discussion, although evidently it still needs to be said:

  • Publicly funded organisations– and funders themselves doubly so– still won’t and don’t, for the most part, commit to artists directly because they’re geared towards fixed-term, limited and highly instrumentalised, institutionally-driven projects.
  • The (fairly large) sector is critically ignored, and often treated as the poor cousin of “proper” gallery-based art.
  • Meanwhile many artists are neither suitable for nor interested in the “Art World” that consists of the art market and the symbiotic private/major institution gallery system that is widely– obsessively, even– covered by academia, the mainstream media and the specialised art magazines to the exclusion and detriment of all the other “art worlds” that exist.
  • Experiencing any degree of success or recognition in this sector is pretty much a crapshoot because the infrastructure is so haphazard, which in turn fragments the community of artists working within it. This study very tellingly reveals that even people who work in the sector struggle to name their peers, and find it hard to define success beyond just being able to keep doing it.

Link for an introduction to the research and the wider project of which it is a part. It’s worth reading, for artists and commissioners or policy people alike, with some thought-provoking quotes from the artists and producers who were interviewed.

NB Reading it in the embedded publication viewer is like trying to knit socks onto a flea, and the way to access it at a comfortably readable size or download it is not immediately obvious: to do so, click the “i” at top right or just cut out the middle man and click here.

NOTES

[1] For people outside the UK, this refers to the artists’ database and networking platform, not the WWII coalition of powers opposed to the Allies. Man, I never tire of this gag.

[2] It’s a bit less blatantly obnoxious and the artists are a bit less cut-throat about it, if only because it’s hardly worth cutting anybody’s throat over the meagre sums usually available for commissions and performances, but performance and community artists have a definite inner circle as well. You tend to see the same people– some of them, at best, one trick ponies– and the same narrow types of work on the same circuits time and time again because it’s still who you know that counts for more than what you know. That’s artbiz.

[3] Some artists might like to make sure they know the difference between qualitative research, quantitive research, and “research” that is only research is the most literal, basic sense of “systematically finding facts”; this applies especially to the most recent generation of people mangled through an art pedagogy regime which is currently obsessed with brainwashing artists into believing their art is research and research is art, without ever training them in anything resembling actual research methodologies, objectivity, or how to interpret data.

BUY NINE, GET SIX DESTROYED FOR FREE

17 Jul

A PARABLE FOR ARTISTS

The early Christian writer Lactantius– who advised the first Christian Roman emperor, Constantine I– told the story of how the Roman king Tarquinius Priscus acquired the Sibylline books which were kept in Rome’s Capitoline temple for consultation, guidance and divination in times of trouble. Although Priscus bought them, they were eventually considered priceless and remained in the temple for many centuries until they and the temple were destroyed by fire in 83 BC.

The Sibylline books took their name from their keeper, the Cumaean Sibyl, high priestess of the Apollonian Oracle at Cumae near modern day Naples. At some point between 616 and 579 BC, she made Priscus an offer he initially thought he could refuse:

They say that Amalthea, the Sibyl from Cumae, brought nine books to the king Tarquinius Priscus, and asked 300 gold pieces for them. The king refused, saying it was far too much, and derided the woman, saying she was mad. So in the sight of the king, she burnt three of the books, and demanded the same price for the remaining six. Tarquinius thought her even madder. When she burnt three more, but persisted in demanding the same price, the king was thrown into turmoil and bought the remaining books for the original price.

fawlty580_133438a

In recent years some people have occasionally mooted the idea of artists going on strike to drive home how much local, national, international and art world economies rely upon the work that creative people do, much of it– as we all know– woefully underpaid and unappreciated, taken for granted, or not paid at all. I have no idea how an artist strike would work in practice, or what artists comprehensively withdrawing their labour would actually entail; I don’t think anybody does because it’s pretty much a cloud cuckoo land proposition. We already have a huge cohort of scab artists who’ll undercut and undermine colleagues who refuse to work for low or no pay. The artistic and creative industries rely upon this fact to a very large extent, actually, hence the constant issuing forth from corporate offices of so-called opportunities that are “viral”, “get your work in front of industry leaders” or “great exposure” but also PURELY BY COINCIDENCE OBVIOUSLY would cost them thousands if they paid anybody to do them properly.

Even so, I do think it’s worth artists maintaining an inner Sibyl who simply won’t negotiate or be bullied when it comes to the value of what she does and how much value it brings to other people. Be the prophetess who would rather burn her work and be thought mad than give it away.

BARBARA HEPWORTH COSPLAY AT TATE BRITAIN

26 Jun
Margaret_Howell_Artists_Duffel_Coat_16692

Artist duffle coat, £425.

What better way to celebrate a major* exhibition of Dame Barbara Hepworth’s Modernist art at Tate Britain than spending £1200 in their gift shop to dress like a Hepster? Luckily the costumes clothes don’t have bloody great holes through the middle of them like her sculptures. Rather than a real artist of Hepworth’s vintage, they’re more like the sort of slightly-too-on-point-to-be-real ensembles you’d see worn by a beatnik artist Don Draper was knobbing on Mad Men. They’ve also wisely stuck to mod and steered clear of Babs’ occasional sartorial forays into getting herself up like a forest witch from a Russian folk tale. Designer Margaret Howell says “She was a woman to roll up her sleeves, and a woman who needed pockets – for chisel, pencil, and pebbles from the beach.” Do my eyes deceive me or is this woman actually mansplaining pockets to women? I know this revelation of the true purpose of pockets as places to put things will come as a shock to all you ladies who don’t generally need pockets and didn’t know what pockets are for. Buy a £135 Artist Smock and start getting some pebbles in yer. Maybe get a £1 Barbara Hepworth pencil like what she had for making her sculptures and shit.

You get the pencils from the gift shop, incidentally, and not from the beach where you also get chisels, as Howell’s bad grammar would suggest.

* Damn those pesky minor exhibitions, so pernicious that art museums and galleries constantly need to distinguish their “major” ones from paltry minor ones. Yeah, get the fuck out of here and don’t come back, minor artists with your minor exhibition bullshit.

Anyway, I’ve taken the liberty of virtually modelling some of the gear for you all. Next time I’m in the Crapital I’ll have to pop in to the old mausoleum and wear some of them for real. Or maybe we could all dress up as stereotypical-looking modern artists to storm the place en masse. DM me. I probably shouldn’t have said that. They’ll have printouts of me behind the tills or something: CALL SECURITY. When I have my retrospective at Tate Britain because I’m dead and can’t actually benefit from it, it’s going to be really easy for the gift shop buyers because usually I alternate between an outdoors lumbersexual look and for indoors hikikomori time (which is most of it, frankly) a black or dark blue T-shirt and the same trousers I’ve been wearing all week if I bother to put trousers on at all.

GET YOUR SMOCK ON, GET YOUR SMOCK ON, GET YOUR GET YOUR GET YOUR SMOCK ON

HepworthCosplay1

Scarf £195 + artist dungarees [sic] £245 + artist duffle coat [sic] £425 = £865. I’m wearing the artist duffle coat under the artist dungarees because the rules of your uncool square society don’t apply to me, daddio, and hell yeah I’m wearing a headscarf with the Tate logo on it. Half Withnail, half butch lesbian factory worker, all artist, dig?

 HepworthCosplay2

The twin influences of Cold War nihilism and Modernist utopianism are elegantly expressed in this ensemble of artist apron [sic]– a bargain at £75– charcoal silk scarf (£195) and artist smock [sic] for a mere £135. What do you mean you don’t have an artist smock? What kind of an artist are you? No kind of an artist is the answer, my friend, because all artists need a smock: END OF. Get thee to a gift shoppery.

More jolly violations of dead artists:

Miffy Rembrandt. Norwegian weltschmerz with Hello Kitty. Van Gogh Barbie (cut off earlobe sold separately)

… and further fashion choices for your high net worth art as lifestyle:

Silk trousers £575.

MORE MACHINE METONYMY MANAGEMENT

22 Jun

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAn interesting summary in MIT Technology Review of some recent research done on creativity in historical art, creativity here being taken to mean novelty in imagery or content that had an influence on other– by definition less creative and more derivative– works by the same artist or by others. A machine vision algorithm analysed “classemes”: visual concepts which “can be low-level features such as color, texture, and so on, simple objects such as a house, a church or a haystack and much higher-level features such as walking, a dead body, and so on.”

Intriguingly, the algorithm is not restricted to figurative art and it can cope with abstraction and pop art, although at this stage they seem to be looking at painting. The software critic also tends to broadly agree with human assessments of the most influential works and artists even though it was not primed or biased in any way; all it did was look at which artists were being creative and which were being derivative in their imagery. Possibly another point for the “yes, good and bad art is quantifiable” side.

By the way… I must point out that despite MIT supposedly having some of the best logical minds on the planet, nobody seems to have noticed that MIT stands for Massachusetts Institute of Technology, therefore this publication’s name is Massachusetts Institute of Technology Technology Review.

Read the original scientific paper here, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology Technology Review’s review here here.

(Previously: Google AI’s halluncinations)

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