Tag Archives: doing it right

HAPPENING EVERYWHERE

25 Jan

MemesMemes

About five years ago when I and a few colleagues started talking about the (mostly really shitty) economics and realpolitik of being an artist who isn’t one of yer Damien Hirsts, Tracey Emins or Turner Prize winner– and aren’t we all glad not to be?– everybody else’s reaction was what the who now? You want to talk about money? Why? Don’t artists just do it for the sake of art? Then hundreds of artists, arts professionals and art lovers turned up to the public discussions we organised on the subject. Now everybody’s talking about it everywhere, all the time, from Facebook groups like Stop Working For Free to art blogs like Hyperallergic. Books are written about it, although none of them are as good as mine. There are campaigns like W.A.G.E. in New York and the UK’s Paying Artists. The more the better because it’s still not enough. Nobody talks about it much in the mainstream newspapers and art magazines, obviously, or at the director and senior curator or top 100 artist level because they all have comfy upper middle class (often much higher than upper middle class) salaries to protect so they want it kept down low. Either that or they simply haven’t noticed how hard it is now for artists to get paid or even to get a foot in the door to begin with.

Last week I became aware of another two voices adding to what must soon be a critical mass of resistance to the fucked up status quo for people who work in the arts.

Iceland’s SÍM (Association of Icelandic Artists) has launched We Pay Visual Artists. Obviously their site is mostly in Icelandic, but their interesting and well-argued videos are all subtitled. a-n’s Jack Hutchinson did a report on it in English.

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The actors’ union Equity also have a campaign called Professionally Made Professionally Paid, which if nothing else is an excellent slogan. They have three useful documents available to download, containing pragmatic advice for the payers and the hopefully getting paid, alongside more general context that is useful for any creative worker in any medium.

I particularly enjoyed their unapologetic and detailed calling out of You Me Bum Bum Train, who get a rocket up the arse arse because despite broadsheet cultural critics who seem to love the theatrical result of performers working their poor thespian bum bums off for no pay… (quote):

“You Me Bum Bum Train engage exclusively volunteers to do what should be paid professional work in the main. They refuse to engage with the Union in any meaningful way and have a business model dependent on the use of volunteer labour (which is largely highly skilled, being sought from the ranks of paid professionals). Only via established theatres with whom we have an industrial relationship have we managed to have any contact with the company.”

This is a very succinct condensation of the persistent and diffuse problems faced by many artists– and I mean artists in the widest sense of the word including actors, performance artists, writers, visual artists, and so on. Paid individuals, profit making companies or publicly funded projects expecting to get professional quality work for nothing, and very often getting away with it. Years of training and/or honing your craft not only taken for granted but also just taken as if they have a right to it. Paid work abolished in favour of unpaid work that only a comfortably off person can commit to. Also this theatre company’s name is really bloody stupid and has always irked me, but that’s mostly unrelated.

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“PRETENTIOUS”, “ABSURD”, “ASTONISHING SELF-IMPORTANCE”

21 Jun

… THE FIRST HONEST TINO SEHGAL REVIEW EVER

Two shocking outbreaks of critique against the art world’s elite this week. By “shocking”, of course, I mean shocking that they actually got published at all. Artists and art people talk a million tons of shit about each other every single day in private, but not much of it ever comes out publicly. Except on this blog, obviously [LEERING TROLL FACE].

Firstly– though admittedly from the No Shit Sherlock Department– Pretentious Tino Sehgal Delivers Absurd Talk With Tina Brown to Baffled Bankers at Art Basel.* Pretentious, pompous Emperor’s New Clothes Tino Sehgal is pretentious, pompous and wearing the Emperor’s New Clothes. The story has no byline, but Artnet News helpfully provides this page, complete with mugshots, where you could try to work out who was responsible for dissing the non-performing performance artist with Homer Simpson’s hair and Marvin the Paranoid Android’s sense of humour. Regardless of who wrote it, when even those people accustomed to buttoning their lip and saying nothing if they can’t say anything nice think you’re so pretentious and full of “astonishing self-importance” that nobody could be offended by them saying so… you’re definitely one of the art world’s arseholes de les arseholes.

* The alliteration of Baffled Bankers made me think of Waffled Wankers. That is all, carry on.

MartyInterpretiveDance

TINO SAYS:

“One of the biggest civilizational achievements of the West, apart from soap, is the convention of opening hours. There are two modalities on which you can organize people: appointments…and opening hours.”

Every single factual [sic] part of this paragraph is so far from being true or cogent that I would suspect he was trying to make some kind of provocative, trolling statement here, if I didn’t also suspect much more strongly that he genuinely thought this was a profound observation. “Civilizational” is not a word, nor should it be.

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ARTBOLLOCKS THEATRE S3E2: INSTRUMENTALIZED

16 Feb

thunderdome

Dramatic readings of the worst artist statements, gallery press releases and art criticism. All real, all serious, all horribly written. I apologise in advance for any foreign or jargon words that I accidentally pronounced correctly. This time, two artists in a Belgian “overall installation” that seems to be about interfering with virgins. You can play along with your Artbollocks Bingo card, and you can watch more Artbollocks Theatre here on the blog or on my Vimeo channel.

“From the stock of a museum, Sophie Langohr unearthed fifteen statues of the Virgin Mary in the Saint-Sulpice style, which today represent the purest form of religious knick-knack and the beginnings of a semi-industrial art. The artist confronts the outmoded faces with the ones found on the internet of the current muses that incarnate the big brands of the luxury industry.
 As diptychs, these transfigurations give us the consummate illusion of a particularly dreaded cinema-photo-digital aesthetics.”

Yes… but why did she do it? This information is totally absent, and it is perhaps the most cogent thing we might like to know before we’ve seen the work, or if not cogent then at least it’s the aspect that might allow us to decide whether what the artist has done actually has any purpose or merit. How odd that we’re specifically denied the option of doing so. HASHTAG SARCASM. How does one confront faces? If this just means “putting them next to one other”, then just say so.  What is “cinema-photo-digital aesthetics”, why is it “particularly dreaded” and by whom?

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IT CAN BE DONE

26 Jan
VoH2

“I… I… can understand this wall text.”

“It” being to write about art without tediously reciting what the art is made of, what the art looks like and what we supposedly feel about the art, and using plain English without resorting to pretentious, empty language. Thank Karen Archey for this rare example of a non-bollocks art press release, related to an exhibition in Stockholm.

Curatron #5 release

All artworks in this exhibition deal with the body, its removals, artificiality, and ineffability. Lost limbs, artificial hormones, forgotten cultures, made-up people, dead celebrities. Since when is it so hard to get real in this world? I wake up and feel invisible. I work and feel invisible. I eat, shit, and sleep invisible. It’s 2015 and we’ve regressed so far that identity politics feel new again.

What will make our shadows stick?

I’ve noticed a lot of artists who grasp anything in sight and describe and smother it with words, as if blind. Like babies who mull over the world in their mouth because their sight is too abstract. This impulse to smother reminds me of Pompeii’s last afternoon. As Vesuvius erupted, the most boring shit was cast pristine in ash to pick, prod and hold for centuries to come. Everything also died. Ask your favorite archeologist: was it worth it?

What is an exhibition but a body—a sum totaling more than its parts? If I give you five fingers and a press release, will it make a hand? I want an exhibition that totals less than its parts that detracts from what we already know. I want to go deep, toward death; figure out why we all feel so fucking invisible and fuck phantom soulmates. No words.

In contrast to all the bad writing I cover here, there’s relatively little commentary required on this one. Regardless of whether this piece of writing’s tone or voice is to your taste, it’s personal and it undeniably has character. It is evocative and non-literal about its subject. Note especially that she’s talking about the theme of the exhibition without ever short-circuiting (or assuming) the reader’s need or desire to see the exhibition itself. If one can’t trust the art to communicate with the public then the art probably shouldn’t be shown. A critical or review text’s legitimate, productive roles do not include excusing or handwaving an artist’s failure to connect and communicate. It’s also not very much to ask of a writer that they too communicate in clear, honest and meaningful language instead of fridge magnet poetry or random jargon strings, but many don’t. Archey does. Good for her.

I like her observation about many artists grabbing everything in sight and smothering it with words. I agree, and I think in many cases they do it because they’re plain old charlatans whose artistic, imaginative or aesthetic abilities are so limited that they have no alternative. There are now several generations of artists and curators who’ve been indoctrinated with the idea that it doesn’t matter how hollow or slight your work might be if you can armour plate it (or better still, have it armour plated by a curator or art academic) in a solid wall of baffling International Art English.

INTERVIEW AT ART MAP LONDON

14 Jan

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Find out– among other things– the benefits of saying FUCK YOU to art world shitheels, how uncool starving in an attic is, and why you are probably not a princess or an astronaut.

http://artmaplondon.com/artmap/artist-artist-interview-alistair-gentry/

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