Plus Briefly Back to Hashtag Class: Market U
I will touch on this part of the hashtag event diary as it bears a lot of resemblance to things that were going on during the project and now.
Wide Open Space part 1
I started listening to this via an audio recording I made, which I then realised was art-theatre. It came over subsequently as though I was listening to a Radio 4 spoof play. Which I guess is how it would have come across live in the gallery.
The idea was that the institution of ‘U’ aka (I think) any art university of reasonably renowned merit with all the stereo type baggage that comes with that kind of power structure: including the patronage of the famous, the rich, the inbred hangers-on and the cogs in the machine that keep it running for the benefit of itself and the good of it’s product: education.
Market U sounded like a really satirical look at this and how, even the art produced is manipulated so it can be perceived as it should; for the successful reputation of the institution. All this completed with a very politically correct Student Loan Forgiveness Goddess encouraging those with the biggest debt to play a game of lottery/roulette.
Sounds familiar anyone? I left my BA with just such feelings, like I had to get away from the institution in order to breathe. I did learn to weld though, and glass blow, and certainly made very good friends including staff, some of whom clearly saw the system at the time was not ideal, and if I look at uni from a devils advocate stance I did learn about it from that point of view, so my apprenticeship was not in vain. Bitter, no but I am glad I did this at a time in my life when I could fund myself through the circus.
Wide Open Space part 2
Which brings me to a couple of things that were also happening while the hashtag project was taking place. William Powhida was an unfamiliar name to me until about 6 weeks ago, a week into getting involved I noticed he had done what I thought was a fairly funny and also satirical drawing of another established power structure, with The New Museum Committed Suicide With Banality featuring prominent figures of the New York art scene. I looked further and found he had done another referencing the Art Basle Fair on Miami beach as a hooverville: showing the flashy established art fair scenario in the style of the doomed shanty town of hooverville originally depicted very satirically during the 30’s depression (only in this one Powhida showed caricatures of real art world ‘dignitaries’ carrying on as though nothing had happened ).
I recommend you go to William’s blog to get a better idea of what he intended
Now being a geographical outsider if you like I was, and still am fairly naive about the in and outs, the who’s who and the general politics of it all, but one thing I can see is as power structures go, they can begin to be insular and not open to levelled debate. Some of the empowered tend to get very defensive of their turf. You see it (unfortunately) in Unions, Government bodies, Public service bodies and no doubt the free and speculative Art Market is no exception.
As the hashtag events took shape so also did the Powhida drawing furore, to which it (the hooverville drawing) very timely produced another equally self evident affront by those depicted, during the final week of the project.
I believe the people who got riled at this saw it as either a personal attack. Or as an attack on their personal resuscitating efforts of an art machine that had hitherto high returns on the ‘normal’ art sales of previous years. One journalist or contributor to an art magazine took real offence and seemingly offered a violent response through a facebook page. One only hopes he gets his sense of humour back or he was ‘acting’ out a response.
Isn’t that just what we need though? It is not about us and them, its dammed healthy to have debate and not to take yourself so seriously (as in the really angry journo’s case). It’s a drawing! and whether it’s the art market or not the sensitivity to something like this smacks of power freaks, at best people with their head in the sand. We can satirise people yes? and no its not comfortable to be on the receiving end, but like comedy we’ve been here before, the drawings I believe are about an established business or market not personal vindication, even if personalities are involved. Bit like the Royal Family and even they have had to let go of the watertight grip on their public persona.
While he (Powhida) is very subtly making art a point, is at the same time drawing out the real fat controllers from their lairs, they really only have themselves to recognise and answer to.
Here’s a Piece sent out in December when the drawing first emerged a comprehensive article of the furore featured in the New York Times.
William Powhida’s blog also gives an up to date reference from the artists point of view
Which in turn brings me to…..
Wide Open Space part 3
I’ve been humming the Mansun’s 90’s tune, while wandering round Nottingham thinking about the call to arms for help to get exhibition space bought collectively by among others Jen Dalton, William and Man Bartlett called Escape from New York. They are planning on buying space in a building that is over the river out of the city so they can travel relatively easily (I guess – considering how big NY is) and I assume not alienate themselves by still being in the proximity rather than moving right outside of town: they are looking at a building in spacious New Jersey. I was trying to get my head around a building that has space for rent in (rich?) New Jersey that a group of artists can afford?. I am though totally with them on that. The fact that with so many artists involved they can exhibit essentially from their own framework and agenda. With the added ongoing potential of the space being used for art, seems a sound way to go.
Exhibition and studio space is so much part of the problem (and this looks like a good way to solve): the fact that city studio space is pitched to fail as land and property is premium and artists are not usually able to take out a second rent bill as they have enough dealing with home rent.
I mentioned before about the very fetching 5th floor no-lift-space, I and other artists shared and rented (along with leaky roof and a family of pigeons) 12 years ago. This was bang smack in the middle of the club/music/fashion area of Hockley before it was redeveloped, forcing us to ‘disband’, relocate and basically find somewhere out of town. The beauty of the Hockley space was we were able to drag potential business from a few streets away into the space. We all lived in various places in an around Nottingham then, so we never found that central space again.
So I’m thinking and musing about this, and how these sorts of approach can be used in different ways.
* update : Happy to say Nottingham has re-invented itself in the wake of Nottingham Contemporary – with a hive activity in artist and artist run spaces in and around the city circa 2016 !