Category: Art

Categorical Twist ( Plus a timely recap on #Class; The Feminists Tea Party)

 

 

 

 

Categories, categories, categories, I was warned about them by an artist once……..”your work is very feminine (?) you will be categorised… oh yes you will!”.

 

The work I was producing at the time was sculptural as now, but no more or less feminine I don’t think. Perhaps it was because I had used fine white thread to make labour intensive (on my part) pom poms which I hung by equally fine thread from the ceiling at various lengths. I suppose soft, fluffy and snow-white would enter into the description.

 

But the work was no less interconnected with the stuff I am doing now, using crude oil, rubber, and jet; dark hard and even repugnant materials does that fit feminine too? No, silly me! that is just based on stereo type images, pink for girls blue for boys stuff.

I suppose my art is bound to reflect the fact that my gender has an impact on how I function in the world and therefore can’t help but be shown through what I do – though I am no more aware of using feminine gestures, materials, or ways of expressing, than Joe Bloggs or indeed Jo Bloggs on the wide spectrum of x, y and z chromosomes.

 

My works are, and always have been about products, labour, consumption and the social-human condition. So as far as being specifically feminine well – I am female and that just about covers it.

 

This is not an easy thing to flat-line because as a category women and artists can fit into that female catch-all group and do have similar basic dilemmas; simplistically put, child bearing and dogma. But from there they can have widely different bench marks.

Recapping on one of the discussions at the extremely energising #class  – which by all accounts they are having another bash this summer – (hold on to your seats and watch this space! plus their website for details).

T party
The Feminists Tea Party

 

The event description;


Caitlin Rueter and Suzanne Stroebe will host a Feminist Tea Party, an event that lies somewhere in between a contemporary consciousness raising group, a panel discussion, a performance, and a joke. They will create an installation of sorts, with a table set for tea, complete with tablecloth, porcelain cups, finger sandwiches and cookies. While attempting to maintain a visual and stylistic protocol consistent with an afternoon tea party, they will engage visitors in a dialogue around contemporary women’s issues that contrasts sharply with the formal, prissy setting.

During the discussion, someone suggested that the term feminism had actually come to represent an angry word and for many people this category had become representative of an angry movement. A lot of the idea, stemming from people who felt threatened by it in the ‘70’s, and describing them as family destroyers.

 

I was only a whippersnapper at the time so I never really picked up on the feminist thing, only what was reported in the press and shown through TV sit-coms, fashion etc.,. The general consensus if you like.  Even the feminists themselves found that their camps were split into what kind of life should be led by women; stay at home or have it all (like now) as though the word and world of feminism needed to have a firm identity stamp of approval on it rather than a choice. Toe-ing the party line.

During the discussion the idea was bandied about that female art is still very much unrecognised or underrepresented, (now where have I heard that one recently? oh yes! women parliamentary candidates and MP’s). Concluding also in the discussion that art media is still perpetuating a certain idea of women and that these roles are still relevant – and no less so in the general media either. With front covers showing the most coveted prizes of image, style and whats accepted and hot.

 

Galleries too, joining with that idea that women and art have a certain place. Although as a specific example in ’93-’95 when Times Magazine had front coverage of all male art, it is not true now. Things do change, attitudes change, but as with a lot of institutions the dogma is slow to move and a comfy sense of business-as-usual tries to prevail staving off any boat rocking.

Artists do not tend to work in tandem either, they are individuals and like writers sometimes there may be drifts of genres or movements but ultimately the writer is alone with the page as is the artist with their materials. I’m guessing here, but change by artists is absorbed on different levels and at different rates. Rather more individual beginnings than group shifts. Although the groups and the categories come later.

I mentioned Laura Shapiro’s book Something From The Oven in my last post; if you haven’t read it she describes very wittily how woman’s roles in the 50’s were morphed post war into a new era of perceived domesticity and bliss.

 

Laura Shapiro's book

The *advert* had a lot to do with selling the idea and the products that drove it. A prosperous new era for all, and certainly for production and the economy. If you take the art of the era and juxtapose the general vibe of the times, the artistic shift, gender specific or not sort of shows its own pattern.

 

1950’s advert: a post war progression, graphic and embracing tv/cinematic style mini-ad

 

50's advert

 

1950’s artists;  a progression from earlier artists, but in general a desire not to be literal with the image

De kooning - woman
Willem De Kooning: Woman

Barnett Newman

Barnett Newman: Zip

Pollock
Jackson Pollock: No 5

Bridget Riley 1961 movement in squares
Bridget Riley: Movement in Squares, 1961, a shift again as Pop and Op art brimmed over with geometrical and semi-literal images of industrial and consumerist culture.

I had to search hard to find women artists (there were, of course) but with the popular artists, the ratio here is not quite right, probably more on the lines of 7:1 if that.

 

Categorising has always been a useful way of joining-up social ideas and wider constructs to form ways of understanding and also popular ways of doing. Not social engineering as such but how policies can shape peoples thinking about certain areas of their lives. Such as the domestic bliss of the 50’s linking to consumerism, different ways of approaching wants and needs; literally buying into the lifestyle, including the domesticity needed to go with it. And art reflecting that.

Fay Weldon of  She Devil fame, came out with a remark in The Observer recently, also relating to women and their *position* in society;

“Marriage, according to Weldon, is often a commercial exchange in which a woman swaps “services of a domestic and sexual nature” in return for her keep. “I married for love because I could afford to. As soon as you can keep yourself, you can afford to love.”

Fay has made mucho money and got herself in the position to enable her to do this. And as a female and a writer she is no less vulnerable to the whims of changing society than any other artist.

 

I think many artists – have a slightly different agenda though when it comes to being self supporting ie; the oh-so-important day job!.

But as far as women being solely reliant on someone to earn for them while they have children, for example, or through choice or lack of choice – illness or similar. I don’t think this is particularly gender specific apart from the physicality of bearing children. I guess people have wrestled with this one for years – to be reliant on someone is or can be a damaging position for some – for others it is their redemption and works. But values and traditions have usually tried to *encourage* women to rely on someone even if they are seemingly having it all by working, juggling, and running round like headless chickens in doing so.

And according to Catherine Bennett in the Guardian this week, after the election results came in. The pecking order of attention that our policy makers hold dear appears to be somewhat like this;

“With their working wives, but no female colleagues, neither Cameron nor Clegg did better. Judging by the last few weeks, the political consensus on female respectability places elegant wives and mothers in the first rank, followed by nurses (also known as “angels”), horny-handed “mums”, caring grandmothers, cancer victims (treated to a special Labour scare story), single women with children, followed by childless single women who cannot be bribed with tax credits, women politicians and, lastly, the widow, mum of two and former prime minister, Baroness Thatcher. Thanks to Labour’s vision of a women-free public life, reinforced by both rival parties, it should be generations before her freakish achievement is ever approached, let alone repeated.”

Stereo-type categories may benefit our understanding of society but choice is the main component. It frees us from those categories that can so easily be manoeuvred by policies and public opinion into places where many feel they have no choice but to be in them.

I do like the idea though that Fay was getting across – that a woman, artist or no, should not swap an idea of love for an exchange of monetized reciprocation.

I also think that in general women and women artists have had dogma stacked against them for a long time including bad press for the feminist movement in the sixties and seventies, a lot was also tied in with liberal and left of centre thinking which also fanned the flames of the counter-press. Along with wider *femininity* issues being given equal dogmatic resistance from women as well men.

Sometimes I wondered if a lot of it wasn’t just old fashioned jealousy, never mind the element of control.

But all in all I liked the sentiment that Sam Taylor-Wood (who also must have given up the day job by now)…. came out with on all the shock-horror press she received on hitching up with Aaron Johnson.

In a recent interview, she criticised the attention paid to the age gap in her relationship with Johnson, saying that men with much younger female partners did not receive the same treatment.

“How come no one says anything about that? It’s totally sexist,” she said. “I try to ignore it. In my life I’ve never really listened when people start forming opinions on how you should be doing things.”

Categories, categories …. choice and change eh!.

And on the lines of change and categories and artist Jen Dalton also had an interesting view, talking about ethics in art.21blog, suggesting art has its own category agenda:

Jennifer Dalton, who co-curated the recent #class exhibition with Powhida, pointed out, “The art world is not such a tolerant place.” She continued, “We don’t like conservatives, even socially-liberal-fiscally-conservative ones . . . . Our commitment to free expression is limited to the types of ‘transgressions’ we are all entirely comfortable with.”

AND !!

NB; Escape From New York…..

The exhibition Escape From New York (which also involves Jen Dalton, William Powhida, Man Bartlett and An Xiao from the #class project) is about to start this Saturday 15th May;

I know I posted the link about a month ago but Art Fag City has also updated the event and shows the specifics of what looks like being really good event (wish I could get on a plane and wizz myself over there!).

 

 

 

 

Back with more on Sunday…..

Shed Loads of Space

 

As a child I used to play in the garden shed whether or not the weather was inclement. It was full of stuff like hammers, and chisels, saws, even wooden fencing – I had to negotiate my way round these things and had cleared a space for me to sit at an old table, that must have been my first idea of a studio. I used to sit and paint, and read comics and dream, and make up games to play with other friends who would come round.

 

Shed

I guess it was in a way, also my first and only gallery. One spring day way back, after a recent spate of particularly good painting sessions (I thought they were!) I put up a notice on the front gate saying “This way to the exhibition at number 11 Gallery” (our house number). I chalked arrows down the garden path toward the shed and arranged mums old wooden clothes ‘horse’, a gatefold style thing that allowed me to peg my paintings in an outdoor extension of the exhibition by the shed door, where I had also strategically placed a bowl of freebie sweets bought with my pocket money .

Mum didn’t know, and the first recognition of anything that was going on was when neighbours started going past the kitchen door down to the bottom of the garden. I had roaring traffic all day and actually sold about 40%, although they were sold at a snip and I did accept a few toffee bars as collateral as well.

If only it was that simple – well perhaps it is?. After the #class last month a couple of people involved with it also set up a discussion about studio space – affordable space, makeshift ones – ideas people have thought up to get round the problem of extra rented space. And studios surely can double as exhibit space sometime, if, for example it is shared and there is enough room.

Affordable and realistic studio space still needs thought though, this is one area where other people’s experiences and adaptations can add to the mix – the people who set up the twitter discussion about affordable studio space, had some pretty interesting suggestions ranging from caravans, converted trailers, mini prefabs to, I think, a bus!…….It does seem a bit like horses for courses though, if you’re work has the potential to fill an aircraft hangar – then it’s that or compromise.

Silk mill

The exhibition space some of the NY #class artists along with other artists, are renting en-mass for a group exhibition called Escape from New York next month in a old silk mill over the river in New Jersey. They also have a similar idea, in as much as creating their own space to show.

There’s nothing wrong with galleries but for the sake of argument, I have a feeling there are far more works of art than actual gallery space, never mind the demographics of galleries clustering together in big cities. I am not going to delve into the area of good art and bad art for now, nor market forces and gallery tastes. But the fact is simple; so much art never sees the light of day, for even if the artist finds space to get messy or whatever, and can afford it, the other hurdle is finding space to show and hopefully to sell. Now, the NY exhibition looks as though it won’t fail in attracting people, dealers or buyers judging by the response many of the artists are already receiving about their work in the well-renowned-art-city.

Berlin’s art quarter and its almost inevitable morph after the Wall fell, into the bourgeois-boho arty district of recent times, shouldn’t really be sniffed at either. People are interested in paying money for works, it’s just the fact the few artists who are reaping the benefits of this interest, or should I say, being paid for their work instead of someone wanting their services for free, are overshadowing the many who are not.

So that’s Darwinism in action for you, you may say. But the property and rent also took a hike, creating a no-win situation, the collective creative vibe, if you like was whittled down to a few revered artists who were patronised by buyers and so could afford to stay – sort of ghettoising themselves in the process.

 

Auguststrasse, this was an artist squat circa ’92

Auguststrasse 4 was squat '92

Auguststrasse 1

Auguststrasse ballroom cafe
The Ballroom Cafe houses among other things dance and performance art

 

There were some letters discovered recently written by Frances Bacon to his Dealer when he was starting out, constantly asking for advances and relating to real no food on the table problems, never mind affording his paint and materials (ok he had a gambling habit also) but it’s not a new concept. Eventually he made, or his works were sold for thousands; a wealthy man in his twilight years (quite lucky then!) some don’t get recognised till pushing up daisies. But writers are the same, affording the time to write before a book is sold, advances are not willingly given especially these days. Everybody wants their money up front.

 

I was lucky, as a child in my shed with plenty of time outside school hours to paint, my parents bought me my paints, and well – I was at quite an elementary stage – watercolours and rough brushes etc., the paper was fairly basic. I was also lucky to have a garden and shed to go to – I don’t have outside space like that now, living in the city centre, outside space is a premium but I have my garage with a sink, yup! that’s my artist’s studio!, but it does the job for what I am doing at the moment and I have a study with good light, so I’m certainly not complaining.

Any idea or initiative though, that is enabling for someone to carry out their work and facilitate the showing of it, has to get the thumbs up from me.

 

The Arts Council in the UK are apparently digitalising all of the collection that they have accumulated over the years, which are stored in warehouses waiting to have light of day when galleries send in a request. Only a small percentage get exhibition time, and the arts council believe by digitalising and grouping the works in an online gallery, this will not only show potentially hidden works but also generate the demand to be seen in real life.

I think this seems a really sound move, and really do think online virtual art has a place to offer the dilemma of where to show and what to do with it, storage isn’t the problem but viewing is.

If a sprawling thing like the Arts Council can get its act together online with all that work. Then it can’t be past some artists and groups and organisations to do a similar project.

 

There are things like Galleries Online that provide a service for free for the art community to join, there is a 15% commission if a buyer uses the insurance for them mediating in a 10 day acceptance period and release of money. But the buyer can choose to wave that fee and deal direct with the artist.

This though, even with the artist’s forum and blogs, gallery events, listings and additional connections, seems to be effectively a one-stop art shop albeit run by artists. It houses a lot of unrelated works (all categorised into groups like wildlife, sea, abstract, digital etc.,) and for me is a bit like a trawl round TK Maxx; a bit overwhelming with the sheer quantity. I’m not knocking it – it’s a really good site and venture, but for me it’s a bit like a needle in a haystack time.

 

I do like the idea of these virtual galleries. And even more the idea of the work already being partially curated  (even if in a virtual site-specific place). In the way the works are juxtaposed, showing potential for group exhibitions. So that real life gallery owners wouldn’t have to fully curate, apparently this is a big draw for some galleries especially after a heavy run or season of exhibitions.

The artists already having acquainted themselves with each other’s work and a group exhibition almost seamless in waiting, it has to be a plus point from a real gallery’s point of view. 3D also seems to be the way to go, for sculptural as well as ‘flat’ surface images, not 3D interactive that is extremely ambitious and probably not necessary for online art-viewing (unless already interactive art). It will never replace the real thing but it is a sure way to generate group images for a convenient screen view with comparatively few overheads.

I’m keen on this idea and would certainly give it a go – the software for 3d is there – I think it will be a while though, before a curated self contained and maintained virtual site, with adequately reproduced and 3d built graphics will be within my miniscule techno brain’s sight, but once I get an idea going I tend to stick with it.

I would be interested to see how other artists first relate to each other’s work – that might be the start – when things click on that level. A basic, introduction style, 3D website with a sister site housing curated results….. hmmmmm

Artist seeking similar…….must have GSOH!

Cupid heart

Back on Sunday……..

The Edge of Expression

 

For something so seemingly gentle an occupation art really does get up some peoples noses. Take the artist Owen Maseko in Zimbabwe for example, being arrested and having an exhibition closed. By all accounts the imagery was not a walk in the park, but then neither was Zimbabwe’s recent history. An artist’s reflection of that you might say.

In a different and a wider sense I agree that some art can be inflammatory because of the subject matter and the close proximity to defenders for or against its denial or existence. But really, is that attitude no different than with some people getting outraged at NWA rapping about stuff in the 80’s and 90’s? what were they going to rap about ? a walk in the park perhaps?.

 

NWA 2

Now Zimbabwe, and this artist’s (and other Zimbabwean artists) are obviously coming up against a regime which would prefer them to just shut up entirely, never mind to stop painting pictures of their histories grim reality. An acceptance of which on a daily basis I imagine every citizen faces in every aspect of their lives there.

But what is it about imagery that holds such strong sway when it comes to censorship and acceptance. We know this is nothing new; for centuries established and not so established kings and queens, religious hierarchy’s and the wealthy have bought the favours of artists to portray a kind of propaganda.

Religious paintings

Part Triptych of Le Cellier Jean Bellegambe

On the lines of non art/information delivery;

TV news is apparently having a renewed popularity rush with the imagery of video reporting – alongside its move to the internet and moving-image-reportage (delivered to your flat screen or where ever) the written media is feeling a squeeze in the presence of this visually captivating information over the finely crafted word. We like to see and hear stuff delivered by a human form – I guess it keeps our senses fully occupied. And perhaps it is also way of delivering a padded out slightly more entertaining version of what would be very tightly scripted or written news in a more traditional talking head style.

I get that video holds strong, and, still talking about dry stuff here, but I’m the first person to watch the vid rather than read the manual (personally I need glasses to read in any depth especially on the screen) but is it also easier all round?. Maybe though there is a little bit more to it than this, a combination of a sort of time poor attention deficit and being told information? bite size stuff.

Art and the delivery of artistic expression;

Art has been, up until recently, usually defined by a static image or sculpture; something to contemplate. Is that where its unease creeps in with acceptability?. Art portrayed like this can, or encourages people to ponder, to look, to touch, to think and therefore not be told, but to hopefully engage and take stock. Therein I think lies its perceived power on one level alone – that of contemplation.

TV news, political spin, whatever visual and verbal imagery that fills and occupies our screens, 3g spaces and airwaves, does just that, fills up our senses on a roll if you like, with just enough time to take it in and hopefully form an opinion about it. But the written word and art, moving image or not, is there to take as long as you can, or would like, to contemplate its nuances and then to re-contemplate.

The internet has a lot of visual, verbal and written content that whether art or not, is there and can  be consumed and contemplated over and over again if wished. This is now being shifted into brackets and categories by business, policies and legislation.

I will be very interested to see in the near future, why some forms of expression are deemed not as acceptable as others. The reason why.

 

I think the written word, however it is produced will always have the same contemplative ability by the very fact it is static; so prompting the reader to absorb and imagine at their own pace and re read.

Books, publications and art have always been bones of contention, especially in the light of big social change.

I am sort of surprised the kinds of free expression seen on the internet have had comparative freedom of space for so long.

How we read the world around us has an impact on our perceptions and how we then act within it.

So art, being part of a freedom of expression, sort of comes with the remit to endeavour to reflect that. But all art, whether theatre and film along with the written word and the still image, be it painted, photograph or whatever, will always be a valuable part of our collective contemplative conscience.

As long as that expression is not stitched, tailored to suit or tidied up into acceptable baskets of truth or authenticity, because of political zeitgeist, fear of offending, of rocking a boat, or indeed in spite of that.

A friend once said she believed art was not about beauty per se, more about finding beauty within the sometimes unacceptable and unpalatable – so all the information we personally process everyday local or globally, can reach for some sort of contemplative acceptability of that.

Hard Facts and Ambiguous Spaces

 

(some ideas from #class)

 

Ok I’m bashing an idea out here; its still on the lines of how #class or similar can further forward the momentum and positive discussion outcomes achieved over what must have been an intense month of organising and doing – so whatever I’m writing here are ideas in motion – ideas maybe to think about and see if they could be updated or adapted and ….well, read on…. like I said not set in stone…..

Artist dilemmas.

I’m an artist;

Please don’t tell me that I have to say exactly what I am going to do before I have done it. You see I want the artistic freedom to create from moment to moment. And so on-etc., etc., along with various other arty anomalies that have echoed around studios, galleries and schools on and off since, well, since art became something other than a paid creative job in the renaissance, or church echelons of medieval and Greek times.

 

The thinker

Freedom to Create;

Got no time, and no money….

 

And another side to that story…..

 

Jennifer Dalton mentioned in this interview the other day on one of the positive changes mentioned in #class; “Advocate for artists to get paid fairly for their work, both at the gallery level (this may mean contracts!) and at the museum and non-profit level (asking for exhibition fees when often there are none in the budget).”

 

Art can be very ambiguous, in-flux, controlled or whatever but the nature of art is for it to express itself. So the point raised here about individual contracts falls into the need, I agree for artists in general to be more organised on that level; a contract means there are no ambiguities and therefore reduces the sometimes half-truths or misunderstandings that may occur (on either side) on completion of the work and the transaction.

And at the other end of the scale….

I mentioned before Chris Offili expressing his very real unease in having to don his artist-in-front-of-the-art-media hat as opposed to his Man U supporting artist at home hat, causing him problems in actually doing and growing with his work because of market and media pressures to perform differently.

 

Stuckists chris ofilli

A very cruel portrayal of the artist’s dilemma portrayed by Mark D of Nottingham Stuckists

 

Schools of Thought.

Groups, Schools and Organisations part 1;

Hard facts

I came across this book recently called Hard Facts (Dangerous Half-Truths & Total Nonsense). Which as part of a much wider topic addresses a fact that many businesses which have hitherto used a command and control management, keeping-the-workforce-in-check-model are, seemingly failing with the false work-hat and home-hat personas that they encourage their workforce to adopt; not only does it apparently induce over the top in-fighting within these companies but it is also failing to address the general shift to a more open; this is who I am, not a who you think I am, attitude among many workers these days – they are just themselves, they mix, they socialise, they interweb with each other – and it is changing.

The book also points to business’s like the US South West Airlines, who are more inclusive of their staff. John Lewis in the UK with their staff as partners and their shared profits also springs to mind. But more than that, the general  jekle and hydeness of these tight control formats. For example if you were to suggest in a family setting that your brothers and sisters were your competitors ( I know it happens) but  it’s not generally a bench mark for sibling rivalry instilled by the parents, and  further, if you were to organise say, a family event and extended family members were involved, the general gist would be to let each family member do their bit without checking up on them to see that they were pulling their weight (I said general gist!).

 

But essentially a group effort for the good of the group, rather than a leader controlling check up to ensure no one was slacking, causing rivalry.

This I think exudes outwardly from businesses, showing a similar sense of that kind of competitiveness towards other business and so on.

Stressful aswell? possibly

The book does point out that a few businesses or organisations do well with competitiveness encouraged; like the military. But the service industry is a glaring example of not.

Groups, Schools and Organisations part 2;

Finance was one of the areas I didn’t address when I was bandying on about the Steiner style approach to schools, but they do have an inclusive attitude toward funding finance, and a sliding scale contract which each parent in the UK anyway, sign up to (in Holland or other countries where Steiner receives state funding it is different). They ask you to pay as much as you can afford – there is a top level income that determines whether you pay the full set fee per term, anything under that and it is pro-rata and below a certain level, ie; benefit income, you pay small a token fee.

But no grading anywhere else; you pay what you can afford and everybody receives the same education or service.

So people still feel, as much as possible that they are contributing fairly and for the good of the whole objective (which includes their child’s education – so also prime motivator to be involved).

Kindergarten

typical kindergarten circle

 

Groups, Schools and Organisations Part 3;

Back to 1997 and Mojacar Southern Spain.

 

A good friend of mine Tim, was at the time an artist of no fixed abode or institution – a free spirit, he eventually went on to study and take up a place lecturing at Norwich University College of The Arts. At the time I met him though, he was in his 20’s, sleeping in his car and/or on the beach and he wasn’t quite in the mood for entertaining an arts degree. This was still at a time in Mojacar and Southern Spain’s recent history that had attracted a lot of musicians, artists, film makers to the region from the 50’s Beats and the 60’s hippies onwards. An obvious bohemian atmosphere still prevailed as late as 97.

It was around then that Tim mentioned a local artist residency. Set up in 1989 in a converted mill, the idea being to allow artists to stay for a nominal fee, provided they communally cooked and basically helped out, while at the same time having a relatively uninterrupted space to create. A while ago I came across the same residency on the web and they have now joined the arts residency organisation ResArtis. Which also started out similarly in Greece with a Dutch guy who, on meeting people from other cities and residencies, decided it would be good to host group meetings at each other’s places in order to create a network and framework for better residency organisation.

 

Fundacion valpraiso
Fundacion Valparaiso

 

Looking at their membership mandate and fees structure, it seems to be aimed at providing a service for individual groups or organisations (governmental grant based or non) to link up and share information, experience and generally aiding a more professionally linked up outlook while at the same time retaining the principal of providing internationally (and with that, socially, politically, and religiously diverse) linked up communal spaces for artists to engage with their work for a number of weeks. As well as their web site community they encourage members to visit diverse destination General Meetings to further experience and contribute face to face with the group; provided, I assume you can afford the travel costs!. But I’m guessing with its organisation-to-help-other-organisation structure, the benefit works both ways (so that is their prime motivator for people to become involved).

The potential for some sort of fairly-run-for-the-good-of-the-whole idea for #class and things like it could work.

Zac Cohen mentioned in a recent blog post on the subject – taking small steps.

Indeed!

Not necessarily an organised group but maybe a framework of intent.

So clearer interactions can also take place in the wider art community with less of the ambiguity which sometimes hangs around artists like a misplaced hippy-esque, post-victorian mist.

 

Going to put this one down for a while and let it do its thing – Back to more stuff on  Wednesday!

In With The In Crowd

(plus a wider thought on #class)

 

 

Join The Circle

 

 

On hearing of Fat Boy Slim aka Pizzaman; now very much Mr Norman Cook’s collaboration with David Byrne, I thought of previous days gone by when the then Housmartin’s tune Caravan of Love, hit the radar for himself and Paul Heaton (…can’t remember the names of other two).

I remember the tune was very much an anthem to a renewed post hippy ideology to “Join the Caravan of Love”, with the encouraging sing–along-lyrics on the lines of everywoman, every man, every child join in -come on.

 

Caravan 2

Long time gone! but some sentiments will always be around – it is human. Apparently Paul Heaton, who I believe gave input to the lyrics was moved to this by his Marxist, Christian or spiritual beliefs at the time.

Well I’m not dwelling on religion here, nor indeed spirituality, but the sentiment of lets all have a group hug, I’m guessing will always be there.

 

One thing I had noticed on thinking a little more on art and the artist’s dilemma, which was raised at the #class this month. With the social, physical, geographical and gender demo-graphs. I think most definitely has an impact on access, and the ability to join established networks of potentially remunerated art work ie; the art market.  This must, at some point cause internalized tensions, outward bickering or envy, along with acceptance issues when you are recognized and/or being paid for your labour.

An article on motherhood recently showed the emphasis on the strung out bickering of who’s doing it right, with all the subsequent jealousies and guilt. In this I saw a paradigm for the loner artist, art groups and art schools. It said that, essentially, mothers although having a choice to be one or not, want recognition for what they do – that they exist – whether working mothers or not. A labour of love if you like, with recognition rather than on going criticism for taking one or the other option (whether from other mothers or the state or whatever).

I’ll just make the distinction on criticism here; as being very distant from constructive criticism, which meant as a mover of ideas and can be adopted, or not; an observation. Rather than an aberration of an opinion or (possibly unaddressed) feeling.

 

So, this caravan thing – bare with the analogy for a moment; someone’s at the front yes? meaning someone’s leading  – the people at the back need to be heard so if a change of direction is needed a message has to be sent (ok, this analogy doesn’t include twitter or i-phones yet!) so a series of messages need to be sent to the front. And as in the very old First World War joke on a general at the front line hearing the call to advance,  sent a message back through his troops to ‘send reinforcements – were going to advance’ back at base they gleefully began preparations for a party on hearing ‘send three and four pence – were going to a dance’. Ok so it’s the Chinese whispers or telephone game thing. But groups, in order to communicate and not alienate (as far as possible) need to be just that, a group not totally front lead or trajectory strained.

 

Various philosophies for enabling specific artistic groups have used differing forms of the group aesthetic. The Bauhaus had an idea for an architectural future, they included all aspects of art in order to create a Whole – albeit in the main, aesthetically led by Van der Rohe and Gropius.

The idea was to collectively bring together a new school of thought, and as with a lot of things at that time had grown out a new age sort of thinking that prompted other schools of thought that required subservience to political ideologies about what exactly that direction of art and architecture, and well, everything really, should be. Not a good time to freely embrace or be embraced.

I have baffled this one for almost as long as I can remember, and one of the only things that comes close to a group led ethos I can think of is the Steiner Waldorf approach to education (aside, again from the penchant towards spirituality and possible gobbledygook depending on your views) the essence I think lies in the fact they allow freedom within individual schools, for the basic curriculum to be interpreted by individual teachers. Paced, within the overall philosophical framework of a child’s growth pattern and sensory engagement with their surroundings.

Literally run by the college of each schools teachers, and, endless inclusive parental meetings and cake baking’s (for sharing not competitions) the idea being I believe to involve the parents as much as possible with the general day to day running, upkeep and community knowledge. The college of teachers is, I think, as democratic as possible; the finance is also addressed by a board of trustees.

 

Someone mentioned art apprenticeships in one of the discussions during #class, and I was also reading today the article delivered by Andrea Frazer in a talk for the Harvard Crimson paper and her interpretation of art institutions citing its relevance for actually being there rather than something to run away from or be abhorred. I sort of agree that institutions are neither by themselves wrong nor indeed the art that is made in them, and having relevance because of that. But I keep coming back to a democratic approach.

Nottm university

Many Universities although have a surface organisation structure that looks democratic, a lot have non academic council members, any staff have to be elected and more often than not the head or chairman and vice chairman are invariably an outside dignitary or prestigious alumni appointed by the council.

Mary Warnock also mentioned her insider experience of former years as a female lecturer compared to today’s style; “Life in universities, at any rate, is vastly less enjoyable now than it was then. It is regimented, ill-paid, constantly assessed and it carries with it an obligation to produce a string of publications, often a joyless business, but necessary if your department is to retain its reputation for productivity. And no one can assume that she will not be sacked or her department closed around her”.

The method of running these places has so much of the traditional school top down structure in grained, including the recent shift from hierarchical-old-school-in-crowd-snobbery to new-school-in–crowd-image-mongering. The subsequent artistic statements and movements are part of this, which is where I agree that the resistance of artists involved in doing their work in these environments do struggle with that sort of magnetic repulsion as a subsequent part of their art.

 

Whether in established institutions or not I think apprenticeships and group boards can also go some way to get over this, by including one of the main points as in Steiner philosophy; being, they have a sense of inclusive community and work.

Now the hippy ethic can veer in, and the group hug can also turn into that other hippy trait of setting yourself apart from society along with hierarchical inward bickering (you only have to think of that doomed hippy ethic film, The Beach).

Tilda
Tilda at her most paranoid in The Beach

But I think group hugs, hippy chic’s and spiritual marxists-caravans put aside there is something to be said for the Steiner basic approach to getting things done. Or an adaptation of that, within art groups and schools, substitute the parents for adult/adolescent artist apprentices or students and engage on that level.

Oh flibbertigibbet – now the detail!……

More detail…..and wider-ey type things….. plus #class….in Sundays post

NB NB! meant to mention got a blog name check in the Huffington Post! ;

Ok this is a shameless big up to self! or maybe not – cos this article is a pretty accurate look (from where I am) at the #class month from someone who was there in person – she lists all the bloggers (me included!) – and no doubt more to be added – who helped contribute to the events of an extra-ordinary time…. http://huff.to/dyWd13

 

Sheep and Wolves plus #class +

 

 

I was looking at the Gaping Void‘s shiny new site and noticed his drawing of the Wolf, with the text rendering the idea; think carefully before you decide to be a sheep or a wolf – you can never be lonely as a sheep but you can (stick your head above the parapet) and be a very lonely wolf.

 

And as a reflection of this hashtag month was prompted, by it has to be said those real stalwarts of the event, Jennifer and William, this particular cartoon came to mind.

 

I did email Mr Void (MacCloud) to ask if ok to use the image, but hopefully this will suffice.

blog-images

 

All through the last months to-ings and fro-ings I had noticed the lack of lonely stances. Yes, people agreed to disagree but I believed this was a good thing because it represented, for me, a more rounded debate that was neither sheep led nor had lonely wolves on the peripheries. If anything the debate itself was sticking its head above the parapet inviting disparate sections of the art market and art world to engage.

At first glance as the project’s early discussions streamed from the blog I picked up on the energy that was coming over. So with eyelids sometimes drooping (the UK/US clock thing) I determinedly boarded the train that was to become hashtag class.

This evolved into a rich, sometimes strident, sometimes resolute, but more often than not insightful rapport into the investment of the future of art. It was definitely more than the sum of its parts. And with those kinds of maths, exponential may well be a word to describe the (inevitable) growth of what seems to be a fresh approach to thinking and doing the business of art.

I’m up for it.

First off for me; thinking of ways locally and through local art groups, schools and social media to bring people to the table with this (and ongoing?) #class project(s) as a central reference point. To try and expel, or at least discuss the mind set of us and them.

But I also had a reflection of my own from an experience a few years ago when an ongoing discussion group was set up at the Design and Textile Museum (London) to address organic and fair trade cotton products and the fashion industry as a whole. Though not the same as the hashtag class maybe has some sort of relevance.

Apart from the bigwig designers and groups for and against (action for this, and action for that), one of the groups that became most involved were the fashion education people (and surprisingly, Central St Martin’s and London College of Art who, I thought at the time wouldn’t want to rock their high ranking safe-status by projecting ethically sound students onto a reluctant industry).

But they found that area ripe for their students who, on leaving college would find, with the best will in the world, the practicalities of setting up with this kind of ethos in mind almost impossible as the infrastructure; lack of factories producing, and guarantees of the process from beginning to end being totally organic and fair trade was just not there.

The designers who got involved in that project were Katherine Hamnett (who had sold off her existing business, bought and set up a farm and factory in India to guarantee the process from beginning to end) and Roland Mouret, who hadn’t : ) and all credit to him for engaging on that basis alone.

But more than anything it was so good how the fashion colleges really took to the debate.

 

 

Here’s an extract from the ecologist magazine in 2008

Schools
The future of fashion lies in the hands of the next generation of industry players: fashion and textiles students. Increasingly, undergrad and postgrad courses across the board, from Textiles Design to Retail Buying to Fashion Marketing, are tackling ethical and environmental issues, and more students are incorporating these into their work.

Fashioning an Ethical Industry (FEI), a Labour Behind the Label project, has compiled a database of eco/ethical elements in fashion courses in the UK: visit http://fashioninganethicalindustry.org/ethicalcourses
Courses with ethics and sustainability at their core:

• MA Design for Textile Futures , Central Saint Martins
• BA (Textiles) Design & Technology Management, University of Leeds
• MA Ethical Fashion, University College for the Creative Arts (Epsom)
• The Textile Environment Design (TED) project, Chelsea College of
Art and Design. A collective of eco-principled designers/educators.
• New: MA Fashion and Environment, London College of Fashion
(will be proposed for validation in 2008)
• London College of Fashion is founding the Centre for Sustainable Fashion (CSF), scheduled to launch in April 2008, to promote sustainability across the entire fashion sector supply chain.

A non for profit organisation originally focused in London, this debate has been taken around the UK with European Union backing.

Its fashion; no it’s not the same as art, and it has as a fairly substantially backed but fledgling not for profit organisation had to well and truly stick its head above the parapet in the face of a very defensive fashion industry – equally defensive with the recession.

But the idea, that an idea or change in mind set can be agreed and reached through debates, shows I think, that the old guard force feeding of ideas and ideologies doesn’t necessarily have to be.

Art needs to make friends;

Show an idea to work while including people (no mean feat!), debate it and the rest will follow.

Wednesday’s post…..haste……

Wide Open Space (plus more on Hashtag)

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

Market U

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 ).

 

Hooverville
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.

 

Silk mill

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 ! 

 

U Stream I Stream The (not so?) Final Hashtag Rant

 

The Not So Final Hashtag Night (please!)

 

 

That was a very special month and it wouldn’t have happened without Jen Dalton and William Pohwida’s foresight and certainly not least for Ed Winkleman’s. There was a point midway when I saw some on-line-joke to Ed ‘how to run a successful New York gallery into the ground – give it to Jen and William for a month!’.

 

Well, the project certainly broke many moulds, and now as all has been tidied away and the walls are bare of chalkboards ready to be graced by art after the constant etching of views and sentiments during the previous month, it can’t have done the Winkleman gallery any harm. In fact while the whole project was a virtual freebie from Ed, and his business was effectively on hold the fact that the whole premise of the events were essentially only about art and not product was a breath of fresh air in these days of discussions and media articles based around so and so’s new book launch or film or whatever.

 

I explained to a friend that I wouldn’t be able to go to a local award do, and my nights from Wednesday to Sunday suddenly became proper stay at home, because there were so many interesting events keeping me pinned to the computer (note to me; 3G/wireless phone on wish list) with sometimes not just a cup of tea to hand but matchsticks to keep my eyes open (Oh to have been in New York time) well New York actually, but I’m not complaining because a 1 in the morning finish isn’t that bad.

 

But sometimes with 3×2 hour stints in one day I was glad I had some recorded because I just wouldn’t have been able to have taken it all in.

 

I guess Jen & co. are really up to speed on that one because they seemed to breeze through very energetically. In fact that is what I felt right through – a vibrant energy – so much so when the final stream was switched off, I felt a sharp umbilical kind of wrench, a definite ’now what’ feeling which was thankfully quickly followed by lots of ideas and what-I-was-going-to-do-next.

The final Rant night was exactly that no slushy goodbyes or luvvie tear jerking moments – just full on rant (I now think I understand the term angry New Yorker) and this was a bunch of artists here! not that there was animosity but it was certainly animated, full on and humorous.

Rant

So, I will return to many of the discussions soon, but for now I will leave you with a cross section of the vibe of the last four weeks in one-liners:

 

On Labor Class (a talk about workers who help fabricate pieces of sculptural art in a foundry):

“Some workers didn’t think about what they were making as art. It was just stuff for rich people”

“That’s very sad – The fabricators were never told when the openings were, for the pieces they made”

On why The System Doesn’t Work:

“Problem: even top artists struggle to make money. In other industries, this is not common”

“Artists do power & maybe it can be leveraged in ways other than increasing their sale prices”

“We in the art world are somewhat responsible for inaccessibility of the art world”

“Problem: all the money is concentrated at the top. Pyramid has a very large base”

“There is a lot of bitching going on. That’s what you get when there are no guidelines to payment requirements”

“Could have called the project sour grapes or life isn’t fair, but we didn’t. Keep coming back to payment for art labour”

“If you haven’t broken by age 30, wait till you’re 60 – what does that mean?, stop showing stop promoting, stop dreaming?”

“Fundamental misperceptions in tonight’s discussion: 1 making art is parallel to putting out fires”

“Artists have MORE fucking power than ANYONE in the system: sites Jasper Johns”

“Artists are living a dream. There is a choice here”

On Man Bartlett’s imminent Balloon bursting:

“Balloon cave YES!”

“Starting to realize that the combination of ustream, twitter and Man Bartlett is shifting the possibilities of performance art”

“I want to buy the balloon project, install it in the MMFA but you have to insure that they wont deflate over time”

“Yes! Getting closer and closer! It’s going to be LOUD on the feed”

“Jerry Saltz is helping pop the balloons”

“Watching Man Bartlett and The Happy Gallerina makes me wonder why like events don’t happen anywhere else in the country?”

“Save the balloon scraps. They are a historical record”

“Yey! Awsome!”

“That was a strange and cathartic afternoon”

“Between your pumping (balloons over 24 hours) and Jen’s chair dragging it’s been great!”

Balloons film of film

On Zachary Cohen’s talk on Social Media as Flattening Agent:

“its more important to me to have 10% of something than 100% of nothing”

“Establish trust in the Art world by “suiting up” and showing up”

“Trust, so long as everyone is who they say they are, social media is good for business and art. Transparency”

On Various topics:

“And I quote: Sorry. We couldn’t decide”

“Being authentic means having a point of view, while recognising that your truth is not THE truth, leaving room for others to speak”

“A wise man once said an uneducated man makes a great painter because he tackles art with a fresh mind?”

And on the Final Rant:

“My rant is that this (project) will be over way too soon!”

“Make Better Art!”

“Art is not a luxury. You just don’t realize you consume it every day and need it to survive”

“We need to adopt the apprenticeship method again and bypass the university completely!!”

“MFA = Mistress of Fuck All”

“Some people couldn’t paint if their lives depended on it – it’s not in their blood they pretend and its really wallpaper!”

“I have been saying from the beginning…guilds, unions, work as a tribe…and allow disagreement”

( One participant on explaining her frustration as an older woman still not having made any dint/money etc in the art world expressed; “In fact I am SO pissed off I’m going to break into an aria” at which point she broke into a pitch perfect rendition of the final scene in Tosca (I think) saying “And we all know how that ends!”

“You are lucky! You’re artists living in New York and living the dream!”

“Get a part time job!”

“Just bumped into Jerry and Roberta walking arm in arm on tenth avenue. So cute. After the storm (hashtag project) back to normal life”

“Art needs to make friends”

: )

Winkleman gallery

Back on Wednesday …..

Start of Something Good? #Class last day

 

 

I’m going to be bereft;

It’s the last day and events of Hashtag Class this Saturday 20th March

But really though, I’m not sad because this last month has been a real eye opener. The fact that so many events and discussions took place – with the all important aspect of participation via the internet – questions raised could be addressed via twitter, sending to the discussion panels or being worked into the conversation by William Powhida or Jen Dalton. Including a-while-it-was-happening twitter response, with Man Bartlett’s Balloon Burst as a work in progress.

 

Friday’s discussions were (I thought) particularly good covering Ben Davis 9.5 Thesis on Art and Class very much worthy of a really good listen and I will refer back to this in later posts. You can see his thesis  here on the hashtag blog.

And a very focused look at Conceptualism, at the time I tuned I was thinking ohhh! food for thought – by the time I had finished I had taken on things that hadn’t occurred to me and things which I very much disagreed with. Overall a worthwhile listen, although surprisingly (maybe not for Friday night/evening) there were not many online interactions.

Thursday night also had a very nailed talk on Social Media as a Flattening Agent, to the point and briskly delivered by Zachary Adam Cohen who (coming across on twitter anyway) seeming a switched on and opinionated kind of guy (in a good way) even if you disagree! with a good look at social media and its true relevance in our economic and social evolution. Again will get back to this if I get chance later, but visit his blog here – you will get the idea – worth a look!.

But for now anyway I wait for Saturday’s events and the final Rant !

And will leave you with this a review of the project in the New York Times today

 

NY Times

Which, irrespective of whether a review was on the cards because ‘this artist was doing that’ or a couple of influential peeps were popping by. Reads pretty accurately what was going down with a very special event.

More on Sunday……

Great Expectations The Collectors Come to Hashtag Class

The Collectors

 

Great expectations

 

Oh what fun I had – this was one of those discussions that on the face of it seemed to be one I would listen to later, but increasingly as this Hashtag Class project has taken shape I find I really wanted to be ‘right here right now’. Still I had it recorded so I did have the dialogue and some twitter feed to follow the event.

The start of the discussion was I think lost to us eavesdroppers as the stream got a strop on and we couldn’t really hear – but 20 or so minutes in things became clearer.

I found it a riveting and at the same time frustrating discussion because it seemed everytime a point was made someone conspired to cough or mumble the all important punch line, the verbal equivalent of ‘and the meaning of the universe and everything is kjsrugkjhfdgax…sqiddlyhegfhvs’ – you get the idea. But I waded through the treacle and came across some gems of information and opinions.

Firstly the description;

Jennifer and Kevin McCoy will lead “Let’s Figure Out What They Want,” a collector focus group. They aim to ask direct questions not only about what art piques collectors’ interests, but also what their expectations are vis a vis the presence of the artist’s life behind the work.

The starting point (or mine) was a little trip into the history of collectors, how in the 50’s a dealer used to be happy to be owed money – the collectors life would be chasing or unearthing new or interesting art and there was a different mentality, a relationship, a more intimate world, whereas today it’s all about consignment.

A couple of points were made, which outlined where the talk was going;

The historical aspect about the relationship with collectors and museums was from the aristocracy of the day noting that leisure time for the proles needed to be filled and, as a way of trying to control, public museums were opened up as Jennifer put it “to teach people to respect private property”. Nobility controlling and dictating tastes, the format is still there but is now filtered through private collectors, more random.

One of the collectors whose voice added to the treacly resonance of the sound, so much so I had to listen really hard to understand – mentioned that the dichotomy of democracy and private property were difficult arguments to control, but we do democratise it and make it academic.

It was then I started to get the bigger picture of what they were saying, how the system in general has shifted from patronage to a mishmash of private and public art that mimics market forces, some wasting money;  citing museums ready to write a blank cheque for a major successful work, (I’m thinking the ICA here, but maybe if not a blank cheque, certainly stuff that’s already been there seen it and done the rounds) and collectors buying ‘great’ works for massive amounts – basically accumulating with safe bets. With some museums not having any responsibility towards history local or wider, and some being cultural backwaters.

And they all argued that as collectors that was not what they were about. Saying that’s lazy and shows no courage. I do get that it’s my bug bear at the moment how safe bets right across the board of creative arts are creating a beige and stagnant landscape.

A simplification of this was pointed out as being the conundrum of the artist going to the gallerist and striking up a dialogue and then the gallerist thinking will this work get me in at ‘X fair’ with the collectors drawn into the loop. A self fulfilling prophesy that keeps on coming and flourishing.

The word competition came up, which was readily summarised as being a good thing, one example of how the art world, collectors included, fail in that which other industries such as film or architecture don’t, by not taking the world of images more seriously. I think it was Jennifer who mentioned that so many times she sees an artist of high ideas and 20 minutes later they are all over Wall Mart.

This reminded me of an artist acquaintance from my Uni years, Duncan Higgins featured at Raw in London after studying  at Goldsmiths circa 1985 with the Frieze crowd, he never embarked on that roundabout and seemed a bit miffed at the time, shortly after exhibiting at Raw someone noticed his work in an advert for Ikea. Well I didn’t ask him but I see it as similar to writers and actors with their voice over’s – its bread and butter when the cash flow goes awol, only somehow with artists a line is crossed.

 

The idea that the art world is not switched onto the market was raised with the comment, how people like the makers of Avatar are not going to default on the rent next month. Projects are more focused on getting it done and in on time etc., along with the fact that competition is also an opportunity to create a window which will close at some point, so generating interest.

 

One trajectory of this line of thought was how Singapore, with a fragile art market, dealt with the dilemma. They decided to sink all their efforts into 3d film “because when that breaks the video is, dead, everyone will want 3d”.

 

Someone make the point that the sorts of film being talked about were not Avatar and that (he) did like the style but the line was drawn that this kind of 3d could be cultural art, at most it was ‘craft’. He (because of the technical issues I didn’t get his name and can only refer to him as treacle voice) referred to it on the lines of “this sort of film is a doily; macramé, and that I like macramé but it only means I am a fan of macramé”. I think I got the thread of this right because the stream link was interrupted a little.

 

But if that is the case, I think an important East Asian cultural aspect is missing from that argument, I say East Asian for the want of splitting hairs here because I am talking about the historical and artistic impact of manga or (manhwa in Korea) – its social and (in the nature of places like Japan) its hierarchical meaning and mass cultural influence of the follow on anime (film) culture, which has been turning to 3d. The cultural and artistic value of this style runs deep and has a habit of evolving with technology, and if the the word pop culture were to be used it would be in a totally different sense.

 

So, if the money is at the same time a saviour of the art market and collectors but also the cheapening of it. The next point kind of summed up the overall vibe with the defending and berating of spiritualizing ‘the collection’ – “we always talk about the spirituality never the money side”; “but I think there is a connection”. Well Pink Floyd had their moment defending their collection to be kept whole; ‘the concept’ that was Dark Side of The Moon last week, I do remember seeing singles knocking about in the seventies though – not too proud of a sound bite then.

 

Yes, I can see the fault lines and stresses of these arguments from all sides, no matter how you dress it up whether it’s a luvvie approach to collecting and ‘the special relationship’ followed by the marketing of that and then the transaction.

 

It is about art but it is also about money, very much so it seems because right at the end of the discussion after being thrown a soft ball question of “what art would you never part with?” aside from the emotional connections (I’m not disputing that) and regretting things that were passed over (in buying) don’t we all have those moments? mine’s usually with shoes, but hey! that’s personal and not for the public good or service.

 

So, right at the end this seemingly sore point was raised; “we sell a lot to pay taxes which is incredibly painful, but that’s life”. Yes taxes are painful but they go towards the common good?. Ok …continuing….”It is an incredibly unfair system the IRS has got us by the balls they go against the law; the issue is basically whatever you really sell, you’re buying what you keep”.

Ok so essentially collectors are doing a service but they are not doing it for free and the taxman also takes (never fair to everyone – but that’s the political system) since the enlightenment anyway, that’s been the deal, at least until the free market loosening tweaks, blind eyes, and the slow unpicking of recent years; we still pay our dues, and no its not fair.

 

And just as for everyone else witnessing the push of the brave new world after the Second World War, and when it finally imploded on itself. Money has been made and lost, but hopefully not love and fairness (although, apparently ‘loves’ the smart-ass answer to things) probably too idealistic.