This week Lars von Trier put out a call for submissions to be part of his new user-generated project, Gesamt. Honestly this project sounds pretty weirdo (and is in some way probably slightly sexist and anti-semitic) but, as it is emphasized: “Technical skills are not the biggest priority — originality and enthusiasm are much more important.”
The main point is to respond—in some sense via video—to six major works of art that von Trier picked. Though all artist he is asking to respond to are dudes, the press release notes several times that, if chosen, you will be working with a young female director.
Deadline is September 6th. Gesamt will premiere 12th of October 2012 in Kunsthal Charlottenborg.
and, the NYT announcement
In the fall of 1985, when I read that Yankees outfielder Dave Winfield was going to sign autographs at a Long Island Hilton, I decided I would execute the most exactingly perfect Ticonderoga No 2-on-paper portrait of him that had ever been produced. I had the paper and the pencils, but was forced to buy packs of baseball cards to find an image of him. I went through a month’s-worth of allowance before I finally found the card in a Topps wax pack. Over the next four nights I completed what I still consider my masterpiece. And if you doubt its quality, I’ll have you know Mr. Winfield himself told me it was “astounding” when he signed it on a Saturday morning in November 1985. That cultural treasure has hung in my father’s office for more than 20 years.
Last Tuesday, I was wondering what a mature Bot Fly looked like. I Googled it, and in 15 seconds I knew. And what blood fluke, hook worms and intestinal amoebas looked like. All collateral infections from my search, these organisms now freeload in my visual memory like actual parasites might in my gut.
Twenty-seven years ago I couldn’t locate a picture of a celebrity for the better part of a week and today I can pull up twenty thousand of an obscure protozoan or a flesh eating fly in a few seconds.
When I sketched Dave Winfield at my family’s kitchen table two-and-a-half decades ago, the tide of cultural criticism about the information age had already crested: Jean Baudrillard’s “Hyper-Realism of Simulation,” Hal Foster’s “Subversive Signs” and “Learning from Las Vegas,” were all in the ether. And the work of the artists of the “Pictures Generation”—Sherrie Levine, Cindy Sherman, Sarah Charlesworth, Richard Prince, et al.—were all established and hanging in Eugene and Barbara Schwartz’s living room.
After reading about worms that would enjoy living in my digestive tract, I revisited a little of Fredric Jameson’s “Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism”. It was the bit about Van Gogh’s peasant boots versus Warhol’s diamond dust shoes. It’s amazing how prescient he and the others were about imagery, media and accelerated culture. It seems as if they felt the Internet waiting to split civilization at the seams. But, in much the same way the overdetermined, everything-will-be-made-of-aluminum pulp science fiction of the 1950’s, the look-and-feel of those “Pictures” artists, and the accompanying media theories, expired before the more substantial part of the message was absorbed.
Now, as hyper-reality prevails in earnest, and all the futuristic amenities predicted in the Jetsons, save for household robots, arrive, we seem to have normalized and adapted to the vertigo of image overload.
Finding an photo of Dave Winfield was half the battle for an artist in 1985. Now the finding is meaningless and the editing is primary. Some consider this condition visual emancipation, but in time most will see it as visual paralysis, a massive amoebic whole leaching the power of helpless individual pictures.
Without trying I can name artists who make images whose content is sourced from diseased organs to supernovae to shopping carts to movie star pets to NASCAR crashes. I saw a collage recently that featured images of emus, James Taylor, Hubble telescopes, Sesame Street characters and gyrating porn stars, and still it hit me softer than the shimmering highlights on the evening gown of one of Sargent’s ladies. I can yawn in front a Ryan Trecartin…which proves his point and his value as a cultural commentator. The frisson once evoked by the uncanny juxtapositions enacted by Kurt Schwitters or James Rosenquist have been neutralized by the white noise tidal wave of the internet and the spigot that is the search engine.
This condition makes Richard Prince’s cowboys and Sherrie Levine’s Edward Westons look extra profound to me in 2012, and forces me to consider if society is capable of putting good commentary to use, or if even at its best, well-aimed cultural criticism will be processed as good taste. It also makes me look at my Dave Winfield and wonder if my children will ever know what it’s like to thumb through a pack of baseball cards one by one, reading each image, recording every graphic detail with butterflies in their stomach. My guess is that the orgiastic charge that coursed through me when his card appeared in that pack had something to do with the mystery of limitation and the magic of scarcity.
Someone once said with knowledge goes magic, and with magic goes knowledge. I think I know a place where where that scarcity and limits still exist. To be continued…
Work by Caroline Carlsmith, Alex Chitty, New Hands (Carson Fisk-Vittori & Michael Hunter), and Kristina Paabus.
Alderman Exhibitions is located at 1338 W. Randolph St. Reception Friday, 6-9pm.
Work by Cameron Gibson, Eduardo Fernández, Marine de Contes, Julian Dalrymple, Meghan Johnson, Nathan Meltz, Miguel Guzman, Jennifer Baker, and Rob Frye.
The Milk Factory is located at 907 N. Winchester Ave., Rear Apt. Reception Saturday, 7-11pm.
Work by Tony Fitzpatrick, Duncan Robert Anderson, Daniel Bruttig and Chris Hefner.
LivingRoom is located at 1530 W Superior St. Reception Friday, 7-10pm.
Work by Alberto Aguilar and Jorge Lucero.
Beverly Arts Center is located at 2407 W. 111th St. Reception Saturday, 7-9pm.
Work by Mark Adkins, Alberto Aguilar, Jane Fulton Alt, Marissa Benedict, Daniel Bruttig, Robert Burnier, Tom Burtonwood, Scott Carter, Stephen Cartwright, Andrew Copper Smith, Margaret Crowley, Matt Davis, Michael Dinges, Diana Gabriel, David Giordano, Emily Hermant, Alexander Herzog, Matt Irie, Elk Grove Village; Barbara Jeanne Jenkins, Evanston; Stacee Kalmanovsky, Buffalo Grove; Julia Klein, Barbara Koenen, Morgan Krehbiel, Katie Loomis, Ivan Lozano, Jorge Lucero, Bobbi Meier, Jackie Melissas, Holly Murkerson, Julie Oh, Joel Parsons, Karen Perl, Cole Pierce, Melissa Ann Pinney, Wolfie Rawk, Todd Reed, Patricia Rieger, Nicole Seisler, Lindsay Sherman, Soo Shin, Geoffry Smalley, Alex Tam, Xavier Toubes, Rafael E. Vera, Sarah Williams, Robin Woodsome, and Kaylee Wyant.
Evanston Art Center is located at 2603 Sheridan Rd., Evanston. Reception Sunday, 1-4pm.
I recently heard about, ordered, and read I Like Your Work: Art And Etiquette. (Edited by Paper Monument, Brooklyn NY. 2009.) The book consists of a series of questions and the answers to them given by a number of art world personalities, mainly but not entirely New York based. (Chicago artist, critic, and curator Michelle Grabner is among the contributors.) After finishing it, I thought about what I would have said, had I been posed the same questions. My answers follow.
What are the rules of etiquette for the art world?
I’d like to think it’s “Don’t be a dick.” In practice, some people get away with being dicks because they have enough power, influence, money, attractiveness, or other exchange commodities that they can essentially buy the freedom to be dicks. They get away with it insofar as people tolerate their behavior in exchange for access to these exchange commodities, but their reputations as dicks still circulate. It has been my experience that only a small minority (between 1-10%) of people in the art world are dicks.
Was etiquette foregrounded in any memorable situation?
A while ago, my wife Stephanie Burke and I noticed that at every gallery opening we went to, people were drinking wine out of disposable plastic cups and then throwing them away. Few if any showed any means of recycling. It occurred to us that those Lexan backpacking wine glasses they sell at REI, where the stem unscrews and stores in the bowl, would be a fun way to bring our own glass and save on waste. So we bought a pair and started bringing ‘em with us to the galleries. Most gallerists and their staff responded somewhere between “Oh, how cool! Where did you get those?” and “Huh, that’s weird, but okay.” But we did have a problem at one gallery. The bartender actually thought they were totally awesome, and confided that she’d been bothered by the fact that they didn’t recycle either. We checked out the show and enjoyed our wine, and then went to leave. The gallery owner stopped us at the door, saying “You can’t take those outside,” indicating our empty wine glasses. “Oh, these are ours,” I said, unscrewing the stem and locking it inside the bowl to demonstrate the principle, and how these were clearly not the disposable plastic cups the gallery used. “You brought your own glass? Actually…THAT’S ILLEGAL.” I think it was just a case of misunderstood intent; here we were trying to do our part to cut back on waste and save the planet all all that shit, because at heart we’re just a couple of nature-loving hippies from California, and this gallery owner probably thought we were up to no good, trying to get larger portions of wine or something. It was an awkward interaction but I’ve tried not to hold a grudge (see below re: “Tit For Two Tats”).
What customs or mannerisms are particular to the art world?
There are a lot of specifics, like what to do during a studio visit, or how to approach a gallery, or how to deal with collectors, but the one thing I’ve noticed is the role of niceness and/or sincerity. On one level there’s this veneer of civility where everybody acts nice towards everybody else because you never know when you’ll need them professionally, even if there’s a lot of behind-the-scenes shit talking. But on another level, there’s a hierarchy. It seems sometimes as though everybody loves a collector, likes a writer, and tolerates an artist. If you’re an artist, a gallerist or dealer is as good as a collector, as is an institutional curator, because they can get you in the show. I’ve worn all these hats in one capacity or another, and it’s really interesting how people have acted differently towards me in subtle ways. I should add here that almost everyone has been very civil, polite, and friendly towards me no matter what. Also, I’m sure I act a little differently around people with different roles in the art world, but I do make an effort to be friendly and respectful to everyone, whether or not they’re in a position to advance my career.
When does breach of etiquette play a role in embarrassing or awkward encounters?
There’s the above example about the wine glasses, of course; here’s another one: A well-known artist whose work I really like, but had never met, made some very caustic remarks about my wife and I, calling us “idiotic hipsters who eat their way through the openings and don’t know anything about painting.” This was in response to The Snack Report, a weekly column I authored for several years in which I went to every art opening I could but wrote criticism only of the refreshments. Following the principle of “tit for two tats,” that is, forgiving anyone their first breach of conduct (again, see below), I engaged in a very civil dialog with this artist, and despite the rude phrasing, actually did become convinced that the joke had gotten old and the Snack Report had become more of a chore than a joy for me, and stopped doing it. The artist and I became friends, I did a studio visit, and we’ve had some other professional engagements together. It would have been easy for me to take offense at the initial remarks but by turning the other cheek I’ve allowed us to have some very positive interactions.
How should people behave? What would be a maxim for conduct?
“Don’t be a dick.” Really, that should cover it, and any more specific rules merely serve to clarify this one overlying principle. For example:
- An artist’s opening is not the time for a critique.
- An opening is not a good time to talk to the gallerist about showing your work there. The gallerist is busy talking to collectors, trying to generate sales. Or at least they should be. This is also true of art fairs.
- If your friends are writers, they are under no obligation to write about your show. If your friends are curators, they have no obligation to include your work in an exhibition. As a curator and writer, I have certainly written about and curated my friends’ work, but never felt obligated to do so. If I curate a friend’s work into an exhibition, it is because their work fits the theme well; if I write about a friend’s show, it is because I have something to say about their work. Or, in either case, because it’s a paid gig.
- Show up when you say you’re going to. If you arrange to do a studio visit, for example, and then don’t show up, or cancel at the last minute, you’re saying “My time is more important than yours.” This is related to a power dynamic. We live in a world where artists court gallerists, not the other way around. A gallerist can cancel or reschedule a studio visit without any real consequences on his or her career, whereas an artist who cancels or asks to reschedule might very well find themselves quickly forgotten. But it’s a dick move either way.
- Conversely, respect other people’s time. Nobody owes you anything. People are busy. Pushing yourself on a gallerist to do a studio visit with you is making a big demand on their time. Act accordingly.
This raises, of course, the question of what to do when someone else violates the basic principle of “don’t be a dick.” I advocate a position I learned about while reading about memetics. Basically these researchers were running a computer simulation of game theory, in which computer programs were written to play a game of Prisoner’s Dilemma, in which they could choose to either cooperate or betray one another. You can read Richard Dawkins’ The Selfish Gene and Susan Blackmore’s The Meme Machine to get the whole story in context, but the short version is, the first time they ran the game the winning program was “Tit For Tat,” which would cooperate until betrayed, but would retaliate if betrayed (that is, would not cooperate again with a player who betrayed it). So, the conclusion seemed to be that it’s best to be nice to others until they fuck you over, at which point you never trust that person again.
But, they ran a later version of the game, in which a new program was introduced, and proved even more successful than “Tit For Tat.” The new program was called “Tit For Two Tats,” and operated on this principle: It would forgive a single instance of betrayal, but not a second one. This was superior to Tit For Tat because it avoided getting into cycles of mutual betrayal with programs which were programmed to betray randomly, or merely occasionally. This seemed to map perfectly to social behavior in the art world: If someone says something rude to me, criticizes me publicly, or whatever, I’ll extend the olive branch, let ‘em know we’re still cool, and try to be their friend. In the few instances this has come up, it’s proven effective. It’s hard to punch someone who’s hugging you. (Although it occurred to me recently that it’s actually only a -4 penalty to attack while grappled.)
Has their been a shift in etiquette as the financial climate has changed?
To be honest, if it has, I haven’t noticed.
What constitutes bad manners?
The same stuff that constitutes bad manners in any context: Making people wait for you. Interrupting someone who’s in the middle of a conversation. Tying up the shitter for half a goddamned hour because you’re in there doing coke with your friends. (Everybody knows, sweetheart, you’re not fooling anyone!) Taking a couple of beers for the road out of the tub and sticking ‘em in your pockets. But…uh, nobody’s perfect.
Due to technical difficulties, the gods gave you extra time for the Propeller Fund, apply by August 5th. Midway Fair call for proposals ends August 15th, Threewalls solo residency app due the 30th, AAAANNDDD, as Duncan mentioned earlier this week, ARTADIA – Chicago is coming up on the 20th. Friendly reminder: Hatch Projects curatorial residency is up on the 15th as well…artists, you have until October 1st, AKA September 30th after a lot of coffee at 11:30 pm.