10 January 2008

This Is Now An Archive

The new and improved Blog is up! Click Here if you want new content, and be sure to update your links!

If you are looking for an archive of 2006 and 2007's posts, you have come to the right place. Fully searchable and browsable for all you trippers down memory lane.

09 January 2008

07 January 2008

Changes on the Horizon

First, I want you to know that I am going uptown, baby.

I just got me a typepad account, and if what they promise is true, I will be unveiling a fresh look for this blog and some not-blog pages like an online gallery in the upcoming weeks. Tres Chic!

My initial response: typepad's interface is not as easy-stupid as blogger. This might take awhile.

I am also thinking about starting another blog, one that's not all about me. Kind of like a professional advice aggregator for artists, kind of like a brainstorming hub for specific problems artists face--an artist-to-artist network.

I was talking to Lisa Mordhorst at a New Year's party, and we were lamenting the relative powerlessness of the individual artist, and thinking about things artists could do together. Invest money, create a real estate trust, work to keep artists in the city. There are obvious administrative barriers to any of these ideas, but is that any reason to stop thinking about artists helping eachother? I think not.

Let me know if you have ideas or questions, or if there are specific things you would want to read about. What's interesting to me is how much career advice is already out there, and how hard it is to follow or actualize. I am definitely interested in exploring that disconnect, or figuring out whether we are stupid or the advice is stupid.

04 January 2008


Deborah Fisher, Lift, 2007, carpet, cardboard and drywall screws stressing auto-body armature

Happy New Year, Beautiful People!

This blog is almost three years old. If Tyler Green linked to me, I would be a regular internet institution!

And you very well know, it's the time of year to prognosticate. Or write a Best Of. Or a Top Ten. Or summarily decide that art is currently not worthy of such accoladishness.

This blog is most successful, I think, when it's a more personal vehicle than all that. So the best, most appropriately thankful thing to do is write about my own orientation in 2008.

Mini-Epiphany for 2008: Art Is Business

You can hold the back of your hand against your forehead and wistfully wish that it weren't so, but why? If the Times is going to rail against it and Charlie Finch is whining about it, and everyone on Winkleman's blog is waiting patiently for another post that self-helps it, then it must be legitimately so. When I got my MFA, I did not get a book of Food Vouchers or otherwise leave the existing economy. To take care of myself is to take care of the world of people I talk to with my art.


This moment of understanding, of course, takes only a second. The yearlong trick, I think, will be understanding what accepting the money end of art means.

I am just like you, just like every other artist I respect. I want everything to be free. I hate money. I suck at paperwork. The only reason I have achieved any success whatsoever is because I have an amazing ability to suspend disbelief, live in a state of denial, eschew new pants and medical care, and still feel that I am so fucking lucky and so fucking prosperous that I cannot believe it.

There is beauty in looking at the world this expansively that I cannot deny and refuse to let go of. And, at the same time, I can admit that this is a good mindset for getting taken for a ride. I intend to explore this paradox all year long, if nowhere else, then in my own mind. I hope to wind up with a more subtle understanding of this crazy art economy that helps me actually take care of myself without forgetting that I am fundamentally a servant to something larger than Me.

I might post about this in more detail later. It seems useful to the larger community. I don't know anyone who doesn't openly struggle with this set of problems... and I know artists who are freaking millionaires.

First Professional Goal in 2008: Organize

2007 was a discombobulating year for me. I bought a house, moved into a construction zone, had a fistful of shows and made a huge sculpture. Everything bad happened. I accidentally deleted the folder I keep every piece of paper in my press packet handy while trying to back it up. My laptop died. I ruined my new computer's keyboard by typing all over it with my grubby fingers. I killed three cellphones, two ipods and a jigsaw. I never know anyone's number anymore.

This disorientation is exactly what prompted me to get so brass-tacks in the first place--all I can do is embrace it. I need to rebuild what I lost (instant press packet) and buttress what was built (bring in more public art commissions).

And, um... I can't do anything of the sort if I am still rummaging through cardboard boxes every time I want to draw something.

The Habit I Will Break In 2008: Apply, Apply, Apply!

I know, this is counterintuitive to the whole business-and-personal-responsibilty angle. But I am prompted to write about this because of the panel discussion at Dieu Donne, which devolved quickly into a discussion about power.

The nonprofits represented (SmackMellon, LES Printshop, Dieu Donne and Socrates) have it.

They gave some to the artists like the ones sitting on the panel.

You, artist sitting in the audience, don't have any.

Nonprofits want lots of applications for two reasons. They want choices, and the number of applications looks great on their grant applications--it justifies increased operating expenses. So every nonprofit will tell you to Apply, apply apply! to their open calls, and this has become standard business-of-art wisdom.

I'm done doing it, though, and that panel discussion clinched it for me. The odds, while not exactly lottery-like, are not in your favor. More important than your odds (seeing as how you might have noticed that the odds of being a "famous artist" are not excellent) is the quality of the relationship. The open call creates Holders Of Power (who are more than willing to stack the deck by choosing artists they already know through friends, as I would in a similar situation) and Supplicants.

Even though I have gotten opportunities through open calls, I don't think it's professionally healthy to be a continuous Supplicant. In 2008 going forward, I am going to start stacking the deck in my favor. I am going to ask three questions and demand at least one "yes" before answering an open call from a nonprofit institution:

1. Is this institution so aligned with my work, goals or values that I can't not apply?

2. Is the deck stacked in my favor in any way? Can I get to know the folks at this institution? Do I know other artists who have worked there in the past?

(I know this question is crass, but fuck it! It's a crass crass crass crass world!)

3. Will the application process take less than an hour?

As long as there are needy artists, nonprofits will have a huge number of applicants every time they have a call-for-entries. But there are better ways to actually get an opportunity, and feeling needy drains artists of power.

New Habit To Replace Compulsively Applying in 2008: Create What I Want

If a nonprofit or gallery has an interest in my vision, then great. That's a solid foundation on which to build a collaboration. But I am done moving from nonprofit to nonprofit and gallery to gallery, slides in hand like a hat, shaping what I do to what they do.

If art is a business, then I am going to be a fucking businessperson. And you know, an investor would not be interested in a business plan that is so entirely dependent upon other people's whims and astronomically bad odds. As the chief investor in my business, I reject that business plan, and am going to create a plan that moves beyond waiting for rejection letters and makes me the primary actor.

Most of that means creating community. People work with people they know for legitimate reasons. But frankly, I have no idea what I mean beyond drinking more at night and blogging more in the light of day. Regular readers of this blog know that this half-ignorant state has never stopped me before, and to keep posted!

The bottom line is this: even if I just go buy a decent fucking file cabinet and drink more cocktails in 2008, I will be happier and more productive. I wish you all an equally joyous and productive year!

24 December 2007

New York Times To Chelsea: You've Dropped Dead

The first step to improvement is admitting you have a problem.

The New York Times has summed up all of 2007's visual arts activity in three scant articles. At the back of the paper. Each one of them more of an indictment than a summation.

Holland Cotter played the straight man and attempted a legitimate trip down memory lane, but could only attack such an exercise after deploying a disclaimer, making the gist of his article go something like this:

Art is merely businessy slick marketing. These were the few things that escaped this glossy existential vacuum. Some of them were kind of dumb. But at least I remembered them.

Roberta Smith opted for more of a two-bird salute. Instead of traipsing through the year that was, she wrote a stiff memo condemning us all for sanitizing and professionalizing a business that is best left to dirty unprofessionals who don't quite know what they are doing. She did this by focusing on three words we all use when we talk about art, and yes. This is an effective strategy for dispatching lots of serious problems in a thousand words. Words like reference or imbricate do point directly at (more than) a year of gobbledygook posturing as actual intellectualism. The word practice is an efficient vehicle for unpacking the problem of the MFA; the professionalism it creates; and how that professionalism devastates the artist's ability to make no sense and solve no problem.

Carol Vogel's little back-page ditty on, basically, stuntsmanship as lame visual art, rounded out this trifecta nicely. Consider the gauntlet thrown! Finally, instead of just not covering arts very much, the paper of record has very clearly explained why visual arts receives so little coverage. From the sound of three of its arts journalists, it sounds like there is little happening that is legitimately "fit to print."

There is nowhere to go but up!

21 December 2007


I was dragging my eyes through comments, in which readers alternately praised Stanley Fish for pointing out the naked king and discredited him as a philistine, and this jumped out at me:

I don’t like art that shows me stuff I’ve seen (as in the New Museum). I like art that shows me stuff I’ve never seen (e.g., Jackson Pollock). And best of all I like art that shows me stuff I mistakenly thought I’d seen (Cezanne).
— Posted by Anthony D'Amato

Perfect! This comment wastes no time on what is or is not art, and wastes no time on charges of philistinism or fakery, and I like that. It simply stakes out some ground for deciding what one should value in art.

Of course, the whole point about contemporary art, the thing to "get," is that anything goes. But does it really? And should it? What point, other than fealty to Duchamp, does this en masse expression of gullibility prove?

There is no magic in art if it is already right, if anything really does go. And this absence of common critical ground winds up disrespecting artists, whose work must be engaged either in terms of bobble-headed approval or retarded strawman arguments about what is or is not art.

There's no good reason for art to be this kind of sucker's game.

20 December 2007

The State Of The Residency: Tomorrow At Dieu Donne

I'm participating in this panel discussion tomorrow night at Dieu Donne:

Dieu Donne
315 West 36th Street
New York, NY

Artists & Admin:
New York Workspace Residencies
Friday, December 21, 2007 – 6:30 pm
Moderated by Patricia C. Phillips

We will be discussing "the current state of New York City's workspace residency programs." I don't know what that means...yet! But if you are a regular reader of this blog, you already know that ignorance has never before stopped me from having an opinion.

Seriously, I don't know what the real questions will be, but I go into this discussion noticing that spaces like Socrates, Dieu Donne and the Lower East Side Printshop are keeping traditions alive as much as they are offering artists commodities like space. And that the "post studio" situation (movement? condition?) creates interesting challenges and prompts adaptations from these nonprofits, who are defining themselves against specific kinds of studio practice.

It should be fun. I'll be rockin' the house not just with moderator Patricia C. Phillips, but with these fine artists and arts administrators: Sonya Blesofsky, Noah Loesberg, and Jean Shin Jeanne Gerrity, Felicity Hogan and Dona Warner.

Hope to see you there!