Andy Warhol’s Mother

This evening the first level of [H.H] is running! Only the bare bones – the main furniture and architecture, with none of the sound toys installed. But you can walk around and explore and the big Universal Time Machine is spinning and announcing the minutes and … other things. Feeling like I might be making the deadline!

I’ve been thinking a great deal about creativity and curation over the last weeks. I’ve always excused my curmudgeonly ways because despite all my vocal distaste for everything – I still create, still add to the cultural storehouse. Only those times when I can’t create does it seem unhealthy.

My acidic views get applied to myself first and usually get the desired effect – more effort. I’ve more often murdered my own trash than let it defame me. Only if there’s no remedy in critique do I back off. This is natural to me but seems others work better on praise and sugarplums.

That creative bargain doesn’t work if you’re curating other people’s efforts. You have to like something or there’s no show. You have to justify the positive to get it included, talk it up, smooth the concerns even if you have them. You can’t just fake it, you really have to warm to things.

If I am ever going to curate, then I have to analyse the negative.

A fundamental problem I have with most art is that it works backwards. It should work like this:

  • Internal necessity demands expression (Kandinsky).
  • Exploring the means of expression over time brings a solution.
  • The artwork is birthed in a passion of creation. It takes struggle.
  • An audience is taken by surprise by this personal act and slowly comes to respect the work even if it doesn’t suit their tastes.

But usually works like this:

  • A deadline is set for exhibition or assessment by some money keeper.
  • The artist or curator, who has political ambitions, finds out the current tastes of the audience.
  • They concoct something that suits the meanest expectations of the event.
  • Everybody gets paid and the audience feels slightly amused for a short time before wandering off to the next thing.

Just about everything I pick on comes from this principle: mindless projection mapping, 8 bit graphics on iPads, Krautrock reunion tours, skateboard ballet and so on. Take for example projection mapping, which starts from having a landmark building to project onto and works backwards to any plausible idea that can be excused for doing so. To find something praise worthy – Amon Tobin’s current light show to the extent that it is supposed be a cubist aeroplane that’s he’s flying – which is a fun idea – but not when the space is just being filled with coloured blocks.

There’s always something recent than you can do, which leads to people that do it in the vague hope of finding a point to it. That was New Media. It died.

Around 2006 I was asked to participate in an exhibition of mobile art – phones and GPS and that sort of thing. I thought about it for a week before I said no, because honestly I had nothing worth saying about mobile phones. The organiser was amazed – that had never stopped anyone before.

Another principle which I find important is that the artwork be bigger than the signature. Take for example a great video that an honours student identified the other day:

It’s a visualisation of human DNA replication that has been done with a great deal of accuracy and artistry by Drew Berry – which has been commissioned by Bjork with the condition that her face be inserted into it around the 4 minute mark. “Oh look this is beautiful! But it will be even more beautiful with MY FACE whacked in there!” Actually, no. There was something that was unique, and then become the equivalent of a Thomas Kincade painting of Jesus in seconds flat. It didn’t need to be made so obviously a vanity project.

Artists will find a trademark and then be terrified to move away from it in case the audience turns on them. In fact finding a trademark – whether a slow motion skateboard or a monochrome Joshua Tree – and being branded for life like a prize steer is the ambition of ‘artists’. Again this is a reverse of the way it should be, where popularity directs the artist like a puppet show. and climbing into the cage is their heart’s desire.

These and other concerns are all to do with the politics of art, and that the art that we get to see most is that which has played the politics. Go to an exhibition and you’ll see the work of the self promoters, the glib tongues and crowd pleasers. The people you really want are invisible. What to do?

Don’t fund art, so that only the passionate will be involved. But that leaves the wealthy, and punishes the poor. It shouldn’t have anything to do with money, plus or minus. Try again.

Only exhibit when there is something to show. That’s better, although a multitude of arts administrators are not going to put up with that. They get a wage from putting things on, as much as possible. Also, there is a public benefit to exhibiting, in that it may bring some joy. So they need to be told.

Get rid of arts administrators. It has a certain charm, but why not get rid of art academics as well? If I am going to get rid of something, then lead by example. (Actually there’s a possibility that I’ll be unemployed soon, so check this space).

Refuse to be involved in the art scene. Um, yeah, that just leaves the toadies. That’s pretty close to doing nothing at all. If you care, then better to be heard than be silent.

These are all bold and not very precise. We can do better.

Make an exhibition which reveals and publicly opposes these problems. Now you’re politicking! First of all, don’t let people know they are in the exhibition. Swoop in and take them by surprise the night before opening. If they think they’re in, they’re out.

Make sure that every second exhibit is actually bought from a service station and pay people to write lavish essays about them in the catalogue. Or actually hold the exhibition in a service station.

If you’re dealing with a known artist refuse their trademark and force them to do something else, for example, the tuba. Make them anonymous. Have every work in the exhibition signed by Ethel Schwug. Or swap tags.

Force everyone to make something called “Piss Christ”. Make everyone work on one single object called “Piss Christ”.

I’m feeling more confident about this curation business already.


4 thoughts on “Andy Warhol’s Mother

  1. You reminded me of Bruno Dutot, the artist who painted Oucha, the long arm bird girl on the wall at Edgecliff, and elsewhere. For awhile he ran a kind of squat gallery in the abandoned service station on Darlinghurst road. It was full of different versions of Oucha in oil on canvas. Somehow I don’t think this is what you meant though.

  2. Didn’t Karen Eliot do that? Anyway.. very cynical and right on the money. Depressingly so..

    Now excuse me while I have to go listen to some Skrillex to see what all the fuss is about :@

  3. @Matt – Sounds pretty close to ideal. I should spend more time looking into this underworld. When I was a young ‘un I seemed to know all about the hidden and tangential. Age and comfort has killed that.

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