What, if anything, have you learned from your students, and/or the process of teaching?
Teaching continually confronts me with the dilemmas in my own process. When I talk to my students about their difficulties, their stopping places and moments of fear, I am able to see the similarities in my own situation. So from listening to the ways my students talk about what they do I have become a better reader of work. I’ve also learned not to spend a lot of time worrying about whether or not they like me. When I first started teaching I wanted to be every student’s best pal. That’s as bad as your parents trying to hang around with you all the time. Now I have better boundries around it all and it makes it easier for ervery one to relax.
What don’t you like about the art world? Are there frauds? Name names.
1. I don’t like the generalization “art world” as it lumps together many people who don’t neccisarily belong together : artists, certain writers, dealers, collectors, museum people, some notion of a public. We don’t talk about the “baseball world”. That being said, for purposes of answering the question I’ll talk about the group of people around the New York art market.
2. I don’t like assumed concensus, people who come to opinions without thinking about them. One of the galling things about being in the market is the unspoken assumption that everyone is on the same side.
3. I don’t like openings, which are really about people demonstrating to you that they showed up rather than anyone looking at the work in any real way. I go to very few, and when I have them I try to find some way to subvert them by doing a performance or something similar.
4. I don’t like the proliferation of prizes, art fairs and Biennials, for the same reason I dislike circuit parties.
5. I dislike the cult of youth that pervades the art world these days. It messes up my students, and it’s fair to say that art making is one of the things that you get better at the longer you do it. Do we want every field to have the emotional pitch of women’s gymnastics?
As for frauds; first let me say that I think it’s heartening that folks still worry about this. It means that on a deep level people want something important from art, given the way we have come to accept fraud in so many other fields as a matter of course. But in this case I think it’s hard to define fraud. On the part of artists I would say that there are failures, failures of nerve, imagination, growth, feeling. When someone tries to present these as not being faliures then I suppose you have a situation of fraud. For example, I think that for many years now David Salle has been treading water. His most recent show at Gagosian in New York was accompanied by an article in the New York Times that was full of praise for the development of the work. This I suppose was fradulent, in that it was intellectually dishonest. But when you try to talk about this as legal fraud you run up against a problem: who has been injured? The people who bought the pictures? The people who came to look at them? Also let me say that even if we could talk about fraud here the biggest art fraud in history could have gotten away with less in a life time than a VP at Enron could make off with in a week.
Here’s a clearer case: Thomas Kinkaide – the self proclaimed painter of light. Here is someone who has set up a huge business that traffics in asserted, simplified emotionality. It seems to me to be at its heart cynical and manipulitive of its audience on a level that Jeff Koons could only pretend to.
“me and my work”
“the types of work I enjoy”
“in terms of work”
“making work and seeing others make work”
“me and my art”
“the types of art I enjoy”
“in terms of art”
“making art and seeing others make art”
Why this choice of words? Is this simply the vernacular from the “art world” that you’ve absorbed? What would Freud have to say about this? Discuss.
Two reasons: when I use “art” people tend to think only of my visual stuff, whereas I think of everything I do; sculpting, writing, teaching, lecturing, DJing, publishing, etc. as all being part of the same thing :”making work”. Secondly, “my art” just sounds too naff. I make things that make sense to me and then hopefully they will be useful for other folks as well. To the extent that they are then they become art.
Name some things that you personally “find really useful in a cultural sense.”
The plays of Richard Foreman – the books of Kathy Acker, Djuna Barnes, Samuel Delaney and Charles Dickens – the films of John Waters, Jack Smith and Terry Gilliam – the Music of Sun Ra, Patty Smith and the Velvet Underground – notebooks of Hokousai – the tattoos of Don Ed Hardy – the sock money – as a sculptor I wish I had invented it, and I still aspire to come up with something like it: a sculpture that just about anyone can make, that is ubiquitous and anonymous.
Who put the ram in the ramalamadingdong?
You know you did, dude.
No real time to post any of this during the trip. The panel went fine, with me being much less negative than I thought I was going to be. I did end up using SFMOMA as a negative example a bit much more than I thought I would I was feeling very skeptical about the center, but as my fellow panelists spoke I found myself remembering what was exciting to me about being on the board there in the first place. And then seated in the midst of architects, aoard members and mysterious art fans were a group of youth arts outreach high school students. I watched them hang in through some not very exciting speaking and when my turn came, I felt that I couldn’t just be crabby. It struck me the extent to which things like the center are about the people who are coming after me, that the art world now is segregated, and compromised, but if those students are going to make it any different it will be through instruments like the center. So I tried encouraging them to take it over to make it their own. Ten years is way to short a time to assess any sort of legacy for the center.
Drew was an incredible host, and the panel in a real way was an excuse to come out to San Francisco and meet some new people, namely the folks I’ve come to meet through LJ. Last night was spent drinking, smoking and discoursing with Anthony Berno, and on Saturday morning I ran into Chris Komater and Chris Vandemore. This brought up the odd fact that for the whole trip I kept running into people who had seem my pieces at YB and as such recognized me as the shirtless bearded guy with the rabbit puppet on his hand. That morning I reunited with my friend Brian, and it was as if we hadn’t just gone for 11 months without talking to each other. I began to feel that there could be a future life for me in San Francsico that isn’t purely based on my past life there
Drew and his roomates kept me feeling VERY welcome and VERY full for the entire time.
Frustration and anxiety have given way to techno-covetousness, meaning that I’ve used the excuse of desktop problems to purchase a new laptop. And so this is written on a new jujitsu lifebook, , ni the air over Michigan on an jet blue flight. I’m heading to san Francisco to speak on a panel. The topic is the tenth anniversary of the Center for the Arts at Yerba Buena Gardens. I’m supposed to provide the perspective of how the center fits into the art world as a whole. Usually the way I deal with these things is to wing it, that is I think about the topic an great deal, perhaps jot a couple of notes and then speak off the cuff. I can’t say I’m so sunny at the prospects of the center in any event. It’s difficult to paint much of a rosy picture of the art world in general these days, at least for me, and I’ve been thinking about the advisability of constructing “centers” in a time where every thing seems to be de-centering. Yerba Buena seems to be the result of a collision between two forces: the postwar drive to develop south of market San Francisco, a plan that originally included a sweeping demolition all the way out to the south bay and huge rebuilding, with the rise of the artists’ space movment, the flowering of artist run organizations that got its start in the seventies. So commercial and non commercial interests collided., And the result reveals the striations in SF’s art world, the contesting communities that co-exist uneasily in the bay area. Has the center actually meant a place for these groups to come together? Often it’s been regarded as the poor relation of the SFMOMA, at times by the board of the center itself.
And in the visual art world as a whole? In the 80’s and 90’s it became more and more characterized by travel, the moving around of people and objects from city to city, ultimately with the effect of killing off regionalism. Museums embraced the notion of a “world class” which meant that in effect all museums inb the world should have the same collection. The year now abounds with art fairs, biennials, art festivals and prizes, that constitute the circuit parties for this new jet set. People go around the world to see the same narrow set of compatriots and works, and of course each other. This is an internationalism divorced from any political thought, it is the market that whips everyone and everything along, hither and yon . Travel feels like experience, but it is not, and the work of art is not something lived with, but something primarily glimpsed in a booth on the way to another exhausted meeting. We have not yet seen the final fallout of this, but I glimpse it’s effects in the shell shocked way that my students turn this way and that in search of a reason to make anything.
Hmm, perhaps an essay called “How the idea of a Modern Art market stole New York”
Last night one of my students told me that she had been advised to stop painted the way she did because “abstract expressionist painting had failed” by one of my fellow faculty. I was and remain flummoxed. Failed to do what? She does have problems with her work, but honestly, not because she is working in some ‘Failed” manner. I wish I could summon the certainty to say something so silly. Assertions like that seem to me do be enormous denials of responsibility, the instructor being lazy in their response to the work and turning it around on the student . Plenty of times I walk into a graduate students studio and find myself at a loss or profoundly unsympathetic to what they’re doing. But it isn’t my job to stop them.
Now comes the frantic rush toward Saturday’s London departure. Weekend was spent trying to wrap up last minute loose ends, and seeing folks who were in from out of town: James Gobel, Didi. A swirl of artworld related hiking culminating in Sunday’s opening at the Sculpture Center: tons of people, a sunny afternoon, and hearentening art. At the same time, this week was truly the official beginning of the New York season and it seemed like everyone I knew was having an opening: friends acquaintances former students. Given that I can hardly bear to be at openings, and had to get my own (last-minute as usual) stuff together, I found myself continually apologizing to folks about not being able to attend. I’d so much rather see the show at another time when I can look at it. Peter Norton hosted a reception for the Sculpture Center in his apt , Thor graciously consented to go with me, and so the evening found us wandering around the 45th floor apt gaping at the views, eyeballing the art collection and downing canapes whose unifying characteristic was that they had all been designed to be circular and 3/4 of an inch in diameter.