Tuesday, May 29, 2007


Artist stereotypes have been circulating through my head. They all hold a grain of truth of course:

The Diva: The artist who feels special, who feels that installing her work deserves a fleet of personnel, gallery assistants, celebratory dinners and also some pity for how hard it is to be an artist.

The Intense Weirdo: The artist who can’t seem to have a conversation about anything except death, philosophy and life’s deeper layers.

The Anti-Social Snob: The artist who never wants to be with anyone, who hates parties, who never does anything to “join in.”

Of late, I can most relate to the anti-social snob. Can someone explain why chit-chat is in fact necessary?

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

two better than one

As a gesture of compassion for Lars van Trier’s depression, I watched The Five Obstructions last night, in which he challenges his mentor, Jorgen Leth, to make shorts, based on Leth’s own film, under extremely strict conditions. Trier’s aim seems to be to chisel through the perfection and gimmicks of Leth’s tactics to reach something flawed but human. At times the relationship is sadistic, but mostly it is portrayed as intensely passionate, intellectually rigorous and bluntly honest. I want it.

I’m a sucker for true artistic collaboration. There’s nothing more romantic in my head than two artists developing work together with equal concentration and with likeminded, preferably trascendental, goals. I think of Abramovic and Ulay, Gilbert and George, Guston’s correspondence with Ross Feld, Godard and the New Wave. But this kind of collaboration mostly seems to be a male game, for some reason. I’d gladly play. The thing is, I’m mostly in my studio alone, and the thought of working with anyone basically makes me want to weep.

All this is rooted of course in the conviction that art and artists do actually have profound possibilities. I don't mind thinking this, but I tend to keep it hush. I think it's not fashionable. Too modernist. Or perhaps it comes off as arrogant, as self-important, (European) intellectual. But, what else are you supposed to do with the bulk of your time?

Monday, May 21, 2007

We, the elite

I’ve been trying to hide it for years. But now that I’m in the art world (or trying to be), and I’m talking about the Chelsea one, it makes no sense to pretend any longer. I am a member of the elite. And so are all the other artists, gallerists and curators I know (or hope to).

The question is not so much how can we become more like “the people,” but how can we meet our potential as a self-conscious elite, aware of our education and skills (however slim they may be).

This is what comes to mind:
1. While we can refer to and be influenced by pop culture, we can (and I believe must) go beyond it, in terms of content and form.
2. While we can aspire to equality, we must accept our privilege, shed light on its workings and contradictions, and use its power.
3. While we can hone our individuality, and assert our right to be artists, we have to admit that a lonely life in the studio is in fact a political position and should be claimed as such.

These are just three possibilities, a fist attempt to counteract what I read on blogs about artists not wanting to burden themselves, and what I see in galleries, basically un-provocative dribbles.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Raising the Bar

This appeared in the “Arts Briefly” notes in Monday’s New York Times:

Lars von Trier, the Danish director whose credits include “Breaking the Waves,” “Dancer in the Dark” and “Dogville,” has cast doubt on his future as a filmmaker after a bout of severe depression, The Associated Press reported. In an interview with the Danish newspaper Politiken, he said the aftermath of his ailment had left him “like a blank sheet of paper.” Mr. von Trier, a founder of the Dogma school of filmmaking, which seeks to purify the art by using hand-held cameras and spurning special effects and other gimmicks, was admitted to a Danish hospital for treatment around the start of the year. Since then, he said, he has lost focus and takes no pleasure in his work. “You can’t make a film and be depressed at the same time,” he said. “They say that it can take a couple of years to recover after a depression. But let us see.”

I really found this sad: because of Trier’s honesty, for one, because of the ax of depression, two, and also because of how fragile an artist can be.

Although I cringe at the cult around Trier – basically the hipoisie – I admire him for bringing stark and shocking (but not trying to be) drama into film. Plus, he really pushes form, but not as gimmick. As explained above, the no gimmick lies at the heart of the Dogma movement he helped found.

With the YouTube-ization of video, I think it is upon video artists to distinguish, even purify, the possibilities of the medium, to bring the art back into video. In honor of Trier, I propose these beginnings of a Video Art Manifesto, a set of rules for video artists in 2007:

1. Video will reduce narrative, so that upon entering the video space, a viewer can almost immediately grasp the extent of what happens in the work.
2. No filters from Final Cut Pro will be used except to perfect image quality (contrast, brightness, color balance, etc.)
3. Only music or sound that does not have a clear looping point will be incorporated
4. No transitions except for the cut are allowed.
5. Video will be projected or shown on un-branded monitors, but not with other “installation” objects like stuffed animals and tables full of food.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Finger painting, anyone?

On Wednesday, I visited a friend of mine’s studio. She’s involved in a large sculptural project (with a narrative base) and what’s amazing is, she’s having fun. Who would have thunk? An artist enjoying herself with her hands, playing with glazes, laughing, experimenting, taking her time.

I come from the school that art is above all serious, a key to our times, a vision about being, a responsibility. But, do these aims – which I believe to be all-important – mean that the artist can’t play? (I’ve always thought so).

Sol Le Witt once wrote a letter to Eva Hesse while she was living in Germany and at a point when her work was at an impasse. “Stop it and just DO,” he advised her. “Try and tickle something inside you, your ‘weird humor.’ You belong in the most secret part of you. Don’t worry about cool, make your own uncool.” He added: “You are not responsible for the world — you are only responsible for your work, so do it. And don’t think that your work has to conform to any idea or flavor. It can be anything you want it to be.

Easy to say. Are drugs and alcohol the only way to get there?

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

All or Nothing

A few months ago, I actually got a very nice gallery to look at some of my work. The visit went well, there was good conversation and obvious like-mindedness. Follow up followed. The gallerist asked that I give him some more time to consider me, and to give him a call in May. I carefully calculated the date and time I would do so. May 8, 2pm. He had mentioned that Tuesdays were quiet for him, and I figured mid-afternoon was a good time.

Then he said: “I really like your work, but I can’t take on any more video at this point. If sales were better at the Chicago Art Fair with video…” So, that was it. Done. So close but no cigar. I did ask if he knew of anyone else I should contact (politely). He said he would keep it in mind.

Now what do you do? Back to square one. No leads, no gallery.

I’ve heard that some artists are curated into the Whitney Biennial, only to be taken off the list a few days before installation. I’ve heard of major commissions being canceled. It’s like almost getting an apartment. Almost doesn’t exist. You either have one or don’t.

So, are you just supposed to go back into the studio and continue?

Friday, May 4, 2007

The Man

The first thirty pages of ArtForum this month wages a war between the art superpowers. A handful of names vie for the kingdom. PaceWildenstein has taken over no less than three full-page and consecutive ads to display their trophies, a conquest rivaled onlt by David Zwirner, Zwirner and Wirth, and Hauswer and Wirth. What's more, the same artists are in all the big camps. This month's heros: Gursky, Clemente and Tim Hawkinson. They're everywhere. It's hard to distinguish venues at this point.

This of course is not a new picture. The globalization of the art market has been a subject for quite some time now. But being part of it now makes the reality of it all the more disappointing. This was actually a visceral experience of the corporate level of the art world. I felt directly competitive nd defeated before these allmighties.

What's a small time artist with big ideas to do. There's no movement to join, no major arguments to defend. We just have to try to stay afloat, and to what end, I'm still uncertain.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

There's Always the Queen

In the realm of privilege, emotions are impossible. They’re in fact menacing to status and power since they imply change. And change is the demise of the status quo.

An ironically moving portrait of this stagnancy is painted in Stephen Frear’s The Queen, moving because of the isolation, disconnect, and loneliness that maintaining this coldness entails.

There is a part of me that admires the queen’s discretion, not her stubbornness, but her restraint. It is dignified. I cannot help but feel myself that emotions are indeed humiliating. But in order to avoid that humiliation, you have to build a fortress around yourself. The queen has that possibility, and actually has no other choice, because somehow there needs to be a public figure who is a pillar. It soothes the pangs of change her subjects undergo. They just want their queen to be there as she always is.

And she is. Look at her garb!