Musing on Modernism

The reflective nature of Facebook means I can post short links then muse upon responses..I then cut and paste here as a kind of ‘sketchbook’ for later theorising….a work in progress..in turn it automatically feeds back onto my facebook wall..a complete loop…

Momus
Altermodern Week 2: What’s it all about, Nicolas? | NoiseLoop
http://www.noiseloop.com
Welcome back to Altermodern Week here on Click Opera. I very much liked how yesterday’s conversations went — in the wee small hours people were exchanging recommendations for Chinese pop videos. Today I want to round up definitions of the Altermodern, from its inventor, curator Nicolas Bourriaud, but also via the Chinese Whispers about the idea that have percolated through the press and the web since the Altermodern show opened at Tate Britain last month. In a way I’m just as interested in the misconceptions as the official version, and I think Bourriaud — eager not to overdetermine the idea in advance — has kept things tactically vague

Wayne Burrows
Altermodernism is yet another attempt to build a cack-handed theory that ignores the fact that Modernism contained every single aspect of Postmodernism at its own inception, including the irony and superficiality, alongside everything else it did (read Edith Sitwell’s Facade (1923) or Eliot’s Prufrock (1917) if you doubt it). And Surrealism was pushing post-colonial positions in the 1930s, hence its influence in places like Martinique and Francophone Africa (again, look at Aime Cesaire and Leopold Senghor for evidence). Much of the art theory of the past 50 years seems to have been one big concerted effort to ignore the grey areas and complexities that have made art interesting…but I’m guessing Bourriaud wouldn’t make the waves he does if he didn’t keep manufacturing a straw version of Modernism (which contained its own opposition) to gloss the present against…

Shaun Belcher
interestingly this set of articles written by one Momus and I believe it the ex Creation singer…good reports..there is something below the hysteria though …and it looks like modernism to me.

Shaun Belcher
check out stephen hicks below which a calmer analysis of what basically a end of the frippery of postmodernism..

Shaun Belcher

Hicks says…..My second theme will be that postmodern art does not represent much of a break with modernism. Despite the variations that postmodernism represents, the postmodern art world has never challenged fundamentally the framework that modernism adopted at the end of the nineteenth century. There is more fundamental continuity between them than discontinuity. Postmodernism has simply become an increasingly narrow set of variations upon a narrow modernist set of themes. To see this, let us rehearse the main lines of development.

Or your argument entirely?

Wayne Burrows
My favourite quote (can’t remember who said it, but it stuck in my mind) was to the effect that ‘postmodernism is the mannerist strain of modernism’, which I felt then (late 1980s/early 90s?) struck the proverbial nail squarely on its head, and still does…

Shaun Belcher
I like that a Postmodern Fin De Siecle Yellow Book era seems apposite..Hirst as the Wilde, Emin as Beardsley?

Which leaves us where..pre WW1 and Bourriaud as a new Roger Fry?

I dislike the ‘tie-in’ nature of much contemporary curation…even NC guilty with its spurious and completely facile aping of 1968 recently…one of reasons I think curation at NC ‘trendy’….

Bourriaud well aware of the echoing of ‘classic’ modenism and Altermodern. Can we see a pattern maybe?

Shaun Belcher
There was an excellent radio 4 (yes I must be 50 as I finally listening to radio 4!) on Frankfurt School and it struck me that much of what modern(post/alter)ism drew in terms of its ‘terroir’ was from this particular soil..Adorno, Benjamin etc..fatalistic, nihilistic, etc etc…the shock of WW2 led to its virtual manifesto being adhered across the art world….ending in Beuys and Richter..we can only fail..someone like Fuller with his positivist message was ridiculed by its followers….so we end up with Hirst’s mock religiosity..ironically..

Wayne Burrows
Fuller’s promotion of Ruskin was taken, I think, as part of the wider (big and small C) conservatism of the time, as in Thatcher’s comment on Victorian Values, the promotion (and frequent misconstruing) of Samuel Smiles’ ‘Self Help’ and the rest – somewhat wrongly, although many of his favoured contemporary artists weren’t much help in making his case either (eg: Robert Natkin).

There also seemed to be a bit of Oedipal revolt against Berger in there that led him to move from one extreme (ex-SWP Left) to the other (books like Left High and Dry: the Posturing of the Left Establishment) so his positions didn’t seem as nuanced or ever quite convincing (I talked to Christopher le Brun last year, and he mentioned that while he felt his painting was linked to the kind of Ruskin ideas Fuller promoted in Modern Painters, Fuller didn’t like his work largely because it was linked to the neo-Expressionism Norman Rosenthal was pushing, and NR was the enemy…). So I’m not sure Fuller ever made his case as well as he might have done, really…certainly less convincing on the UK turf than someone like Robert Hughes in the US, maybe…

Shaun Belcher
Interestingly there an article published in Modern Painters after his death where he cites ‘landscape painters’ much more convincingly (including Terry Shave! *Professor of Fine Art Nottingham Trent University)..I think the ‘High Church aura’ skewed his argument as did writing for Telegraph however a lot of the good stuff he did was thrown out too especially by the Goldsmiths crowd …

I would have thought Le Brun closer to Fuller than Rosenthal’s Neo Brutalists…in long term but then Fuller didn’t have long term..wonder how he’d react to present set up?

Shaun Belcher
I was interviewed by Goldsmiths twice in 1987 then again in 1988 on second occasion I referenced Fuller and they started screeching like hoot owls! To them he was the anti-marxist traitor…pivotal moment for me I thought they clowns…was year Hirst arrived and the rest is history. Still support Fuller not Craig Martin any day.

Shaun Belcher
Ah Ruskin as exemplar of a fake Victorianism Conservatism instead of the Ruskin of the Working Man’s College??….to this day there a fundamental clouding of his name and meaning…especially in Oxford …Ruskin School of Art V Ruskin College….two sides of a coin maybe?

Shaun Belcher
Ironically Berger the winner in short term. His Ways of Seeing in a pile in Waterstones (Foundation text) whilst no Fuller to be seen let alone read..I can see how Berger fits into the altermodern scenario and his Peasant Culture texts were ahead of their time. I feel Bourriaud has condensed essential traits of the post 1968 left..anti-colonialism…eco politics and anti-capitalism into a neat construct but once it examined in detail it does seem to fall apart.

Theorists seem agreed that postmodernism shot its metaphorical bolt but nobody seems quite sure where we are now…that indecision has been cleverly built into the altermodern ‘anti-theory’ positioning.

I like Momus’s idea of it merely being a ‘placeholder’ for whatever comes next. Hopefully it won’t be generated as before by cataclysmic war…but then maybe we already in that phase it simply, in an Orwellian sense, being kept beyond the borders of our comprehension. Haiti, Kabul, Baghdad..all becomes digital chaff…we are not receiving truth so what price artistic truth anyway? Seems like a vain posturing to even care..

Beyond the crisis in art – making and doing…

artschool

I have long been a fan of the Sharkforum and resident artist/critic Mark Staff Brandl’s take on the present state of art criticism.

This is by way of a practice run to ‘scope’ the afore mentioned ‘art criticism now?’ agenda 🙂 I love that word ‘scope’ you’d think we were shooting bears..maybe we are…certainly foxes…

His latest project involves asking artists to write about their practice and its theoretical basis as a challenge to the current curatorial/academic mish mash that sometimes pertains in the IAW (international art world). He (I think correctly) cites the current fashion orientated dealer driven art world as suffering from a ‘glossies’ approach that has jettisoned the baby with the bathwater and quite correctly identifies a gap ‘in the market’ (how loaded that phrase has become in the past 30 years) where artist’s voices have become swamped in other louder discourses. Usually these discourses are tied hand and foot to financial and kudos driven ‘standing’ in that same ‘IAW’ and have long since lost any real veracity or in some cases coherance as theoretical writings let alone curatorial statements or overviews.

We here in Nottingham have some recent first-hand instances of this I.A.W. Gobbledygook thanks to our sudden emergence into the IAW thanks to Nottingham Contemporary. As our provincial minds sink in the flood of propaganda we are about to be verbally lashed by maybe it a good point for some circumspect analysis of this phenomena.

My own artistic history is pretty much framed in two decades. Firstly 1980-1990 then 2000-2010.

Phase 1: I graduated from Hornsey college of Art London (Middlesex University as is now) in 1981 and my art history tutor there was John A. Walker who has written extensively about the specifically political dimension to celebrity art as well as popular cultural connections ( Art in the Age of Mass Media 2001). At this time there was little separation between ‘art’ and ‘theory’. Indeed it was common practice to read and absorb not only general theory but specific artist’s statements. Magazines like Artscribe and Art Monthly put artist statements centre stage and along with a varied ‘contextual’ studies area which ranged from contemporary poetry to applied design we were encouraged not only to think for ourselves but also to be as wide in our reading as possible. In those days notions of ‘networking’ and ‘careerist’ ‘making it’ were viewed from a heavily left-wing viewpoint ( Hornsey had been a scene of ‘Riots’ alongside actions in France in 1968 ) so much so that I do not think the words were ever used.

hornsey2

We were serious (maybe too serious) students with serious ambitions to create serious artworks. There was little hope of making money except in maybe the long term and we set ourselves for many years of cold, lonely debate and artmaking activity in usually sub standard freezing cold ‘studios’. We did have a sense of community and a shared sense of what the ‘art world’ was and what was ‘significant’. What was written about in Artscribe framed the debate and our sense of the ‘art world’. There were few curatorial driven exhibitions to see and a hang of Bacon or Auerbach at Marlborough would be the highpoint of a summer. Serious artists shown seriously with little theoretical framing except in large Thames and Hudson or Phaidon tomes or reviews in the ‘serious’ press. Waldemar Janusczack, James Faure Walker, Sarah Kent, Brian Sewell, Mathew Collings…the names of those critics I remember 20 years later such was there standing….Artcribe had a ‘local’ i.e. usually London focus.

The art world then may have been smaller (pre boom and bust and the internet) but one felt one could get a handle of the major developments and the significant figures as they emerged. I remember seeing early shows by Doig and Julian Opie. Indeed I even ended up as a figure in a Gilbert and George photo piece. This was pre Goldsmiths, Hirst and the collapse (in my opinion) of those values and the boom in a larger, more fashionable, successful and in my opinion shallower art world. That art world was fed, watered and bloomed under the hands of an advertising executive and there was indeed a cut off point. The change in attitudes can be dated to the Royal Academy Sensation show…soon Stuart Morgan tried to sail artscribe into ‘International Art World’ waters and promptly sank….he just didn’t understand the Prada Bag set…

There and ever after even the hard leftists in the artworld found themselves chasing a beguiling gravy train and penned many acres of explication to justify having sold out out to a capitalist driven art world on a scale hitherto unimagined. Craig-Martin at Goldsmiths and principles of newly business orientated Academies across the country raced to catch up and cash in. This also coincided with a boom in markets across Europe and the USA and suddenly Brit was HIP. Nobody could bare to criticise a position we so fully deserved…now we were art top dogs we could look down on others and crow….and of course objective criticism.hard criticism..was thrown out the window.

I remember attending a show in the mid 1980’s where the curatorial statement ran to over a thousand words and was written in such impermeable ‘academese’ that nobody could actually read it. I dismissed it but foolishly did not realise the power of the word was on the march…..

Soon fellow artists were ‘locating their practice’ and referencing Derrida and Foucault. Indeed one friend went from rather dull printmaker to being an expert on postmodernism in a matter of weeks. The honesty and integrity of magazines like Artscribe and Art Monthly were suddenly outshone by their glossy step-children …Frieze, Flash etc etc and countless others that spawned and drowned in their own scenes. This also coincided with the first attempts to push M.A.’s and Phd’s for artists…..up until that point M.A.’s were few and far between and centred on the ‘top’ institutions The Slade, Chelsea and Royal College. More importantly these were heavily studio-based courses…long on practice short on theory….evn in the late 1980’s one could still just paint at the Royal College like David Hockney……just….

I still have some of the copies of artscribe I would spend hours poring over..then for a few brief years before his untimely death Peter Fuller’s ‘Modern Painters’ seemed to show a way forward with erudite well written articles by the likes of Jed Perl rubbing shoulders with informed ‘outsiders’ like David Bowie and poet Jamie McKendrick. I ws verbally lashed by a graphic designer who then head of Goldsmiths M.A. for even suggesting Fuller was worth reading as too rightist..the same Goldsmiths that spun a silk purse out of a sow’s ear a year later with Damien Hirst……ah the irony of it all. Nothing corrupts good intentions and political principles like a hefty wad of cash especially in the Halls of Academe….

What Fuller recognised (he was a good critic grounded in an appreciation of the English Tradition especially the writings of Ruskin, Moore, Sutherland and Hockney..read ‘Beyond the Crisis in Art‘ currently out of print) was the essential connection between an artists’s writing and their art. Especially if one moved closer to the arts and crafts area of Gill, David Jones and all the way back via William Morris to William Blake.

That tradition has never been broken it merely been supplanted by the hysterical winnying of a thousand ‘on the make’ mediocrities in both studio and academia. Tie-ins and stitch-ups replaced a grounded and reasoned debate. A in-depth knowledge was not needed to spurt out a trendy 1000 word review of Hirst that never delved into his fragile and lately revealed lack of knowledge of anything remotely to do with art. Like the Peter Sellers film ‘Being There’ all that mattered was to be in attendance at the ‘Cinderella’s Ball’ to catch some benefits from the King’s largesse. Many very good painters and theorists (equally) retreated to the shadows …some never to return…..John Hubbard, David Blackburn, Simon Lewty, Gillian Ayres even artists with reputations as formidable as Athony Caro’s, John Hoyland’s or Tom Phillips’ were not safe. they were all pushed form the banquet table by the greedy and Sunday Supplement friendly advertising savvy new brood….they have never left nor raised their snouts since…..Chapmans, Hirst, Emin..you know the rest….

Now there seems to be a new mood afoot where not only Aesthetics but the artists themselves may once more be allowed their rightful place at the high table of art and there a very good chance their writing a lot better than the charlatans who supplanted them.

Read David Smith, Robert Motherwell, CY Twombly, Philip Guston, Picasso, Matisse…….it a long and noble tradition of both thinking and doing..

Hirst on Art………don’t make me laugh

Nottingham Contemporary: The good, the bad and the ugly..

piggies

I have recently had to pull a discussion post from the Nottingham Contemporary Free discussion group on facebook. Here I explain why and deliver a more considered version of basically the same material which less likely to offend the great and the good of this noble art city.

The post was a hasty response to seeing the effect the opening of ‘The Golden Egg’ is already having on culture in this city.

Geoffrey Diego Litherland’s show at the Castle was his reward for winning last year’s Nottingham Open competition. A well deserving winner and a good set of paintings in a show spoilt only by the ludicrous arrangement of hanging on a staircase. Meanwhile pride of place as usual went to a travelling Arts Council show. No better nor worse than many but surprising that second show on this theme in as many months…..are our curators trying to tap into an underlying theme about Nottingham..i.e. are we all trapped..or criminals?

My real disappointment was with the Castle Permanent Collection. It has always been a lacklustre space full of frankly third rate paintings and some gems. But previous visits never saw it looking quite so tawdry. When I pointed out that some of the signage appeared to be little more than blu-tacked to wall I got response..well all the money gone to the Egg. True or not it did make me wonder if Jack hadn’t given the cow away for a hill of beans…

Bad signage aside if one scans the ‘hidden’ collection (including a fine William Nicholson of downland I seen but once) one realises that very little of it gets aired. Something more than occasional Brit Art shows should be done with this space. Which leads me on to my main point. The Nottingham Contemporary..for good or ill and whatever it costs is here now….it has raised a certain part of the profile of the local art scene i.e. the pretentious outward looking side a notch from the days of Angel Row but what does that actually mean? We have lost at least three contemporary gallery spaces..Angel Row, Yard Gallery Wollaton and Bonington Gallery and gained two..New Art Exchange and The Egg. The Castle under Deborah Dean continues the kind of work Angel Row did…tied to ACE and very rarely escaping the confines of a certain tired politically correct viewpoint…..noble causes…dull art. Angel Row occasionally surprised but more often was as dull too and only at the end did it burst into some kind of life with the Parade shows..too little too late.

Love it or hate it Angel Row did occasionally show a mix of local and ‘international’ (i.e. what somebody saw in a magazine made it international…generally this meant American as most Art Press is USA dominated). There were never contemporary Spanish or French shows….I may be wrong as frankly I hardly bothered going in the place and when I did just got annoyed…

But it did (particularly in earlier days) show local ‘semi-professional’ artists. What worries me about The Egg is that it is a Tate Lite for the region and nothing more……in this sense it very similar to the Museum of Modern Art Oxford which apart from a ‘local artist’ space in their cafe (still operating after 20 plus years) never showed local artists unless they had made it to the glossies….

This may be one of the reasons that Oxford has virtually no thriving local arts scene..like Nottingham had up to now….it virtually ended ambitions before they flowered….I knew however hard I tried I would never ‘make it’ there….

So if The Egg shows international ( USA and Bradford born Hockney so far but he famous so that OK) and New Art Exchange is so heavily ring-fenced by its own mission statement (although I hear the curator there is trying to reflect the changing nature of the environment..) then with the loss of so many spaces for exhibition where are local artists to show? If you then say but look at the plethora of cutting edge spaces that sprung up recently I’d retort with yes and how long without funding will they last? A few have been primed with money by the Arts Council to create the impression of a vibrant local art scene to spin around The Egg but truth is ACE finding will not keep them alive forever…..just long enough to get through next year’s Brit Art spectacular is my guess then what…?

Meanwhile the mid-career (i.e. older not dead yet but been going 25 plus year artists) who actually created the ‘Nottingham Art Scene’ have been turfed out of their studios or faced rent rises and most scrabbling in the gutter or the studio equivalent. Apart from the bitterness this provokes this also bodes ill for the future as younger artists see the good and bad side of dedicating a life to their noble career…

Discounting local anarcho-capitalist venture The Art Organisation and volunteer driven/ace space The Surface there is little in the way of a middle ground left..in fact nothing left…for a serious artist who not on the Faberge Egg list (i.e. international by the magazines definition or on the Tate’s radar etc etc ) to aim at.

My ill thought out and pulled rant did raise one serious proposal that would help but which will not get funding. A serious space for local serious artists on a more permanent basis like replacing the tired dusty Castle collection with a proper survey of local artistic output (not the Open…that’s too much like a jumble sale) would help…..then we would have less bitterness and less frustration.

At present to be a mid-career artist in this city is to feel like a unwanted guest at a shiny teenager’s party we not invited to…and when we do arrive we constantly reminded that ‘making it’ is more important that actually making it…the art work…..it the disease of contemporary art institutions and education…..until that addressed we will continue to clutch at Golden Eggs that when cracked leak sand not gold…eggs…just eggs..

 

Damien Hirst revealed as bad painter….

Fake artists, patient fake academics..a sad low, doctor dishonest decade (to paraphrase Auden) of infantile, greedy pseudo intellectuals…
and here the best of them all…greedy bankers, brit artists, mps expenses….spot the difference?

I can’t stop laughing at Hirst’s ‘paintings’ what next Tracy Emin starts on bronze-casting? can’t wait….to hell with the whole sad bunch of fakes….

Almost every review shows him up as a fake but this beautifully precise in its derision….

http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/2009/oct/18/damien-hirst-no-love-lost

If you’re going to ‘quote’ Bacon Damien at least try and do it well not like a clumsy sixth former who been reading too many Salvador Dali books ..

Bread and Circuses

fineartFor a long time I have been known for the acerbic (sour or bitter tasting) nature of my cartoons attacking the poor denizens of the contemporary art world or I.A.W. as it likes to call itself these days i.e. the celebrated International Art World

For most of this time the cartoons have been born out of frustration and despair at the lengths individuals with slim talents and even slimmer grasp of ideas (let alone skills) would go to network their way into advantagous positions in the glorious I.A.W.

This has been particularly galling here in Nottingham as both the local council and the arts council here (desperate for some credibility and clout after several decades of little interest in the fate of the arts) have seemingly combined to save all our artistic souls.

So called ‘mid-career’ artists (polite euphamism for almost dead it seems) are being hogwashed with tales of cutting edge advances and a whole new generation of brilliant Trent graduates are about to break through big-time in the (you guessed it) I.A.W.

Well I am so out of the loop with current I.A.W. parlance to comment but frankly they will have to chuck an awful lot more than the current £19 million and rising at this lot to do that..Why?..

Simply put you cannot create a ‘scene’ EVER. You can puff yourself up and say yes we have more graduates than Birmingham or Leicester or cite the occasional fluke success (Mr Starling did photography here NOT fine art – that he learnt at Glasgow School of Art but that may just be another inconvenient truth for the powers that be).

So the shiny new shed (homage to John Newling?) with its colour co-ordinated green and gold exterior ( council colours ..what you hadn’t realised that??? perfect as a new Robin Hood Theme Park should art go west) is the gate to a new artistic dawn? Of course not and even the most deluded wannabe artist in desperate straits couldn’t quite believe that but there such slim pickings here these days that even that illusion is grasped like a nettle and hung on to…….tightly.

It makes good business sense (illusions drive key performance indicators….especially graduate recruitment).Trent already spills out 100 plus creative geniuses per annum….Where do they all go???….Well the dole seems a likely destination…and that just the start of the problem.

With an ‘unforseen’ downturn the great and good have committed virtually a year’s council tax to a project that already sunk…

There never was a bottonless pit of ever-increasing talent and parental finance to pay for this shiny future. Most of the newly enboldened middle classes hoodwinked themselves for a while into believing that all God’s children could work in the golden goose land known as I.A.W. but that dream has long since collapsed..fine art is not the new architecture…..or fashion come to that.

These days even talented graphic designers and fashion students (ones with both rich parents and some amount of actual skills) are finding the moveable feast has long moved on. So what hope for frankly less able fine art graduates in these poorer climes?

Banding together has paid dividends as groups mean points on those regeneration target wall maps..

Think I’m joking?

I bet some regeneration guru ( £700 a day consultancy fee) held the recently completed ‘Art Map of Nottingham’ up to some corporate financiers with no little pride…sadly it is about as accurate as a London cabbie’s idea of a route from Higbury to Islington when the occupant a rich Texan…

No we now live in a world of spin and so we have to believe we are part of this golden feast even us old farts on the margin making slim pickings from old ideas of so-called ‘Contemporary Art’ like the cast of Last of the Summer Wine attending another funeral. ‘Painting’ died last Thursday and they say ‘Drawing’ is looking decidely unwell…

Of course in a world in hock to sleasy developers the truth is an unecessary conceit we cannot afford. So we have the priceless sight of a American ‘radical’ artist giving us a lesson in how to be ‘rebellious’ with their stunning ‘installation’ in the ‘shop window’ of Nottingham Contemporary. Apparently this genius is critiquing the ‘capitalist baddies’ who run the state-sponsored satanic mills or car factories as we know them locally.

Try telling that to a recently laid off Toyota employee with two kids to feed and a mortgage that four tyres and a couple of trollies bolstered by the foundation student level ‘black and white TV screen’ flickering in contemporary ‘stylee’ is a good investment.

It so ludicrous it as ever beyond satire but that what our ‘Radical’ city council want us to think. My how cutting edge how adventurous how revolutionary……..oh how we laugh at the thrilling referencing in the new logo…..the world upside down…my word a telling reference to all manner of Luddism and revolutionary fervour…..next thing you know Mayakovsky will be marching down the road with a art workers of the world unite banner…..and oh we can save the environment too..just get on your bike……

Idiots.

But hold on this isn’t some revolutionary act..this is not an artists collective..this is state-sponsored art factoryville….this is just branding and spin. We are being sold a corporate identity sheathed in left wing ‘semiotic’ jelly……

It is a business model and it is failing but no-one wants you to know that.

Early interviews about the purpose of this palace of spin were defined by ‘marketing’, regeneration and hype…before boom became bust this glistening centre of the modern was to help drive up shopping..yes shopping……all those Texan Millionaires dissatisfied with Knightsbridge and L.A. would rock up in Snottingham (the gallery is opposite the original Snottingham cross ) and leave trails of cash like fat slugs all over our poor working class town……well that was until the I.A.W. collapsed and now even Sotheby’s are shedding staff like fleas shaken from a mangy dog. If they are in trouble imagine where the rest of us must be…..

So now we gaze on enthralled by the sheer spectacle of this farce….more installations, more illiterate artists chasing illusory careers in a city on brink of losing not only its manufacturing base but its credit and call centre base too…

Think I’m joking check out the staff numbers at Capital One on a weekend…….that avenue is over…

They have a good view of the gallery in the rain though….

That a fitting metaphor for these times…….underpaid call-centre employees staring out wistfully at the City of Dreams as they flog unpayable credit loans or administer foreclosing on some poor begger who cannot pay their council tax let alone the rent….

No I am not bitter or twisted I am a realist..a tired, disappointed and beside myself realist who one day may be accorded more respect for speaking out about fundamental matters instead of sweeping them under the carpet. Nothing matters more than politics…real politics….but nothing matters less than shiny towers decked out with spin.

Let the party begin..let that out of work car-worker eat art…..
After all there is no cake left….

What was it somebody said about bread and circuses……

panis et circenses – Juvenal……..nothing changes

The death of the artist?

Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to loose

Nothing, viagra I mean nothing honey if it ain’t free, sildenafil no no

Yeah feeling good was easy Lord when he sang the blues

You know feeling good was good enough for me

Good enough for me and my Bobby McGee.

Kris Kristofferson ‘Me and Bobby McGhee’ Lyrics

A money culture wants the figures, the bottom line, the sales, the response, it wants a return on its investment, it wants more money.

Art can offer no obvious return. Its rate of exchange is energy, for energy, intensity for intensity. The time you spend on art is the time it spends with you; there are no short cuts, no crash courses, no fast tracks. There is only the experience.

Jeanette Winterson – ‘What is art for?’ – Guardian 2002

Where are we now? – the bigger picture

Arts planning and funding in the U.K. has been thrown into turmoil by two or three concurrent factors. One a slowdown (pace – ‘recession’) globally which may well remove the Labour Party from power in the next two years.

Two a diversion of a significant amount of lottery funding to the Olympics (even if there were no Olympics to pay for the income from lottery is in a downward spiral).

Thirdly a cut-throat bottom-line cash-driven business model in arts education that is pumping out a hundred fine art graduates per institution into the muddy waters of U.K. Creative Industries PLC. Even the most hard-nosed ACE administrator realises that the gravy will be spread thinner and thinner soon on some very poor fare…

Where are all these new ‘geniuses’ going to go?

‘Free Enterprise’?

So here I am 50 years old and advocating ‘Freemium’ policies, freecycle marketing and not-for-profit artists organisation and pressure-groups. I must, therefore, be mad?

I honestly believe this is the only sensible way forward…the arts council’s golden goose has probably laid its last golden eggs for a while in terms of low-end funding..

For new models perhaps we should look to American free enterprise models that are not based on ‘state funding’. We need enterprise, imagination and communal enterprise to survive this recession.

Nottingham was the base for the East Midlands Group in the 1970’s that survived and prospered because all of those things..not just because it was state-funded. It high time that artists stopped ‘competing’ like so many little businesses for government ‘largesse’ and actually started producing high quality work people actually might want to take an interest in.

This starts with reskilling our fine arts graduates instead of spilling them out with pretentious notions and badly conceived ideas of being the next Damien Hirst or Tracey Emin. Removing the skills base was one of the tragedies of the past two decades of art education.

GLOBAL/LOCAL?? Digital freedom?

The free market is dominant to a degree we have never seen before and it destroying not only local communities but the old ‘communal’ bonds between creative individuals. Grants and lip-service cannot change the digital wrecking ball creating havoc with creative copyright. Protecting one’s work digitally is impossible. All creative output can be copied and distributed freely…those who do not accept this are swimming against a very strong tide.

The only ‘saleable’ commodity left to the artist is his/her own ideas and experience and the ‘authenticity’ of their ‘personal appearances’..or substitute appearances in shows etc.
Bit like Barbara Windsor opening supermarkets…

Crafts practitioners are strong on the ‘authentic and personal’ properties that sell items but fine artists no longer are because of recent changes in fashion. To have abandoned traditional skills just at the point where they are most needed is madness. I call this kind of art and skills based production ‘slow art’ to differentiate from the internet’s dissemination of ‘fast food art’. This ‘fast art’ is eroding the market for all the arts…

A ‘near-perfect’ copy of a Francis Bacon can be painted in China in the time I have taken to write this evaluation ….so why bother being Francis Bacon any more the students argue..we have ideas…such wonderful ideas….Indeed all 100 have wonderful ideas..it is putting them into ‘practice’ literally that requires skills and understanding as well as ideas.

Some digital artists are already ‘outsourcing’ their creative output to others on a massive scale..just like companies.

It began with YBA’s (Hirst and co. had most ‘artifacts’ ‘made-up’ for them) now everyone’s doing it…especially those students coached early in their career in networking and the ‘wow factor’.

Students are no longer taught to make paints or stretch a canvas or cast bronze ..we have entered a period of ‘Warholian’ education.

True ‘authenticity’ is in short supply now and Fordism is a more relevant philosophy to artists now than the ‘Van Gogh’ suffer and paint model..ironically both he and Picasso engaged in bartering – swapping paintings for food and drink when poor….plus ca change….

Everything else in the arts has been up for grabs since the internet was invented.

To paraphrase Kris Kristofferson in ‘Me and Bobby McGhee’…..

Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to sell.

Nothing ain’t worth nothing less it’s free

We are all living in the freemium economy.

nfasp report – creating benefit

A detailed report on the Eggerton and Oldknows Studios in Nottingham and the public benefit of artists’ activities has just been published. Written by nfasp (National Federation of Artists’ Studio providers) member Michael Cubey (London) it features Connect member Shaun Belcher and former Connect mentor Chris Lewis Jones.

Download by clicking on link below (warning large pdf 1.6MB in size!)

artistscreatingbenefit

Click on link (requires Adobe pdf reader)

http://belcheresque.files.wordpress.com/2008/01/artistscreatingbenefit.pdf

pdfstudio

Stumbling on the digital threshold

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I came to Nottingham in summer 2002. Even then the cultural map was fairly exact. All ‘creative finances’ trickle down from EMDA / ESF funding through the gatekeepers of Broadway, no rx City Council, seek University, Regeneration Quangos etc etc. There are cultural geographical reasons for this. Broadway is a child of the original artistic groups in Nottingham and beneficiary of the goodwill and undoubted good work those original agencies established including Co-Operative Education, Nottingham Film Society, City Lights Cinema and, in 1982, the Broadway Cinema. The new 5 Million pound rebuild is a long way from the original Weslyan Chapel that housed it. Alongside the ‘mythical’ playhouse and Midland Group agencies Broadway is the third pillar of the ‘creative Nottingham’ so beloved of administrators and funders.

Now though the goalposts have shifted and the funders badges have quadrupled as EEC funding though ESF and regional regeneration partnerships have entered the scenario. What we are left with is not one but two contrasting and competing edifices of ‘cutting-edge’ culture from 2008 onwards. Broadway draws on a great deal of Trent University art and design experience…e.g. Nottingham Creative Networks and new Digital Arts development whilst the new CCAN gallery is allied with the Nottingham University Art History Department ( who already influence the Djanogly Arts Centre…basically a University showcase with a public remit).

With all this activity how does the ‘non-aligned’ artist hope to prosper? Well basically one does not. In the gap between these two ‘alumni’ driven institutions is a large grey area from left lion to artists lead initiatives, to community arts organisations who try to pick up the scraps of funding left and compete with each other in equal measure. Most fail or scrape along.

For many artists the ring-fenced ‘digital cliques’ are not available and consequently the access to equipment. It will be interesting to see how the projected New Art Exchange fares financially or whether it becomes stuck between a rock (CCAN) and a hard place (Broadway) in the tightening funding scenario on offer. Most Local Authority funding will deplete in next few years as council tax increases and funding cuts bite. The Arts Council package recently revealed will simply keep things as they are now(post the April 2007) cuts for which most commentators are extremely thankful.

What bothers myself and many another ‘mid career’ artist of whatever persuasion is that outside the high profile ‘digital initiatives’ there is virtually no exhibition space available and little audience prepared to purchase artifacts. A recent open studios showed the lack of interest in the large and talented range of artists that through cheaper rents can afford to produce work in this city. We face an over-supply of artwork and an under-supply of audiences.

One of the first initiatives to break this digital / analogue divide and by ‘analogue’ I refer to messy real artifacts in whatever medium..paint, silver, plastic………is the following…

Broadway have instituted a digital ‘advert’ scheme to enable local producers of all persuasions to get their messy real objects and practice in front of the great and the good at Broadway. All well and good but once again there a few stones blocking this new ‘channel’. Most non-digital artists do not have the resources or the the ability to create their own advertising slots. Far better would have been an attempt to utilise the skills of the ‘digerati’ to make adverts for fellow non-digital artisans. If half the money spent on recent ‘creative elite’ shindigs such as ‘unleashed’ ( the creative elite are a self -defining group) was instead spread more evenly across the makers instead of the supposed shakers there would be more sense of a genuine ‘creative network’ instead of the marketing slogans and opportunities thus far foisted on the people of Nottingham.

Making adverts may start to address the ‘digital divides’ but it only addresses a small part of the problem. With an increasingly ‘digital-born and bred’ clientelle there needs to be education too to enable the computer obsessed, facebook generation to actually see anything produced by other means. Broadway is a valuable showcase but where is the showcase for the non-digital? Suggestions on a postcard please……and anybody suggesting local artists will be filling the new CCAN can be classed with those who believe the earth still flat and tinfoil stops alien abduction……or are we all to be pleasantly surprised? Time will tell……