Mind the gap: the slow death of fine art

I have spent the last couple of days seriously investigating the area which for want of a better word one can call ‘Transmedia’. Coined by Henry Jenkins in his book Convergence Culture (2008) who said (and here I thank Alison Norrington for compiling the quotes)

“transmedia represents the integration of entertainment experiences across a range of different media platforms, ”

Jenkins defines transmedia as storytelling that

“immerses an audience in a story’s universe through a number of dispersed entry points, providing a comprehensive and coordinated experience of a complex story.”

I have taught in a department designated ‘Multimedia’ for the last three years and nobody has ever defined exactly what multimedia meant then opr now. Young students look blankly and mutter something about 3D and older people remember stuttering CD-Roms which thankfully gone the way of the floppy disc into cyber-extinction.

So here we are in 21st Century TRANSMEDIA land and believe me the term is catching on. The August edition of Wired UK magazine had a whole feature on it including references to latest Dr Who ‘transmedia-ing’ so it definitely a buzz word.

Let us unpack the term a little further. What it actually and quite neatly doing is removing the illusion of ‘separate’ digital worlds which we will increasingly work in. The fact is we are working in one ‘shared space’ and that space is digital. Imagine an art school where there were once nice designated rooms…..sculpture, painting, graphic design, film, theatre. In fact one does not have to imagine it in most cases despite the ‘digital’ revolution that is how our institutions are set up. But as the pace of technology increases alongside the power of the hardware we are fast approaching a point where all this ‘silo’ demarcation will become totally irrelevant. I work in such an institution however and we are going to have to tear down those walls soon….very soon…

Students raised on the internet recognise this to be true. It is harder for adults schooled in the defined areas to grasp. We cannot continue to train in silos. The future student will be operating across platforms in ‘transmedia’ studios (they already opening up). The future student will not only need a working knowledge of web and 3D ( Adobe and css 3d integration helps there) but of graphic (paper), film and conventional narrative storytelling too ( what we currently call film and TV).

So called film and TV simply do not exist from the moment Steve Jobs Apple started selling portions of ‘action’ for $99 a go. The itunisation (sounds like Balkanisation – ironically) of cultural product continues apace. I was shouted down once for suggesting we change the name of Multimedia to ‘Adobe’ art school but that is what happening. Technology is the driver and because of its omnipotence it creating some interesting side-effects.

Those students who most able are instinctively realising that to work with a defined ‘content’ call it story, narrative, subject matter have increasingly had to move from the ‘fine art’ arena to other less ‘rarified’ but craft orientated areas. This means 3D, film, web and graphic design.

It is just the combination of these areas in a new ‘Transmedia’ genre that the traditional ‘storytelling’, going back to the Greeks, is now existing and flourishing in. Fine art in contrast has fled from meaning in a dance of almost perceptible fear as the traditional avenues of expression have been closed down. The weight and academic importance given to fine artists production has increased in direct contrast to its lack of content.

Fine art cannot compete with the advances in technology and cannot seem to ‘jump the gap’. Losing traditional skills has hastened its irrelevance and baroque lack of focus. It is almost comedic to wander round any contemporary show as nine times out of ten the rehashed work is reiterating the same old tired themes…despair, isolation, anti-capitalism.. indeed we have a multi-million pound gallery devoted to this here in Nottingham. It invariably empty because the show has moved elsewhere.

The show is in people’s hands now. It was situated on their desktop, then it moved to the laptop. Within five years it will exist solely in handheld devices. Nowhere in the current fine art scene do I see any coherent attempt to deal with this seismic shift in the cultural landscape. A bunch of badly coded art websites or fleeting ‘non’ professional arty videos only underscore the failure to evolve into the new digital landscape. So we are left in a ‘gap’ or rather a divide. Before the divide fine art was taught as a fully professional, committed and ‘slow’ arena in which most artists would succeed after years of toil. Now it has jumped on the ’fast art’ bandwagon but with no clue of the digital tools it flings around. Faster and faster students are encouraged away from paint and pencil and into parading their lack of digital skills.

Meanwhile the real ‘fine artists’ for the 21st century are getting on with what they always have done..storytelling…they just aren’t called ‘fine artists’ any more…

http://www.henryjenkins.org/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alison_Norrington

Craft V Concept 1: In conversation with S Mark Gubb

This discussion was prompted by the Goldsmiths TV debacle and the blog entry previous to this. I had suggested that the incumbent M.A. students couldn’t craft their way out of a paper bag basically….

SMG

Shaun, increasingly your blogs/rants are getting more and more like that character in the fast-show that’s been involved in everything anyone mentions; they all focus around you not quite being involved with, or rejecting, important groups/moments being written in to recent art history… I think what we all want to know is where exactly were you when Kennedy got shot?

SDB

Behind the trigger Mark….I was also behind Joe Meek on the landing and possibly in Apollo 13 too but my memory going now…I think Zelig was the figure you looking for? Maybe I could be your next art project? 🙂 I will respond to your appraisal…I have written about Goldsmiths before and it a response to other people’s response to the fatuous programme on TV last night….I regard Goldsmiths influence on Trent as part of the problem not part of the solution and held these views long before I got involved in academia.Your response shows you support Goldsmiths then?

SMG

I don’t specifically support Goldsmith’s – my experience of the place is limited to very much the same as yours – an interview and a rejection in the mid-90’s. I don’t, however, have a huge problem with it. I also don’t understand why there’s a TV programme about it right now (however, I didn’t see it, so can’t really comment). I just think arguments of craftmanship vs conceptualism are completely redundant. They are a denial of the situation as it is – a concept driven, narrative approach to the creation of work has become the dominant mode in a lot (most) art-schools.

That’s not to say it’s right, it’s just a fact. That’s how things shifted through the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. There’ll probably be another shift sometime soon, but I doubt it will be back to a (seemingly) purist position of skill and craft. There are also a hell of a lot successful artists who are incredibly, practically, skilled. The field is open to both. I wholeheartedly support the idea that an artist doesn’t need to be an artisan.

They can be, but not being so doesn’t , in my view, deny them the right to critical acclaim or to be involved in a profession that has no clear boundaries as to what it incorporates. This debate currently amounts to nothing more than a position of “this is shit, it was better, then.” That doesn’t change or help anything. It’s just moaning.

There are many art-worlds. Some are Hollywood, some are Ilkeston Community College and there is everything inbetween. People just need to figure out where they sit within these various worlds. There’s little point in a classically trained conductor moaning about the success of Girls Aloud. They all exist within the music industry but have absolutely nothing to do with each other.

SDB

Nice reply…as for the meat of your argument i.e…… I just think arguments of craftmanship vs conceptualism are completely redundant…..

I think you are wrong and I oppose that kind of attitude ..always have done…. and things are starting to tip in a new aesthetics direction but art schools like supertankers take a long time to turn…its about THINKING AND MAKING not either or….

As for coexistant artworlds this chimes with Gillick’s assumptions and I challenge the notion of separate artworlds I think they are intricately bound together in a way music is not. What happens at one end of the food chain affects the other. …

Nottingham Contemporary is providing propaganda for one view – a very Goldsmiths like view in my opinion. I am not asking people to join in a Ruskinian escapade of noble workers building roads again but it interesting that those who most divorced from tactile making are those most extreme in its denunciation.

Gillick represents the triumph in my eyes of a intellectualism divorced from reality that exists in a bubble of its own delusion and too many graduates think words alone can save them..to my mind they are usually the weakest students.

SMG

I think we share more common ground than is maybe apparent here. Yes, they are often the weakest students, and they mostly disappear very quickly in to the chasm of ‘no-longer practising’ soon enough.

I also believe that it’s about thinking AND making, but I also stand by the idea that if an artist acknowledges a lack in their own practical skill maybe they want a marble carved of a thalidomide victim – to realise that work through the employment of someone who has spent their entire professional life perfecting that craft, is perfectly acceptable. They don’t need to go and train for 20 years to make that one piece of work.

To continue the discussion about co-existant art worlds, setting the discussion up in terms of a food-chain, a clear and entirely linked pathway, is misleading. What Tracey Emin does has absolutely no relevance or effect on Mr Smith’s seascapes that he paints and sells through a High Street gallery in a Cornish town. They are entirely seperate things. I think the problem is that people labour under the misconception that they are not.

Using the word propaganda about NC’s programme is, again, too sinister. NC is providing one view or take on the art-world(s). The museum provides another. If you don’t like it, don’t go. Find the galleries that are pushing the propaganda you agree with. If you’re Tory you’re not going to go to the Labour Party conference.

People are way too quick to see things they don’t agree with as entirely negative when, in fact, they are simply delivering something they don’t agree with, but something with no less relevance or right to be there than anything else (and something which, ultimately, may even be positively feeding a much broader situation).

SDB

The Warholian ‘director’ stance as adopted by Hirst and Emin is a flaw not a boon in my opinion. If that student actually tried to take on board some of the craftsmanship required to carve marble instead of just creating ‘yellow pages’ art we’d all be better off. My complaint about most Brit Art is that factor..if you can’t ring someone who can is a copout stance. Most of them were technically cackhanded. This proven by Hirst’s hilarious attempt to paint…

I think there is more awareness of the amateur seascapes world than you give credit having taught at that level those people have the internet now and what happens at Tate is on the radar in a way it never was before – yours is a more traditionalist view for once…never underestimate your audience 🙂

As for NC I used the word propaganda in its correct form….NC is propagating a view which it believes the only and correct view and it has no time for opposition parties Tory or otherwise….in time this will be its undoing….

For your information I have never been near the building and probably never will until a change of regime or it becomes a nightclub.

As for labour or Tory I agree with neither and my party is only one member strong so far…in fact probably aways will be I am a natural outsider.. 🙂

SMG

Then this is where we must agree to disagree. You clearly believe in craft being integral to a works validity, whereas I do not (I would argue that Hirst merely dropped a bollock by fundamentally changing his working practices after so many years i.e. making the paintings himself). I still don’t understand exactly WHY we would all be better off if everyone stopped having things fabricated…

I also don’t believe that NC is propagating a view which it believes to be the only correct one, it’s just propagating a view which reflects the interests of the current director and curators. As and when these people change, it will reflect a different view again.

..and just to clarify, my point about Emin and the seascapes was in no way a judgement of my imaginary painters awareness or interest in other areas of visual art, it was more an economic and theoretical assessment of the situation, whereby for every neon or bedsheet that Emin sells for £1m to (questionable) critical ovation, this has absolutely no effect or impact on the others love, ability or desire to paint the sea and sell them for £45 in a High Street gallery….

Right, I’m off in to the studios to handout some Gillick writings. You’ve caught me on the one day a week I get paid to de-skill the next generation of the curatoriat (we’ve taken most of their’s ability to tie their laces – have you seen the amount of slip-ons around these days? That’s art schools fault. We’re just working on how to take their ability to use a knife and fork, then we’ll be really rocking).

SDB

No I believe a knowledge of craftsmanship and an awareness of tactile elements is fundamental to an artists growth. How that artist ‘deploys’ is up to them..some conceptual art valid e.g. Stephen Willets, Conrad Atkinson but all had some traditional training…as for propogation which sounds better than propaganda…..you defined it in way that supports what I saying at this particular time …it’s just propagating a view which reflects the interests of the current director and curators.

I just not keen on the seeds it sowing…

As for seascapes…You are switching to a Gillickesque socio-economic analysis…I talking about visual awareness….not giving a neo-marxist analysis…as for Gillick handouts I presume they more like biblical texts……which makes you the Curatorial Moses 🙂

How Goldsmiths destroyed British Art: But is it art?

Up front I will declare my position. In 1986-7 I was interviewed twice by the great and the then good at Goldsmiths.

The interviewers in first instance included Nick De Ville (Graphic Designer responsible for Roxy Music covers who had done a fine art degrees at Derby and Newcastle hence Roxy link and he still at Goldsmiths in charge of MA’s….god help us) and Mary (Post-partum Document) Kelly – her of the feacal stains etc….not promising and guess what it didn’t go well. However because I had a studio and looked serious they tried again a year later when I didn’t have a studio.

My abiding memory of that first interview was their combined excitement about a black canvas I was about to paint on as they riffed on its ‘potential’ ignoring virtually everything I had to say. They completely missed every reference to painting and Francis Bacon I was making..maybe they thought after another year I’d come to my postmodernist senses and toe their line.

A year later I’d scraped by in a crap job and lost two studios in rapid succession so had to do interview in my housing association house on the north circular (not as pleasant as leafy Sarf London) I forget the interviewers (different) but I do remember a prat of a female MA student whose latest work was a row of binbags …tremendous stuff….She was so rude she didn’t even enter the room where my paintings were…maybe they scared her….all that formalism..naked…..

Within seconds of the interview commencing I’d been rejected on basis that mentioning Peter Fuller was tantamount to joining the Nazi Party. You see I hadn’t realised that being a working class student from a council estate was good but thinking in a non-Goldsmiths way was bad. Make no mistake there was a clearly delineated ‘party line’ at Goldsmiths…despite appearances (i.e. white rich middle class tossers) these people from Craig-Martin down were ushering in a new era where one could have it all..marxist left-wing views and right-wing travel and pay packets. Its called the hipocracy my friends.

Looking back it was the defining moment in my entire artistic life. It was us and them and I pretty much been of same opinion ever since. My ’self-portraits’ (a tradition extending back several hundred years darlinks) were too closed off and personal and used too much paint and chalk..yes I dared to actually draw…. I referred to the OLD GARDE…Graham Sutherland,  Henry Moore and John Piper who were now in the Stalinist ‘new age’ considered patriarchal monsters and worst of all I mentioned Fuller….a reactionary traitor who had started on their side but had fled their camp. Hence the squealing antipathy.

What Goldsmiths led the way in every other Art College has aped as they stumbled on that stamp of authority…CASH…oodles of it following Craig-Martin and Hirst’s great scam (enabled by the true joker in the pack Jopling…no Jopling and Goldsmiths would have crumbled to insignificance by now). Instead it went stratospheric and is still living off that moment 25 years later..no matter that virtually none of its graduates has anything like the gravity or talent of a Moore or Sutherland..they had reaped the new money from the Thatcherist experiment….and as good socialists they weren’t going to give it back….oh no this was all part of the irony as was my background…I was just an unenlightened member of the working classes deluded by notions of craftsmanship and talent…so very passe darlinks….only the feeble still dealt in actual mark making and daubing this was the brave new world of ideas not craft.

Twenty-five years on and every other art college has either directly imitated or followed jealously in the Goldsmiths experiment wake. It will be interesting to see in an era of falling revenues and a hostile government (right or left) how much of it survives the next twenty-five years. My prediction is that we have seen the last of this ‘low dishonest two decades and a half’ (to paraphrase Auden) of peurile postmodernism and that we in for a bumpy ride across the whole arts…especially fine art.

There is a glut of badly trained,  intellectually impoverished ‘post conceptualists’ students littering our streets and all the indicators are we in for a downturn in numbers…imposed or through natural selection…..mummy and daddy won’t take kindly to funding a career that doesn’t ‘pay-off’ like in the 1990’s. The Art Star is on the point of burnout and nobody has a replacement hence the desperate angling for attention (see link below). I thought I was right in 1986 and I think exactly the same now…..we must turn back to craftsmanship..to Fuller and rebuild the system from below as Goldsmiths and other ‘Ozymandias’ institutions sink in the sands of recession and the new reality.

Advert for Goldsmiths courtesy of the BBC

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00s01xm/Goldsmiths_But_Is_It_Art_Episode_1/

Liam Gillick’s Delusions

Liam Gillick is famous…..but for what exactly……talking?

http://badatsports.com/2009/episode-220-liam-gillick/

Until I listened to Liam Gillick in a Bad at Sports podcast I had not really registered nor shown much interest in his ‘relational’ outpourings. However having listened through I wish to pinpoint a few irregularities and self-mythologising passages of critical nonsense he spouts.

He sounds like a ‘working-class irish’ martyr bravely wearing the great artist cloak ( a Noel Gallagher for the arts). ‘I had to leave Britain’ is just one of his cliched phrases. The ‘conspiracy’ he talks up is a spin on a period when money and Goldsmiths tutors and curators came together because of brilliant curation NOT brilliant artists from whatever background (his assertion that all YBA’s were working class heroes is bollocks of first order).

We are led to believe that YBA was a fundamental revolution – a mini enlightenment..my my he has obviously learnt to listen only to his own voice so long he is unaware of his own solopism and shortness of ideas.

The ‘problem’ with Liam Gillick and his ‘art’ is it is a tissue of evasions and lauditory smokescreens. He is convinced of his fundamental rightness and also his left-wing credentials. The fact that his very voice ( nobody from Aylesbury, bucks speaks like he does ) means he has buried his own voice to become part of the International Intellectuals Party) .

He speaks of ‘Britain’ missing out on the enlightenment…disregarding the entire Scottish Enlightenment. He speaks like a dispossessed professor ranting about a theory that whilst not true manages to bolster his own disillusionment.

He reads books..oh yes…but it is a post-Goldsmiths reading list slowly congealing in his mind. He sounds like a failed curator not an artist.

He is as effective as a Socialist Worker ranting at a village fete. Agonised ‘formalist’ my arse….failed formalist and pretentious overhang from the nadir of post-conceptualism ..yes….yes indeed.

He mentions architecture – more like a hall of mirrors – every false door, every false ceiling is another evasion. Pin him down and you will find rotten foundations……like an over intellectual shark if he stops swimming and spinning out the false tales he will drown..

and British Art would be a whole lot better for it…he is not ‘against’ artists……so he obviously ‘above’ all that…

talking cats at venice ..god help us and representing Germany…….a Lord Haw Haw of the art-world?

My God did he get lucky….otherwise he’d be still stuck in Aylesbury ranting in the street….Morning Star anyone?

AXIS RANT #2: Alice and the Curious Curatoriat?

When did it happen? When did the power structure in the arts shift so fundamentally away from the practicing artist and into the hands of a new breed of art school trained curators or as I have re-designated them ‘curatoriat’? The growth industry in ‘curatorial’ courses like the MA at the Royal College of Art reflects a far wider shift and a worrying one for us poor artists at the bottom of the arts funding pecking order. Read the rest on axisweb.orgShaun Belcher: Alice and the Curious Curatoriat, here Feb 2010

You should read the whole article.

HERE: http://www.axisweb.org/archive/news-and-views/the-rant/rant-31/

Time to close down The Arts Council? AXIS RANT…

From the AXIS RANT page
Feel free to bark back…

hoops
Our new Ranter-in-Residence for February, Shaun Belcher, starts off on a topical, if controversial note, asking ‘Has Arts Council England (ACE) failed? Do we really need it anyway?’.

Shaun asks if the lottery years have set ACE up for a fall as we move into tighter financial times and political pressures are heightening.

Read original HERE:
http://www.axisweb.org/archive/news-and-views/the-rant/rant-30/

Saatchi online …really???..you having a laugh?

I still in a state of shock but thought I’d cut and paste here as well just in case it all an administrative error and when I wake up all gone….still in an ironic world this as ironic as it gets!

Original article below as deleted from Saatchi Website in a revamp:-)

turner

Shaun Belcher is a prolific artist whose practice encompasses photography, painting, drawing, poetry and song writing. We will focus here on his cartoons that are visible both on Saatchi Online and more extensively on his website.

Belcher frequently posts his doodles on his blog, which thus functions like a diary. They retrace his mood, his frustrations with the arts scene or his views on the art world with a deadpan humour. His drawings are a mixture between comics, scribbles and caricatures and are made with an unhesitating black pen. The message is straightforward and clear. In some of his cartoons such as “Give me the Turner Prize, I am as shit as anyone”, his slang vocabulary as well his definitive statements can have something moving and aggressive at the same time – as if distant remnants of teenage hood. They reveal an unsettled state of mind and tell disarmingly touching and droll stories.

His ironic and shameless comments on the art scene are indeed serious and make him at times sound desperately ambitious and direct. For instance “I am a pretentious 25 year old with no fucking skills but by networking, crawling, by doing voluntary works in a gallery I now have a small foothold on the art world…” By talking about his experience, he brings up questions that any artist might ask himself: How can I be visible as an artist in a saturated art scene? Can I make a living from my work? How can I network even more than I currently do? Even though his works refer a lot to very English contemporary art events such as the Turner Prize or the Nottingham art scene, they can apply to every artist striving to succeed and to be recognized.

Shaun Belcher was born in Oxford in 1959. He is currently living in Nottingham and is now a multimedia lecturer at Nottingham Trent University, freelance web designer and practicing digital artist.

To see more of his work registered on Saatchi Online click here, and visit the artist’s own website, www.shaunbelcher.com.

Victoria Chaine Mendrzyk

Victoria Chaine Mendrzyk graduated with an MA Curating Contemporary Art from the Royal College of Art, a BA in Fine Art and History of Art from Goldsmiths College, University of London and a BA in Philosophy from University of Paris X, Nanterre. She has worked for Beaux-Arts Magazine, the Grand-Palais and at the Maison Rouge in Paris, at Sundaram Tagore Gallery in New York, at Documenta 12 in Kassel and at Deichtorhallen in Hamburg. She is also an international correspondent for Art India Magazine.

Published on 08-02-2010

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

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