Having a Point in a Pointed Way
December 30, 2010
(That title probably makes more sense at the end?)
This is a very thrown together bunch of thoughts that have been loosely connected in my head since Miami (and before Miami, to be honest.) My apologies if I either a.) don’t make sense b.) say nothing worthwhile c.) bore you.
Let me also say, I purposefully add qualifications into things I say, almost as a dare to take what I am saying seriously. If someone is going to read what I believe are important thoughts, then proceed to immediately dismiss it- I wanna say: don’t say I didn’t warn you. I want to say: by continuing to read after my warning, you entered into an agreement to give it a chance, to let something try to sink in. If you make that effort, and still come up empty, that’s cool by me. Your effort is congratulated.
The themes that were posed in #Rank in Miami are important to me for reasons that may be different than what floats other people’s boats. I’ve been intensely interested in the work that Jennifer Dalton & William Powhida pretty much since I stumbled upon them late in the summer. (I’m a latecomer to their work, forgive me. I’ve been sequestered in a suburban home raising small children in Northern California.) They address the art systems, the money, the fame, the inequities, the market, the hierarchies of the art world. Who does what & why, and they are very into the why. And where they do it, and how they do it, and what happens as a result. I find their work to be investigations into all these things, and it’s fascinating. My intense interest (which maybe walks along side–not with–the main topics of interest to them) is in the people that play these roles- not the characters & personalities exactly, but the experience of the types of people that fill roles in the art hierarchies–from top to bottom. I am interested in what is happening with the people who play these power & non-power roles; art making roles and buying roles; ignoring roles & being ignored roles, and what is in between the interplay that’s happening. I find that people in power often abuse it, and that people who think they aren’t in power have more power than they realize. And that it’s possible that small things make a big difference. And that even when things don’t go the way we want, that we have a responsibility to conduct ourselves in a manner that’s true to the purposes that we claim to have, because in the end it will serve the goals we have in mind, that and- we have more power than we think, so please let’s not be bratty schoolchildren.
Some people may find this interest utterly inconsequential to the main purpose of these discussions. I insist that these concerns have a place in the discussion, although it’s probably a side discussion. (Which I did a lot at #Rank in Miami, blurting little things almost to myself, without actually joining the real roundtable conversation. There’s an actual reason for that, but that’s another story.) Maybe it’s because we are all people with these *cough* feelings. I know- that’s so WEAK! So what. It’s a universal problem haha. (Powerful people like to act like they don’t have them, but we know better.) I believe that these motivations that make up these decisions are a part of who, what, why, where, how. I am troubled by the way certain art rises to the top for money reasons, and the way money is making culture. I am concerned that the make-profit system is polluting the wall space of what art should get attention with what isn’t really worthy. As I see people working to address these concerns, hoping (or giving up hope) that something can be done, I think it’s important to insist that we find a way to do so that’s effective. I think it’s hugely important to carry this work forward in a way that makes an impact on the systems that we are not happy about.
What does this have to do with *cough* feelings? Let me get away from that word. What does this have to do with how we treat each other?
I will speak briefly (edit- whoops! it wasn’t brief!) about the post-#Rank issue in which Rebecca Goyette felt she was treated unfairly at the event. I haven’t read or heard her speak in her own words about what happened in Miami, but I will write a few things here based on what I read. My apologies to Rebecca if any of this doesn’t apply or is off. Let’s view this merely as a way to discuss what is my main topic of interest in this post, i.e.- how we work together, and what we are working towards. This could never be a wholly accurate response unless I spoke directly with Rebecca myself or read something she wrote herself (post-Miami.) (What if Rebecca’s totally copacetic with everything now! And everyone’s happy happy about everything! I’m not trying to ruin any peace that’s been reached.)
So, Rebecca felt she was treated unfairly. My view: as artists, while we seek people to advocate for our message, or support us in our work, we too have responsibilities. Maybe no one clarified to her that she should’ve stayed in a certain spot at Seven. Maybe no one pointed out at the outset that Hey- you’re dressed as Lobster Girl, you said you were going to have Art-Fair appropriate attire. But couldn’t she have done her part to communicate also? She could have said- “Hey, it’s possible you thought I was gonna be conservative blingy, but I went with lobster blingy instead. Thoughts?” or “Is there anything else I should keep in mind about my piece here now that you see me in action?” Not that I’m saying an artist should be all about submitting to rules. Duh. But- if her purpose was to make people uncomfortable, did she specify at least to herself which people? Did she decide to walk in there and put everyone on the opposing team? Did she want to make the gallery owners into the bad guys, or even our event organizers? Maybe she did. But what’s the point? Could she possibly have achieved some of her objectives without pushing away people who were on her team?
Which gets to another question of mine: What IS the point of these investigations? Not that amazing things aren’t discussed. I love it all. And I am all for the various wanderings of discussion topics that present themselves as part of the larger point: art market, art hierarchies. I have no problem with rudeness that has a point, with rudeness to the right people for the right reasons. I am all for speaking up in uncomfortable ways in order to be heard. Sometimes people won’t listen unless you get a little postal. But I am really not into the indiscriminate rudeness that flies around without a point. What is the Point? What are we trying to accomplish? Sometimes I think in the very middle of this very important work, everyone gets distracted. Take Rebecca’s piece as a discussion point: Did she have a point? A specific point? (I’m gonna say yes, she had a point, she’s an artist & we should have points.) And if so, was it really necessary to alienate people who are on her team? Or get upset when things didn’t go a way she envisioned, when she didn’t do her half of the communication equation? (By the way, I was at #Rank almost the whole time so I saw her a lot- she may have looked at me, but she never smiled at me or talked to me if I remember correctly, either while in character or out. I certainly never got a hug lol. No prob about that, though. She never made me uncomfortable, but I was worried about her, if she was OK. I wanted HER to be comfortable. I didn’t know what was going on with her.) (Story: There was an event, post Lobster Girl, at #Rank, that she showed up to with a friend. Chairs were in short supply, and a friend of mine & I had claimed ours with our belongings on our seats as we milled about for a minute, about 3 feet away. She and her friend came, moved our belongings off the seat, and Rebecca took over the seat. She never looked around to ask whose things they were (that I saw.) (We were seriously less than 3 feet away.) Never apologized as we claimed our things off the table and floor where she’d put them. No eye contact. My impression: Super Rude! She had violated the Claimed Chair Social Code without an apology. Looking back, though, she had possibly been under stress over what had happened with her piece. So, our things were pushed aside, she claimed a chair that had been claimed, rudeness happened, & in context she may have been distracted or upset. My point? My point is: “Who cares!” We got another seat. All of us are just people trying to get around, get along, participate. When I found out post-Miami she had felt upset about her art thing, I figured, “oh that’s why she was rude about the chair thing.” I hope she extends the same understanding to others when things don’t go her way. Which is to say- I wish we’d all extend a little more understanding as we clearly try to work together towards something bigger than who’s chair belongs to who.)
I want us artists to have a point. Or lots of points. Be edgy, be sharp, be hard to swallow, be mean when you have to (but it’s not nearly as often as you think.) I went to Miami & participated in #Rank having no idea how I’d be received, because I knew these people & these ideas were/are really worth it. I wanted to Be There (and I was able to pay for ticket & expenses.) So I did. These ideas are worth a great deal of sacrifice on the part of all of us that are involved. I don’t mean money- I mean focus. I mean, picking battles. Fighting them in calculated ways. Working together & not shooting people on your own team as I did when I played Paul Steen’s Art Assault on the first night (haha.) Have a great time tonight at Winkleman’s everybody. I will be listening/tweeting/observing as technology allows. I will miss being with my #Rank friends!