A guaranteed fix to fire up the economy

I’ve heard it said before that the manufacturing required for WWII turned around a soft, lagging economy. I heard it described as equivalent to producing tens of thousands of vehicles and then dumping them into the middle of the ocean. It was the activity that sparked the momentum.

Hmmm.

I’ve also been learning about the perils of people on social media not understanding the art of reputation management. One of my professors told me Larry Page of Google believes everyone in the first 20 years of the internet should be granted an online amnesty from everything they’ve posted about themselves. Thus, no employer would be allowed, by law, to creep you on social media and then discriminate against you based on your personal texts i.e. revenge porn.

Hmmm.

This gives me an idea. Why don’t we purge the World Wide Web of all content? Not structure, but all the content.

Imagine the work required to re-build relationships and websites. There would be jobs for everyone and we could re-build it better since we are starting from scratch. The economy, an insane entity that wants to constantly expand or fall into crisis, would have plenty of expanding to do. People’s reputations would start from a clean slate once again.

Maybe we can do this every dozen years or so until we evolve past the need for an ever expanding monster called the economy. Maybe this will help stunt urban sprawl as everyone will be too busy getting rich in cyberspace.

The dark potential of creatives

I’ve been thinking about something I’ve heard a few times  – an artist is predisposed to becoming a dictator.

Yes. I think I’ve seen this and I think I would become a dictator if I could too. Most certainly an abusive prison guard. Take a bribe from a menacing gangster. I think you would too and by the same stuff that made you and I what we are today.

I just think artists can visualize it more readily.

I would also think that :

  • Musicians have the potential to become mad scientists.
  • Curators would murder democracy if they could.
  • Writers would impose more democracy just to fuck shit up.
  • Designers are budding mafioso who want their cut forever.
  • Photographers would end up getting us all turned into pillars of salt.
  • Film makers would welcome new alien overlords to Earth without hesitation.
  • Actors pee on the monuments you and I would build and steal our lovers. They have already achieved their potential and should be given no more responsibility.
  • Creatives in general yearn to colonize marginal communities that have not yet heard of Richard Florida.

Where the f@&% is the cord?!? Perils of new media practice

Ok I can’t find my projector power cord. My “pocket” projector that I ordered off amazon.

It’s the cheapest, weakest knock off plastic calculator of a mini projector ever but it’s priceless right now.

Performance tomorrow. This is what I got this portable doohickey – but I put off looking for the cord until today because I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to find it.

So I planned and gathered all other materials. Lights, attire, media, papers and people with a plan. The projector was sitting right in front of me – I just *assumed* the projector power cord was close by.

No.

Gah. I spent four hours rumaging for it. House is under renovations because it’s a shitty house because I’m an artist who works in intervention performance art with multi-media components like a cheap hand held projector and things I bought at a dollar store.

Dust, Mystery cords that don’t fit. pulling papers and a flashlight in the attic full of pre-renovation stuff like the cord for this projector.

(Also pressing present pressure of having to finish reading 50 fucking pages of Nietzsche’s Use/Abuse of History for one my courses. How did it come to this?)

There is no one here I can enlist to for manual search help. Shoulders and temper both tweaked so I stop.

Research immediate replacements; closest is via kajiji at some guy’s house two hours through Toronto. I would have to rush out at 5pm, through the GTA, and buy this second hand and more expensive version. Then I would have to drive back into Hamilton and prepare everything.

The seller informed me it was already sold.

Why don’t the big box stores carry them? Some do but they are high end.

I see “universal adapters” for sale at these places, but my device may be is probably propriety in it’s size.

I have to keep turning my system on and off to re-install drivers. The newest ones from the video card manufacturer’s site is literally crashing my system when I try to install that.

I need my system to edit the video footage central to the media element of this work.

Ok. I am now considering not doing the performance. I read the last 50 pages of Nietzsche’s epic 18th century blog post.

Feeling refreshed several hours later, I decide to install some special viewer software on my PC for another class assignment so I can interact with a special virtual world project. This will be a significant studio experience throughout my program.

It won’t install because my of my video card and window 8 and yadda yadda.

I might replace the projector element with another iphone and the same media element. To establish a logical relationship between the symbols and behaviour within the work.

I’ve re-downloaded various drivers and even another version of the software. I think I may actually need to get a new system if I don’t want to live in the program’s computer lab. There is going to be some epic virtual studio work and collaborations happening with this platform.

But not on my four year old computer.

Or a mirror. Maybe actually just a mirror instead of projection, but not clear to everyone around perhaps.

Upgrading to a new system right now is a terrible time and resource wise. My shit is packed or piled and there’s dust and damp smell everywhere here. We used to have a Mac which would of run this thing but it got stolen a few months ago.

But then again, the indifference in public is part of the performance practice, so that still works.

Knock on the door. Basement guy appointment I made three weeks ago. Ok.

One hour later I am alone and again feeling better about my performance work re-jig. I was also already going to have a camera recording of my POV, so it’s the media is the frame of this work, the performance is the content. I also remembered I was going to run the video through google’s face-blurring software so I’m excited again. The final cut might look on this thing.

We have to get another computer – we’re both working more than full time hours. I have to buy a mac so I can keep hitting the ground running, or something like that.

And it’s going to hurt because this whole production is way over budget already and hasn’t made a cent. My pride is about be cannibalized by my avarice for monumental art.

I’ll keep the audio raw though, as usual. People say the darnedest things when the consultant walks by, chasing after his own reflection.

I really wish I just found the stupid cord.

I hope I find the cord. There’s no equivalent in the school’s A/V inventory.

I checked.

It’s 2 a.m. now and I’m no farther ahead except for fifty pages. They were actually a really great 50 pages though.

Got to be at a paying gig at 9am.

I have to attach two iphones to the wire frame of a catcher’s mask tomorrow after work. I plan to use string and need to remember to clear media memory on it.

I hope this works.

Everything is equal weight right now and it’s all on my shoulders.

When I get my shoulder’s fixed, I am going to throw out half of the crap in the basement and attic.

And I’m going to do a performance with the portable projector cause that fucking cord is here somewhere.

Good night.

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“Supercrawl to be moved to Ancaster, merged with Festival of Friends”

As I attended my grad program’s orientation session, the Department Chair informed the room full of new students and new Hamilton residents of this news. To be fair, he was hesitant about it’s validity because it does seems ridiculous – and it is ridiculous because it’s actually a superb piece of parody news originating from this city’s version of The Onion – Hammer In The News.

OMG. I laughed and still chuckle thinking about it.

Luckily, I clarified that this was spoof news (which is very relevant to my communications program) and encouraged my fellow students to attend the event on James Street North in Hamilton – it’s not moving anywhere. I also found out later a couple of last year’s students have installation work happening that night and I am really excited to go see it. Hopefully no one will show up in Ancaster looking for Supercrawl, and hopefully the organizers of this event have learned a lesson about marketing and publicity.

For example, one small signal that they have become more sophisticated is that little old me has finally received a press release for the event after three silent years since asking to help promote it through some of my art news websites. Their previous approach reflected the insular and political nature that plagues much of Canadian arts marketing practices by keeping it in within the community of arts professionals and out of the larger discourse of the public realm. This is akin to a siege mentality which is of course ultimately self-defeating. It is getting better simply because it has to get better to try to keep up with the rest of the world – but this is a whole other post to composed soon.

The lessons here are three brave new forms of media born of digital culture that are crucial for art industry to embrace.

This local parody news website has tremendous value in earned media and shared media because it focuses on very relevant local attitudes and politics. Earned media because people are talking about this spoof news of their own volition – it’s what happened in my above example of a the department chair discussing this of his own volition with the new students. Shared media is passing a brand’s marketing campaign through social media and other channels – it’s what I’ve done by posting Supercrawl’s press release, which goes straight to my wordpress, facebook, tumblr and twitter accounts. Think of it as a net being cast out and capturing more relevant eyeballs, as opposed to keeping inside a sort of walled garden of content where only the same community of people are subjected to the same message over and over.

The third media form I wanted to point out is News Jacking – which Hammer In The News engages in and what I have done with this post. Simply, by posting your own relevant content that mentions, links and relates to large events before or as they happen will result in increased organic search engine results. When someone searches for Super Crawl, or about the rumour that Super Crawl is moving to Ancaster, then this blog post may very well appear. For an artist, you can post about Art Toronto a couple of weeks before it happens and include a photo of your own work. Chances are you’ll get increased traffic to your website as people search for news about Art Toronto as the date closes in, and these people will see your work when they are in a mindset to see the best in world class contemporary art. Best of all for the arts, it’s a free strategy.

Hammer In The News has caused disruption media for Supercrawl’s brand message, and I think this ultimately of great value to the festival though I hear the organizers are somewhat exasperated with the popularity of this parody news and the catalyst it provided for some negative feedback of the festival’s direction.

Speaking of negative feedback, I delivered some in an earlier post about Art Crawl and Supercrawl that I’ll again clarify, as my criticism reflects some of my points above.

First, I only am commenting on the visual arts approach of the events and is not relevant or pertinent at all to other elements present such as music, performance, food, activism, etc. Only the effect on the public’s relation to the visual arts and the compromises that the artists themselves make to their art to accommodate the nature of the festival. It is not a criticism of the artists or even their art – it is a criticism that work, even the “best” work by the “best” artists in the world, are compromised when placed in such a short, temporary location and subjected to thousand’s people shuffling by briefly. It pulls fine art out of it’s purpose of contemplation, challenge and questioning into the realm of entertainment. Fine art is not entertainment, but becomes such when competing with the overwhelming sensory experience that is the entertainment of this kind of festival. This is different than Burning Man which runs for a week and allows for time and space that is not cluttered, or Art Toronto which is only three days but the art is not competing with entertainment or performing arts.

Secondly, these concerns about such festivals are not original or new. It is simply a concern that local visual artists are there to be called upon by a tourism department to “celebrate the vibrancy” of a city’s cultural scene at such brief events and then are dismissed back into a state of toiling and scrounging in relative obscurity. There has always been a bias that visual artists need to volunteer their time and comply with presenting temporary art that is “appropriate” – which means safe, temporary, non-offensive and generally entertaining. This is not a sincere reflection of a serious contemporary artist’s motivations, in my view. My concern is this approach is putting the cart before the horse. A festival like art crawl did and should continue to be the child of a sustained contemporary art scene and not be confused as the end motivation. People should be coming to downtown Hamilton any day of the month because of the visual art, and not associating it with a once a month party.

Thirdly, it’s about ownership and control. By limiting the exposure to Hamilton’s art scene to a handful of a single location specific festivals, we are ceding ownership of our work to a select group of interests who have now taken control of who can show and how – the roots of the scene were firmly placed in a more open environment for artists and this was the engine of its initial popularity. Extended, this is the crucial problem with Toronto’s Nuit Blanche – it’s an onerous application process to be included and is virtually inaccessible by a since art-loving community as it now largely an outdoor drunk fest filled with yahoos and absolutely packed with crowds. It’s turned into a corporate advertising opportunity tightly controlled by a select group of interests. This is not about the sustained development of excellent studio work by a community of contemporary artists. It had the promise of that, but isn’t and should *not* be the measurement of the local art scene. It should be one of many supporting apparatuses of such a scene.

Fourthly, my view of the problem of juries selecting art comes into play here – any jury selecting any work of any medium tends to eliminate the best and the worst applications and you are left with a slate of programming that represents the average of the submissions. Thus, a prestigious festival such as Nuit Blanche attracts some of the best artists from around the world, and you’ll get a high caliber of art but it is still the average of the range of submissions considered. Masterwork, by definition, is the unexpected, unconsidered and unexplored that confronts and challenges us and this is what confuses a jury of experts whose job it is to compromise and select work that is recognizable as acceptable by other experts. This is not a specific criticism of any artist or curator but it is simply an observation of human behaviour and group dynamics, and I am sorry if I offended anyone by applying this concern to Supercrawl. In my opinion, the only way to truly embrace the avant garde, the experimental, the truly best of contemporary art is to open up meaningful participation beyond the specific time, location and control. In this way an art festival can grow and become remarkable and the remarkable becomes the new normal.

Fifth, to be fair, I am not a hypocrite and I do participate with my own work in both Art Crawl and Super Crawl. I have not applied to be part of Super Crawl, and I do believe there is a place for excellent and sincere contemporary visual and performance art in such a setting. Having thousands of people and open streets to work with is a fantastic opportunity, but I will not cede my own standards of a progressive contemporary art scene to a small group of community festival organizers. Myself and other artists will take part but in a real sense the participation will be intrusive, disruptive and guerrilla in nature. I won’t be measuring the success of contemporary art work by how entertaining it is or by how many people walk by it. I won’t judge a work by being on one part of the street rather than a few blocks away . This is a dangerous path to limited arts funding because corporations and local government who will put more of this precious limited funding into a two day event rather than other overall sustained efforts that are ultimately more beneficial to the creative economy. Politicians love a chance for one-off, symbolic support with high media visibility that will carry over to the next election and corporations are the same as they want to appeal to the broadest demographic, and not necessarily the worthiest.

I am concerned that, typical of Hamilton and many other smaller cities, that Supercrawl will become a white elephant project of sorts to the detriment of the health of the larger arts community and to the benefit a few business owners and the careers of a couple of curators.

I understand that the counter-argument will be that such a festival attracts interest in the arts and enhances the health and thus overall funding. I hope this is the case, but my criticism was a challenge to do better, do more and do it all the time. Galleries sit largely empty on James Street North between the art crawls – this is the crux of the problem. If you let them, those who control and dole out art funding will pay themselves to throw a big party with all the money and starve the event workers for the rest of the rest of year.

Does open public debate about these kind of issues have a place in Hamilton, or should I have submitted it to a committee first?

The Consultant will be back for Super Crawl 2013.

The Consultant will be back for Super Crawl 2013.

The Artist’s Shoulders #3: The terrible weight of the GTA rushhour

This is the third post in my series about my shoulder problems and how it ties into problems with our health system, some public & private problems of being an artist in Canada, perceptions that promote poverty  and thus ultimately the economy … seriously, they are all related and this post outlines a second example of this. 

Life in the GTA can be nasty, brutish & Commute.*

Sometimes you have to go where the work is, and work through any issues involved in getting there.

My first job when I moved to Toronto involved commuting from Parkdale Village to North York. Not stressful but long and unreliable time wise. Trains would always “short turn” as I was travelling opposite rushhour traffic. I was working in some guy’s basement office in the middle of suburbia and he demanded I arrive at 9am sharp. That’s why he was paying me the barely living wage bucks for, so I felt duty-bound to oblige.

To do this I left the apartment at 7:10 am and took the street car and then the subway to Wilson Station. From there I could walk or wait for the bus. Either way, I would usually arrive about 30-20 minutes early and wait outside the house. If I left the apartment any later than 7:10 am, I would be late by about 20 minutes to half hour. It was a goddamn time-space singularity tear in the fabric of North York I tell you.

Going home again took about the same amount of time, but going against rushhour was a real luxury. This was actually a cakewalk compared to what came next … commuting from Hamilton to Toronto everyday.

GTA rush hour is a monster movie twice a day.

Seriously. You have to plan around it or you risk being in the belly of the beast for many hours. The stinking toxic angry oozing innards of the man-made creature called “Toronto Traffic”.

This sucks where ever you live in the GTA, but if you are living in Hamilton and commuting to Toronto is especially heinous. One friend who made the trip only a few times described it as follows: “It’s hellish and will suck your soul out through your eye balls.” – that seems extreme but it is reflecting a real situation that has Toronto ranked in the top 5 for worst traffic in North America and worse than New York, Berlin or London (which seems surprising as those are really big cities and the last two are much older, so I imagine with narrow streets in many parts).

The morning rush hour starts at 7am and lets up about 9:30-10am. The evening rush hour starts at 3:30pm and ends usually around 7:30pm. If you go into and back from Toronto outside of those times then you are very fortunate – otherwise it takes about two hours to get into Toronto and between two and four hours to get home.  The worst part is how exhausting it is – you can’t take your eyes off the road. You have to be constantly inching forward and stopping every few feet, and then gunning whenever you can to – usually for a few seconds then slamming on the breaks. It’s a real battle to get through, and especially to keep an eye out for erratic and angry drivers who start cutting people off suddenly in their induced congestion stupor.  Like me, these people are frustrated that it *should* take under 40 minutes from downtown Hamilton to downtown Toronto and vice-versa. On paper, it looks like Hamilton is close to Toronto – but it’s not. It’s really not.

Why not take public transit and save some time and money?

Good idea. Taking a bus or train will save time and money … except when commuting from Hamilton to Toronto. This is where things get into into the realm of bad planning and thus bad economics.

Believe or not, a one way fare costs more than $10 and so going back and forth costs over $20. You can buy a monthly pass for nearly $350. If you are living on typical cultural worker wages, minimum wage or near the poverty line this amount is prohibitive. When I would drive, I could park for $8 near my work, and factoring in gas that’s actually still less than taking taking the bus or train. The real spit in the eye is that it’s not as expensive the closer you take the bus or train to Toronto. What this means is if you live in the affluent suburbs of Mississauga or Oakville, you are paying only three or four dollars. Those living in depressed Hamilton are paying the most, are the least able to afford it and are in the most need of affordable transportation to find work. Oh, and there’s no wireless on GO Transit, which is no small inconvenience as I explained in a previous post.

Another bit of salt in the wound is Hamilton’s last train leaves at 7:15am and makes most stops along the way, resulting in an almost two hour trip anyways in a *very* crowded train. A train by the way you are not allowed to bring your bicycle onto to so you’ll have to pay more again if you don’t work within walking distance of the Toronto station.  You can take the bus, and even load your bike onto it, but you’ll probably be late if you take it later than … 7:15am.

Oh, and there’s no park’n’go in Hamilton. I would have to pay extra here to take a bus to the station or walk 40 minutes.

You can take a bus to Aldershot station in Burlington, just before Hamilton, that does have all day trains and lots of parking. Aldershot is remarkable for having a Walmart, an empty field and a giant pile of dirt. Hamilton has more people, but apparently the problem is freight trains have more priority than passenger trains. That should help paint a clear picture of the priorities at work here.

They are increasing train times and opening a new station in Hamilton, in time for the PanAm 2014 games. This is a separate boondoggle and we’ll see what actually becomes of it, but I’ve learned to take good news in Hamilton with a grain of salt.

The solution is obvious, and so is the problem: There should be free public transit and there are too many cars on the road (especially with single drivers. Grrrr).

It wouldn’t really be free of course, but already paid for through our taxes. Unfortunately, we live in knee-jerk conservative simpleton times. I’ve gotten into a few disputes about this and sometimes with people who I initially credited with having more reasoning skills. Their argument always boils down to a) they don’t take transit as they have a car so why should they pay for it? and b) it’s too expensive without people paying fares.

Their argument does not make much sense to me. First of all, the service is already publicly funded so how exactly much are we paying for ticket collectors, ticker checkers, cashiers, gates, consultants, services, payment systems, lawyers, training and everything single other thing that goes with having a fare system? Quite a bit I suspect.  Secondly, these people railing against taxes paying for public transit seem to have absolutely no qualms about taxes paying for their roads. What if we slapped a $10 toll on every road into and out of Toronto? Then I suspect we would have a large outcry that roads should remain “free” to drive on. Yep, most people in the GTA aren’t terribly self-reflective.

Another obvious boon would be the boost to the local economy as more people traveled to different areas – buying a coffee, shopping, get a haircut and a job, or whatever. More than this, it would decrease car traffic significantly. Then we wouldn’t have to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in expanding roads to accommodate more traffic.  We would save on extra police, ambulances, road maintenance, insurance and even health care costs as the stress levels drop. I bet you dollars to donuts that “free” transit saves more money than having fares.

But what do I know? I’m only an artist and not one of the corporations who are profiting greatly from this current state of affairs and enabled by terrible political leadership. In Canada, we have a very “silo” way of thinking about things, and column A in the spreadsheet is not considered when looking at column B, even if we could save much more tax money overall, and ergo we are left with a disastrous mess that is costing the region billions.

Really hard to imagine that a fare-less transit system is worse than this.

There are improvements they could make immediately like allowing bicycles onto the train. The argument against this is that there is not enough room during rush hour. My argument is that it’s a train – you can add more cars. Their counter-argument is that Union Station can’t handle a larger train or bicycles. My counter-argument is that there are stations on the way and close by, like Exhibition Place, that would accommodate this – the great thing about bicycles is that you can travel to places on them. Obviously, my pleas for reason have been in vain – at least to the transit cop I was arguing with who was busting a kid for bringing his ten speed on the train. When I last saw him, they had pulled him off the train and there were about eight of these “special constables” surrounding this scared teenager. It really broke my heart and opened my eyes that there are interests out there that don’t want things to improve and be more efficient because they are making a living off of the way things are now.

Another immediate improvement would be to equalize the payment on GO Transit so it’s the same all over the system, just like any other public transportation system such as the TTC or the HSR. This would help make it more affordable for Hamiltonians and people in Oakville can pay their fair share. This argument usually ends with the other person giving me a look like I’ve got a tentacle growing out of my forehead.

What has this got to do with my shoulder condition?

So I would commute every work day. It was during this time of living barely paycheque-to-paycheque (but with a very nice job title) that my right shoulder started to hurt. I am a big guy, about 6’4″, so fitting into these little seats built for a shorter brand of human meant I would always be “hunched up”, especially with the masses of people who crowd onto the train along the way and back from Toronto.  I didn’t know about my shoulder condition at that time, so decided to tough it out. My job meant long hours hunched over a computer at work and then long hours at the computer at home (usually when I got back at 8pm) trying to keep up with my own work. Eventually, my back gave out a couple of times and I tried going to physio (quickly ate through my meager health insurance) and exercising but honestly I was so tired all the time. I could hardly function most times.

At the end I could feel my whole arm starting to go. If I reached behind me, or up, a lightening bolt of pain would shoot up from my shoulder and my arm would tingle, go numb, and swell a little bit. I thought this was normal, as I had been experiencing less sever pain in my arms and shoulders throughout my life. It’s kinda funny – I’m experiencing pain doing a certain range of movements so everyone must experience the same thing right? I remember thinking everytime I would have to reach back in the car or up to get something, or even paint or draw on an easel, about the Princess Bride movie where Wesley says “Life is Pain“.

After almost two years I just couldn’t do it anymore. I just couldn’t physically handle the demand, and was too financially impoverished to be able to move closer to downtown Toronto. Without another job lined up closer to where I live, or any other work lined up, I quit. I remember reaching up from my chair to hug a co-worker goodbye and almost cried out from the pain in my arm and shoulder. I couldn’t bear the pain of people bumping into me during the morning commute and the agony of holding onto something because of heavy footed bus and streetcar drivers.

I figured rest would heal my back and shoulders. Lord knows I couldn’t afford massage or physiotherapy, and didn’t have a doctor to go see, but I was sure I would get better sooner than later and be back to painting and drawing. I was wrong.

More to come… in the meantime, please enjoy the below stills from a video of one of my commutes (January 13th, 2012 I believe). This is the shared landscape we have in common, and in turn informs each one of us of the world we live in and the priorities of our communities. Any of this look familiar?

*Adaptation in subtitle is from “Life is … nasty, brutish and short” via Thomas Hobbs but you probably knew that already. But at least you scrolled through the commute pictures – thank you!

The Artist’s Shoulders #2: Art Stores hate creativity

This is the second in my series about my shoulder problems and how it ties into problems with our health system and perceptions that promote poverty in Canada and thus ultimately the economy … seriously, they are all related and this post outlines a second example of this. 

I’ve just experienced some bad customer service at Curry’s Art Supplies in Hamilton, Ontario. A little while before that, and for largely the same reason, I experienced some bad customer service at Aboveground Art Supplies in Toronto. How does this relate to my shoulder, poverty and health care?

Because some artists work best at small, or medium. As an artist, I’m at my best when I work large.  My drawings and paintings that are large work well, and with my recent digital work this is also true I think – conceptually, when I compose on the computer I am imagining the work as a large scale print.

Unfortunately, with my shoulders, I am not supposed to raise my arms above my shoulders. My left is half-frozen with atrophied muscles and my right *hurts* when I raise it for even a dozen seconds. It really sucks. I’ve literally been fighting off depression because I can’t work the way I want to (more about that in a later post) and I want to work large – I need to work large for what I what to accomplish in my professional practice.

So how to overcome this obstacle? There is a slew of self-help jargon out there that basically states for every closed door there is an open window, and I think this is true – the solution should dove tail with an creative idea and I think I solved it.

I would paint on small squares, a grid, and join them together. Like this test run from an older series a couple of years ago:

oops. mirror image.

oops. mirror image.

In this way, I can create very large works by sitting on a couch and keeping my arms low. I can paint and draw on each square with a well-worked chart and affix them together at the end. I’m really excited about this and have wanted to get started for months. But…

The above little square canvases are actually pretty expensive. About three dollars each and when you multiply that by the seventy panels it comes to $210. If you bought a single canvas of the same size, you are probably looking at about $80. But I can’t do that, because I have bad shoulders.

Ok, so I just need to buy a cheaper square of something to paint on right? No problem, I jump onto the interwebs and look at the options available to me at Aboveground Art Supplies in Toronto. I like this art store – good prices and friendly service – they are usually worth the trip into Toronto.

Hmmm…. they have nice cradled painting panels in a the small square size I need but they are $3.50 each.  Ok, looks like they have a bamboo wood “mount” which are much cheaper and not exactly meant for painting, but they will do nicely. They are about $1.55 each – I can work with that! – but the sizes are rectangular, not square like I need. The closest square ones I can see are still pretty large at 6″ x 6″. I need smaller, so I figure I’ll email and ask if they can order some in.

I get a friendly reply and over the course of some emails back and forth, then a long period of time where I had to prompt the inventory manager as to the status of the request, I get a quote for the 4″x4″ size… at about $3.50 each. Sigh…. when I pointed out I was interested in the bamboo panels they were selling, not the more expensive line that are handmade by a local craftsperson (which is great, but out of my budget for the large amount I want) I got this reply “Those are shipped to us by freighter from Taiwan once a year.” and I have not heard back from this store since. I’m not sure why this was a deal breaker for them. Why can’t I pre-pay for a few hundred of them? What does it matter where they are from or how they get here?

Because this was outside of a routine request for this middle manager. It was easier for him to stop trying to accommodate me than to make an exception for my creative needs. At an art store. Again – sigh. I haven’t heard back from them for a few months now.

So I’m walking by Currey’s in Hamilton today and decide to pop in and see what kind of panels they had. Currey’s can be helpful, and always friendly. Their prices are not that great. The biggest reason I don’t like going in there is the awkwardness of always being confronted immediately with laser focused eye contact and a greeting of “Hi how are you!”. I know this is a corporate script and helps discourage shoplifters – it’s their job to do this but is it my job to respond? It’s so … American. Actually no – it’s too insincere to be American because we Canadian don’t tend to like this kind of loud gregarious behavior when first entering an establishment and this comes through in the employees tone. I just want to look at some supplies.

Anyways, not the employees fault, I look at some of the panels and don’t see the size or material I want so decide to inquire at the front desk about custom ordering. The same employee sort of interrupts me half way through explaining what I need with “No. What you see is what we have. We can’t order anything else in.” Case closed. Ok, she (which is say the store through its policies and training) did not even ask what amount I needed (hundreds in the short term, thousands(?) in the long term) and what she said was very illogical. If one thinks about her response for a second, it make no sense as how do they know what to order and how much to order if requests by customers like me are immediately dismissed? Is there no way to measure supply and demand? Is it a secret way?

Sadly, just like Aboveground Art Supplies my request is slightly different so becomes problematic. That’s why the subtitle of this post is that art stores hate creativity. Remember that public school teacher who conducts art lessons for the kids – but only in special area that is easy to clean up, and only colouring in the lines, and you must cover the entire surface with paint, and you can’t use to much, and it should be happy… any creative worth their salt knows that is actually a way to stifle true creativity and these art stores are no different.

The solution, as many real professional artists know, is to skip these kind of art stores altogether and go straight for the hardware store. I know I should buy a sheet of the kind of light wood I want (because of the way I assemble it, it can’t be heavy) and cut it myself and ground it myself.

But I can’t, because I have bad shoulders.

So I don’t have a pile of small, light wood panels, so I am not producing art. I have not spent any money on this, and cannot sell what I have not made. So I don’t have enough money to buy the pre-made squares or to put an ad on Craigslist or Kajiji offering $3.50 for someone to go buy, cut, ground and deliver these squares for me.

These panels exist, but they might as well be in Taiwan for all that it matters.

It’s a bit frustrating.

*update* Aside from connecting with someone who won’t mind helping me prepare the panels when I am able to get back to studio work, I have considered simply using paper. This may be the best option, but assembling it will be tricky. I need to adjoin each square to the next to support it, and thus the whole grid supports itself. I like the visual wear and sagging this produces, but not sure how this will work with rag paper. I guess it will have to be wire and glue. Maybe something else will occur to me.

Three Text Paintings from 2005ish

I’ve been doing text in paintings for several years now. It’s changed a lot over that time but I’ve always like the freedom of working in this area between representational and abstract, as many do. It was a chance to slip into formalism and automatic painting without losing the conscious context, the connection of the subject matter. For me, the act and object of the painting is inseperable from the meaning and narrative of the text itself. They are but more personal than Truisms, more stories about me and the painting process. Kinda like tweets as paintings before Twitter existed! Haha.

This series was not exactly well received by all, but maybe those people failed to read between the lines. Those who liked these tended to like them a lot. and when I realized these paintings kept people’s attention at least as long as it took to read them. Hmmm… so I started to make very large, dense text narratives (will post when I find an image) and that challenged some and quickly discouraged others. Ah, I’ve always loved audience analytics…

I’ve got a new series of text paintings (on hold like all my other studio work) that I am really excited about. In the meantime, here’a few of my early favourites of these series. Sorry about the quality of the images, but often for artists poor documentation is all we are left with.

photo-(15) photo-(9) photo-(10)