What is a blog? What is the point of all this?

The act of blogging is unnatural at best.

At worst, it is a natural part of what already exists – a lot of marketing, advertising, business, porn, political and industry propaganda, some news and opinion. Outside of the guided tour provided by search engines, the reality of the real blogosphere is one that is overwhelmingly dominated by empty graveyards of abandoned blogs and an ecosystem of robots who scour everything.

I never really held a structuralist view of blogs as being different that any content posted to the web. It does not really matter as you cannot ultimately control the appearance of your content, but you can frame how you would like to be seen. (If you want it to be seen with a blue background colour, for example, then you are SOL). You can control exactly how something is to be seen but then it needs to be something other than a blog or website.

The same goes for the content of this blog – what the hell have I done here? It’s all over the place. There’s no editorial calendar. Those involved in one sector of my professional life are probably aghast if they read my opinions about my other professional haunts. Blogs and social media are already experiencing an actual to goodness paradigm shift based on reputation management and other vulnerabilities. It is an extension of our own local laws and customs and often there is more than one layer of this. Some folks are virtually unhireable based on what was posted about them, and not on any exceptional qualities or for any other reason uncommon in society. A true online diary is a risky and rare thing now and perhaps this is for the best.  Most, if not all, of what you will be able to find is arguably contrived.

(I always wondered why submarines don’t have more windows. The Nautilus did. Are we not able to reproduce the technology of steampunk? I mention this because navigating the web is much like I imagine being in a submarine is like: a map, a sonar and a radio but you are not actually looking at the landscape. Giant squids can still sneak up on you.)

So blogs now seem best suited for a professional narrative or to house a serious project. Things that you want to be found. Sometimes I post things that I don’t want to be found. Sometimes I change things or contradict myself. Sometimes I ramble.

I felt bad about the way I blog, over these last 4 years, until I started reading Michel de Montaigne. He is the source of essays and, by extension, blogging. He also would of loved LOLcats.

This makes me happy with what I’ve done, and ok with the fact that what I have compiled here is worthy and interesting. It is a rich source of my projects and priorities since 2009 and in some ways I see parallels with Montaigne deciding to write and reflect in his tower. Seeing yourself reflected in Montaigne is actually quite common, apparently, but I’m ok with that. It is reassuring.

However. There are many differences and many changes coming to my own life at this point. I feel the urge to destroy and create. This blog, my blog, is a constantly changing and evolving and contradicting and snarky and satire and serious and pathetic and .. popular. The more it becomes popular, the greater the risk of not being able to manage my online reputation effectively.

However… I know it sounds simple, but I have recently realized social media is different for artists than it is for everyone else. The same rules do not apply – there is more elbow room for the personal and controversial. If you are a professional outside of cultural spokespeople, then you have to pure as the driven snow. I called this the social eunuch in a previous post.

My posts are not me. They are my work and my work is part of who I am. I have treated my blog as both a sandbox and a jade garden. I’m ok with that and so are many people but most do not get it. I understand and accept it now but not always and not until recently. I have also realized if you are going to do something then do it all the way. If you are going to be an artist online then be an artist online but don’t be what you think other people think an artist online is supposed to look like. Don’t be a simulacrum.

So, by this time next year I should have my grad degree finished. These last four years have been a self-imposed series of learn’ins and experiences vital for preparing for a career of serious work in earnest. Four years ago I lost my business, house, fiance and worst of all time with my son. What was the point of that? A failure for a most people. A typical and honourable tale for an entrepreneur. Rich texture for the life of an artist.

So. It has come to this.

I think it is time I close up and summarize this blog and my art listings professional endevours too. I want all content I produce to be housed on my server with teaser content on social media. What I am thinking, researching, producing will be my posts of my art and creative writings. My communications work will on linkedin and throughout that industry.

I think I have other channels emerging and a new art magazine website project starting next year. I want to “thread” my content out and disperse it widely. A new blog for my activist posts and another blog for my communications career. A third blog for my artwork is almost done. I am trying to currently decide whether to port over some of this content first or simply start anew? I do like a blank sheet of paper.

I am also considering a name change. I am considering a complete severance with any work done prior to 2009. I am considering a PhD in Bio Art. These are all refreshing ideas to me and suitable as interesting blog posts. After I post about them, I will probably be in a better position to understand how I actually feel about them.

There are a lot of things to purge and clip by the end of next summer. I’ll keep this blog going until then and will post new links and updates in the meantime.

I think I am starting the equivalent of Montaigne’s second book. Maybe the third.

The Artist’s Shoulders

My right shoulder. Now also my like my left shoulder.

My right shoulder. Now also my like my left shoulder.

It’s been over two years but finally I have an appointment with an Orthopedic Surgeon regarding my shoulder issues. To be fair to the Doctor his waiting list is only seven months and not two years – I should of insisted to the walk-in clinic Physician to refer me to one when I first was almost literally crippled with a painful, swollen arm and shoulder.

Been thinking about the economics of being an artist, and by extension, the dynamics of perpetual living near the poverty line.  For example, clinics are the only real option for those who can’t find or get to their own GP. You have less than an ideal long-term relationship, and they in turn have to make a call on a stranger’s predicament.

In my case, it was kinda misdiagnosed as Bursitis and that explains a great deal about why the treatments did not work – at all – for many months. I saw a second clinic doctor who initially agreed with the first. I saw a physio therapist, as prescribed, and for sure those over-head-exercises were a terrible idea and helped to further aggravate what is actually wrong with my shoulders.

Unfortunately for me, getting instant relief via a cortisone injection was next to impossible, as it was “only allowed” by prescription from an Orthopedic Surgeon.

Ok. Remember the aforementioned seven month waiting list? So it didn’t seem to make sense to either clinic Docs to request an appointment.

I think there is a bit of Doctor politics going on and they did didn’t want to look bad by referring a patient who *probably* had something that didn’t need a specialist’s time.  I mean, it does not make much sense to me that cortisone is so well guarded by such venerable stewards such as Orthopedic Surgeons. It’s not like Oxycontin or something. People don’t buy and sell cortisone shots in back alleys do they?

I think this chain of events is due to income and associated issues of accessibility, resources and support network. That’s bad enough but it gets worse, because I think the normalcy of this kind of situation is – strictly speaking – very bad for the economy.

Cent for cent, I believe everything is more expensive near and below the poverty line than anywhere else on the income scale. Where I have been living for three years is rife with evidence of bad planning and continued decisions that are largely reactions to both the real and perceived poverty of this Ward. I and others think many of these decisions actually keep this area in a perpetual state of decline.

My shoulder woes are also largely a reaction to the economies around me and I have not even touched yet on artistic, career and social impacts this has had – both positive and negative. I think I have had many insights through some truly unexpected twists and turns. One of the biggest insights for me is that I’m actually quite privileged compared to most people, and there are many with much less than I in worse situations, and they all handled it better than I’ve been handling this. I can only imagine.

A series of blog posts to document called “The Artist’s Shoulders” is something I’ve been thinking of doing for awhile now. (I really wanted to make a pun with it involving Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged” but haven’t got a good one yet. That will have to a be a subtitle later on).

I’ve been looking forward for a chance to describe this ordeal so far, and why I think it’s happening. I will try to clarify some of my more pertinent thoughts on health & creativity in our society. I don’t want to forget what’s happened here, and I’ve also been feeling that way as an artist lately.

So in my upcoming posts I’ll talk about what is actually wrong with me and why it’s not fixed – and why that is so troubling for me. Plus other weird shit happened I gotta get on the record as this is going to be a long process. In the meantime, here some links to interesting work involving the effects of poverty on both the mind and body:

Poverty Impedes Cognitive Function: Recently in the news, and rung familiar for me as I read about it.

Decision fatigue: I remember this came out a few years ago.  Making lots of important / stressful decisions results in some sort of brain fatigue that results in bad decisions. This applies to CEOs and Politicians but also very much for those caught in the cycle of poverty. The example given as I remember was of a low-income single parent going grocery shopping. Lots of decisions, and they are ALL important because you are poor and thus that person experiences this kind of fatigue.  This is very familiar to me as well.

Food Desert: A food desert is an area, typically a populous urban environment, in the industrialized world where healthy, affordable food is difficult to obtain. (Wikipedia)

Stay tuned..

still life with cow skull

Sneak peek of #Hamont exhibit @ The Inc, June 13 – July 6 w/ Cow Skull

still life with cow skull

I have an upcoming exhibit, sharing a space with my Mom, Beverly Healey, at Hamilton Artists Inc. The opening reception is Thursday June 13th from 7-9pm-ish. Art Crawl is June 14th.

It’s called “Mexico ii” and features work done from my parent’s residence in the town of Ajijic, Mexico – just south of Guadalajara. My Mom is a painter and a very different artist than myself so it will be an interesting show of contrasts and similarities. Of course, her being an artist has been central to my development and its a dream come true to have a show together like this. I know she’s looking forward to it as well. 

I’ll post more work and info next week. As usual, these works I am posting here now probably won’t be in the final exhibit but are part of the same series.

 

 

“Displaced Landscapes: Uranus of Hamilton” opens April 12th @ #Art crawl

Uranus of Hamilton

April 12th- May 6th
173 James Street North, Hamilton, Ontario
Opening reception Friday, April 12th 7-9pm

Displaced Landscapes: Uranus of Hamilton| Christopher Healey

Please join me during Art Crawl night on James Street North for my new show of photo based prints based on local skyscapes. These are selected works from my Hamilton series focusing on industrial emissions in the city – but pretends what we are seeing is actually Greek Mythology. Below is part of the exhibit statement: ~ Chris

Exhibit Statement

“According to the poet Alcman, Aether was the father of Ouranos, the god of the sky. While Aether was the personification of the upper air, Ouranos was literally the sky itself, composed of a solid dome of brass.”

“After Cronus was born, Gaia and Uranus decreed no more Titans were to be born. They were followed by the one-eyed Cyclopes and the Hecatonchires or Hundred-Handed Ones, who were both thrown into Tartarus by Uranus. This made Gaia furious. Cronus (“the wily, youngest and most terrible of Gaia’s children”[24]), was convinced by Gaia to castrate his father. He did this, and became the ruler of the Titans with his sister-wife Rhea as his consort, and the other Titans became his court.”

~wikipedia

As an industrial city and port, Hamilton has a particular relationship with the sky, earth, fire and water. It’s an elemental dynamic that is always at play, and that makes for a sweeping and majestic landscape. This primal yet manufactured visual is reminiscent of Greek mythology, and prompted me to dissociate elements of what I was seeing, and to re-frame them as scenes from classical stories. The hubris, struggle and morality lessons of creation mythology are an apt commentary of a Hamilton in a state of identity crisis: The titans borne of industry and their older world status are being challenged by a younger, cleverer community. It’s a grand philosophical battle that is reflected in the devastated areas of the urban core and in the physical manifestation of our relationship with the sky.

a Hamilton brownfield

a Hamilton brownfield

Formally, since moving to Hamilton late in 2010 my process has been greatly influenced by the built heritage, community relationships / history with industry and the perceptions of Hamilton from both inside the community and outside of it. This series of work, outside of my usual practice of drawing and painting, is my first  exploration of digital print based media.

emission study

emission study

Through digital photography and layering techniques, these prints are a perspective of landscape as environment of cloud, air and emissions. A familiar and often documented fixture in the Hamilton community, as well as many other communities, smoke stacks are universally symbolic of industry, environment and politics.

emission study

emission study

In this series, I am attempting to focus past these common discourses and formally examine the ephemeral and displaced characteristics emissions of steam / vapour / smoke without it’s architectural source or other visual clutter. It can be argued this moment of shape and process is a valid, important and beautiful part of our visual community landscape as any building or geological feature – especially if we remove it entirely of our own bias and associative meanings of it’s practical function and effects.

emission study

emission study

Can the shapes and movements of emissions transcend preconceived notions of industry and be accepted as a natural part of our immediate environment?

emission study

emission study

These careful studies ask this absurd question by de-contextualizing the natural and the manufactured as a process of artificially homogenizing multiple images. The result is series of very soft, subtle fields that are both familiar and strange, encouraging study and contemplation.

173 James Street North

Hamilton, Ontario
L8R 2K9
Canada

Media Contact: Christopher Healey
artlistpro@gmail .com

A reductionist process to an expressed truth posted

A contemporary blog project – I wrote an open and honest reflection of a negative experience with a personality that is not untypical for the arts industry in Canada. And not for the first time. However, I edited, censored and reduced it over a short amount of time so it reflects no real opinion with no details, but simply hints I share an opinion on a matter that my colleagues probably would too. Like them though, I now feel I am unable to critique and criticize openly because of my employment situation within the public arts system.

Canadian contemporary art is a small town, and  even though this blog was originally created to be an honest and open discussion about aspects of our art world I can no longer be honest or venture into “taboo” areas of discussion. The blog worked as a whole by being so frank and even a bit controversial – but now that I have gained from it, I have those gains to lose if I continue.

I have become self-policing in a thin-skinned and political environment. The ALP blog, therefore, cannot continue honestly and I will have to end it as it is.

An announcement of that in the next couple of days.

how Gallery 47 killed the video review star

47 has de-inspired me to do any more video reviews of galleries.

Don’t get me wrong – I really like everybody at 47 and I think the installations are exciting and relevant. There is a great vibe to the space. It’s all these positives about 47 which validates my sudden crisis of confidence as an independent arts and culture blogger – the sudden cold water bitch slap realization that I have no relevancy to this place and to most galleries in Toronto.

It’s something I suspected for a while but did not fully figure out until I visited gallery 47’s website recently.  And it’s not just 47 – it is a philosophy deeply ingrained into the psyche of nearly every ambitious gallery administrator (including myself when I was in that same position).

Popularity is not as important as recognition from your peers – being a curator / director is a very competitive sport.  You could say the score is measured by marks on newsprint and attendance of the same people who go to the galleries you are being better than.

What this means is that many galleries plan exhibits are actually designed with a mere handful of people in mind.  If the exhibit gets public, printed coverage from the right person(s), it creates a valuable historic document and therefore is a measurable success – a thousand random people passing through does not do this. Radio is good, TV is good, online articles can be important too but in reality nothing compares (still) to the million little printed “I like this”‘s.

It can be described as a very simple formula thusly:

1000 gallery visitors is worth less than 1 established critic’s review UNLESS the 1000 gallery visitors resulted from that critic’s review in which case it is equal.

( The last half of the above formula can be explained this way – one thousand critically uninformed people are worth less than one thousand people who see the exhibit because they read a (certain) critic’s review. These people will typically be a more relevant and “academic” demographic than the other group and the number’s will add support to the historical relevance of the exhibit. Otherwise, a popular exhibit adds little weight to assessing it’s overall significance )

So why I am so blue and bugaboo all of a sudden? Like I was saying earlier, I checked 47’s site yesterday and there a blurb about how popular the last show was and thanks to various persons and critics who covered it and links to them.  There is no link to my video review of this show or any mention of ALP or me. Kinda embarrassing because I talked a bit to the artist, the owner, the intern and arranged to have a co-host for it as well. Even posted twice more on ALP with links to the show to help encourage people to see it. It is a lot of work, and is entirely volunteer labour based. (I am not going to post links or get specific here because it is besides the point)

I’ve always had a soft spot for 47 because I found out about it from a contact I made doing early ALP video reviews. They seemed lost in that alley. I wanted to help. I’ve done video  interviews of 47 and posted 47 exhibit PR on my websites since. I’ve blogged about them. I even criticized that one awful show. I even did not put up some images and movies that were better left unupped (not a word, I know). The most humiliating thing is that I  mentioned a lack of any link backs weeks ago. I heard nothing back but the answer was right there in front of me – I am not someone or something that is worth mentioning. I now realize the softball teams were just divided up between the two cool kids and no one chose me.

But now I realize that I’ve never gotten an email from them. I don’t get invitations. My posts about them don’t get responded to or shared. They have never posted any PR or links on any of my websites, or any of their to mine. They don’t look at any of my other work or reviews. They don’t subscribe to any of my channels. Even in person, I got the sense of  “they know they don’t know me” and so are not really interested in anything I am doing or who I am. In contrast, many of the commercial and co-op galleries are really easy to work with and were eager to take advantage of any favorable marketable channel they could – but then again, a 1000 random people are worth more to them 😉

I’ve been in Toronto for about a year. To get to know the people, spaces and “scene” I decided to set up a Toronto-based art blog. I am an artist who writes, so naturally it seemed easier and more unique to offer quick, blog-style video clips of what is currently going on a handful of different galleries week to week. I tend to cover shows that I like, and I tend to be a teacher aimed at people who are outside or on the margin of art literate circles. I am completely inspired by the “Monkey Toast – the improvised talk show” style that would complement my complete unfamiliarity of Toronto and it’s arts and culture. This past year I’ve played the part of a dumb critic, somebody who talks about exhibits without any clue of the artist, gallery or background but with an educated and practical perspective. It’s been fun and is honest and therefore valuable as any feedback is, and guessing about the work, chatting about art and making some jokes is my way to encourage people to go to galleries despite feeling intimidated or that they “don’t know enough about art”.  I’ve truly never seen an arts show like it and I am very proud about that.

One person (from Ottawa no less) so far has contributed some videos to my great idea of video feedback of art exhibit via social and mobile channels.  A few galleries have started to post to my network but I realize now most will not.  The best I can hope for is to get emails as part of a mail-out list.  I spend most of my free time finding and posting content from Toronto, keeping up the hope that others will follow suit. Free, powerful, edited, non-commercial service designed by a professional CMS developer and slaved over by two people. Because of this, it is doomed to fail – unless I can find a minor local celebrity to become a partner. There are terrific people here in Toronto, but there is no community. I know realize to be part of a true arts community here I will have to buy my way into it at galleries collectives such as Propeller, Red Head or Loop.

I was concerned that because it is free and independent, coupled with the fact I am a complete unknown in these here parts, that there would be little to no perceived worth to Art Listings Professional or Art Wire PR. I am some guy with cheap business cards and a website of other people’s art. My continued enthusiasm and industrialism also does not help avoid being taken for granted as an amateur and perhaps portrays me as slightly lonely and with some delusions of self-importance (this may be a correct picture).   Any value I have is derived from that fact that a) I am a guy with a camera and your marketing budget is a fucking joke +  b) I am harmless and polite.

But I know what I am talking about when it comes to art and media, and I know when something is not working.

I now get the distinct impression from a lot of places that they are doing me a favour and not the other way around. I am now someone who the intern is supposed to deal with, and I get fed trite fluff. So I am going to stop doing the video reviews.

It’s over.

Instead, I am changing the format to the following projects:

1. I will carry out the pledge to visit and review every gallery in Toronto in 2010 because I think it is worthwhile.
2. I will do video interviews of individuals of interest from time to time.
3. I will continue to produce the “Alpy the Art Critic Star” animated series because a badly composed animated character has a better chance of being seen by more people than what I am doing now.
4. I will cover big events such as Art Toronto, TIAF, Nuit Blanche, outdoor fairs, etc. But no more individual galleries every week  – anyone is more than welcome to submit their own video reviews (I doubt that will happen but don’t doubt art exhibit video reviews will be gain popularity over time).
5. Most importantly for ALP, I will focus on ALP TV as the vehicle for the new “Art to see this weekend”. A brief video every Thursday with my recommendations of current exhibits and events.  I think I may add Alpy as a part of that video, if it won’t make it too long.
6. I will continue to try to establish artprwire.com as a viable, free, professional and popular alternative for arts PR in Toronto and Canada.
7. Most importantly than even #5 is returning to full-time work within the IT and web marketing industry. I was hoping to get picked up a gallery admin team somewhere somehow but I think I am going to have to hang around for a couple more years, buy some better clothes and open my own gallery if I want to be anything other than an intern.
8. I am going to review some shows with written articles via my blog. No more Mr. Nice video guy who depends on permission. I’m writing about the bad and the good from now on.
9. Most significantly my own work calls to me. Geez, it only took about 5000 images and 400 gallery visits in the last eight months to get inspired back into the studio.

So anyways, yeah, I feel pretty disheartened in many ways but with a clearer vision of the next step.  This has been a lot of work but I have learned much. They say it takes about 200 videos uploads on YouTube to really start to get comfortable with it and that seems to be true. I’m excited to see how this next year goes with a much more limited and focused video output.

So my final word on 47 is that for a independent gallery they sure don’t value independent art bloggers – not like they did before they got the reviews they wanted it seems.  I was completely naive about it – this was not some unknown group who banded together and came out of nowhere.

They are no longer a young, fresh space hidden away because it looks like 47 has come into it’s own and is all grown up.

The problem here is obviously I need to grow up and rethink, look at my own assumptions and approaches to things.

Ok, to finish up this monumental post, I thought I might create

a list ranking the different types of media coverage a typical professional gallery values*

  1. Quarterly glossy national magazine
  2. National Daily Newspaper
  3. CBC radio
  4. Daily Newspaper
  5. Weekly Newspaper
  6. Local radio
  7. Local Magazines
  8. National TV
  9. News Websites
  10. Local TV
  11. Email News List
  12. Blogs
  13. Social Media reactions
  14. Me

*j/k