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 Consultant @ Supercrawl 2013

This is the 3rd performance intervention at the arts festival in Hamilton, Ontario and perhaps my last here.

My recurring character for these enactments is the Consultant persona – a outside critical eye from an outside theoretical framework, and not always welcome. This series of my work is not meant to settle as part of a landscape (the Consultant may describe the same concern as “becoming a monument”) but a slight affront to it, and three times in the same context is probably approaching a demystified state of local cultural interpretation.

The first intervention was a interpretation of the local concerns of gentrification of an area, and took the form of evaluating the worth of gallery spaces, but outside of considering the cultural worth but the physical shape and other detached values. The second was in collaboration with a poet and performance artists and we adopted a social theory induction approach that was more aloof of our immediate surroundings, but drawing our “data” from it.

This, the third time, was based on my earlier concerns about the presentation of the role of the visual arts as a brief form of entertainment in a carnival context that would lead to expectations of public art’s function as almost purely theatrical. I reject the notion that art is entertainment, and worry about the political economy interpretations of art as function for entertainment. This is the crux of the criticism.

To enact this, I designed the performance to skirt around the edges, the fringes, of the festival as a sort of walking “Salon des Refusés” of the curatorial process for these kind of brief public constructions of precious arts funding. Being a closed ecosystem for artists outside of property owners and the jury, all others participation of serious contemporary creation are, by definition, an intervention.

I’ve been interested and incorporating elements of popular myths into my performance interventions for well over a decade now, starting with UFO mythology as embraced in the group performances of The UFO Research Group collection (Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto). The Consultant incorporates common reports of behaviour and situation as reported in Sasquatch reports.

Specifically, some of the elements I am researching through this practice are:

Frame 352 from the Patterson-Gimlin film

Frame 352 from the Patterson-Gimlin film

1. Just outside of civilization (the border of the art festival).

2. An aloofness; a sense of purpose, value and priorities unknown and unknowable to the observer (projection my own “art” onto objects that do not normally warrant close or equal scrutiny).

3. A reaction of confrontation, hiding, and moving away into darkness, i.e the bush (hiding in doorways, behind signs).

4. A reliance, a faith in, a tertiary media (social media, photos, oral retelling and interpretation) to substantiate the documentation of the event.

I am happy to report it worked – someone told me of the “creepy guy” they saw. What a great opportunity to find out why! I learned from him it was my “odd” behaviour and the confusing costume (he couldn’t see “where the face was supposed to be”) that prevented meaningful interpretations based on the immediate cultural / ceremonial context.

In other words, I was out of place and not cooperating by providing instant meaning in an entertaining, accessible way. I was creepy. Most people keep their distance. I’ve had groups follow me for awhile, almost as if they are waiting for something to happen. Sometimes I get trapped by a group of people circling around. Believe it or not, sometimes people get really mad and confrontational when I don’t acknowledge or interact with them. You’ll see an example of this in the video below.

This time, I incorporated a catcher’s mask with an iphone displaying an animated swirl (as did my papered (bureaucratic) costume). These are “null” symbols – the swirl is universal enough to be without any set cultural meaning other than usually meaning something. They broadcast an intent, but not my meaning. They aren’t meant to as tools to decode, but to establish questions in a public sphere.

I had a second iphone mounted on the frame in front of my face, but this one was with the camera facing outwards and recording whatever I was looking at. It was very shaky and poor quality – perfect media for an imperfect experience. I wanted to document the experience of being … different in a crowd. The quality of alientation and intrusion are very present, I think. I’ve included a three minute clip. It’s very shaky, grainy, inconclusive and heavily processed with anti-shake and anti-wobble algorithms – just like a number of media fragments surround the Sasquatch mythology. Thanks to my support team, Jen and Cedric.

 

Rise of the Social Eunuchs: Trusted guards of Reputation’s bedroom.

art hamont 050

During discussion in my media & reality class last week, I learned of and been thinking about the concept of two classes of social media citizenry emerging – those who keep their reputations online clean and those who don’t.

Of the those with a clean reputation, there are those who flourish online as communicators and those don’t.

Of those who do excel in this medium, there are those who digitally represent brands and personas.

These are trusted and valuable to an organization, as they are closest to the identity machinery, are typically not an owner but an employee, and yet trusted with it. This reminded me of Eunuchs, castrated to serve as of class of slaves or servants throughout history. They too were trusted in the most intimate and public environments as the thinking was that, among other presumed losses of particular desires, there would be the lack of ambition.

I’m thinking of that person who dropped their pants or posted something in passion or conflict. The Social Eunuch would never do that – so you can trust them.

I mulled in an earlier post about how it seems better to not have a presence online at all for some. Some politicians and organizations now wish they weren’t. So the next best thing is to have a replaceable, dependable and (at least as an online footprint) completely unremarkable person as your social media lead. This is the Social Eunuch and is perhaps has emerged as the most valuable class of online citizenry today. The stereotype of our historical notions of the personality traits typical of a Eunuch lends itself to a Social Eunuch’s presumed virtues of no desire for sex, no ambition, docile and dependable.  This lends itself to a standard of reputable online presence free of sex scandals, criminal accusations and no desire for online conflict like being snarky to a competitor or critic.

Eunuch’s were considered easy to replace – so is the employee who tweets out something racist or sexist. First impressions are very important on social media so if suddenly a lot of people notice your social media profile online because of a bad or embarrassing behaviour, then that is your first and lasting impression unless you become immediately and permanently bland and unremarkable. This is strategically attainable to middle class citizens by never appearing publicly on Social Media again  – and thus castrating yourself from your shameful extension.

For a brand, the only hope is to acknowledge a distinct personality was associated with the brand.  Little he/she had a mind of their own and are now cut from the team.

To achieve Social Eunuchism:

  • Hire someone who does not have an online presence or has a very careful, minimal and unremarkable online presence.
  • Person(s) anonymized when acting as the brand voice or the person(s) are identified as persons but only publicly online as the persona.
  • Person is a dedicated professional.

Does this affect artists?

I think artists are, as usual, a special case and social media is a different tool for us. Our reputation can “take more heat” than non artists, intellects or celebrities. Even boutique or cultural enterprises can cross lines on the web and actually benefit from it. There are Social Eunuch artists and cultural entities, to be sure, but there are also more social selfies (social media as a self portrait construct) and more controversial artists who are also social media elite citizenry. I look forward to posting more thoughts about this.

In defense of the “dumb critic”

I was taught in my studio program at Concordia University, a “dumb artist” avoided all formal knowledge, academic history or current trends in art making. Their work was the supposedly unbiased and untainted from this oppressive preconceptions and something genuine and pure was created from this isolation.

Though this definition and examples of it are surprisingly hard to find via Google, it has always nonetheless been a fascination for myself as an approach and years later when I started to do my video and blog reviews of exhibits and trends, I decided I would invent the approach of the “Dumb Critic”.

Specifically, this is a deliberate method of engaging an exhibition (and /or interview with an artist) without any research or familiarity at all. The review must be conducted as soon as possible upon arrival of the Dumb Critic.

I believe this is extremely valuable as feedback to the artist or gallery, as their work has an unfettered connection through immediate impression and without defined preconceptions, such as statements of work or curatorial essays, suggesting an interpretation for the audience. It is more firmly relevant to our time in art history to operate critically within the same context as most art work is viewed by the general public – a sudden confrontation defined by a short amount of time to articulate an overall impression and then broadcasting it to the world.

This approach is tied in to my philosophy of rejecting high production standards if those standards delay or prevent contributions of art documentation / art practice to the general public, for the greater good. It is a rejection of high production standards and design as substitution for meaningful and substantive content. It is a question of the problem of the public and it’s relationship to the visual arts, and vice-versa – there is almost a fear, a intimidation, a judgment of whether the visitor to a community gallery space understands the work, and by understanding you have read the texts associated with the exhibit and previous aspects of contemporary art history. That there is a right and a wrong answer.

So arriving in a gallery and being confronted by an exhibit that is strange and bewildering in it’s unfamiliarity and presence outside any expectations is a valuable and savoury experience for me, and I believe is a way of approaching art that relates most directly with the majority. The majority does not mean it is the right or only way to engage something, but in a cultural communications approach it is a valuable insight to have.

So this concept, this rationalization of being a Dumb Critic frees me to see more exhibits and meet more artists and other arts professionals, and in turn allows me to offer this experience to my audience. I ask dumb questions fearlessly, and propose interpretations that are completely off-the-wall compared to what was clearly written in the catalog or press release. This is a resistance to bowing to the pre-conceived notions of the artist, the curator and the space and trying to see the work as it is, truly alone and without pomp, even if it is only for a little while. Most artists tend to appreciate this very much – at least the ones who are interested in research and truth and play.

Then there are the rigid, formulaic ones who are career ladder climbers and don’t like a lateral turns of thinking of how to approach things in their industry. An example is when I attended an art and technology conference recently and made sure I read nothing about most of the lectures I attended (and live-tweeted about) – including one called “laser-based collaborative space”. I was dreading this was going to be project management software or something but it was, awesomely, actually, about actual lasers and hacker collectives. When I jokingly mentioned that to another artist, he sniffed “you didn’t read anything about the lectures? that’s novel.”

I enjoy reading, listening and researching (duh), but it is just as valuable sometimes to do this afterwards. Here was an artist who is confined by his preconceptions, perhaps unaware of his insecurity to approach the strange and fantastic for the sake of it being strange and fantastic. His rigidity and his literalness, for me, define much of this industry and it’s barriers for a wider participation.

For me, the rejection of the Dumb Critic is related to the rejection of blogs or tweeting over a paper catalog or commissioned academic essay. One is to satisfy funding requirements, establish credibility among peers and create professional opportunities within a set of expectations – the other is a way to dialogue about seeing and experiencing art without worrying about all that other stuff.

I guess that is novel.

You’ve been instagrammed! Photo series from a walk through #BartonVillage

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I am very grateful for the interest in my talk & tour coming up this Saturday that is based on walking through my neighbourhood in Hamilton. I walk a lot and take photos with my iphone, so here is some more flâneur photo work from and around Barton Village.

I’m hoping this overall practice based on Hamilton will lead to a chance to show in this community (or maybe even an opportunity to establish a window gallery). These sorts of cultural events are conspicuously absent here, especially when contrasted with the economic / arts blooming on James Street North and Ottawa Street.

I like the layering of the instagram app filters onto shots of some of the rougher bits around here. It’s a social media activity in an area not know for social activities anymore. I have ideas on art events here though that could help change that … but that’s another post.

Prometheus shrugged: a cautionary tale of bad movie making inspired by good art

In short, the movie “Prometheus” sucked. Now I will tell you why.

Such a bad product can only be due to the hubris of the director, who pulled off an excellent imitation of George Lucas making the last three Star Wars movies. That is, an arrogance born on the back of other’s talent that fizzles out when in the cold, harsh light of the public realm. In this case, the talent Ridley Scott rode to fortune was the artist responsible for the visionary brilliance of the original Alien – H.R. Geiger. The derivative wisps of H.R. Geiger’s oeuvre that influence the art direction in Prometheus are the only saving grace of this otherwise clunky disgrace of a movie.

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