Artist Superpower: Shipping & Receiving

Don’t you think this is the most important skill that is not a skill? I do.

Sometimes I wonder if there is a correlation between being a “good shipper” and artistic success. Obviously, this is true for online art sales. My point is you probably are held back if you can’t pack it or rack it efficiently.

Don’t look at me. I suck at that and, frankly, am intimidated by the whole process.  When I actually get around to packing something its never that bad. But its definitely not great either.

I  have some artist friends who are fanatical about packing. They’ll build a crate for a week. They are such nice crates one keeps the crate forever. Me, I just started to use paper and work with digital prints more.

Even just the act of postcards or stuffing envelopes and actually going to the post office is simply not to be underestimated.  International? You are at the mercy of a series of several shipping challenges which are so little appreciated and understood by me that they are impossible to describe here.

Speaking for myself, I think having a personal delivery drone would help. Then I could tell it to deliver hand written exhibition invitations so I would not have to ship work.

A cool idea might be to turn a drone into an actual gallery. It  flies around at art festivals holding a work, for example.  I would have to pack it in carefully constructed crates in order to send it to galleries and festivals around the world. Ah, forget it.

I wish I was better at shipping and receiving.

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.

The fleeting prestige that comes with being an older and unsuccessful artist.

When I was younger, ambitious and stupidier I attended many art openings in an effort to be seen and network (That was the closest thing we had to LinkedIn in those days).

At these art openings, also know as a vernissage, I would be typical of the majority demographic – mid twenties, scruffy and knew most of the people around me. There would be some thirty somethings, and they were usually the directors or curators of that particular space. Then there were middle aged and seniors folk: too well fed, too clean for an arts worker and dressed way too nice for a real art opening, and thus were easily identifiable as family of the artist(s).

Then there were the scruffy middle aged attendees. They were childless, and their body language and ease of socializing demonstrated a blasé attitude about being there. They  tended to look at the art for a little longer, and tended to ask questions to the artists/ curator that were a bit more personal and pertinent. They actually read the artist statement. If they lingered, it was a good metric that the exhibit was interesting. If they only briefly attended the event, then that was a good metric that the show was lacking somehow. They might know other people at the opening, but didn’t seem to particularly care.

I was fascinated by them.  In my mind, they were famous artists (sometimes they were) or important curators (also not uncommon, but usually overvalued) or perhaps the mythical art collector looking to acquire new work from hot young artists (almost never).  I would watch them like a hawk, trying to not be obvious that I was watching them, as I noted where they were looking and for how long.  What was their art like? What fabulous people in fantastic places did they know? What secrets did they know to be successful in the art industry? Maybe they sat on those juries that awarded grants to artists. Back in those days, even if you talked to these people and they were artists, curators or collectors (aka have a “real” job that pays well because it is outside the arts) they could tell you whatever they wanted and you would have no idea if it was true or bullshit, and even if was true whether is was simply shit. Or maybe they were simply downplaying their importance. Like I mentioned above, there was no LinkedIn or Facebook and Canadian Art magazine was still as limited in scope and expensive as it is today.

Twenty years later I am older, not as ambitious and still stupid. However, I realize now that I am now one those people – often the oldest person in the room, an object of mild professional curiosity and even sometimes assumed to be wise or influential. Suckers. In many ways, the age difference does not matter among the artist community but sometimes it takes some younger artists awhile to figure this out.  Until they arrive at the truth of the meaninglessness of their own ambitions, they can pretty much check whether you can help their careers instantly.

It’s a fleeting prestige being an older and unsuccessful artist at an art opening.

Older and younger mysterious me.

Which version of me looks more interesting – the older or younger? Or just creepier?

(Please note I do not actually think I am “unsuccessful”, I am very excited about my work and opportunities, but the POV is from the younger me who had a different idea about these things.)

good art bad art explained in a chart

Good art and bad art (finally) explained – a relationship chart

good art bad art explained in a chart

Contemporary, experimental art fails often by virtue of the risk-taking involved in the artist’s choices. Hence, the final product can be disastrous or genius but both results more often closely related than one might initially suspect. Relying on more accepted conventions places the art somewhere in the “shades of mediocrity” between the two polar extremes. Thus there is a small window on this scale for “good art”, which is also the most perilous area close to “bad” or “confusing”. Sometimes, there is no discernible difference between the three for critics and the general public.

Art bombed at home – and I loved it!

An artist sent me two works from her multiples series on Monday, out of the blue and just when I was feeling a bit down, like I was broadcasting into space. Hey, bloggers in other industries get sent shit all the time to review, so to entice and market different brands or products – like a popular movie blogger will received free passes to the preview of a new film. I was expecting and received invites to art receptions but it never, never occurred to me I would be sent actual work in the mail.

This is way cool, and I love it. I love what Nathalie sent and I love the idea of being sent work to review so much that I am going to review the shit of this. I want people to send me their shit and I will always review it on this blog. Now in the mean time, I need to get a mailing address…

Two multiples by Nathalie Quagliotto

What could be in this box? I remember I reviewed an exhibit she curated a little while ago … how did she know my address? It’s light and very well packed.

whaaaaa!? This is a real work, and very cool work. This looks like some sort of tug of war device for angry children, but that kind of describes relationships. This is a sentimental and sappy spoof toy on first blush, then a split second later it was very apparent it is a bleak assessment of the love and the human condition. The packaging and labelling are very corporate, and I also had a Orwellian sense of absurd horror that powers had decided this is what I (we) want, so were going to sell it to us. It’s also signed by the artist, which is some condolence to my invoked existential angst.
The artist in me wants to know how she did this – can you melt candy and re-form it? Isn’t making candy a mystery recipe and closely guarded industry secret?

And the second object is … a bunch of objects in a box. An all-yellow jigsaw puzzle! With a title such as “THE SAFETY YELLOW PUZZLE” my brain jumps to a perceived commentary of “relationships are hard work and it all ends up the same” and “you can both pretend to be happy by putting this together” ( No, I am not experiencing any trouble in my personal life and projecting onto this). I love the corporateness of the packaging, the suggested activity inherent with the materials she’s used and this yellow business. This work deserves more of my attention ….

I am going to use this puzzle the way it was intended to be used and form a relationship with it. I am going to introduce this conceptual Montreal art to the City of Hamilton.

After assembling the work* I took it up to the look out point on the escarpment at night. The lights are so beautiful, and the industry fuels the imagination. I think it was too soon though, and both the puzzle and I felt a tad awkward.

There is where the puzzle really started to shine. As the steel and coke factories churged and spewed, the puzzle quietly stole the show with a certain glow about it. I think it was letting its guard down, despite being so complex.

Time to enjoy’s the area’s nature and beauty, and what better way to do that than visit one of the many waterfalls complete with 500 other people. No one seemed to mind we were a mixed animate / inanimate couple. I though the blue really brought out the yellow, and the puzzle took this as a compliment.

Speaking of yellow, here is a portrait of me holding the puzzle in front of me wearing a yellow shirt looking at a man in the distance wearing a yellow shirt, with my son looking at me. Soon after this photo the puzzle went back into its box and we have not been out together since.

If I had been smarter during my career, I would of collected more smaller works and multiples from artists along the way. Quagliotto’s multiples are available on her website so check it out. Thanks for sending me some of your work, Nathalie!

I did try to spend some time with the “FUSED YELLOW LOLLIPOPS” but it was way too confusing (click on picture to see the full 360 panorama).

* I did not, in fact, open or construct the puzzle. Are you crazy!? I kept this work safe and instead photo-shopped my journey.

Size matters: things that fit and do not fit in Dupont Projects’ gallery space

Still trying to figure out how 27 works had so much white space …

Seriously though, it is a terrific space and I suspect this is the first of many exhibits in the space well worth visiting. check it out here ->