16 November 2006
Brandl: Beyond Complaint --- What can we do to improve the situation?
I was invited to contribute a comment to a blog site coming out of Nottingham, England. The artists running it have contributed comments to Sharkforum blogs in the past, and include Shaun Belcher who will also write here from time to time, and who di the great cartoon in the side panel. I wrote several things, but summed up with a few comments that I feel are important to Sharkforum and the developing changes in the artworld in Chicago, Europe and elsewhere. Thoughts I would like to repeat here, since I finally gathered them all together. I also posted a version to Sharkforum in Chicago and NYC, where it engendered a lively debate among a group of artists and critics.
I find Europe in general and Switzerland in particular to be a fabulous place to live. I found Chicago likewise a quite stimulating city. The artworld itself in Chicago ---- or the artworld itself in my chosen beautiful home in the eastern part of Switzerland --- that is, well, another story. One which arises here often --- and perhaps thereby it is changing. You know the story --- whether Nottingham, Chicago, Switzerland, Cologne, hell even London or NYC, it's the same. Everything is "good enough" --- but that's it. We artists have hardly lived in more secure times for us financially, many of us even have a good measure of success, so my complaints are NOT sour grapes. I'm doing very well. BUT I am NOT blind and will not pretend to be so, as seems to be demanded of artists nowadays. We live in a moribund, academic, mannerist, in short kiss-ass-ly boring, artworld.
Beyond complaint, though --- what will be the NEXT steps for Sharks and their allies and kin? In short:
What can we do to improve the situation?
First of all, make extremely high quality art. Particularly with well-honed technical abilities. If you DO NOT now have these skills, this is NO surprise as they are seldom taught in art schools any more. But GET them. That ability can not be denied nor taken away from us and will outlive many an overblown curator justification.
Second, openly criticize the situation. Step on toes. Stop kissing butt.
Third, offer and create constructive alternatives, even perhaps to the point of creating your own artworlds, venues and so on. Attempt to add a positive answer to every correct criticism you level.
Fourth, encourage others who do the same. Help build critics and curators and especially other artists who pay attention to what is around them, who have independent minds, who are more than simply careerist toadies. Even support your "enemies" (to an extent) if they finally seem to see the light. Just don't trust them behind your back.
Fifth, network in a POSITIVE sense, even internationally. And that's what we are doing now.
Sixth, leave doors open. Tell the truth, be upset about hypocrisy, but be willing to "let it go" if they improve, if the purveyors of pedantry and their groupies gain consciousness or make overtures toward reparation.
I have added the comment-discussion from the Sharkforum site (click on "comments" below), since I think it will be inetersting to the audience here too.