S P A C E Investigates: ‘Um. This is… Bad Art’

OK. I have to say. This is not easy to write. It just… feels like a rant-y title, already, and I do not want to go into that. But I have to sort of give it to the people who critique art as a thing that’s ridiculous and out of touch with reality: because yesterday, I too, had the sinking feeling like there was no hope now. That if this was considered, what a group of people who make and do and call themselves creatives would label as ‘art,’ then those of us who have warmed to the idea of calling ourselves ‘artists’ are actually kinda just, well, for lack of a better word, f-d.

People all my life told me to do the practical things, the kinds of jobs where you go to a place and sit there and sometime, someone will give you a piece of paper in an envelope with a little window that has your name on it, and inside of this envelope, on that paper, there will also be some numbers that assign you to some kind of ‘social security’ system (let’s see if it’s still there later), and some so-called ‘benefits,’ and other small numbers and tags that let you know that they know things about you that you do not need to be informed of, specifically, suffice to say you are logged into the system, cog in the wheel, or as Pink Floyd said, ‘another brick in the wall…’ We don’t need no education. We don’t need no mind control…


‘It’s just bad though’

Bad art. I have had this argument for 20 years with Bicycle.

I have said, ‘I do not have patience for this.’

Bicycle said, ‘If people want to make it, why not let them make it? Expression is cool.’ That was 1995. More recently, ‘If people want to make it, you know, they’re trying things. Why not let them? But you are making this? DK, you have to up the ante here. This is not good art. You have to level this up, this is bad, this is not up to your standards.’

‘But what about what you used to say, about how all people trying to make art is good and all that slop?’

‘Well, that was for them. You? You… I expect more from you.’

Well, okay.




But back to art. Social constructs. Making. The whole creative process thing.

For the first time, last night, I saw the subculture of ‘the Internet people.’ I mean, they were like, really, they were there and it felt like the real-life version of internet-living. Posing, facades, ‘fashion’ and the sinking feeling that some of these people spent days, weeks or maybe even longer picking out the ensembles for their outfits. Their makeup was probably something they found somewhere ‘interesting,’ and rather than express a style that would maybe be considered ‘one’s own expression of self,’ it felt like people wanted to be more and more ‘noteworthy,’ or rather, ‘instagram-worthy,’ than just… being.


A sideshow

The actual artist in me felt like sitting down and just having a strong drink. So I bailed, before anything that no one could talk about what it would be could begin or not-begin, this was the kind of iffy mood that is the real-life version of the flakiness of the internet-era, and yeah, I went into this place and asked for a whiskey. There were about four tables-ful of people mostly of Russian origin, a woman who is a lawyer told me, after telling me her profession, and insisting everyone is ‘good people who like to dance later.’ Hmmm. I forgot it was Friday. This all put me on a bit of an edge as I had had a bit of trouble in that kind of situation before, but it was yet early and so, perhaps, less risky, and not every single person from a country is the same right?, and I sat in the other section, alone at a table, with an 80c beer (which was pretty good) on a table that was round and covered with lacework and reminded me of someone’s B&B in Kinsale, Ireland, ages ago… And from the open door, I could still catch an eyeful of the spectacle before me. The bad art show, I mean.

Watching. Musing. Trying to decide my feelings about it. Some early thirty somethings came in and told me what they thought. That helped. I wasn’t alone in thinking, ‘This is just weird.‘ The people dressed their best, for no other reason than to be seen, and see, and it reminded me for a split second of Mondays in Brooklyn when me and my friend August used to go around to art shows and eat cheese and drink wine and ‘mingle.’ We didn’t know what the hell we were going to talk about, and there was no real reason to, either. But that might be why last night felt awkward: it wasn’t like I wanted to get into deep discussions about anything with anyone, mind, the only people who talked to me were a couple of law students scrolling Tindr and sharing with each other their opinions of how to do that with the most, say, bang, but yeah, there was that feeling of ‘where am I?’ and also the uncomfortable sensation of it… this was not an art opening, I felt. This was… a spectacle. The kind of spectacle that Guy Debord talked about. Where illusions, in streams, can hijack real life… and soon… and this part is me editorializing, the line between what’s real and what’s imagined is blurred… to the point that the real life experience is a projection out of the illusory one… which is just… sad.

And there, I sat. Until someone (old, drunk) approached me and made some kind of proposition which was uncomfortable, too, but in a predictable way. Now the social protocols kicked in. All I had to do was a simple gesture to get rid of him, and you all know what that gesture is, and then, the barwomen helped me out, too, and moments later I’m sitting in the first section, with the people at their tables, occupied and happy and drinking and asking me the questions about who am I and where do I live, and all I want to do is read over the draft of S P A C E | ‘This is This,’ which is a bizarre and cool collaboration I am doing with N, a photozine we worked on together most of yesterday and the day before, because that is the whole point of art, for me, and suffice to say, hanging out talking about art and why we make and how we do it, and the approaches, and the fact that we just have to get in there and make stuff, and the superlative feeling of great love I received when people let me have the space and time to make what I make because they know I will do better when I am not distracted, etc., that is cool, and then, yeah, to go from that to this… spectacle… was daunting.

And sad.


Misty-eyed at sunset

After I left the bar, I walked towards a park, where I knew watching the sunset would make me feel eighteen times better. On the way I ran into L, an actual artist with an actual eye and whose work I really want to explore more. She invited me to something that is going on today. I imagine it will be real art, this time. At least, people trying to make things, because the process is their work, not the spectacle and showiness of the thing that whatever, could be anything, but come and see me, that’s what I felt at the bad art party las night. And said so to L. Who seemed to get me. And that’s why I was able to continue, veering right, instead of left, going not to the park, but to a cafe, where I could sit and think about nothing. A place I go sometimes. A place. A third place. The owner recognizes me now, too. I like it when this happens. Stick around enough and you start to make a circuit. He said, ‘Friday night.’ I was like, ‘For them.’ Everyone who knows me well knows Friday nights are the nights I work. Writing and staying in. Saturdays, too. Though tonight I’m going to have to figure out something else since I don’t have a place to stay… Saturdays… hard. Will wing it. Hope I don’t have to go to a nightclub again. But then again… maybe that’s the people watching I should go and do, instead of these faux ‘art’ moments that turn into ‘maniacal dancing with weird experimental drugs,’ as N reported it was when he got there, after I left.

After the cafe, where I read two sad little articles in a magazine I used to love, I walked, finally, to the park. Still light out. Still able to process. Sit down, think it over. Come to understand there is no conclusion to draw here, that there is just what it is.

This is this.

There it was… the same… simple sentence… as the working title of my draft.

Perhaps, with that inkling, somewhere, in S P A C E, I had written it.