Monday, January 26, 2015

Artistic Disclosure

Last week I really hit a frustrated wall. Earlier in my development, such a wall would generally inspire me to give up. It was the result of basically not working on a comic for 3 years. Doing art that was almost exclusively figure san ground.

I had three panels to draw which I assumed would be no big deal, without giving anything away they are:

A woman sitting at her desk looking bored (face not visible)
A woman inspecting an item before putting it in her shopping basket (face not visible)
A woman waiting for a bus. (face not visible)

Not exactly mind blowing or groundbreaking stuff. But when I sat down to draw, it didn't come easily.

In fact the first one only came together yesterday. Here though is how wildly shit spirals out of control for me.

First I assume that I can draw it, it will come easily it's just a matter of sitting at a desk and putting pencil to paper. That doesn't happen, then I realise I don't know how to draw. Or more specifically, I only know how to draw a narrow range of things. I'm going to have to learn how to do this shit, from scratch.

Second, I start to compare myself to successful artists, established artists, then more generally the relative strategic position of everyone my age. I start to appraise the exact predicament I am in if my pathway to success is suddenly proved unviable.

Thirdly, I panic, and realise I have no retreat. My fall-back has lapsed. What I have to do has to work, and if it doesn't I am royally screwed.

I am, in other words, fucked. Completely fucked.

But these are all thoughts, normally kept private. The second position is actually where all the damage is, the third one while still being a negative illusion actually is the start of the solution. When you realise you have no retreat, you just breath out, let go of whatever easy vision you expected to happen and figure you are just going to have to take longer and do it harder than you expected.

For any comparison to be both valid and helpful, the only real thing that could differ between me and my comparative is luck. And that don't matter. They will be just as vulnerable to future misfortune as I am lacking in past fortune. Comparison is really useless.

What's confronting I guess is that I have a real job as an artist. There's stuff I need to get done, and sometimes I don't know how to do it. My job is to just figure out how to get some task accomplished.

I figured out these panels eventually. It wasn't pretty, but I did it.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Inconsolable Grief

You are standing at a party in a corner, looking at your conversation options and feeling bored already. Suddenly somebody you don't know and don't trust approaches you and offers you a pill for $30. He calls it 'IG' or inconsolable grief.

You take the pill, and then once it kicks in you will experience a perfect simulation of inconsolable grief for 6 hours. Then you sober up and you are assuredly fine. It just triggers the exact same nuerobiological reaction as losing something precious to you does. Without the actual loss.

Now, I would have my misgivings about taking that pill. Namely the $30, and better things I can spend it on. Also because I don't know this guy and don't trust him at all. And even my friends that I do trust I don't trust enough to get their drug supplies from somebody who should be trusted. I would also feel misgivings about arbitrarily building some association with something that happens to be around and inconsolable grief. I don't think XTC or MDMA works that way anyways, and if you hadn't clicked I'm more or less describing the exact opposite of MDMA.

The experience has more appeal to me. And I suspect, and know of at least one other, there are persons who like me are more interested in exploring the depths rather than the heights.

Such a drug has medical predecessors too. Namely the practice of mithridatism, which goes way back to it's namesake where you ingested non-lethal doses of poison to build up over time an immunity to poison. Much like fucking honey badgers can't be fucked with once they are grown, even with snakes and hornets and shit, they will just pass out for a bit and then get back to eating those snakes and hornets.

I don't have many good reasons not to try MDMA, I kind of just didn't feel like it in the end. Even if it offered a potential spiritual awakening. The only real reason I'd have now is that I don't like the idea of getting to unwrap all my Christmas presents without it being Christmas day. I don't in other words want to feel what it's like to have achieved something really great, maybe even impossibly great, without having to actually achieve those impossibly great things.

If I had PTSD I might contemplate experimenting with it. But I don't.

I'd have no objection though to experiencing something really terrible, without anything terrible having happened. I would look forward to the Sunday morning, not the Saturday night when I'm crying over a sandwich platter at the party. It would be to wake up the next day and say 'that was horrible, and it was alright.'

And drugs aside, I think we do have in pretty much any given moment a choice between IG and XTC. Not to those extremes of emotion, But generally it's always suffering now, to make the rest of the future easier, or pleasure now, suffering later.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015


I can draw and listen at the same time. I can draw and converse at the same time.

I can't read and listen at the same time. I can't converse and read at the same time. 

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Casting Call

I remember hearing, I think, a triple J reviewer commenting on I Am Sam, and I basically took their opinion and that was mine.

It was this: I Am Sam, featuring Sean Penn in the titular role of Sam a downs syndrome single father. Also featured  in the same film were several actors in the role of Sam's friends, who actually had downs syndrome. The reviewer and I said for a long time (because honestly, how often does the need to rethink I Am Sam come up?) - why couldn't they have given the lead role to someone who actually had Downs Syndrome? The movie itself clearly proved that there were capable actors.

I thought it a valid argument, and on one level, the point is valid. But the money isn't.

You are or I am, thinking about with the following erroneous assumption - we are going to see the film. We see the film, and we are pleased to see a person with Downs Syndrome in a lead role of a feature film. Why couldn't I Am Sam have been made without Sean Penn?

Now think like an executive producer. You don't even have to be subjective about it. I Am Sam has probably been made with an actual downs syndrome lead many times, possibly a couple of times a year. Just nobody saw it, there was nothing there to sell the film, it never got earmarked for any kind of budget or any kind of release.

Find a way to put Sean Penn into that film though, and people are going to see it. See it and get offended. But they see it. As an EP that's a better outcome than the movie getting made and people not seeing it but being glad that it exists.

There is no big-ticket downs syndrome actor.

Move on to present day casting controversies. The new Moses biopic. It got compared to the Dreamworks Animated feature 'The Prince of Egypt' that I believe was a commercial success, the first judeo-religious film to do such in a long time and featured characters that looked like North Africans. Voices were done by African American celebrities like Mariah Carey and so forth.

The new live-action one features nobody that looks north african, or even African-American. It has Christian Bale in the lead role and Joel Edgerton as the lead antagonist. It makes hollywood look like it's going backwards, undoing the Prince of Egypt and getting back to Charlton Heston as Moses days. At best that live action hasn't progressed since Heston played Moses.

That's thinking in terms of social progress though, and not in terms of money. Recast the film with the biggest black names Hollywood has to offer, Denzel, Samuel L Jackson, go younger, Idris Elba, Anthony Mackie - there are great black actors out there to cast.

I don't know shit, but I would wager - that even with an Oscar winner like Denzel, there is a bottom line impact having an all black cast does to the box office. Oprah Winfrey's Beloved adaptation comes to mind.

Thus as ridiculous as it sounds if you had put Tom Cruise in Denzel's role for Training day, some EP would have one less Oscar and if stories are to be believed, $14 million dollars richer. And I would guess they would have done it if they could. I'm guessing Cruise can only do so many films a year and doesn't vet for roles that are really ridiculous for him to fill.

If you can't see where I'm going, or rather, have gone, I saw today on a tumblr feed I follow that 'Ghost In The Shell' is getting made into a live action adaptation, and Scarlett Johansen has been cast in the lead. some celebrity or somebody I don't know tweeted that they should have cast the girl from Pacific Rim to play the role.

Firstly, Ghost in the Shell doesn't need to be adapted into live action at all. It has very little potential to be improved by the experience. The only reason you make that film, or live action 101 Dalmatians, or Watchmen is to make money.

There's no artistic need to earmark the budget and time and talent to take a risk on 'Ghost In The Shell' it's low risk. It's almost certain to be not as good as the original. The Matrix borrowed heavily from Ghost In The Shell, and you know it blew SFX wide fucken open, so you definitely don't stand to gain much from LA Ghost in The Shell. Except to shake down nerds for their cash.

So you may as well cast a big name who's played an agent in the Avengers Marvel Franchise and cast her in the lead. And as an EP rue that the lead couldn't be played by Tom Cruise, who notably played the lead in Edge of Tomorrow, also adapted from Japanese IP.

In case though, you think I am saying that this doesn't make film casting a racist enterprise, let me be clear. It is. It is completely racist.

But the executive producers are doing their job, and I fail to think on the spot of an affirmative action solution. Maybe if the US Gov. guaranteed box office returns for ethnicly appropriate casting? Maybe. And maybe that is actually worth doing.

But the racist is the movie goer. And it's as racist as the fashion industry. It's a racist phenomena that has gone on so long, it has become entrenched. Such that other ethnic groups accept white models selling fashion to them, and white leads acting out their history. But not the reverse.

For some reason, a bunch of people will fork over $20 to see a white man play moses, a white man play a retard and a white woman play a Japanese special agent, but not the reverse.

And I don't believe in consumer activism.So there's your fucken problem pending a solution.

Thursday, January 01, 2015

A Serious Comparison

What's the difference betwixt this:

And this?:

The answer be $$$. In the 1973 the Pollock piece was purchased for $1.3 million. I don't know if it was from the artist directly, I don't know what Pollock or his estate made out of it. The thing with art is that in most cases, art transactions are secondary market, meaning they have nothing to do with the person who made it.

According to Wikipedia, Number 11 or 'The Blue Poles' has been valued somewhere between $20-100 million.

By contrast Hello Kitty as of 2010 was worth $5 billion a year. Pollock paintings are reproduced too, I'm sure. Postcards, dish cloths etc. Hello Kitty is probably literally everything. Licensing is huge. The only way you could outdo Hello Kitty in licensing revenues was if you owned the question mark or some shit.

See many artists want to be the Rolls Royce of automobiles. A noble pursuit, but think of the Toyota Camry. Rolls Royce got broke, bought. Toyota Camry the highest selling car model in the world. Y

If you want to go pro, and not just indulge yourself some self-pity, masochism, consider trying to become the Toyota Camry of artists.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Things Look Bad Because They Are Bad

“It is a predisposition of human nature to consider an unpleasant idea untrue, and then it is easy to find arguments against it.” - Sigmund Freud

I started blogging way back because of an epiphany handed to me by an employee of Foster's Group. That concept was the Johari window, and without rehashing too much, the Johari window has four panes. Things known to the self but not to others, things known to the self and to others, things unknown to both self and others and most relevantly things unknown to the self but known to others.

This last pane is referred to as our blindspot. It is where we are all most vulnerable. Crucially its contents are almost impossible to perceive ourselves, it is literally a blind spot of self knowledge. It exists though, I am convinced. By second order thinking at least.

How to tap into it? It's tricky, what you need to do is actually listen and entertain that what is being said about you may be truer than what you believe about yourself.

In the above case of divergent tales of shoplifters, you could attack and deny that this is about race. Firstly you could suspect selection bias is going on. Somebody has taken a particularly bad case of injustice involving an African American woman, and then taken a particularly bad case of injustice (in the opposite direction) involving a white woman and created a quite extreme contrast.

So you just google 'white woman shot for shoplifting' and look for all the ignored cases where a white woman has been gunned down after an initial suspicion of shoplifting. And you get nothing. Well you get a parody piece about Winona Ryder getting shot in an alternative universe LA. But it didn't happen, it never happens.

You could then argue it's a class divide not a race divide. Not a good argument because you are saying that stealing tens of dollars worth of Wal Mart merchandise is apparently mandate for being executed in front of your children where $1,600 is an appearance in court for a reprimand and (probably) a fine.

But again, you'd expect Wal Mart customers to get shot more often, and you would expect that a white woman would have been shot by a mall cop in that case. Australia is like 90% white, and catching the 109 tram along it's junkie stretch exposes one to plenty of mighty hostile white women. I know they exist, I know they have altercations with police, I know they generally only get shot when they charge an officer with a knife.

Do you see what I'm doing though? I'm raising those arguments against an unpleasant truth as Freud said was done so easily and dismissing them. As if they have to be argued. And they kind of do, because it's very unpleasant to admit that you are a part of institutionalised racism.

Because I suspect, it doesn't feel like you are. This off duty cop moonlighting as Wal Mart security was performing his job, a woman was suspected of shoplifting so he chased her down in his car. They had an altercation that was presumably hostile enough (in the manners sense) to escalate. And he pulled out his gun and shot the lady.

To him I would guess (and being charitable) having never identified as racist, this seemed like an isolated incident where the victim happened to be black.

Here's where it is hard to see your blind spot. If it was circumstantial, an isolated and unfortunate event, and everyone believed that, then he would get thrown under the bus. Scapegoated for appearances sake. Why? Because the officers around him, above him would be thinking 'that guy was unlucky.' not 'that could easily have been me, I can relate to that situation.'

The legal system is protecting these officers, because they need for some reason to protect the ability to kill African Americans so that officers can carry out their jobs. So that officers will continue to work.

It seems nobody in authority can come out and say 'Coast to coast it is absolutely unacceptable that any citizen be killed as the result of a verbal altercation over a suspected minor misdemeanor. Or a verbal altercation period.' You could say this, because it's true. This would then force the police that really care about getting a pass for doing this to take up a position that would quickly and transparently be overtly racist.

This, thusly, is my only tip, and probably the only real thing you can take away from it. We are what we do. Not what we think. If things look bad, it's because they are. The tricky thing is, that if what you are being told contradicts your subjective reality, you need to realise that you are living in everyone else's subjective reality too. And that might give you a picture of what objective reality actually is.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Rock breaks Scissors!

For many of my friends, the go to gift for me is a sketchbook. You know when they want to get me something, but something appropriate to our relationship - it's a sketchbook.

This used to be a crushing gift, internally crushing. Namely because I have been accumulating sketchbooks/visual diaries etc faster than I can fill them. It is pretty true to say that a visual diary usually takes me 1+ year to fill.

But since moving into a studio, I have just about filled a sketchbook this month alone. I am now looking at my stockpile and thinking I don't have enough.

This is a dramatic change in practice for me - I have never worked hard before, at least not on my art practice itself, and not in any structured and lasting way. It is true that I tend to blitz out my exhibitions, doing 11 hour days for a couple of weeks to churn out 30-40 pieces.

Why confess this? Because I don't really believe in hard work. I'm one of those 10,000 hour rule haters. I don't really believe in natural talent either. Which leaves what I do believe in -

I believe in vision. Vision may comply to the 10,000 hour rule for all I know. It's just that my theory is that vision is generated from just leading your fairly ordinary life. It is the product of observation and introspection. It is from these efforts that ideas are generated.

Then enter the old dichotomy - idea and execution. I saw via the miracle of youtube Larry David Aing Qs at the New Yorker Festival, somebody asked him 'idea or execution?' and he responded 'without the idea there's nothing to execute, so I'll have to go with idea on that one.' or near enough to it. I feel like I have seen plenty of stuff that was all execution, no idea.

And given how sporadic I've become at writing here, I would be surprised if I've never shared this long held opinion or not, but to me I dislike the 10,000 hour rule because it is risk-averse. It reduces success to hard work. 10,000 hours of deliberative practice. And when I say 'it reduces' the it is the risk averse readership, not Gladwell, not the book Outliers. It was a simple and appealing (for many) concept that could be latched onto while ignoring the rest.

I hold that art is such that nobody can say what it is or isn't. Anyone can identify as an artist and perhaps far more people should that don't. (Subway employees are 'sandwich artists' and you know , why the fuck not?) But I am Drucker's man through and through, skeptical of any new-ageish views of business. And if art is your business, then you the artist have one job - to create an audience. I see many people that have done their 10,000 hours in their given medium that don't create an audience.

Here's something I'm glad somebody just came out and said:

Look at the current contemporary art world: that is what happens when you cease to be meaningful to your audience, and it's not pretty no matter how much it convinces you it is.
 Though much of contemporary art could be criticized for it's lack of execution as well, that's the unpretty part. I don't see much contemporary art because I saw a lot in New York, and I am cured of any desire to see it again. So I guess I must concede that all execution is preferable to neither idea nor execution being present.

My direct experience though, is that people would rather see what you are trying to do than not see it at all. Also given how quickly you lose your own objectivity producing arts, people may think you succeeded in your execution - and if the idea gets across, then you did I guess. In theory installation art should be the most perfect medium for this, have a great idea chuck some objects in a room that represent it and anybody can be a great artist. The stumbling block for most installation art is having a great idea in the first place.

The other thing is encoding that idea into objects in a room, which when I think about it is an almost impossible way to communicate. How many times have you walked into a sitting room and by the lay out of the furniture said 'Oh my god there's trouble at the old mill!' I put my money on Lassie being able to communicate that sooner than installation.

Many artists, just don't need to create art to get their idea across. Stats tell me about 8 people on average see my posts, that's more than many audiences I've seen attend an exhibition, and in particular sit through an audio/visual installation.

Generally these people will look at the different coloured chairs lying on their sides and then turn to the artist statement on the wall to see if they can derive any meaning from it. The artists statements are often 10,000 words or more explaining convoluted high-brow concepts in convoluted ways.

Just ditch the actually piece and post your artist statement on a blog, like this. Link it to facebook you'll probably get 30 hits or so. The idea is the only part of any real interest, no matter how much it tries to convince us the actual installation is.

And if the idea is shit, then no great work is going to come out of it. Posting it as a blog entry rather than forking out rent for a gallary space to install something that costs people time and effort to come see, can help shake down to whether your idea is of any interest in the first place.

I think I've reached a stage where I know two things:

1.) I have more ideas I want to execute than I have time to execute them. I do not struggle for ideas or inspiration.
2.) I am curious as to how good I could be if I just did some work.

In other words, I'm working in a studio now because the ideas come effortlessly, it is as such time for me to dawdle a bit and actually practice the craft, because it can entertain me, challenge me. I can't relate to the aspirant who has secluded and shut themsleves away since they were 15-16 and practiced on end because that is safer than going out there and bleating out your ideas to be accepted or rejected.

No sir, I don't roll with the 'So-good-they-have-to-notice-you' crowd, largely because they don't.