That’s what I’m calling this week’s radio show. I think you can hear it if you click below…
Here’s the official announcement for this week’s show. I’m scared because I’m going to be broadcasting LIVE! (yikes!) and talking about why I voted the way I did in the BiW competition. I’ll also be playing music that I originally intended to play at the Warhol party a few weeks ago when my internet completely gave up the ghost. So, yay!
Arthole Radio airs this Wednesday 29th July with shows from Arahan Claveau, Amy Freelunch and the welcome return of Nebulosus Severine after a two month absence.
We start broadcasting as usual from 1pm Second Life time.
(1pm US/PDT / 9pm UK/BST / 4pm US/EDT).
Listen live at the Arthole gallery in Second Life or open this link in your media player.
Show archives here.
Thanks for listening!
I was one of the judges in the Brooklyn is Watching Top Five. I am really, really hesitant to write about my experiences participating in that process, because to be honest, I’m just glad the whole thing is over with. I know, for instance, that there are some hurt feelings about who got in and who didn’t, and I don’t want to extend that kind of unpleasantness.
However, one of the most positive parts of the entire BiW project has been its transparency – that anyone could drop off a work on the sim, have it looked at and listen in to the critique panel as they thought and reasoned aloud about the work. Being able to view this process was key – learning how one of the panelists came to like or dislike a work was much more helpful to the artist (and those interested in SL art) than simply being told a “thumbs up” or “thumbs down.” Or so I felt.
So the entire idea of a secret judging panel that steps in and confers in private, emerging only to announce a list of the Top Five artists seemed… weird, and very much against the spirit of the entire project. But this is how the process operated. In the end, I think that was a huge mistake.
I want this article to be a critique on the administration of the competition as it took place in this particular set of circumstances. The larger question of “how does one judge a work of art in SL” is good, but not something I want to take on right now.
I have been on several other panels like this one in RL, and inevitably what happens is this: The judges create a list of artworks/artists they would like to see win whatever prize is at stake, then they get together and meet and discuss their lists. First all the votes are tallied up and then all the judges are told, “Ok, if we go to press now, this is how the list will read. Are you ok with that?” Each judge then weighs in, in front of the group, if they are or if they aren’t, and no one leaves the room until everyone is satisfied with how the list reads.
That’s not how things happened with this competition. Not only was the process shielded from the public, but it was mostly shielded from the judges as well. The directions we were given was that we were free to talk to one another if we liked, but we didn’t have to if we didn’t want to. Maybe in theory that makes sense, but in practice getting five busy adults in different time zones who don’t know each other at all (two of the judges asked me what my SL name was – that’s how much we didn’t know each other) to come together over a potentially sticky situation… well, it doesn’t work. Any attempts I tried to talk informally with the other judges failed miserably. (To be fair, I totally understand why that is. This whole contest is a political minefield and suddenly, here comes this woman you’ve never heard of and she wants to discuss your votes with you. I can see how, if you don’t have to talk about it, you might not want to.)
When we were emailed who the Top Four were (there was a tie for 5th place, and so another mostly-secret vote ensued), I was completely speechless and crushed. Except for one of the participants, it bore absolutely no resemblance to the list I had compiled. In particular the style of art I am most interested in being supportive of in SL (work with strong emotional or political overtones) was pretty underrepresented. Again, this is something that, had we been told we had to come up with a list together, we could have talked it out and made sure everyone was happy with how the final list read.
But my biggest surprise was who hadn’t made the Top Five; I was really shocked that Ichibot Nishi wasn’t somewhere on the list. So I inquired a bit and found out something that really horrified me.
The way the voting was tallied (again, this was all done away from the judges, so I don’t know exactly how it happened) was that each vote for an individual artist equaled a vote for that artist, but each vote for a collaborative team equaled a vote for that team (not for the artists in the team). Which means, in effect, that artists that entered collaborative works along with individual works were essentially running against themselves. By having one solo work by Ichibot, one solo work by Arahan, and a collaborative work by both of them, their votes got split. I voted for “Beyond Human,” and – not understanding this nuance in the rules – decided that to be fair, I shouldn’t spend another vote on either Ichibot or Arahan again and instead should include someone else.
This doesn’t really make any sense. Assume for a moment that DanCoyote had two pieces in the final. No single judge would vote for both of them when you only get five votes and there’s so many other people to choose from. But if DC and Neb collaborate, the rules get really fuzzy. Do you really want to vote for a collaborative piece and then also vote for both collaborators separately? That means have spent three votes on two artists, and you only have two votes left and 28 pieces to choose from… which doesn’t seem really fair.
The next issue was that concerning Gazira’s place. I’m very unclear as to how all that came together (I know that she is on vacation but, given that her work was entered into the Top 30, did she not realize the Top 5 was on its way? Is it really so impossible to contact someone on vacation in Italy?). I don’t know anything about the conversation that was had between the organizers and her going into the Top 30 or since then. Was her not responding to requests to get back in touch with the competition her way of intentionally snubbing it? Was she out of the loop in a very temporary sort of way and will be back in a day or two? I honestly have no idea. I understand and support Jay’s desire to get this all sorted out as quickly as possible so as to give the replacing artist as much time as possible… but I’m also missing an awful lot of information. I might feel differently if I knew more (maybe; maybe not? That’s the problem with missing information – you don’t know). Another vote was held without any real conversation between the judges; there was a tie among four of us, and then without any discussion in the group, the fifth judge cast their vote and we had a winner. The whole situation left me feeling very unhappy.
Here’s the bottom line problem with the competition and possibly, Brooklyn is Watching as a project: It simply isn’t anyone’s full-time job. Jay is a very busy guy who runs his own company; he lacks the experience working in arts administration to know how things like this normally function. His heart is absolutely in the right place and I truly believe he operates with the best intentions in mind. But ultimately, there’s no one running the ship who has the necessary experience needed and time set aside to see that things go smoothly and that everyone is treated fairly. The process instead got rushed and when things get rushed, they often go wrong.
To be blunt: I regret having agreed to be a judge. I think the Top Five as it stands will be a very strong primer to the potential of SL art for an audience unfamiliar with it, but I wish it was handled better and in a way that I felt more comfortable with. Chances are, the audience viewing the work will know nothing about this controversy and instead will simply see five great works of art by five great artists. But that doesn’t diminish the problems I personally have with the way the competition was handled and it doesn’t make me feel any better about the process.
I’m going to close with my personal Top Five. I can explain why I chose them and so forth in a future article, if anyone cares to know.
1. NEBULOSUS SEVERINE, I’m Sorry Dad
2. SELAVY OH, Attractive Art
3. ICHIBOT NISHI & ARAHAN CLAVEAU, Beyond Human
4. RACHEL BREAKER, MAGICENCHANTED DREAM FACTORYNOBASE
5. ALIZARIN GOLDFLAKE, The Maze
From the Arthole Blog:
Arthole Radio returns this month with an exciting line-up of music, chat and very special guests.
Arahan Claveau has asked a number of Second Life artists to select a favourite piece of music, the artists themselves will introduce each track and talk about what inspired their choices. Guests include AM Radio, Adam Ramona, AngryBeth Shortbread, DanCoyote Antonelli, Dekka Raymaker, Dizzy Banjo, Douglas Story, Gore Suntzu, Klink Epsilon, Misprint Thursday, Nebulosus Severine, Oberon Onmura, Penumbra Carter, Sabine Stonebender, Selavy Oh, Tanith Catteneo, Tuna Oddfellow and Juria Yoshikawa.
Nebulosus Severine will discuss some of her recent art findings both on the web and in Second Life, interspersed with a selection of her current favourite tunes.
Amy Freelunch‘s show will feature a conversation with Jeff Edwards discussing his graduate thesis for the Masters in Art Criticism & Writing program at the School of Visual Arts. There will also be a short lecture given on German artist Gerhard Richter‘s Baader-Meinhof series of paintings, delivered by a robot.
To listen to the live broadcast copy and paste this link into your media player: http://slan13.ipr365.com:10320
(e.g. in Windows Media Player press CTRL+U or in iTunes CMD+U)
*after the live broadcast recordings of the shows will be available in the archives.
What’s more: my show features a contest this month! Yes! It’s your opportunity to win a very special prize, even if I’m not sure what that prize is. Tune in to hear my frazzled, hurried voice describe the details during my show.
Also, I am bringing my computer to the shop next week to get fixed. Between that and the semester ending, I ought to be out of my Second Life exile and a little back to what I’d like to be doing… talking about SL art. May should be a fun month.
This month’s Arthole broadcast of the Amy Freelunch Hour contains a lengthy conversation between me and Selavy Oh. The interview started in November and sort of trailed over to just last weekend! In it, Selavy talks a lot about this idea of embodiment of one’s avatar, the relationship of SL art to the history of art, and (am I too corny in saying this?) much, much more!
But don’t just tune in to my show… check out Arahan and Nebulousus’s shows as well. Here is the schedule for Wednesday, Feb 25:
Arahan Claveau: 9pm UK/GMT (4pm EST/1pm PST)
Amy Freelunch: 10.30pm UK/GMT (5.30pm EST/2.30pm PST)
Nebulosus Severine: 9pm US/EST (6pm PST/2am UK/GMT)
Amy Freelunch: 10.30pm US/EST (7.30pm PST/3.30 am UK/GMT)
Show archives here.
My very many apologies for dragging my feet on this – never meant it to take so long. But without further ado, here is Camp and SL, part three of the “Kitsch and SL” series.
If pinning down a definition of kitsch seems difficult, try camp – it’s made even tougher by so little being written about the subject that tries to lay out a definition. Kitsch fans have the Kulka book to refer to for what is probably as close of a definition as we will get and he does a great job at naming a few qualities which together add up to kitsch. But those wondering what camp is have to contend with Susan Sontag’s 1964 essay Notes on Camp, which lays out no less than fifty-eight criteria (“jottings,” the author calls them) for what she is discussing. Bringing in references from art, design, popular culture, literature, and architecture, it’s completely possible the reader may wind up with a slightly more confused picture of what camp is at the conclusion of the essay than when she first started.
But before we go any further, it might be helpful to consider what sort of relationship do kitsch and camp have, and what we can say about camp having (maybe) gotten a grasp on kitsch. I’m going out on a limb here, but from my reading of Sontag and others, I would suggest that an artist knowingly appropriating kitsch from the larger culture is inevitably participating in camp; and that camp has a sense of self-consciousness to it, which is to say that the artist knows exactly what he or she is doing by incorporating this kind of taste (Sontag quotes Wilde several times, my favorite being: “To be natural is such a very difficult pose to keep up” from An Ideal Husband).
The creator of true kitsch and the true audience of (true) kitsch (in this case I’m talking about something like Thomas Kincade) must be joined by the desire to have a universal experience – to “be moved, together with all mankind” as Kulka quotes. The creator of a work of camp is pitching to a much smaller audience. It is to an audience that understands that the drag queen might look like an ugly man stuffed into a woman’s dress, but understands also that there is beauty in that. The drag queen fools no one – no one looking at her believes for a moment that she is a woman. But a sympathetic audience’s eyes are trained to see simultaneously the ugly man as well as the glitter and the falsies, to see the drag queen’s humanity and individuality as well as her artifice.
But here are a few of those jottings that I’ll relate to the piece we’re discussing, which is Ichibot and Arahan’s Beyond Human, which was recently installed at BiW, as well as the experience of being in SL as a whole.
10. Camp sees everything in quotation marks. It’s not a lamp, but a “lamp”; not a woman, but a “woman.” To perceive Camp in objects and persons is to understand Being-as-Playing-a-Role. It is the farthest extension, in sensibility, of the metaphor of life as theater.
>This can be said of all of Second Life. But what artists like I/A do by knowingly incorporating kitschy objects and references into their work is turn the mirror back on the world it’s in.
Take for example the entire snow-globe environment that is used as a framing device for this piece:
We all know that the snow that falls in SL is “fake” – it isn’t actual snow but rather pixels on a screen. But what we have here is an exaggeration of that – it’s not even realistic-looking (even by SL standards) snow that sticks to the ground; it refers to a toy that encases inside itself a fake environment that you can hold in your hand. Placing a snowglobe in SL is like placing a pink flamingo on your lawn – you’re not fooling anyone into thinking it’s somehow a real thing. So the piece begins by being entirely in quotation marks, from the moment you enter it.
23. In naïve, or pure, Camp, the essential element is seriousness, a seriousness that fails. Of course, not all seriousness that fails can be redeemed as Camp. Only that which has the proper mixture of the exaggerated, the fantastic, the passionate, and the naïve.
Quotes are scattered throughout the piece, which seem to refer to some sort of religious text. The use of these passages points to the piece having a beating heart – there is an actual message the artists are getting at, even if it’s obscure. The language of religious dogma which tends to be “exaggerated… fantastic… passionate… naïve” fits perfectly into an overall vocabulary of camp – and the artist’s appropriation of it is their bid for seriousness. You can’t help but be struck by the how genuine the quotes sound, even if you know deep down that they refer to something the artists find insidious.
26. Camp is art that proposes itself seriously, but cannot be taken altogether seriously because it is “too much.”
How else to approach a subject like religion other than to do so in a way that is “too much”? A piece created to be against organized religion that has been placed in a Chelsea gallery speaks to an audience that probably already is anti-organized-religion – honestly, what would the point be? But here, but putting this work that is “too much” into SL, we are also reminded of how pretty much everything in SL is “too much.”
34. Camp taste turns its back on the good-bad axis of ordinary aesthetic judgment. Camp doesn’t reverse things. It doesn’t argue that the good is bad, or the bad is good. What it does is to offer for art (and life) a different — a supplementary — set of standards.
I suggest that placing in this snowglobe such a variety of objects – happy flowers, melting bodies, a rainbow, the back of a naked man – the artists have leveled the meaning attributed to the individual items and makes us reconsider them in light of one another.
35. Ordinarily we value a work of art because of the seriousness and dignity of what it achieves. We value it because it succeeds – in being what it is and, presumably, in fulfilling the intention that lies behind it. We assume a proper, that is to say, straightforward relation between intention and performance. By such standards, we appraise The Iliad, Aristophanes’ plays, The Art of the Fugue, Middlemarch, the paintings of Rembrandt, Chartres, the poetry of Donne, The Divine Comedy, Beethoven’s quartets, and – among people – Socrates, Jesus, St. Francis, Napoleon, Savonarola. In short, the pantheon of high culture: truth, beauty, and seriousness.
This work points to truth, beauty, and seriousness, while flaunting all those things – it’s aware of all those things, but in the end tells them to fuck off. By placing them in this environment so filled with artifice, the artists are taunting you to take them seriously… when they know you really can’t.
36. But there are other creative sensibilities besides the seriousness (both tragic and comic) of high culture and of the high style of evaluating people. And one cheats oneself, as a human being, if one has respect only for the style of high culture, whatever else one may do or feel on the sly.
For instance, there is the kind of seriousness whose trademark is anguish, cruelty, derangement. Here we do accept a disparity between intention and result. I am speaking, obviously, of a style of personal existence as well as of a style in art; but the examples had best come from art. Think of Bosch, Sade, Rimbaud, Jarry, Kafka, Artaud, think of most of the important works of art of the 20th century, that is, art whose goal is not that of creating harmonies but of overstraining the medium and introducing more and more violent, and unresolvable, subject-matter. This sensibility also insists on the principle that an oeuvre in the old sense (again, in art, but also in life) is not possible. Only “fragments” are possible. . . . Clearly, different standards apply here than to traditional high culture. Something is good not because it is achieved, but because another kind of truth about the human situation, another experience of what it is to be human – in short, another valid sensibility — is being revealed.
And third among the great creative sensibilities is Camp: the sensibility of failed seriousness, of the theatricalization of experience. Camp refuses both the harmonies of traditional seriousness, and the risks of fully identifying with extreme states of feeling.
Again, I refer to the snowglobe as the ultimate fake environment, and would like to add to that the rainbow that is projected off of the large, white (serious!) cross. The experience of walking through it is at the same time both lowered and raised to the experience of the theatrical. Walking around it, you are acutely aware that you are in the middle of a set – as if it were a set for a play or movie, and yet there is something so off about it, that it makes you veer between being moved by it and being totally removed.
43. The traditional means for going beyond straight seriousness – irony, satire – seem feeble today, inadequate to the culturally oversaturated medium in which contemporary sensibility is schooled. Camp introduces a new standard: artifice as an ideal, theatricality.
44. Camp proposes a comic vision of the world. But not a bitter or polemical comedy. If tragedy is an experience of hyperinvolvement, comedy is an experience of underinvolvement, of detachment.
What got me most about the critiques of this piece is that its sense of humor was ignored – I mean, my god, you have fetal bugs, naked men, rainbows, crosses, dollar signs falling from the sky, religious quotes, and possibly the fakest sun I have ever seen beaming down on you as you walk through it all. And what I most like about this work (and I think this brings us right back to camp) is how it refers to the futility of its being – it dares to ask the question, So what if two guys make a piece attacking organized religion in SL? and to hear the answer, which is Absolutely nothing at all.
Ok, that’s what I’ve got – ultimately, I feel as though I rushed this last part of the articles, but so it goes. I look forward to hearing what you have to say.
What happens when installing a museum show and the deadline for a paid writing gig collide?
You lose all sight of your SL art blog. Radio show too.
Sorry guys… lemme get through the next couple of days dealing with RL shit and I will be back to talking camp and SL and other related things. But for now, all I can do is tread water with all the things that are ripping me in ten million different directions.