Richard Prince was in some hot water for taking a bunch of Instagram pics, adding comments, then presenting it as his own work and selling it for insane sums of money.
But is he wrong? Or his the message his work communicates saying something important about the times we are living in?
Apophenia is one of my favourite bugs in the human mind.
It describes the way we will so eagerly find patterns or connections in random noise.
Every day, countless random things happen, and a few of them, by chance, repate to other things, and our brain will tell us, “Oh, this is interesting! maybe it’s a sign? maybe it means something? Is the universe trying to tell me something?
No! Of course not. Of the billion things that happen, you are only paying attention to the few that mean something.
Getting dealt a 10 of clubs, king of diamonds, 8 of clubs, 7 of hearts, ace of hearts is just as unlikely as getting dealt a royal flush, but it doesn’t mean anything, so we ignore it.
Sometimes, you don’t have all the information, and you think you see something, but when you go back and get a clearer picture, you realize that you were just seeing things wrongly the first time around; it’s nothing.
Even though I understand what’s going on, I still feel it, and get excited by apophenia.
I had quite the strong case of it the other day; I was sitting in a fancy lobby, waiting to negotiate a new gallery contract.
I was thinking about how well my last show went; how big the turnout was, and how cool it was that Claire Danes, the actress, popped in to the gallery for a few seconds during the opening. My first celebrity spotting at an art show!
As I’m sitting in that lobby, waiting for the gallery owner to come in, I look at the magazine on the coffee table.
Who’s on the cover?
“It must be a sign!” -nope, no, it’s just apophenia.
I still signed with the gallery, though, you know…just in case…
This body of work I’m going to be putting together might make more sense with an understanding of where it’s coming from, and how I got started working in this style.
Back in 2005, I was working a summer job as a landscaper; I knew that come September, I’d be starting my thesis year at art school, and I wanted to hit the ground running, rather than aimlessly wandering between styles and ideas. I laid out all these intricate plans, and mentally sketched out images that I would later paint.
At the time, I was making a lot of work that looked like this. While it doesn’t necessarily photograph all that well, the iridescent and metallic colours glimmer and shift like jewels, creating a very alluring effect. The challenge was integrating this technique into larger images an compositions, rather than the all-over textures I had been producing.
September arrived, and I started testing out my ideas; and every single one of them bombed horribly. Over the next four months, I produced nothing but garbage.
A random rant about something that pisses me off about the art world: concept being used to justify incompetence.
Art dealing with difficult or complex concepts doesn’t bother me, art should be a balance of aesthetics and idea; but what happens when these complex ideas are just a cover for artistic failure, or technical limitations, or incompetence? How can the audience tell the difference between a genuine concept being tacked by an art work and a concept tacked on after the fact?
Is the artist dealing with ideas that are over my head, or is it impenetrable and vague by design?
I edited the talk down from 28 minutes into a much more focused 18 minute presentation. The other half will be posted shortly (well…eventually) but here is the meat of the talk.
If you want the background to this talk, and don’t feel like digging through my earlier posts, here is a brief summary of this talk and how it happened:
Brad Blucher and I were invited to give a talk at the TIFF Bell Lightbox for SoOnCon 2011.
The topic for our presentation was “why people hate art”. Using examples of things we have experienced first hand, we launched into an attack on the pervasiveness of obscurantism masquerading as deep insight within the art world.
Art is often nothing more than a footnote to a (poorly written) essay using invalid logic to make unsound arguments, all the while using technical and scientific terms inappropriately and without justification in an attempt to apply a veneer of rigour and profundity over their steaming pile of banal observations and utter nonsense.
This talk is a criticism of that tendency in the art world.
Ever wondered exactly what it takes to put together a 30 minute presentation?
Brad and I knew that the opportunity to speak at SoOnCon was something that is unlikely to happen again any time soon. We also knew that we had nothing to talk about. We had given a lightning talk at Toronto Mini Maker Faire just months earlier, and we haven’t really done any new projects since then. But we still really wanted to do something.
I was on the phone with Brad, pacing around my apartment, trying to throw ideas back and forth, but nothing was coming to mind. Our conversation wandered off on some bizarre tangent. Then we started complaining about how horrible artists are, and how terrible a lot of art projects are. That’s when a little light bulb clicked on in my brain.
I suggested, “why people hate art”.
We frequently have long conversations about this very topic whenever we get together, so generating material wont be a problem. We’ve experienced enough art-BS first-hand to burn through 30 minutes without having to prepare a thing! This talk would be little different than any of our normal meeting, with one little difference: instead of ranting to each other in private about how horrible the art world is, we will be ranting in public! Brad thought I might be on to something. He prepared the application form and sent it off. We received our acceptance notice the next day.
That meant that we had to get to work.
Continue reading Talking at TIFF: What it Took to Prepare Our SoOnCon Talk
Being given the chance to speak at SoOnCon is simply too good of an opportunity to pass up. Having that event take place at the TIFF Bell Lightbox makes the experience that much better.
The work that went in to getting ready for this talk will be the subject of another entry. This post is about the event itself.
I arrived an hour later than I had wanted to. I missed the first few talks. Alex Leitch had started by the time I entered the building, and I didn’t want to be ‘that guy’ who barges in half way through and disrupts everyone. Instead, I sat down in the hallway and put together my slide show.
I went for an extremely simple black-background-with-white-text aesthetic, because most PowerPoint presentations suck, and I wanted to keep it as simple as I could. Plus, I was using Libre Office, so any fancy stuff I did was unlikely to turn out right after being converted to .ppt format. The slides were more of a reminder for Brad and I than fancy visuals for the audience. Our talk was a series of short stories, and each slide was a key phrase that reminded us of that story.
I sat through several lightning talks as I got my own presentation in order. I felt bad for working during someone else’s talk, but I knew I’d feel worse if my own talk failed due to lack of preparation. Just moments after finishing the slide show, a fortunate turn of events landed my way: the talk going on in Cinema 5, the room where Brad and I would be presenting, ended 10 minutes early. That meant we had time to copy files over to the presentation computer and do a tech demo, set the levels, get the sound working, and make sure there would be no hiccups along the way. I took care of all that stuff without any problems.
Finally, I could relax and just enjoy the presentations. I bounced from room to room, catching whatever seemed interesting. I hadn’t really slept the night before, so my exhaustion made it difficult to get as much out of the talks as I should have, but I still enjoyed much of what I saw.
Then, it was time for my talk.
Note: This entry was written Thursday, September 29th, two days before the talk. I didn’t have a chance to edit and post the entry until the day after the talk.
I have a talk coming up at SoOnCon this Saturday. Brad and I will be standing on a stage in the Tiff Bell Lightbox giving a 30 minute presentation about the problems we see with the art world.
Brad and I recently got together to plan out our next collaborative project. We put together this little teaser to show you what we are up to.