Thursday, October 21, 2010

think pink

Kriston Capps has a lengthy consideration of Philippa Hughes in this week's WCP. Read that bad boy here. Hey, I'm quoted in it, so it must be good.

Things I would say generally about
Pink Line: I'm a pro-Philippa partisan. I know this threw some folks off when they saw me sending up Philippa this past summer...but make no mistake: I want people in the mix, and I believe there's real value in the encounters Philippa creates. Maybe the party atmosphere puts serious limits on the kinds of content that can be appreciated properly...but art is seldom experienced by the artist's ideal audience, in the kind of transactions the artist intended.

Experiences with works of art generally are contingent, sure, and mean different things at different moments...but like I said to Kriston: The work is what it is, and continues to have whatever potential energy or values it has bound up in itself regardless of whether you're throwing back PBR or furiously scribbling in a little moleskin notebook or something.

Since taking off (more or less) my critic's cap and donning the curator's, I've come to have a very different, much more pragmatic attitude toward this sort of thing. No people, no press, and no money equals no programming and no visibility for any artists.

And as far as the notion that Philippa only creates superficial engagements with art, I would also point to events like the smaller Salon Contras, in which I've participated--see me talking to Kathryn Cornelius here, and Jenn Figg here--and during which I've heard some fairly heavy discussion and Q & A re: why artists are doing what they're doing. It's not all DJs, graffiti, and beer, I'm happy to say.

And then there's this notion:
"People follow these people when they have no background or education in art or architecture or literature or humanities. It’s a party crowd [that follows Hughes]. It’s not a group of intellectual or sophisticated people. They’re like party wraiths.”

This question of whether the people Philippa attracts are the right sort of people...or if Philippa herself is even qualified or intellectually equipped to do what she does...well, it drives me a little crazy.

I can assure you that there are countless folks working in the arts with far more impressive sets of advanced degrees and credentials than I who have no business thinking or writing about contemporary art whatsoever.

This profession, like any other, is full of well-socialized nitwits, people who've mastered the art of looking like adults and accreting resume lines, but who are intellectually (and, often enough, emotionally) stunted.

The good news about the art world is that it allows--even requires--a high degree of self-invention and self-definition. Artists, curators, and dealers are constantly creating their own qualifications for calling themselves arts professionals. Some of the smartest arts people I know in this town are graced only with BAs; some of the most tiresome have PhDs and offices in museums.

We should celebrate this, look for people with ideas, drive, and infectious energy, and just run with it already.

3 Comments:

Anonymous La Vie In Rose said...

You nail it, BUT, at the same time you are the kind of "artist" that can easily perform and go with the "be out there" theme that these events are about. This is important when trying to find out what kind of artists do actually fit here and would participate in Phillipa's events, young? successful? emerging? Maybe a combination of different traits?
In the end, it is not about the artist it is about the exchange, the idea that it is possible to have curators, artists, patrons and commoners all mingled in the name of one cause and i agree that something good can come out of it. I personally, dislike social events so i guess that if i have to be "out there" to get my self known I will have it really hard but, i'll try to perform.

10:03 PM  
Blogger jhcudlin said...

I did read Jonathan Fischer's follow-up in the CP, where he complained about artists acting as "court jesters" at these sorts of events. I understand where he's coming from...but I think the ways in which Philippa champions artists run the gamut, and are more varied than simply featuring them as performers/attractions at the big parties. I know of a number of artists who make austere, quiet little objects who have directly benefitted from Pink Line.

The social dimension is something else. Obviously I view all art as being about social exchanges--but that doesn't automatically mean having a beer or a glass of wine in your hand and networking your butt off. Without having some relationship to a field of fellow producers, I don't see how an artist goes about having a career, or making her or his work speak to the types of concerns driving her or his discipline. I also think you have to get on the radar screen of writers and curators, and that means meeting them, saying something about what you do, and getting them into whatever shows you have going on. All of this seems a little tacky to folks more comfortable in the studio, but it is what it is, and the same dilemma exists in any creative profession, I think.

I will also say that as a father of a 16 month old, I don't really go to very many of these art parties. I'm too busy playing Mr. Mom. I don't think you need to have to have a crazy night life--at this point, in this city--to meet the people you need to meet.

11:07 AM  
Anonymous La Vie en Rose said...

Thanks for responding, i thought you were curating comments :D
I agree that in order to promote yourself as a professional artist you have to be somehow in the radar of curators, critics etc. And there has to be some very successful stries of artists that have been able to make it with out having to go this way. It is hard for some people to just show to this venues and start talking to curators (who tend to be the focus of attention), or critics (who are always talking to lots of people, the ones that do not mind approaching them). I personally can't picture myself talking to a critic or a curator with a martini in my hand or even water, so what could be the way to go? or what are the alternatives if you are socially anxious?
I think that something can be done with the concept behind the WaPo project of finding hidden artists in the DC area, have you seen the winners before? do they attend Phillipa's events? probably not. The thing is that there are some very good artists still hiding, artists who did not want to participate in the WaPo project and be found by the nice and scary jessica dawson. Maybe a massive studio browsing similar to what ...(I forgot her name) that collector did some months ago.
That's it, tell Phillipa to diversify her practice, she'll have fun too.

9:51 PM  

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