Tuesday, July 21, 2009

"It’s wrong to pooh-pooh it." Open Thread

In what amounts to a year's worth of great blog topics, Sarah Douglas thoroughly interviewed 13 of the hopefuls who lined-up outside White Columns last Saturday vying for a spot on Bravo's upcoming, as-yet-untitled, art-world-based reality TV show. I've blogged a bit about this before, but now that it's in production, my sense has been to take a wait-and-see attitude before rendering full support or otherwise. I think that's the right approach, especially as my opinion of it changes almost daily.

In the main section of her article, Sarah interviews Simon de Pury, head of auction house Phillips de Pury & Co., who has been serving on the preliminary panel of judges during the casting calls:
De Pury said he’s been “impressed with the process” so far and that “from what I’ve seen, it’s been more than legitimate. At no point in the process has the production company said, ‘Take this person because they’re better on TV.’ I’ve seen artists whom you feel have a chance to make it long term.” To put the show in context, de Pury pointed out that it, along with certain Web sites that allow emerging artists to promote their work, is “just another way to get known. It’s wrong to pooh-pooh it.”
To my mind, it's still a bit early to declare one way or the other whether it's wrong to pooh-pooh it...maxims about "good intentions" having not changed much...but I will note that De Pury's sense that this is just another context in which artists can promote their work was echoed in one of the interviews and it's something I'm still processing. Talking with 30-year-old artist, Tony Orrico, Sarah asked the following:
Wouldn't it be weird to compete against other artists on a TV show?
That competition exists anyway. Artists compete for limited gallery spots and exposure and attention.
Fair enough? Is there a difference between jumping through hoops just because there's a camera recording it?

Another compelling answer was offered by hopeful 56-year-old Sharon Sprung:
You’re a figurative painter and show your work at Gallery Henoch, in Chelsea. You also do portrait commissions. So you’ve already had some success. Why would you want to be on this show?
The kind of painting I do isn’t seen, or talked about, as much as other kinds. I want to advocate for it.
Again, I wondered: Fair enough?

The interview with Greg Walker was especially poignant, I thought. With stories like his driving the show (I have no idea whether he was selected or not), it might just live up to its potential.

Consider this an open thread on the project and its potential.

Labels: art reality tv show


Blogger Tom Hering said...

I predict we smash through the 200-comment barrier with this one, Ed.

7/21/2009 09:29:00 AM  
Blogger zipthwung said...

Reality shows depend on conflict (competition). I can't imagine this environment being ideal for creating good work (thoughtful, considered, meditative, slow, pure, Formalist, monochromatic, white) for some.

For others, brash, of the moment, performative and provocative, idiosyncratic, photogenic, saturated, bolded, it might be a great platform (Deitch missed out on the opportunity to showcase some young performance artists in an attempt to be serious and ruined the show by not being campy in the slightest (I think the selection process was purely for publicity - largely a fraud).

In short - Deitch takes his empire and himself very seriously from a PR standpoint - but reality shows are not serious, they are fun. Fun is a weird concept, because in the art world fun is rebellion against art an also, frivolous - not serious.

But the reality show's conflicts also depends on editing, so you can make the highs higher and the lows lower. Editors have a lot of power - a lot more than artists or "the talent" in this case.

I liked artist Ryan Humphrey who went on Bravo's "Top Designer" show and went head to head with interior decorators with his Art School background.

Boy did they make him look dumb!

He took it very seriously but with a grain of salt ($100,000 grand man!)

"You can't design a room around a cat" is probably my favorite line of any reality show.

Why the hell not?

7/21/2009 09:57:00 AM  
Blogger C. L. DeMedeiros said...


My collaboration for your 200 comments:

I saw the first cable Art Star reality show twice. I don't know why I did that. I think was because other shows at same time was boring. But my point is: I never stop to think some reality show like that should be about how an artist can make a difference in the world, like who gonna be able to promote art project in poor neighborhood all over the country of the world. There's a stupid show about a couples race for money blah blah blah.
Why not start a change with a reality show for artists that can make reality for kids who do not have a better perspective in life. Brilliant minds are right now under some slum in India, Brazil, Africa or even Detroit. Why not find those kids through a program using art and private money?
Every artist know how good they are.
Why not move to the next step?


7/21/2009 10:17:00 AM  
Anonymous Oriane Stender said...

I haven't read Sarah Douglas' article yet, but I did read the application for prospective contestants on the show. The parts I object to most are things that don't have to do with whether it would help an artist' career or not. They ask you to list anything you have done or your family members have done that could in any way be embarrassing to yourself or to show if it were revealed. Then they ask you to agree to not be upset, surprised (or litigious) if and when these embarrassing personal things are exposed and used for entertainment purposes, or just to spice up the drama of the show.

Also, you have to have no responsibilities, no life that you can't skip out on at a moment's notice (job, family, children, etc.) to be able to participate. That sounds like you already have to be a successful artist (or someone completely outside the social and economic routines that most people participate in - the equivalent of a homeless person) just to compete.

Completely unrealistic from the get-go.

7/21/2009 10:38:00 AM  
Blogger Bromo Ivory said...

I am not a big fan of reality TV, but I can see that it would give the artists and galleries in question some exposure, and depending upon the popularity (and the volatility and drama in the show - we all know you need to have a lot of dysfunctional people or people acting that way for it to "work") it may make a slight boost in gallery foot traffic and who knows, even make a career or two.

They have done a lot of lowbrow reality shows, interesting that this one could be highbrow.

Might even raise awareness in the typical middle class. That can't be bad.

I agree "fair enough."

7/21/2009 10:38:00 AM  
Blogger zipthwung said...

The idea of being a selfish self promoter (making art about the art world = self promotion) vs altruistic sacrificer (art about the art world = critique) is interesting as applied to reality shows. Maybe they will shed more light on the competitive practices of ideological and esthetic warfare coupled with unwarranted publicity that is the current MO to become a "star."

Most reality shows are edited as morality tales anyways....and as we know, art is all about being moral and righteous and beautiful.

7/21/2009 10:42:00 AM  
Anonymous Dalen said...

Perhaps careers in fine art will gain some credibility in the eyes of the television-watching masses as a result, maybe not. Restoration and expansion of art programs in schools would be a good outcome also (too ambitious a result to expect from a mere TV show?). At any rate, kids benefit from having something to aspire to. A field trip to the art museum can be pivotal in the life of an 8-yr old girl living in a trailer park. If this show can in any way have a similar effect, then kudos, I say.

7/21/2009 10:50:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

James Kalm posted a great video about all of the potential hopefuls who lined up outside of white columns.

My initial thought was how absurd and pitiful these folks looked. Subjecting their art to the authority of a TV show.

As far as "Pooh Poohing" on this project, the burden is on them to make something interesting and worthwhile. Until I see the product, I'll be bad mouthing it all the way through production. I just hope that the show makes me eat my words.

I'm going to be really interested to see how this whole thing shapes up. As we all know everyone has an opinion about art and fancies themselves a critic to some degree...the only question is whole will be the final authority with respect to this show.

7/21/2009 10:59:00 AM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

The opinions of art and artists in the Sarah Douglas interviews surprised me. Especially those of the younger artists.

7/21/2009 11:13:00 AM  
Blogger zipthwung said...

Just say no.

7/21/2009 11:13:00 AM  
Blogger donna said...

The interviews are interesting to read. As one candidate said, the art world will distance itself from the show, but everyone will be watching it anyway.

They've got serious people involved in the process and I also thought the questionnaire was thorough and thoughtful. But you can't make a show that people will want to watch unless you've got some drama going on. I loved Project Runway and was always astonished at the talent of those people under intense pressure. Can art be made that way?

7/21/2009 11:15:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

The opinions of art and artists in the Sarah Douglas interviews surprised me.

What surprised me most were the choices for "most overrated." They seemed fairly spoon-fed overall.

7/21/2009 11:19:00 AM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

Ed, a genuinely curious question: Who do you think is holding the spoon?

7/21/2009 11:23:00 AM  
Anonymous Gam said...

The reality shows that I have seen, seem to be based upon creating a list of losers. 1st voted off, 2nd voted off and on and on...

So learning about art as a media that is to be discarded doesn't appear to bring value to the profession. Learning discernment in culture is something cultivated, its much more then choosing what you don't like. A show that teaches accepting the last throw away as the prize to be coveted isn't the best mechanism to broaden arts appeal. Deciding what is bad (which is likely the shows paradigm), isn't the same as acknowledging what is good.

the last person to be discarded may be the best artist, but the viewers won't have learned to discern what they perceive as good, only what they (gasp) hate a la "Childish"

7/21/2009 11:32:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Who do you think is holding the spoon?

Good (and treacherous) question.

Looking at the range of responses, from Koons (mentioned most) to Kinkade, it's obvious that most folks select who they consider "overrated" from among the artists they know are making the most money.

This seems an artificial pool to fish in to me, and actually is surprising, as the artists we hear the most charges of "emperor's new clothes" about are not often those making the money, but rather those getting the press.

Kinkade gets precious little serious arts press, so he's the tell-tale inclusion, to my mind.

But taking him out of the list, you still have only artists raking it in among those listed. Hirst, Koons, Prince, Schutz, Peyton. Are these truly the mostly overly acclaimed artists? Or merely the ones making the most mullah? Where is the example of an acclaimed artist whose work doesn't sell for crazy prices?

But back to who's spoonfeeding the notion that the appropriate pool for "most overrated" artists includes mainly those making the most money...I think it's probably mostly the subset of jaded art school professors who can't sell their work. But that's just a guess.

7/21/2009 11:48:00 AM  
Blogger zipthwung said...

Marxist art school professors! Spoonfed hypocrites! We all know being a professor is a priviledged position. To get an MFA is a priviledge. To spout anticapitalism from the Uni is easy.

Where are the artists making their own art TV shows? WHy does it take BRAVO? Bravo, is Bravo "gayest" channel? I tend to think so, behind IFC, judging from the programming choices.

Before every movement are idealists - before the "summer of love" (a marketing event) was there was the Weather Underground, the SDS, the M---fkrs and other radical groups. Look up the history of Anarchism. These groups make BC look like an milk fed calf - and also pretty conservative.

But look, there is room for movement, and the bowels of society always need feeding.

7/21/2009 11:54:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Its funny to talk about overrated artists, because in a sense that implies that most everyone else is properly rated.

There will always be artists that absorb an innordinate amount of attention or press, but people perpetuate the discussion by mentioning their names continually. (most certainly a lot of spoon-feeding is going on amongst the critics as well)

I think the more important question is how do we bring light to the underrated artists who deserve to fit into the conversation.

Maybe this BRAVO show has some potenial if it gives some truly undervalued artists a chance to pry their way into the hermetically sealed art world.


7/21/2009 12:14:00 PM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

So, Ed, can we assume that the applicants to this show are the sort of artists who equate validation in art with attainment of riches? That's not an unreasonable assumption, since fame and riches are what the show promises (or at least implies).

The show, then, would only reinforce the general viewing public's misunderstanding of what is really valuable about art. It won't be corrective or educational in the sense of, say, Gombrich's "The Story Of Art."

It won't be a reality show because it won't be about the reality of art.

7/21/2009 12:17:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Zip said the bowels of society always need feeding.

I say the bowels of society always need moving.

7/21/2009 12:19:00 PM  
Anonymous Oriane Stender said...


Is any "reality show" about reality?

7/21/2009 12:21:00 PM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

Oriane, You mean the other shows aren't? You've shattered my innocence ...

7/21/2009 12:29:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric C said...

Judging by Douglas' interviews I'd say it sounds like the project is going to be a disaster. Ah well, wake me up when it's over.

Cedric Casp

PS: Zip, you CAN make your own reality tv show, on Youtube, but you must already be aware of that.

7/21/2009 12:37:00 PM  
Anonymous DJ Ward said...

I can't wait for the "fan favorite" vote. It'll be interesting to see if Komar & Melamid got it right.

As far as "Fame and Riches" most reality show contestants are quickly forgotten. The only people who attain lasting fame from reality shows are the judges -- Tom Colichio, Simon Cowel, Heidi Klum, etc. (Ok, Klum was famous before, but the show extended her fortune.) Hopefully the show elevates the awareness of art in the US more than the awareness of the judges, whoever they may be.

7/21/2009 12:42:00 PM  
Blogger Donna Dodson said...

In a way it recreates a microcosm of the art world, which is full of one-hit-wonders, celebrities and flash in the pan'ners who can give it all to a dream once. Look back 5 or 10 or 20 or 30 years at the covers of art magazines and how many names or works of art do you recognize? TV is just another media outlet. If I had cable, I'd try to watch it. I enjoyed Art 21 and Egg: the Art Show (both of which were on PBS) I'm interested in what artists achieve over the long haul and I'm worried the show will be slanted towards the next hot new thing i.e. young and photogenic 20 year olds with mfa's than seasoned professionals in their 30's and up from all walks of life.

7/21/2009 01:53:00 PM  
Anonymous qi peng said...

I think that I would like to shift this discussion to a less abstract and more concrete direction. Let's take some top-notch artists (I apologize for my forthcoming subjective judgments here) and let's see if we can categorize them as whether they are fit for the show...

A definite yes:

Dash Snow
Jean-Michel Basquiat
Keith Haring
Jake and Dinos Chapman
Tracey Emin
Andrea Fraser
Sophie Calle
Robert Rauschenberg
Karen Finley
Andreas Serrano


William Powhida (?, hard to say)
Richard Prince
Sherrie Levine
Jennifer Dalton (?, possibly dependent on whether the judges wanted a character foil or would love to see a re-appraisal... maybe the condolence cards?)
Jules DeBalincourt
Martin Kippenberger

Probably not:

Cy Twombly
Jasper Johns
Marcel Dzama
Amy Cutler
Maira Kalman
Terence Koh
Cory Arcangel

I suspect that a certain typology of artist will come through on this show but maybe I would be wrong too. I can't wait to see what results from this honestly.

7/21/2009 03:26:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Where are the artists making their own art TV shows?"

zactly, put em on youtube

7/21/2009 03:31:00 PM  
Blogger kalm james said...

Here’s a brief eye witness analysis:
First and foremost, this is not a show about great art or artists. This is a show that’s trying to sell advertising time, so the ultimate goal is to get eyeballs watching, which may be the most “artistic” aspect of what’s going on. If you’re a fan of human tragedy, pathos and suffering (always the best ingredients for “drama”) then this program might be appealing.

I spent about two hour there and talked with dozens of “artists”. (couldn’t put all the stuff online). Very few of the people I was allowed to speak with would get through the doors of a B- C level Chelsea gallery, although they might be perfectly wonderful people. Almost every art work I say was a bad cliché of things done twenty years ago. It was hilarious to see how protective and secretive people were with really trite stuff (“hey look, I invented pouring paint on a canvas!”)

I think it was T.S. Elliot who said something like “an artist with total confidence in what they’re doing is obviously mediocre. Real greatness involves tolerating an excruciatingly high level of self doubt.” Most of the artists I talked with had no doubt, they were great.

What type of person would be willing to demean themselves, drag huge examples of their work hundreds of miles, and stand in a cattle-call line for several hours in the blaring July sun? Perhaps the prize money is motivation, and for those with a theatrical back ground, these kinds of auditions are nothing new.

So unless some “genius” is able to con their way in, and use this production as a meta-critique of the whole TV celebrity worship cult, this will just be another bunch of desperate contestants, jumping through hoops and trying to be confrontational, controversial and camera ready. Those people who’ve been enlisted to provide some type of local art world credibility, can be forgiven. Why should they be any different? Who doesn’t want their 15 minutes of face-time on network TV?

7/21/2009 03:41:00 PM  
Anonymous qi peng said...

James, you do make a lot of good points. Being an artist to seek fame for itself isn't worth it unless it's fame-seeking as a critique on the very idea of fame. The main objections I have to the show itself, apart form the obvious problematic contract, is that a certain typology of artist is going to fall out of these results I expect.

In fact, Jeff Koons probably won't even make the cut honestly. Since he uses assistants to do much of the work, I doubt that would make for exciting TV plotwise but a great documentary instead.

For me, the closest thing to reality TV would be that new HBO documentary about Chuck Connelly represented by DFN Gallery but even then, the editing kinda slanted too much on Connelly as "drunk", etc. rather than him as a true artist, a living human being.

So for me, I won't be watching the Bravo show but experiencing this vicariously. I feel that I need a critical distance from this what-I-expect-to-be an artistic circus.

The best reality TV is the James Kalm Report because it is open-minded to any possibilities without single ceveats about the results. The accident is amongst the best form of art honestly.

7/21/2009 03:50:00 PM  
Blogger mm said...

It's popular culture. Look for it to be heavily scripted and edited to fit its sponsors and marketing interests. If art-stars arise from these types of shows and become media art celebrities, then good for them (I hope!).

But it's not really about art, it's about image and entertainment. It's about Q score.

Reality shows are the Photoshop of television.

7/21/2009 03:57:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Personally, I can't wait for the show to air. It has the ghost of Andy Warhol all over it.

Besides, as a few other people have noted, the show is merely entertainment, so there's no need to confuse this with art.

Context is everything.

7/21/2009 04:36:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh no! Reality TV will corrupt our pristine art world, where spectacle, showmanship, competition, and douchebags surely do not exist!

I mean, judge the show if you want - although from what I saw they were surprisingly more interested in the quality of the artwork than they were the personality of the candidates. But please do not look down your noses at the people who waited in line to try out. Believe it or not, they were not all money-desiring fame-seeking TV star wannabes. The vast majority of them were surprisingly humble people who were desperate to get their artwork seen, and who had more often than not been shut out of an art scene which tends to focus on exclusivity, esotericism, nepotism, and the flavor of the month. Were a lot of them mediocre? Yes, they were - it was, after all, an open casting call. But don't judge their motives, just because you think "the Bachelor" is stupid. And, frankly, the Bravo team did a pretty decent job culling out the more cliched of the bunch in the first series of interviews. Those that remained, as far as I could see, were mostly pretty talented individuals.
Will the show be any good? I have no idea. It might suck. But I know that I have a much greater interest in the artistry of cooking since I started watching Top Chef, and I had zero previous interest or knowledge in haute cuisine. I hope that this show will provide a similar spark of interest to people who know little of the art world. Maybe it will end up being nothing more than a show about drama and tantrums. But I can't fault anybody for trying to do what they can to get some name recognition.

And to James Kalm -

"What type of person would be willing to demean themselves, drag huge examples of their work hundreds of miles, and stand in a cattle-call line for several hours in the blaring July sun? "

I ask in return, what kind of person would be willing to demean themselves by spending several hours out in the hot sun just to mock these people on video, and to pretend to be interested in their work so that you can find out some information about a television project you seem to be saying is a waste of time? I suppose you might be some genius who's using this production to act just like a paparazzi douche - as a meta-critique of the whole TV celebrity worship cult of course.

7/21/2009 05:06:00 PM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

kalm james, I'm not sure about T.S. Eliot, but Robert Hughes said, "The greater the artist, the greater the doubt. Perfect confidence is granted to the less talented as a consolation prize."

7/21/2009 05:13:00 PM  
Anonymous David said...

It's all just entertainment. I think they should put art in every tv show, and have tv's playing in every gallery.

7/21/2009 05:16:00 PM  
Anonymous David said...

"So unless some “genius” is able to con their way in, and use this production as a meta-critique of the whole TV celebrity worship cult, this will just be another bunch of desperate contestants, jumping through hoops and trying to be confrontational, controversial and camera ready."

I'm sorry, KJ, are you talking about this tv show or the gallery system?

7/21/2009 05:39:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kalm James Kalm got slammed with the meta-critique remark.

Honestly, I don't think James needed to say a thing for everyone to witness the ridiculousness of that submission process, his video said it all.

I of course say good luck to the contestants, but they have to realize: when you deal with the reality TV devil you cannot separate yourself from the associations that will be made. I for one would not want to offer myself or my art up for ridicule or applause in the name of entertainment.

It doesn't matter how sincere or genuine these people are, once they enter the context of reality television their art becomes of secondary importance.

The show has yet to establish an identity, as of now it is little more than a masquerade and a spectacle.


7/21/2009 06:11:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My contribution to the Tom 200. I wonder about the potential for the Jeopardy effect. People doing the challenges at home to stretch themselves. Not a bad thing right? Not everyone can have a formal art education - in fact, many don't even get it in grade school.


7/21/2009 06:31:00 PM  
Blogger kalm james said...

“I ask in return, what kind of person would be willing to demean themselves by spending several hours out in the hot sun just to mock these people on video, and to pretend to be interested in their work so that you can find out some information about a television project you seem to be saying is a waste of time? I suppose you might be some genius who's using this production to act just like a paparazzi douche - as a meta-critique of the whole TV celebrity worship cult of course.”

Hey anon, 5:06, you may be right, but I wasn’t intentionally mocking these people, and. I wasn’t offering them anything ether except a chance to talk, maybe get a bit of entertainment in a long hot afternoon. Some of the work was above average, but a lot wasn’t, that doesn't make the artists bad people. I’m continually amazed by the human spirit, and it’s weird connection to this thing we call “art”. As to why I’d take the time to do a video, my work speaks for itself.

7/21/2009 07:20:00 PM  
Anonymous Larry said...

I share all the skepticism towards reality shows, where it seems an unending stream of humanity is willing to be humiliated on camera for the chance at some big "prize" or "recognition" that more often as not yields no lasting rewards or satisfaction. But compared to the shenanigans that go on the big network reality shows, the chef competitions I've seen on the Bravo Network have been fairly restrained and mild. A show like this would never be seen on Fox or CBS, so therefore there's a chance it might come off with more dignity than Big Brother or Hell's Kitchen.

7/21/2009 10:07:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous 5:06 said...

To James Kalm - fair enough. I just wanted to draw a distinction between mocking the process and mocking the participants. As a whole there was a lot of subpar art, but I think that is to be expected when it was an open call with no prerequisites. I don't think one should draw conclusions about all of the artists there. And the majority of people (that I spoke with) were interested primarily in furthering their art careers. If anything, they had just as many reservations as you all do about what the finished product was going to look like.

Not that I have any real idea, but my 2 cents is that I think the quality of the artists who make the show will surprise you. But I have no idea how they're going to pull off challenges in the limited time they have to shoot the show. You can't make much of anything in a day, never mind half an hour. That could lend itself to some superficiality.

7/21/2009 11:57:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This may seem off topic, but I think this has everything to do with this post.

Dash Snow recently passed away. I have to admit I was not all that fond of him as an artist (maybe I was envious, offended, out of touch etc) but I always paid attention to what he was doing.

Today, I decided to check up on his status and google'd his name, only to discover his sad fate. His art was his life so it hit me immediately when I found out the news (an echo of Ray Johnson). I went through such an unbelievable range of emotions.. Shock, high and mighty you got what you deserved pompousness, sympathy, confusion, sorrow...what a waste.

There isn't really a point to all of this, but it makes me wonder if all of the spectacle surrounding art isn't swallowing us all up. life is such a parody anymore, it's like a Greek tragedy/comedy. Everyday something new comes up and we just act out the script or do our best to improvise. Our affinity for reality shows seems like a feeble attempt to contain and showcase the spectacle of life (New York Synedoche offers a contrast).

Anyway, if James Kalm is paying attention to this post, I would love to see a video of the Dash Snow memorial at Deitch projects

Please excuse my existential musings, I'm just trying to fit this madness into my head.


7/22/2009 03:48:00 AM  
Anonymous Gam said...

maybe this will inspire a Gallery Makeover series ... can a East End art aficionado bring enlightment to the likes of the City of buildings or will they be brought down in the muck of the haute culture league? With guest stars appearing in no particular order, the aspiring flouzie, the befuddled rich matron, the hangerons, and the sushi delivery dude!

drama, money, pictures, faux pas, and commercials interspersed to relieve the tension of it all....

TV can be fun!

7/22/2009 06:22:00 AM  
Blogger joy said...

On the reality show which is this comments thread, I am texting in my vote for Zip.

7/22/2009 08:44:00 AM  
Blogger George said...

I share Denny's feelings about Dash Snow. When I read the news, Basquiat came to mind, it is one of those tragedies which endures as a generational memory. Young death is hard to take, it honestly hurts more.

it makes me wonder if all of the spectacle surrounding art isn't swallowing us all up.


Our affinity for reality shows seems like a feeble attempt to contain and showcase the spectacle of life

This is the question, Why do we watch reality shows? Is it a new form of narrative fiction? a new pretend? or make believe trying to suspend our sense of disbelief that life is a Greek tragedy/comedy.

Fu*king Reality TV, what an oxymoron.

Art-World-Reality-TV Will it get me into a Chelsea gallery? Whoo hoo, here come the anons championing the nice safe-sex version of being an artist. What Bravo needs is at least two combatants who are seriously crazy transgressive filling the studio with chicken feathers and molasses

Ok maybe I'm being too harsh, maybe it's more like the senior year of the BFA process, maybe it will get them a job (teaching the kids who watch this crap and wannabe artists)


7/22/2009 08:54:00 AM  
Blogger George said...

How about Burger-King-Counter-Person-Reality-TV?


How about Corrupt-Lobbyist-Reality-TV?


How about WalMart-Welcomer-Reality-TV?

or, ta da, a surefire hit

How about Pornstar-Reality-TV?

7/22/2009 09:04:00 AM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

joy said, "On the reality show which is this comments thread ..."

Hell's Blogsite?

Ed: "Donkey! Look at this! You've misspelled your words again!"

Commenter: "Wha-a-a-t?"

Ed: "Do you have to make every (beep)ing thread about YOU? Pig! You make me (beep)ing sick to my stomach!

Commenter: "Bu-u-u-t ..."

Ed: "Idiot! Get the (beep) out! Pack your bags! Go Home!"

Commenter: (Breaks down in tears)

Ed: "And the rest of you - get your (beep)ing (beep) together! I'm THIS close to doing something I've never done before: shutting the whole thing down! Now get back to your bloody keyboards and start acting like (beep)ing grownups. Go!"

Disclaimer: All the characters appearing in this blogplay are fictional and do not represent actual persons, living or dead.

7/22/2009 09:45:00 AM  
Blogger George said...

Tom, can you send someone over to clean the coffee off my keyboard ?:-)

7/22/2009 09:59:00 AM  
Anonymous Dalen said...

Tom, that is freakin hilarious! Life imitating "reality" imitating life (and with art somewhere in there too?)

7/22/2009 10:39:00 AM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

For those without cable, satellite or a local FOX station, here's the highlight from last night's Hell's Kitchen. Try to imagine a collaborative artists' studio, with a collector-filled gallery visible through a glass wall, and two teams of artists trying to put out new work under this kind of heat and pressure.

7/22/2009 10:58:00 AM  
Anonymous Dalen said...

There's something about the concept of this TV competition, which is also present in a few of the comments, that's tugging on my brain. It has to do with the notion of the talent of an artist. If some of the art put forth by contestants is considered to be sub-par by some standards, is the judgement being made that the artist has not had enough schooling, practice, or experience for it to be good? Or will it never be good because they are lacking innate talent? I suppose the question is then, are great artists born or made? And is this TV show supposed to reveal the gem who was somehow overlooked and thus never made it through the established art world winnowing process?

7/22/2009 11:33:00 AM  
Blogger zipthwung said...

I couldn;t resist. Count me in.


Ed: I had a Red bull and a pot of coffee today, so I finished reading the NYT early and apparently the racist Chinese are opening a gallery on the grave site of a celebrated Tibetan Artist. We recently exhibited twelve sand paintings with archival high resolution (600cc's) sand by T'Cheng Machi'en, who I reccomend you check out at his book signing (we'll have small plastic cups with wine, gratis!) Consider this an open thread on sand boxes.

Zipthwung: First! I once used sand in a painting, I wet it down with beer and then packed it into a keg cup. Then I passed out. I think it was Killians, actually. Tres ephemeral!

Franklin: Jackson Pollock was deeply influenced by sand painting, both by Hopi Indians and by the Tibetans. I wrote about it on my blog in reference to the underrated Peter Haley.

George: Actually Jackson Pollock was just drunk. He went to a second rate design school (Otis) and if it wasn't for his wife he wouldn't even know where Tibet was. Peter Halley and sand painting? You cannot be serious!

Anon: Zipthwung makes me so angry I could spit. Who invited him to ruin this party? What does he do all day?
I wish this blog was more like my Oprah book group.

Franklin: George, I think we've established you hate sand. You, obviously, are blind.

Joy: Oye Vey!

Zip: De La Vega.

Tiffany: I like art so much, you are so generous, Ed for sharing your wisdom. I'm coming to New York to be a great artist and ride the Cyclone Yay!

Anon: Ed actually Tibetan are guilty worse crimes than Chinese, I know for fact they do same if given chance.

Bill from the outer shell: I couldn't make the show, looks great, hope to see you when I show up. I'll be the one with the fringe jacket and the resume on real sheepskin.

Ed: Thanks Tiffany, it's people like you that make this all worthwhile. If I could give a little more I would, but ITE I just can't. I really can't.

Cedric: When I was a wee child on vacation with my nanny, she used to take me to the Ufizzi and change my diaper in front of the Virgin Mary, which acquired a dark brown smudge the day my vacation ended. I just now made the connection. Fast forward to 1985 and a party - I'm seated next to Chris Ophili.

Ed: BFTOS - we are not currently accepting new artists into our stable. Don't bring your black powder BS here, we like to keep the walls white. If you show up to the opening please don't ask to use the bathroom before you look at the art. Hold it in.

Catherine: I give sand to my students to actually hold!

7/22/2009 12:35:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Years ago, Mclusky said it best about stuff like this.

7/22/2009 12:39:00 PM  
Anonymous qi peng said...

Okay, I got an idea for another reality show. Let's call it "The Deal of the Art" and instead of artists, just have potential gallerists compete and open up galleries.

Let each contestant get a copy of Edward Winkleman's book and have them actually do the whole works of opening up their own gallery. The whole thing is filmed from start to finish, whether success or crash and burn.

This would be a good show, a counterpart to Bravo's art show. Any takers? :)

7/22/2009 01:27:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

Can I go to the opening and be on TV?

7/22/2009 01:44:00 PM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

Who on the production staff would have the job of dragging James Kalm into an alley and smashing his camera?

7/22/2009 01:50:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Have you met James Kalm, Tom? He's no lightweight...it would have to be someone fairly big.

7/22/2009 01:54:00 PM  
Blogger zipthwung said...

sounds good qi peng. I'd run a TV gallery. It would be fun having mystery shoppers and deliberately stupid collectors. Competitors stealing interns, artists and collectors, forged work, an invitation to the hamptons but not for any of your artist friends...a dare to do mountain of coke with the collectors son with a painting on the line ) Ok I'm crossing into fiction here as you could never show this on tv as Real. It would have to be "real."

But it does offer more possibilities.

The other option is to have it be interning at a gallery - writing artist statements, doing research, going to parties, schmoozing, more schmoozing, art handling, installing a show, using Quick books, cooking the books, making back room deals - the whole object to rise from being an intern to a gallerist in your own right.

On that note I think reality tv is grooming us for a surveilance society - like boiling frogs.

Scared straight, the TV reality stamford prison experiment show fun time.

7/22/2009 01:59:00 PM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

Ed, I'm glad to hear James Kalm has a "presence" on the street. I couldn't believe it when I saw those privately-employed sheepherders telling him to leave a public area. Who the hell do they think they are?

Zip, if you think the surveillance society is still future, you've already been groomed.

7/22/2009 02:17:00 PM  
Blogger joy said...

Zip can haz hamburger now; the rest of you: please pack your knives and go.

7/22/2009 02:35:00 PM  
Anonymous Dalen said...

There was that episode in one of the early seasons of The Apprentice where the two teams each selected an artist to have a show in a gallery, and whichever team sold the most artwork ($ wise) won.

For those of you who didn't see it or don't remember: One team selected an artist who made really strange, borderline offensive, surrealistic works that were high-priced, thinking they just had to sell a few to win. They didn't even really like the art. The other team chose an artist who painted abstracts reminiscint of cave interiors. They believed in the art and even though the prices were not as high, they sold more and won.

I remember my art history prof telling our class that this episode would make the general public pay attention to art more, that major changes would happen.

I wonder what became of those artists.

7/22/2009 03:22:00 PM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

Dalen, you asked, "... is the judgment being made that the artist ..."

I think the only judgment that will matter is whether or not the show is entertaining. Will we laugh, groan, throw up our hands at moments - or throw objects at the TV (a reaction that will signal we're hooked)? The artists and their art will fade out of most of our memories very quickly after each season ends. Gallery show and museum tour notwithstanding.

"And is this TV show supposed to reveal the gem who was somehow overlooked and thus never made it through the established art world winnowing process?"

I really wish it would have that aim (like ArtPrize). But I haven't seen any such aim stated anywhere. Despite the protestations of those involved with the show, it HAS to be about ratings and advertising sales. Which means it HAS to be about the characters, i.e., the artists as people (nasty, nice, weird, clueless - whatever). Not the artists as artists, never mind their art.

As highly imperfect as the established art world winnowing process is, it would be damn hard for anyone to come up with something better - in the sense of an alternative establishment created whole, and without traditions behind it.

Regardless, an alternative, BOTTOM UP winnowing process is happening everywhere already (artist-run spaces, internet galleries, etc.). These won't replace the establishment process but rather supplement it and inspire some positive changes. That's my guess, anyways.

7/22/2009 03:29:00 PM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

Dalen said, "I wonder what became of those artists."

Exactly. For artists to expect long-term advantages to result from their appearance in a medium geared to short attention spans is ridiculous.

7/22/2009 03:43:00 PM  
Anonymous Dalen said...

Thanks for your response Tom. Perhaps I was reading deeper meaning where there was none.

There is a growing arts community in my city. We're home to ArtPrize headquarters, but even before that, the alternative bottom-up scene had slowly been gaining momentum.

7/22/2009 04:00:00 PM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

Dalen, perhaps you're right and I'm wrong. Maybe I'm being too critical. Not quite out of the chef Ramsay state-out-mind I put myself into earlier.

7/22/2009 04:42:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


During the first commercial of the last episode, a celestial light will pulse through all the TVs of the faithful. At that moment, the rightful heir to Bob Ross will be revealed.


7/22/2009 04:55:00 PM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

Bob Ross, Cathy? Why not! Morris Katz too!

"Okay here we go - a seascape in sixty seconds! First with the palette knife. Watch now! We put in the water. Water, water eveywhere. Now we grab some toilet paper and dab, dab, dab - we have beautiful clouds! Look at all those beautiful clouds! And we have to have some seagulls. Again with the knife - zip, zip,zip. Look at them flying! Done! A beautiful painting in only one minute!"

7/22/2009 06:08:00 PM  
Blogger zipthwung said...

Hard boiled Tom, Hard boiled. But there isn't a camera in my tv right? And the little light has to go on for the web cam on my laptop to operate...or has that been hacked?

I sit in the dark a lot anyways.

But if everyone is a star, and everyone is on TV then I think that's where everybody enjoys all the negatives of being a celebrity without the possitives.

I think most peopel would liek to see art come from a grassroots rather than astroturfed movement - but that sort of thing takes time, idealism, and more time and idealism (i.e. sacrifice).

7/22/2009 06:52:00 PM  
Blogger Kate said...

Once I knew in advance that one of my new pieces was to be in an art fair: the only thing I could possibly do with that knowledge was to make a painting about art fairs. I think that any self-respecting artist chosen for this show would have to critique the process in some way.

I had 10 minutes in the pop culture spotlight for one of my works (very different, and separate, from art world validation). Aside from the press lines on my resume, it was a nightmare. If there are any really good artists on this show, it will, at best, destroy their studio practice for a while, and, at worst, destroy them.

7/22/2009 07:05:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

If there are any really good artists on this show, it will, at best, destroy their studio practice for a while, and, at worst, destroy them.

Maybe and maybe not, this really depends on the individual.

Younger artists who start to achieve some serious attention often will hear a variation on this remark which boils down to "success will spoil you." It's more or less nonsense and says more about the person giving the advice than the person receiving it.

I think it's possible, even likely, that public success may inflate a persons ego and it's worth watching out for. But, overall, many things in life are tradeoffs, you give up one thing but get something else in return, and I think this is generally the case in the artworld.

7/22/2009 08:56:00 PM  
Blogger zipthwung said...

kate that sounds like a Greek tragedy. You are right. Reality often makes artists evaporate, even as sun destroy's collectors in blast of desaturated particles!

I too crave validation (I mean why mention it? I need it not? I think about it often? Money is a great signifier for validation, I find.

You hit the nail on the head with the validation button. What is it about Lourdes that heals the spirit so? Surely it isn't just the temperature of the water?

No, validation must be reserved for the best and the brightest! Th' fit and the fair!

7/22/2009 09:22:00 PM  
Blogger Donna Dodson said...

Is this a hoax?

NEW YORK, NY. - Due to the tremendous positive response to Bravo's announcement for a creative competition series among contemporary artists, program producers Sarah Jessica Parker and Eli Holzman have announced expansion plans for their Untitled Art Project. In a Tuesday morning press conference the producers announced additional auditions for the program in San Francisco, Seattle, Dallas and Boston during August. The Untitled Art Project will bring together thirteen aspiring artists to compete for a gallery show, a cash prize and a sponsored national tour.

Casting Calls for The Untitled Art Project are as follows:

Wednesday, August 26, 10AM – 2PM
Miller Block Gallery

Saturday, August 15, 10AM – 4PM
Haines Gallery

Tuesday, August 18, 10AM – 2PM
Foster White Gallery

Saturday, August 22, 10AM – 2PM
Angstrom Gallery

For additional information, go to www.BravoTV.com/casting.

7/23/2009 06:51:00 AM  
Blogger Kate said...

The weird thing about this premise is that it seems as though it will inevitably be about the artists, and not about The Art. Artists are in service to the work, or at least they should be, and this seems to be a dangerous game to play with your art.

I don’t think it’s a question of whether fame will spoil the artists. I’m saying that there is a really insidious side to being in the spotlight. I don’t think most people “in” the art world, even peripherally, realize how insulated it is... even if we disagree with other artists’ philosophies, we all have a respect for art’s power. The public at large doesn’t value art, and many even have disdain for it. People can get really ugly. The criticism from all sides & from people with far-reaching agendas has to be experienced to be believed. Perhaps if the winning artist took his or her money, went off and made art without ever reading or watching anything about the program, they could remain intact.

See the previous comments made about great artists and uncertainty, then imagine your worst critique from graduate or undergraduate school, televised internationally. Imagine that someone else dictates the conditions under which you make the art, and then judges your “product”. Brrrrr.....

7/23/2009 08:29:00 AM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

"Is this a hoax?"

This report says it seems to be. There's nothing on Bravo's site about additional casting for the untitled art project.

7/23/2009 08:46:00 AM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

Kate, if the untitled art project showed on FOX, I would worry about responses from the wide range of really weird people out there. Their numbers are larger than we like to think. (My father was editor-in-chief of a national newspaper, and the letters he got every week were interesting - to say the least.)

But it's going to show on Bravo, which has the largest share of affluent and educated viewers in the 25-54 age group. Also, the project does not involve tax dollars, neither will it be installed in a municipal space, neither will it be part of what is taught in public schools.

Your concern about the artists' "commissioned" works being criticized on national television is another matter. I expect to see more than one breakdown - with plenty of tears. At least one contestant will quit midway through the show because they can't take it anymore. And it might not be the critiques of the judges that cause this as much as the attitudes and behavior of the other artists. Each one of them will be there to win it all - whatever it takes.

7/23/2009 09:34:00 AM  
Blogger zipthwung said...

Kate there are a few strategies for dealing with limelight.

On letterman some of the better guests (from my point of view) have been the ones that keep Letterman on the defensive behind his mask of incredulous condescension (are you on drugs?)

These guests are real artists - Harmony Korine (Hipper than Dash Snow) Krispin Glover. These dudes were ridiculed but never really Played. And they were asked back, I think.

But a naive found wood sculptor from West Virginia might have a hard time with this mentality.

I think a good show would allow for a clash betwen the urbane (ironic, cosmopolitan) city culture and the more literal (formalist with a little m), "outsider" and "visionary" rural artist.

Semiotics and French Philosophy aside, who is has more street smarts?

I bet you could make anyone or anything seem provincial, even transnational art stylists.

7/23/2009 09:44:00 AM  
Blogger markcreegan said...

I would eat key lime cookies and listen to bonnie prince billy all day, the only "art"i would make is chewing wax mustaches into weird shapes and leaving them places... consider this post my audition, thanxx.

7/23/2009 09:21:00 PM  
Blogger CAP said...

D-D-Did you say transnational art stylists?

7/23/2009 11:54:00 PM  
Blogger zipthwung said...

yes, provincial transnationalists. B-u-b-b-l-e. Utopianists might see something like visual Esperanto in the genre with its tropes, but all I see is the outside of limos and jets and pictures of exotic locales (sinking cities, islands, medieval fort towns, new york ghost towns, desert compounds, textbook homes you saw in Dwell) ...like a James Bond Movie epitomizes the state of the art? Special effects, sex, gadgets and a good car chase. That's what I want out of art!(Really!) Art is a mens interest magazine (Maxim, Juggs, Stuff, Details, Soldier of Fortune, Robb Report you name it) filled with boobs guns and drugs.

Because that's reality, that's the truth.

Could we get a validating helicopter shot of Miami Basil? Thanks Kate!

7/24/2009 08:22:00 AM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

Zip, did you really say, "Because that's reality, that's the truth"? Are you okay? Can I help?

7/24/2009 09:15:00 AM  

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