Friday, April 09, 2010

An Ungracious Note Before Viewing

The Artnet review of the sneak peek at "Work of Art: The Next Great Artist" (Bravo's new visual arts based reality TV show produced by Sarah Jessica Parker) certainly makes it sound like they've done a good job putting this show seems to have the right balance of seriousness and drama to be a successful entry into this growing and (only potentially) lucrative field. Artnet reports:
How is it? Fascinating, full of snappy edits, with scenes of the artists talking, working and stressing out, all in one big shared studio. The nude -- arguably a key ingredient when it comes to art and popular appeal -- makes an all-too-brief appearance. The competing artists, who are all identified here, are cute, though fairly conventional in their art-making; the show could have benefited from a Duchampian or two. "Work of Art" has some drama, though the participants don’t display much cut-throat art-world competitiveness, at least not in the first episode.
My only problem with it, admittedly before I see it and entirely independent of any insider snobbery about the effort (or so it honestly feels to me), is that I suffer from what I suspect is an incurable fatigue with this formula. I can't watch any of these shows any more...I just can't muster up the energy to care about another crop of strangers' fates, regardless of which new field they've sown their dreams in.

Bambino has taken to watching RuPaul's Drag Race, and I've caught a bit here and there on my way back to my latest trashy spy novel (see, it's not that I'm high brow...I'm just being honest)... but even then, with the fabulous outfits and snappiest, bitchiest banter you've ever heard on such a show, I can't seem to generate any interest at all in who the winner will be. Maybe, over the years, I've tapped out my capacity for stranger empathy. Maybe I've seen what becomes of the "winners" of these shows and lost my appetite for that pending train wreck. I don't know.

Now I appreciate that the goal of such shows (the first step in the formula) is to get you to "know" the like (or hate) get you invested in one or two of them...or at least to get you invested in the way the judges offer them feedback, but here again, even knowing some of the judges on this show, I really just can't... eh!

It feels like work. Like a homework attention, get to know the characters, select your favorite, prepare yourself for their potential failure, never mind that ad man behind the curtain, yadda, yadda, yadda...

...give me a new spy novel.

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Blogger nathaniel said...

Do you like English satire? Mix detective novel with satire and get the latest author I won't miss anything by: Jasper Fforde. I'm especially fond of the Nursery Crime series, and the later books in his Thursday Next series. Better than any reality show I've ever seen (I admit, I've never really liked them), and available as mp3s, with good readers, for the commute....

4/09/2010 09:59:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

huhh, and I even know one of the contestants. Didn't know she was on that show... maybe I'll watch one episode and see if it's worth continuing. Generally I agree about reality shows, though, seen one, seen them all.

4/09/2010 10:06:00 AM  
Blogger Brent said...

I hgave trouble with some of the forumla. I can't watch "The Apprentice" and I cannot watch even "The Office" because both remind me of the dark side of work waaaaaay too much.

I don't mind the talent-show type of reality contest, but I much prefer the "Gong Show" of yore to anything they do today, frankly. Does that make my brow sufficiently low? ;)

4/09/2010 10:08:00 AM  
Blogger Iris said...

I also don't like this type of show-formula, never did like it and rarely watch any of those shows, but I will watch this one because it's about art and artists. And because I'm not a gallery owner/curator like you, Ed. I knew a therapist who didn't want to watch the HBO series 'In Treatment' because it felt like work for her, so you're not alone ;-)

4/09/2010 10:22:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OK, posted earlier about knowing one of the contestants... and I've been thinking about it, and do have a bit of an issue with the formula in this context.
Which basically is that the formula for these shows in an art context reads a lot like art school, and although giving an artist 'assignments' can be a chance for an artist to expand and grow, (which is why they choose that format at art school), generally artists get to a point where their best work and ideas will be that which they come with on their own, once they learn how to successfully tackle someone else's assignments.
So it sort of seems like going backwards. You could likely just take 14 artists, have them bring their best work, judge it, and pick a winner more decisively and in a way that is more representative of the artist's best work without going through the whole ordeal of who completed the assignments the best.
Though it could be interesting to see how the non-art school contestants fare with those that are familiar with this formula. Art school grads will definitely have an advantage going into it.

4/09/2010 10:32:00 AM  
Anonymous Cedric C said...

The contest aspect of Tv Reality shows where newbies are trying to win some fame is really kitsch, but what about a Tv Reality show that would follow the life of an artist you really admire, Edward? Wouldn't you be slightly curious to follow their everyday life?
What if it was Genesis-Breyer P. Orridge?

Sometimes I fancy that humans are separated as exhibitionist or voyeur, and that any individual
is a little more of one versus
the other.

Cedric C

4/09/2010 10:45:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh- geez, just took a closer look at the contestants and they are almost all art school grads- at least 2 from my alma mater! Where are the outsiders? They all have impressive art world resumes for their ages.

Yes, obviously this kind of thing becomes for more interesting than it otherwise would when you know someone involved in real life.

4/09/2010 12:03:00 PM  
Anonymous Larry said...

We are told: In each episode, contestants are faced with the challenge of creating unique pieces in a variety of mediums such as painting, sculpture, photography, collage and industrial design.

So is week 1 sculpture week, week 2 photography, week 3 abstract expressionism in oil on canvas, etc., with the standard 1 elimination per week? If so this show is picking up on the most pernicious practice of these reality shows, since the person deficient in sculpture could well be brilliant in drawing or oil painting, and vice versa.

4/09/2010 12:27:00 PM  
Blogger Iris said...

Isn't it strange that all the contesting artists are only mentioned by their first name? Except for the ones with a unique name, like Peregrine, it's impossible to look up their art if you don't know them!

4/09/2010 12:31:00 PM  
OpenID petebrook said...

Edward, when you post ran through my google reader, my glance at the promo pic atop your piece made me think that you were discussing Chris Barton's wonderful recent compendium of microstock repetition.

The five folded-arms folk positioned in the bland predictable pyramid, for me, is just a visual cue to "this is a formula-production" of no merit.

Low-budget, low-production value reality TV is a very comfortable commercial bedfellow with rote photo-microstock use.

4/09/2010 12:43:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i love reality shows like survivor, amazing race, celebrity apprentice, dancing with the stars, and even wife swap. can't stand and never watch the singing/fashion assignment ones, the bachelor, big brother. saw a preview and this show looks like shit.

it's on at 11pm... who is going to watch it. those most interested in talking about this show is the segment of the population least likely to even have a tv, unless you count the amish.

4/09/2010 01:40:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

THIS is one of the contestant?! They're looking for ratings, not great artists. It's insulting. But maybe they chose him to have us see de Pury and Saltz get offended too.

4/09/2010 04:45:00 PM  
Blogger Joanne Mattera said...

As long as it doesn't involve hair, matchmaking or those dreadful housewives, I'll give a look.

4/09/2010 07:16:00 PM  
Blogger patrick said...

I'm unlikely to watch this because I don't have cable and don't really give a damn about these shows in general. BUT, taking a step back, this kind of works for me on a conceptual level as a long-running performance piece on art (and implicitly, art education) reduced to a practice of self-indulgence and commodity.

I don't think that's what anyone has in mind here, but hey: they're not responsible for my reaction to their art, to coin a phrase.

4/10/2010 03:46:00 PM  
Blogger joy said...

"give me a new spy novel."


or even an old one: I've renewed my addiction to Patricia Highsmith, lately...

4/10/2010 06:43:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't have a tv. If I see it online maybe I'll give it a chance- probably not. Though I do like Jerry Saltz. I wish there was a show where a camera follows him going to different gallery and museum shows. Now that would be fun.

4/10/2010 09:28:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric C said...

You should do a "write a spy novel" contest. The only indication being that the crime must happen at Winkleman gallery.

That would be fun!


(you could exhibit the results in your project room)

4/11/2010 10:02:00 AM  
Blogger nina said...

agreed and on that note let me recommend John Le Carre's 'A Man Most Wanted' - if you have not read it yet.

4/11/2010 12:54:00 PM  
Blogger CAP said...

I count the Amish.

4/12/2010 03:10:00 AM  
Blogger Mike @ MAO said...


You've missed the point of these new shows... when you say..

"Maybe I've seen what becomes of the "winners" of these shows and lost my appetite for that pending train wreck."

With these New Generation of Reality shows.. you don't have to wait for the winner to be a train wreck....

On, RuPaul's Drag Race, they give viewers a Train Wreck every week! Infact they started with an entire group of them. How progressive!

I can't wait to see the new ArtWorld "Work of Art" Train Wrecks.. it's going to be Glorious, Pathetic,..and Tragic every week!

4/12/2010 11:56:00 AM  
Blogger M said...

I just stumbled across your blog. It's quite fun, and I look forward to visiting often. This reality show poses some interesting ideas. I wonder how this show will help dispel or encourage the idea of the "artist as genius." Will these people seem like everyday individuals, or will the producers play up the angle that these artists are unique, creative minds that are different from the general populous? It will be interesting to see.

And I agree with you: the reality TV series is quite gimmicky and predictable. It would be nice to see some unpredictable artists (Duchampian, as you say) come out of this predictable platform.

I wrote a little bit more of my reaction to this show on my blog, if you are interested:


4/13/2010 07:14:00 PM  
Blogger Iris said...

Artists are just people, they are not different from other people. Some of them are good people and some are bad. Some are creative and some are good at emulating others, recycling ideas. Others still are very skilled at a craft. People with other professions can be very creative,as much as 'artists' are or more. In a way, every person is an artist, creating their own lives, the difference is artists put their creation on a pedestal, for the world to see and maybe enjoy, and call it art, creating for the sheer purpose of creating. Others who create their lives or in their lives don't usually present their creations on a pedestal, they create for other purposes, be it for useful, recreational, fulfilling or unfulfilling reasons. An artist serves a similar role to a teacher, they point out, to show us something we may not have noticed otherwise. Everybody in the world is an artist, some are good and some are bad, whether they know it or not.

4/14/2010 08:46:00 AM  
Blogger judith braun said...

Hey I'm gonna chime in here because I'm ON THE EFFING SHOW! Call me crazy or stupid (or brave)...I stood on the audition line out of curiosity...and was put each hoop I figured...let's see what happens? So then in the end when I made it on ... I figured why not?...I can be a serious artist and play a game on tv too! Ya know, walk and chew gum!

Re Cedric's point about other ideas. I totally agree...there are/could be much better ways to investigate, observe artists and artmaking. And I'm sure I've offered those to the camera, tho they are likely edited out. EDITING!!!....I have not seen the edited series and will be keeping my sense of humor. I don't know if it's appropriate here but I guess to establish my credibility I'm giving you my

4/15/2010 08:56:00 AM  

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