Thursday, September 27, 2012

Satellite of Love

In his recent blog post in The Guardian "Science is more Beautiful than Art," Jonathan Jones get it wrong, in my opinion. The tagline insists "science is overtaking art in its capacity to expand minds and inspire awe."

What's wrong here is his assertion that this is some new development and his position that it's a contest.

But let's back up. Jones starts off  by gorging himself on some low-hanging fruit:
[O]n Mars, Nasa's Curiosity rover has begun its mission to determine – metre by metre, rock by rock – whether the red planet was once able to support life. This new mission comes days after Curiosity captured a partial solar eclipse on Mars as its small moon Phobos crossed the face of the sun, appearing to take a tiny bite out of it.

And in the art world … well, let's see.

It has been announced that Damien Hirst got record attendances for his Tate Modern retrospective, while drawings by Andy Warhol are among works to be exhibited at the inaugural Frieze Masters art fair next month. Somehow, these bits of art news do not seem as thrilling as discovering the secrets of other planets, or the once-unfathomable oceans.
Then Jones goes even further down the path of pitting science against art:
It is science that now provides the most beautiful and provocative images of our world – not to mention other worlds. It is hard to name an image made by an artist in the last two decades that is as fascinating or memorable as, say, the Hubble telescope's pictures of the Eagle Nebula or the Whirlpool Galaxy.
And, finally, he calls on Leo to go in for the death blow:
Once, art and science truly worked as equals – in the researches of Leonardo da Vinci, for instance. In the 21st century, art rarely rivals the capacity for wonder that modern science displays in such dazzling abundance.
OK, so why do I think he got it wrong. Why do I think he's forcing an "us vs. them" narrative, when in reality the relationship is anything but contentious. First there's history. Images like the one below, from nearly half a century ago, were even then viewed as serious challenges to contemporary art:
And yet, rather than leaving artists dumbstruck by its profundity, space travel inspired countless new works and continues to today. From its huge influence on pop culture to its continual presence in the dialog of contemporary art (see, Cincinnati's Contemporary Art Center 2008 exhibition "Space is the Place" which featured "artists’ inventive response to space-age potential provides a back-to-the-future exploration of space travel's endless possibilities" and a show up at the New Museum through this coming Sunday called "Pictures from the Moon" described as "a focused selection of holograms from the 1960s to the present by several leading, contemporary artists."), art and science have continually and quite happily fed off each other for quite some time. 

Yes, you might think, art feeds off science, but what about the other way around? 

What Jones doesn't note in his match-up is how science is very aware of the importance of the way contemporary artists envision solutions to problems. Indeed, worldwide there are dozens of companies who invite artists to collaborate with their scientists:
Artist in Residence [A] list of organizations that offer opportunities for artists to collaborate with scientists, technologists, or professionals in business or industry. Many are experimental laboratories where artists collaborate with scientists. Several are university based. Many are in countries other than the US.
One in particular, in the UK no less, The Arts Catalyst, not only summarizes nicely through their name how art serves the sciences, but also nicely phrases what they get out of it :
The Arts Catalyst commissions art that experimentally and critically engages with science. We produce provocative, playful, risk-taking projects to spark dynamic conversations about our changing world.
Clearly scientists are very interested in artists' ability to expand minds and inspire awe.

Moreover, though, when has art ever created something as fascinating or memorable as what we can find in nature? What Jones is celebrating in his post are images that simply show us another view on the universe that has been right there, just unseen by us.

And while yes, that's exhilarating, what Jones is feeling is no different from how humans felt the first time they viewed the ocean or an erupting volcano or a bacteria via a microscope. The Hubble telescope images are beautiful and inspiring but because they are of the real universe and they are new to us.

Art's role is to help us make sense of the universe, not to replace it. It's not a battle.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Ode on a Grecian Urn

"Thou still unravish'd bride of quietness,
    Thou foster-child of silence and slow time"

--John Keats

"The role of objects is to restore silence." 
--Samuel Beckett

Tyler Green twice commented on a link that I put up on Facebook the other day pointing to a post Kyle Chayka had written on Hyperallergic about a post I had put up here. Tyler's first comment about the link was astutely humorous: "The meta, it hurts."

At the risk of making it hurt all the more, though, I'll quickly shift to Tyler's second, more challenging and equally astute comment: "If there has been growth in writing around art in recent years, it has been around art world meta-narratives, not about art objects, artists or the ideas artists pursue or examine in their work. Which is too bad."

There's no way to argue with any part of that observation, in my opinion. It's true, and it is too bad.

Mind you, I don't view it as my role on this blog to critique art. I'm not a critic, I own a gallery, and it's simply not appropriate, to my mind, for me to criticize shows in other people's galleries. There's no way to do so objectively and besides, again, I'm not an art critic. But I am an art viewer and, as such, an art criticism consumer, so I do feel it's appropriate for me to comment on art writing.

And so, I don't mind noting that I wouldn't mind reading more compelling reflections on art objects themselves. Not reviews of massive shows in which we get at most a pithy line or two about each work, but in-depth, inspiring, and perhaps most importantly accessible musings on single totally silencing objects. Silence today is highly underachieveable, unfortunately. We could all do with a far deal more of it. 

But I don't long for lengthy exercises in art speak...I get my fill of that, quite frankly. Rarely do they drive me back to observe the actual object, again and again, but rather more often off to a dictionary and to read once-provocative texts that have haven't aged well. Such essays are too often vessels for their author's cleverness, and too often seemingly at best ambivalent about their subject.

Don't get me wrong, I fully understand that in the age of Photoshop, it's no longer as simple as 
"Beauty is truth, truth beauty," - that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know."
But I do still find myself dumbstruck by art objects from time to time. I like that sensation. And I'd like to think I could (would) carve out the time in my schedule to read really good, in-depth, revealing critiques of why they silence us, still, these objects. 

Then again, I wonder if a similar phenomenon isn't happening in the art world as political reporter Sasha Issenberg recently noted is happening in politics. Things are changing so rapidly the chroniclers of it all can't keep up, and so resort to the meta-narratives or non-applicable descriptions, leaving those closer to the subject being covered (those familiar with the actual objects) longing for more. From Issenberg's article in The New York Times:
Over the last decade, almost entirely out of view, campaigns have modernized their techniques in such a way that nearly every member of the political press now lacks the specialized expertise to interpret what’s going on. Campaign professionals have developed a new conceptual framework for understanding what moves votes. It’s as if restaurant critics remained oblivious to a generation’s worth of new chefs’ tools and techniques and persisted in describing every dish that came out of the kitchen as either “grilled” or “broiled.”
Indeed, in this time when there is, and when an art critic from The New York Times confesses in a review, "I’m not sure if [new works by an established artist] completely qualify as art. But perhaps it’s not necessary," it indicates to me that perhaps we're seeing the impact of a similar modernizing development in the art world. Not so much that the art press lacks the specialized expertise to interpret what's going on (although I'd lay that charge at the feet of a few of them), as much as how quickly everything is changing, and how many individuals are making micro advances in new media with new rich, but insanely obscure histories, leads us to where critics and everyone else lack the perspective to see the whole picture in a way that enables clear interpretation, let alone much time to focus intensely on an individual object.

Still, it would be lovely...

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Moving Image London 2012 Artists and Participating Galleries

Moving Image
, the contemporary video art
fair, is very pleased to announce the artists and participating galleries and non-profit institutions in our 2012 London edition. Returning to the Bargehouse in London's South Bank, October 11-14, 2012, with an international selection of 35 single-channel videos and installations from Europe, Central Asia, the Middle East, South America, and North America, Moving Image has been conceived to offer a viewing experience with the excitement and vitality of a fair, while allowing moving-image-based artworks to be understood and appreciated on their own terms.
Highlights of the 2012 London fair include historical works by highly influential pioneers of video and filmmaking, such as Peter Campus (Cristin Tierney, New York); Gary Hill (DNA, Berlin); and Leslie Thornton (Winkleman Gallery, New York). Moving Image London 2012 also presents several installations, including works by Carolee Schneemann (PPOW, New York), Alessandro Balteo Yazbeck and Media Farzin (Green Art Gallery, Dubai, UAE),  Burak Arikan (Analix Forever, Geneva, Switzerland) and Nezaket Ekici (Pi Artworks, Istanbul, Turkey). And we are very excited to present works by emerging artists at the fair including new videos by Jen DeNike (Anat Ebgi, Los Angeles, CA); Ryan McNamara (Elizabeth Dee, New York); Anssi Kasitonni (Av-arkki, Helsinki, Finland), and Luke Murphy  (CANADA, New York).
For updates on exhibitors and our special panel discussion programming information, please visit the Moving Image website

Participating Artists
/ Presented by galleries and non-profit institutions
(as of September 18, 2012)
Sama Alshaibi / Selma Feriani Gallery (London)
Burak Arikan / Analix Forever (Geneva, Switzerland)
Alessandro Balteo Yazbeck & Media Farzin / Green Art Gallery (Dubai, UAE)
Janet Biggs / Winkleman Gallery (New York, NY)
Carlos Bunga / Galería Elba Benítez (Madrid, Spain)
Peter Campus / Cristin Tierney Gallery  (New York, NY)
Nicole Cohen / Morgan Lehman Gallery (New York, NY)
Amanda Coogan / Kevin Kavanagh Gallery (Dublin, Ireland)
Jen DeNike / Anat Ebgi (Los Angeles, CA)
Ronald Duarte / Progetti (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)
Nezaket Ekici / Pi Artworks (Istanbul, Turkey)
Kasearu Flo / Temnikova & Kasela Gallery (Tallin, Estonia)
Rico Gatson / Ronald Feldman Fine Arts (New York, NY)
Marisa Gonzalez / Galerie Vanguardia (Bilbao, Spain)
Brent Green & Chris Doyle / Andrew Edlin Gallery (New York, NY)
Katharina Gruzei / Charim Galerie (Vienna, Austria)
Micah Harbon / Moving Image Presents (London)
Gary Hill / DNA (Berlin, Germany)
Francesco Jodice / Galleria Michela Rizzo (Venice, Italy)
Anssi Kasitonni / AV-arkki (Helsinki, Finland)
Joan Leandre / [DAM] Berlin | Cologne (Berlin, Germany)
Ryan McNamara / Elizabeth Dee (New York, NY)
Aytegin Muratbek Uulu / ArtEast (Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan)
Luke Murphy / CANADA (New York, NY)
Michael Nyman / Myriam Blundell_Projects (London)
Itziar Okariz / Galería Moisés Pérez de Albéniz (Pamplona, Spain)
Oval Office / Future Gallery (Berlin, Germany)
Daniel Phillips / DODGEgallery (New York, NY)
Carolee Schneemann / P·P·O·W (New York, NY)
Roman Signer / STAMPA (Basel, Switzerland)
Kate Steciw / toomer labzda (New York, NY)
Leslie Thornton / Winkleman Gallery (New York, NY)
Jaan Toomik / Temnikova & Kasela Gallery (Tallin, Estonia)
Mariana Vassileva / DNA (Berlin, Germany)
John Wood & Paul Harrison / Carroll / Fletcher (London)
Moving Image's London 2012 Curatorial Advisory Committee
  • Moacir dos Anjos, Curator of São Paulo Biennial 2010, Visual Arts Coordinator at Fundação Joaquim Nabuco, Recife, Brazil (São Paulo, Brazil)
  • Elizabeth Dee, Principal, Elizabeth Dee Gallery (New York, NY)
  • Kathleen Forde, Artistic Director at Borusan Contemporary (Istanbul, Turkey)
  • Emily-Jane Kirwan, Director, The Pace Gallery / Commissioner, Irish Pavilion 2011, The 54th International Venice Biennale (New York, NY)
  • Berta Sichel, Curator-at-Large at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Independent Curator and Art Writer (Madrid, Spain / Berlin, Germany)
Media Partners and Sponsors
We gratefully acknowledge the generous support of our media partners and sponsors for Moving Image London 2012:
  • Gallerist
  • Safiniart
  • FAD Website
  • Artnet
  • InFocus
  • Absolut Vodka
  • Art Review
  • ArtNexus
  • The Art Newspaper
  • Contemporary Art Society
  • New Exhibitions
  • Aesthetica
  • Mutual Art
  • Art in Asia
  • The Stafford London | Kempinski
Moving Image
October 11-14, 2012
Oxo Tower Wharf
Bargehouse Street
South Bank
London SE1 9PH, UK
Bargehouse is owned and managed
by Coin Street Community Builders
Thursday - Saturday, October 11-13, 2012: 11 am -7 pm
Sunday, October 14, 2012: 11 am - 6 pm
Opening Reception: Sponsored by Absolut Vodka, Thursday, October 11, 6-8  pm
Moving Image Team
Co-Founder, Murat Orozobekov
Co-Founder, Edward Winkleman
Moving Image
621 West 27th Street
New York, NY 10001
US:  (1) 212.643.3152
UK: (44) 07887 817306

Thursday, September 13, 2012

What Do We Mean by "The Dialog"?

Murat and I have been graciously invited to present a series of lectures in Tallinn, Estonia, on How to Start and Run a Commercial Art Gallery. Most of the lectures will deal with practical matters--established business models, legal considerations, logistical concerns, etc.--but one of the topics we'll cover as well, knowing that at least some of the attendees are interested in opening or working in contemporary commercial art galleries, is "the dialog."

I've gotten tangled up in discussing "the dialog" in similar contexts before, especially when the audience included people with a mix of niches they intended to focus on within the art market. The main problem here, of course, is that "the dialog" means different things to different people. There are, for example, dialogs that are international in scope, regional, national, and local; dialogs that are medium-based; dialogs that are conceptually based; and on and on to the point that you might be forgiven for concluding "the dialog" is a useless term in discussing practical matters.

But actually it's not. When a group of galleries (i.e., committee members) are asked to weigh in on whether Gallery X should get into trendy Art Fair Y, there is a very specific and practical (not to mention potentially economic) meaning to their conclusion that Gallery X isn't right for Art Fair Y because their program falls outside "the dialog." That doesn't mean the art that Gallery X shows isn't of the highest quality within its niche, just that their niche doesn't reinforce or support the statements being made by the other galleries already associated with or participating in Art Fair Y.

And so, because it's a shorthand loaded with practical meaning for those in the contemporary art gallery world, the concept of "the dialog" is, imo, an important one to discuss in considering how to start and run a commercial art gallery (in addition, obviously, to being important to being well informed about what contemporary artists are up to...but the context in which I need to discuss it most immediately is for new business owners). But it would surely be easier to do so with an accurate and flexible metaphor. In particular, this metaphor needs to be flexible enough to account for the way "the dialog" works within the increasingly global contemporary art sphere.

One metaphor I've considered fleshing out for this (and will test on lucky you!) is weather.

I realize this is probably way too complicated (and full of holes) to help in a lecture, but perhaps any feedback to it will steer me in the right direction, so I'll offer it all the same.

In this metaphor, artists are huge meteorological events, like tornadoes or hurricanes or tsunamis (stick with me offense intended :-). Although normally few people would pay much attention to the weather in a location half way around the world, should there be a powerful event there that disrupts the normal flow of things or has an impact on a wider swath of the world, big powerful weather events (localized by definition) get more of the rest of the world's attention than they would otherwise. That's why collectors in Shanghai know the name Jeff Koons, for example, and why collectors in New York know the name Ai Weiwei.

There is also importance in the infrastructure, industry, or symbolism of a location that can focus our attention on its weather. Consider, for example, the way all of the US pays close attention when a hurricane rips through the Gulf Coast even when it barely results in a few rain drops up north. It's not only concern for our fellow citizens living down there, but we also care because any damage or disruption to the oil refineries there will be reflected in what we pay at the pump in Poughkeepsie. How many days the refineries are closed is therefore carefully analyzed across the country, if not the world, by businesses as they try to predict its potential impact on the prices of transport, heating, goods, etc. Likewise, although there's a local art scene in Venice, Italy, and the art world pays an appropriate amount of attention to what happens there day to day, when a huge, powerful event like the Biennale takes place, each detail of that event is scoured and analyzed for significance to what it will mean for future trends, artist's careers, or national rankings on the international scene.

The metaphor works (I think) to discuss the daily impact of "the dialog" as well. Whereas you might visit or read the arts publications to see what the "weather" was like in Venice every other year, and keep up with global climate change (global art trends), usually you're more consumed with the local weather (the local dialog). Will I need an umbrella today? (Is local critic Z stopping in, and will he/she agree that this show is important?)  

How helpful is this in understanding the role "the dialog" plays in setting up and running a commercial art gallery? I've fallen so in love with my metaphor, actually, I'm no longer sure. Feel free to point out any part of it you think might be useful...or suggest another metaphor...otherwise, I may simply say (in practical terms, in this context) "the dialog" can be boiled down to the consensus of which artists are important as reflected by the power of their galleries and strength of their markets...but that would be a shame, really :-).

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Announcing "The Moving Image Award"


Announcing "The Moving Image Award"

Honors San Francisco collectors Pamela and Richard Kramlich
Funds Donation of New Video Art to Tate Modern
In conjunction with their media partner Gallerist, Moving Image, the Contemporary Video Art Fair, announced today the creation of a new award to be presented October 11, 2012, the opening day of this year's London fair. The Moving Image Award funds the acquisition by Tate of artwork exhibited at the fair, as selected by Tate's Curator of Film, Stuart Comer.
Gallerist, the host of the official online catalog for Moving Image (, established the award to raise awareness of the importance of incorporating video and film into the permanent collections of major art institutions. The award was inspired by San Francisco collectors Pamela and Richard Kramlich, who have supported contemporary artists working in video, film, and new media through their private collection and through the New Art Trust, a non-profit organization they founded to advance the collection, preservation, exhibition, and understanding of technology-based art forms,  particularly at the Trust's three supported organizations, Tate, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
“The Moving Image Fair surveys an impressive, international selection of recent film and video work thoughtfully installed and shown at its best,” said Stuart Comer. “Tate is grateful to Gallerist for this award, which helps to extend our commitment to representing innovation in film and video in the Collection. We are delighted that the award highlights the pioneering achievements of Pamela and Richard Kramlich, whose longstanding commitment to Tate and the New Art Trust has contributed substantially to our support of artists working with the moving image.”
The Moving Image Award grants $10,000 to Tate Modern to purchase new work for their collection. Speaking on the award, Pamela Kramlich responded, "My husband Dick and I thank Galerist for so kindly honoring us in this way. We're very happy that the Tate's collection will be enriched and that our names will be associated with this new acquisition, particularly at a moment when the museum's lively, informed, and highly important contribution to media art is made even more conspicuous by the advent of the Tanks and the programs planned for these spaces, which include the frequent presentation of time-based and moving image art."
Gallerist founder and CEO Doğan Perese explained the media company's support for the award: "Gallerist is honored to sponsor the 2012 Moving Image Award.  Our goal is to support the local arts community of each fair we partner with.  The prestige of this year's judge and museum acquisition bring this to a global level."
Moving Image co-founders Murat Orozobekov and Edward Winkleman noted that the Moving Image Award was designed to honor a collector couple who have greatly increased awareness about the issues involved in collecting, preserving, and exhibiting moving-image-based artwork. "Pamela and Richard Kramlich have been instrumental in setting the gold standard for conservation and the presentation of video art," said Winkleman. "Through both their private collection and the educational and conservation efforts of the New Art Trust, they have helped support so many artists and museums dedicated to the medium. We are delighted that the award affords us an opportunity to honor their contributions to this emerging field, to acknowledge the fine work of Tate's Curator of Film Stuart Comer, and to enrich the collection of Tate with Comer's selection of work from the excellent offerings of this year's Moving Image London fair through a gift made in the Kramlich's name."
Gallerist is an integrated web platform specifically designed to meet the needs of art world professionals. By empowering art fairs, galleries, institutions and arts organizations with better technological resources, Gallerist provides them a stronger and more convenient bridge to interact with global collectors. Implementing such features as high resolution scalable images, automated digital catalogues, online inventory and collection maintenance applications, purchase processing, Skype, private messaging and a secure, client-customizable viewing platform for images and video art, Gallerist aims to enhance the way people exhibit, experience, and exchange art around the world. ( Gallerist also funds the Dorothy and Herbert Vogel Award, which is presented at the Dallas Art Fair and the NADA art fair.
Moving Image, the contemporary video art fair, will return to The Bargehouse, October 11-14, 2012, during Frieze Art Fair in London. Located within short walking distance of Tate Modern, the Bargehouse is just behind the Oxo Tower on the South Bank. Moving Image will be free to the public and open Thursday - Saturday, October 11 - 14, 11 am - 7 pm, and on Sunday, October 14, 11 am - 4 pm. An opening reception for Moving Image will take place Thursday, October 11, 6 - 8 pm. Moving Image was conceived to offer a unique viewing experience with the excitement and vitality of a fair, while allowing moving image-based artworks to be understood and appreciated on their own terms. Moving Image London 2012 will feature a selection of international commercial galleries and non-profit institutions presenting single-channel videos, single-channel projections, video sculptures, and other larger video installations.
Moving Image Contemporary Video Art Fair
October 11-14, 2012
Oxo Tower Wharf
Bargehouse Street
South Bank
London SE1 9PH, UK
For more information, contact Edward Winkleman at (1) 212.643.3152 or

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


As we stop to remember those we who were killed 11 years ago today, I realized waking up today that I do, finally, feel the terror and unfathomable loss of the attacks fading. Even back then, as we huddled in shock, we knew time would work its magic. There's simply no shortcut...only time.

And yet, it's a gorgeous crisp early autumn day in New York today. So with a keen sense of heartache for those still mourning, but a growing inner peace about the sheer madness and horror of that day, I'm choosing to commemorate 9/11 with a series of love songs to this amazing, resilient city I call home:

and then there's this...ahhhh...bagel:

Monday, September 10, 2012

Water Parks and the Myth of a Politics of Envy

Tom Junod has penned what I consider the most inspired political analogy of the 2012 campaign season. As both Democrats and Republicans alike have attempted to define the difference in what their vision promises the country, Junod sees the essence of our choice in the recent changes at a water park called Whitewater that he takes his daughter to every Labor Day:
I take her there not just for the "rides," which in most cases aren't really rides at all, but slides that combine water and gravity in varying proportions, and so pack a pretty elemental wallop.
I take her for the lines.
See, you have to wait in line when you go to Whitewater — or, for that matter, any other water park. It's like Disney that way, or any of the other big amusement parks that traffic in the ability to wring screams from even the most jaded customers. The distinctive thing about waiting in line at Whitewater, however, is that you have to wait in line without any clothes on. You have to wait in line wet and semi-naked, in close proximity to hundreds of other wet and semi-naked people. That's why the lines at Whitewater are not simply preludes to the Whitewater experience, not simply inconveniences to be endured before you go down a big blue slide that calls itself a "flume": The lines at Whitewater are the experience. They're a vision not just of democracy in action but democracy unveiled, a glimpse of what the last line is going to look like, when all is revealed, and we're waiting for our interview with Saint Peter.
And let me tell you, it ain't pretty.
Through a series of equally endearing and hilarious descriptions of what we, as a nation, look like naked, Junod defends his conclusion that "it ain't pretty," but he also goes on to explain, "But here's the thing about waiting in line at Whitewater, here's the lesson that you learn from the spectacle of America in the raw: It works."
When my daughter gapes and marvels, I tell her that human beings come in all shapes and sizes, and it's an explanation that seems to satisfy her because it's inescapable. When I hear the censorious voice in my head saying that the woman in front of me shouldn’t be wearing that bikini, I go on to draw the only conclusion that the evidence all around me permits: that no one should, and that therefore everyone can. Going to Whitewater is like bathing in the Ganges, with chlorine and funnel cakes — and also with the elemental difference that not everyone is poor, lowly, untouchable, an outcast. Rather, everyone is quite simply American, and so the line slouches and stumbles forward, the very definition of a mixed blessing — a blessing mixed black and white, rich and poor, slovenly and buff, and so on down the line. It can be slow going, it can be frustrating, but people have no choice to make the best of it, so they talk to one another, they gripe amusingly, they laugh, they compromise, they endure, and they scream when they finally go down a water slide whose initial pitch approaches 90 degrees. No one cuts, or tries to; the line works because for all its inherent and exhibitionistic imperfections it keeps its promise of equal access, and, by God, it moves.
Or at least, as Junod goes on to tell, it used to move. A few years back, an Englishman who took his family to Disneyland had the experience ruined because they had to wait in lines. So he invented a solution to what he saw as the lines "problem," named it a Flash Pass, and has been selling it to amusement parks ever since. In addition to paying all the other fees you need to enjoy your day (parking, entrance, locker, etc.), for an additional $30 or $40 you can buy the ability to cut to the front of each line.
It sounds like an innovative answer to the problem that everybody faces at an amusement park, and one perfectly in keeping with the approaches currently in place at airports and even on some crowded American highways — perfectly in keeping with the two-tiering of America. You can pay for one level of access, or you can pay for another. If you have the means, you can even pay for freedom. There's only one problem: Cutting the line is cheating, and everyone knows it. Children know it most acutely, know it in their bones, and so when they've been waiting on a line for a half-hour and a family sporting yellow plastic Flash Passes on their wrists walks up and steps in front of them, they can't help asking why that family has been permitted the privilege of perpetrating what looks like an obvious injustice. And then you have to explain not just that they paid for it but that you haven't paid enough — that the $100 or so that you've ponied up was just enough to teach your children that they are second- or third-class citizens.
Junod gains speed from there in what ends up being perhaps the most damning critique of what's happening in America I have every read. I cannot recommend it strongly enough. It's changed my entire way of viewing the promises of opportunity laid out by the two major parties at the conventions recently. Junod also strikes me as the kind of person we need more of in America:
On the way home, of course, my daughter asked why we couldn't get Flash Passes. I answered that we couldn't afford it, but that wasn’t the real reason. The real reason is that I liked the people who were waiting on line better than I liked the people cutting in front of it — that I couldn't imagine counting myself among those paying for the pleasure of stepping in front of another child who might be as sensitive to slight as my daughter.
There are two points Junod makes in particular that I wanted to explore a bit more here. First is how the Flash Pass concept doesn't simply privilege those with the extra cash to afford it, it quite literally devalues the experience that everyone else can have at the park:
It wouldn't be so bad, if the line still moved. But it doesn't. It stops, every time a group of people with Flash Passes cut to the front. You used to be able to go on, say, three or four rides an hour, even on the most crowded days. Now you go on one or two. After four hours at Whitewater the other day, my daughter and I had gone on five. And so it's not just that some people can afford to pay for an enhanced experience. It's that your experience — what you've paid full price for — has been devalued.
Now we've had a debate about the "value" of programs like Flash Pass in the US for years. Entrepreneurs who use them justify the humiliations inflicted on those who haven't paid the extra fees by suggesting the extra fees enable them to keep the prices lower for everyone else. As Junod illustrates, though, this argument falls apart under examination, because although the price hasn't necessarily gone up for the non-Flash-Pass visitors, the quality of the experience has most certainly gone down. In other words, they are not getting as much for their money. It is a fallacy that everyone benefits when an elite can buy their way to the head of the line. The elite are simply buying an entitled experience. Everyone else is actually, quite literally getting less as a result. For me, this is a good illustration of why the concept of the "bitter politics of envy" misses the mark. It's not envy to insist that you get your money's worth. It's not envy to object to being made to feel you and your family are second-class citizens when you've paid full price, played by the rules (and waited in line), and simply endured like everyone else has been for so many years. The second point I'd like to explore more is in how having a Flash Pass (having elite access to what everyone else needs to patiently wait their turn for) begins to alter how one views citizenship:
The commonality of experience is lost, and the lines are striated not simply by who can pay for a Flash Pass and who can't; they're also striated by race and class. The people sporting the Flash Passes are almost exclusively white, and they tend to be in better shape than those stuck on line. They tend to have fewer tattoos, and to look less, well, pagan. And by the end of the day, they start cutting lines where Flash Passes don't even apply — because they feel entitled to — and none of them, not even their kids, will so much as look at you. [emphasis mine]
I can just imagine the fights that break out when someone with a Flash Pass, who has been cutting line all day for the rides, perhaps even innocently goes to do so at the bathroom or somewhere else it doesn't apply. The extra vitriol with which the others waiting there will pounce on them (and their children) because their resentment has built up all day only serves to make an unnecessarily unfair situation even uglier. But it's not accurate, in my opinion, to label that resentment as envy. The Flash Pass holder trying to cut in the bathroom line is exhibiting a brand of arrogance our social contract cannot survive. It's ugly to pounce on them at that point, sure, but it's entirely necessary to our shared sense of fairness to not let them cut. Moreover, why, after a day of Flash Pass holders not even so much as looking at the people their cutting in front of, humiliating them in front of their children, should they expect kindness in the bathroom line? It's not a matter of simple envy at this point, but rather of quid pro quo. They're being good citizens to remind the Flash Pass holders the bathroom line is first-come--first-serve. How much relish they take in doing so is understandably proportionate to how many slights they endured with their family all day. But beyond this potential for justifiable payback, Junod explains why this all matter so much now, as we head into the elections in November:
Both parties have used their conventions to speak endlessly of preserving opportunity, and very often it sounds like they're addressing the very same thing. But Mitt Romney was born with a Flash Pass on his wrist, and he can't help but conceive opportunity as the opportunity to walk to the front of line — to either pay for it or to dream of being able to pay for it some day. The Democrats can't help defining opportunity differently: that everybody will have an opportunity to get to the front, if everybody waits. It's not a particularly popular solution, and a lot of people who regard waiting in line as the problem will ask what ideas the Democrats have for solving it.
But they miss the point: Democrats don’t have particularly innovative ideas for moving to the front of the line because for Democrats the line is the idea — because, as anybody standing half-naked on it can tell you, the line is America itself, and it only stops when you allow people to pass it by.
Consider this an open thread on citizenship, fairness, and bitter envy.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Opening Tomorrow : Friday, Sept 7, CHRIS DORLAND, "PERMANENT VACATION" @ Winkleman Gallery

September 7 - October 20, 2012
Opening Reception: Friday, Sept 7, 6-8pm 


Are you looking for more meaning in your life – a sense of happiness? Are you tired of days that blend into each other?

Are you feeling the grind? Do you find yourself sitting in traffic feeling the heat rising up your neck?

Fighting with family members, coworkers or neighbors? Are you awakened night after night by the noise of the city?

Your health and happiness could be at risk. Chronic stress is a leading cause of anxiety, depression, substance abuse, heartburn, chronic pain, high blood pressure, ulcers, diabetes and much much more.

Maybe it’s time to get away from it all: do you dream of a life where you can just get up in the morning, walk to the beach,  have a fresh juice and enjoy the sun. All day. Everyday.

Sounds like what you need is a vacation. A Permanent Vacation.

Chris Dorland (b. 1978, Montreal, Canada) lives and works in New York City. Dorland's hallucinatory and entropic paintings create a layered and networked world of images and signs using stock photography, corporate logos and architectural imagery. His dark humored paintings and videos explore themes of public architecture, cyber culture, advertising and decay, commenting on the increasing abstraction of everyday life in our post-internet world. Dorland received his BFA Summa Cum Laude, Painting, at PurchaseCollege in 2002. He has exhibited at Winkleman Gallery (NYC), Sikkema Jenkins (NYC), Gasser and Grunert (NYC), Rental (NYC), Marc Selwyn Fine Art (LA), Rhona Hoffman Gallery (Chicago), The Suburban (Oak Park, IL), Portugal Arte 10 (Lisbon), Valentina Bonomo Gallery (Rome), and the Neuberger Museum (Purchase, NY) among others. In 2009 he curated Skin Jobs at Marc Selwyn Fine Art and in 2012 he curated DATA TRASH at I-20 Gallery. His work is in numerous public and private collections including the Whitney Museum of American Art. 

For more information, contact Edward Winkleman at 212.643.3152 or