Friday, June 14, 2019

ART ACTIVISM


Here in 2019, while living in ‘American End Times,’ during the horrific and criminal Trump administration, I’ve seen many calls for ‘Activist Art’ to protest the inevitable Republican achievement of the destruction of the United States of America and end of Democracy as we knew it.

Yeah, right.  Like art is going to change anything.

Remember the Women’s March, AKA the ‘Pussy Hat’ protest of 2016?  How’d that work out?  Did you see any changes?  Nope.  Like ‘Artist-Activists’ they achieved nothing except feeling good about themselves and seeming like they’re ‘doing something.’  Sure, it showed a lot of unhappy people but little else.

If you’re an artist who thinks you can create artworks that will affect social change you’re wrong.  Sure, you’ll feel like you’ve contributed to the resistance but politicians don’t give a damn about your symbolic gestures.  Yes, there is some ‘protest art’ that has withstood the test of time and is recognized as indicative of the time in which it was created but that art didn’t cause any real changes and had no bearing or influence on anything significant at the time.   

‘Activist Art’ may impress your dim professor at Art School, or perhaps it’ll sway some Grant-giving committee because nobody receives free money merely to make pretty pictures but society-at-large doesn’t care.  It doesn’t even register with ‘art consumers.’  Your activist art may be absolutely fucking brilliant but it’s little more than a fart in a hurricane when it comes to any social influence. 

Art is metaphor, art is symbol, a lot of art isn’t obvious and requires some mental work from the viewer to interpret.  Do you really think that a dumbass Trump-supporter is going to comprehend the subtleties of your oh-so profound artistic protest?  No!  Hell no, no way!  The very people the ‘activist artist’ needs to influence are the stupidest among us.   Not only will they not get it, they’ll work hard not to.  These are the willfully ignorant, watchers of Fox News, flat-Earthers, climate-change deniers, the ‘poorly educated,’ and are generally fucking morons.  This isn’t hyperbole.  I’ll give you a profound, and deadly example:

Remember the World Trade Center bombing of 1993?  Probably not because it wasn’t a big enough terrorist act to get attention.  Nah, a little smoke coming out of the underground parking garage didn’t register in our collective consciousness.  But what about September 11, 2001?  You know, 9/11?  Everybody remembers that act of terrorism don’t they?  And why?  Because four airplanes were hijacked simultaneously and two of them were flown straight into the World Trade Center Towers.  Yeah!  Fully loaded, fully fueled passenger planes crashing directly into the two tallest buildings in the country finally got America’s collective attention!  The World Trade Center terrorists of 1993 were just as pissed-off as the 19 skyjackers of 9/11 but it took a huge, audacious act creating a scene reminiscent of a Godzilla movie to get Americans’ heads out of their lazy, consumerist asses long enough to get their attention.  Yup, that was America’s wake-up call.  Nothing subtle about it.

So if it takes big airplanes flown into office buildings to make Americans understand the need for social change do you actually think your art is going to make a damn bit of difference?

NO!

You might be applying some artificial significance to your work by positioning it as ‘activism’ but you’re not going to change society. 

ART IS NOT A SIGNIFICANT FORCE FOR SOCIAL CHANGE.

Do you really want to affect society?  Do you really want to ‘make a difference?’  Here’s how:

                Vote.
                Get yourself elected to political office.
                Fight in the revolution.

Making ‘art for social change’ isn’t going to cut it.  Symbolic gestures do little. At the absolute bare minimum, go vote because nobody’s going to change their political views based on your artwork.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

SEXY MACHINES (from the new book "Nobody Cares about your Stupid Pictures"


                Just when I thought I’d acquired every kind of camera I’d ever need, photography changed so fundamentally that my cameras became obsolete nearly overnight.  Suddenly the dozens of film cameras I owned metamorphosed into expensive metal paperweights and had to be replaced with digital cameras.  Although I was not an early adopter of the digital camera I bought one when it was becoming clear that film’s lifespan was becoming limited.  I really didn’t have a choice if I were to continue working as a professional photographer, the industry was going digital.
                My first digital camera was a little 3.3 megapixel Canon G1.  It was a little silver box and clearly un-sexy; I’ve got another old box of a camera in my collection, a 1948 Argus C3.  Back in the day the Argus C3 was nicknamed ‘the brick,’ my year 2000 Canon G1 is also a brick, a lightweight and even less sexy brick.  Both cameras are ugly, utilitarian devices but the half-century old Argus is slightly sexier! 
                What exactly is a ‘sexy’ camera?
             In my view, a ‘sexy’ machine is a device that’s well designed and engineered.  A sexy machine has some heft, some weight, because it’s made to last.  Sexy machines are complex with many gears and other mechanical parts that fit together and move smoothly.  Some examples of ‘sexy’ machines are: steam locomotives, mechanical clocks and watches, Ducati motorcycles, old typewriters, hand-operated printing presses, telescopes, record-players, analog synthesizers, the enlargers (which I no longer use) in my darkroom, and pretty much all old mechanical cameras, especially those from Germany.  Simply put, sexy machines are those with clever engineering and have a ‘solid’ feel to them.
                Digital cameras are decidedly not sexy!
             There’s very little going on mechanically inside a digital camera.  Although cameras still look like what we expect cameras to look like, they’ve become little more than processors with lenses. 
                Converting light into a silver-halide latent image on film was a very different process than converting light to ones and zeros that can only be expressed after processing with firmware.  All that camera-back space that used to be filled with film, motors and film transport gears is now taken up by batteries and processors, tiny computers that ‘do math.’  They’re little more than black boxes inside a larger black box shaped like what we expect a camera to look like.  Digital cameras are certainly amazing devices, but ‘sexy’ they’re not!
                Good industrial design is what makes cameras ‘sexy.’  There is something about the human interaction with a well-designed machine that’s natural, pleasant or even exciting which is wholly missing from interacting with strictly utilitarian devices. 
                Steampunk art is today’s ultimate expression of ‘sexy’ machinery.

Friday, May 24, 2019

NOW THAT I AM OFFICIALLY OLD A rant on aging (WARNING: Contains adult language)


I have just had my 60th birthday --note that I did not write celebrated my 60th because it’s no cause for celebration.  Urgh!  Shit!  The aging process happens so fast! 

Now that I am officially old there’s gonna be some ‘lifestyle changes.’  Oh yeah.  Now I really am too old for some of this shit.  I hear the clock ticking louder and louder, there are more days behind me than ahead, there are some things that need to be changed now.  Time is no longer on my side and there are things I simply DO NOT have time for any longer.  Maybe it’s time for me to BE the asshole some people think I am already!?

Now that I am officially old I don’t have time for:
Ninnies, pinheads & feebs.
Robbers, bandits, bastards & thieves.
Stupid people – either willfully or naturally.  Dunning-Kruger victims.  Morons of all flavors.
Authority figures – Especially cops who murder dark-skinned people and then get a two-week paid vacation for killing, fuck you racist assholes!  You corporate sycophants can all fuck off too.  Remember ‘BOSS’ is just Stupid Son Of a Bitch backwards. 

Now that I am officially old I don’t have time for:
Telemarketers.  No, I will no longer even try to be nice to you.  ‘No thanks’ will be replaced with ‘fuck off!”
Spammers/scammers.  If you put HALF the energy you spend lying and scamming into something honest and productive you’d accomplish so much more.

“Evangelical” Christians.  Fuck off!   As far as I’m concerned you’re the worst; hypocritical, stupid, and you don’t even follow the teachings of your own religion!  You’ve weaponized your religion and know nothing about spiritual enlightenment.  You’re haters.

And speaking of other racist assholes, a giant fuck you to republicans (no, you don’t get a capital ‘R’).  You’re full of shit and full of hate.  You’re racist, misogynist, liars every one of you.  Your policies have never worked and you’ve fucked-up just about everything you’ve touched.  You’re barely politicians, you’re certainly not leaders, and you don’t represent me.  If you support Donald Trump you need to stay far, far away from me because you’re all turbo-charged dipshits of the worst possible kind, you work hard to be aggressively stupid.  And for the Democrats, well, fuck you too for having better ideas and better people yet failing nonetheless.  I’m tired of watching Democrats, year after year, snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

Now that I am officially old I don’t have time for:
Art critics.
Art scams.
Car salesmen.
Real Estate agents.
Everyone in any kind of ‘insurance’ business.  You have no skills or talent whatsoever!
Tech support.  Especially those with Indian accents named ‘Mike.’
Customer ‘service.’
Accounts ‘payable.’
Most Texans. 
Fake friends.
Two-Faced people.
‘Askholes’ – you’re the ones who ask for advice, never take it, and then complain when you’ve made a bad choice.

Now that I am officially old I don’t have time for:
Smalltalk, chit-chat, networking, reunions with people I never liked in the first place.
Games, drama, manipulation.  Bullshit of any kind.
Gun-nuts, 2nd amendment wackos, trophy hunters.  All hunters except for subsistence hunting.  (‘Hunting’ is just a nice word for ‘killing animals for fun.’)

I should have taken Helen Mirren’s advice and used the words ‘Fuck Off’ more frequently and enthusiastically in my youth.  It’s like the harder I tried to be nice, less I was liked.  Somehow along the way I created enemies, though none were ever worthy adversaries. 

Now that I am officially old I don’t have time for a lot of the shit I put up with in my youth in an effort to ‘be nice.’  Actually, I probably did you a disservice by being nice to you because that was dishonest.  I should have been ‘brutally honest,’ but that would have made you mad.  I didn’t want to hurt your feelings so I kept my disrespect for you to myself.  Now I’m too old to care.

Now that I am officially old I can let you know that I really did hear and understand all your subtle little insults when you said that shit in the past.  I understood what you meant.  You were subtly insulting and belittling but you thought I didn’t catch it.  I let that slide then because I was being ‘nice.’  I don’t have to be nice now so when you do it again I’ll let you know.  Let me send out a belated ‘fuck you’ especially to those Southern Women with your shitty little remarks like, “Isn’t that interesting?” or “Well bless your heart.”  And to all you businessmen, middle-managers, and others I heard every one of your damned insults.  You thought I either didn’t hear it or get it, you assumed I was stupid.  Well I wasn’t stupid and I remembered.  Fuck you NOW for what you said THEN.

Conversely, there are some things I need to make time for or appreciate more.  Things like:

Teachers.  An honorable job with terrible pay.

Waiters and waitresses.  I’m already nice.  I say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ and I tip well.  I should still do more.

Artists.  I know your sacrifice and I won’t belittle it.  I also will not criticize you in any way.  I’m happy for you.  I’m impressed that you –got your book published or did it yourself, got your CD recorded & distributed, got your paintings shown or photography published or whatever.  The fact that you completed your art/song/dance/whatever is impressive enough!  NO criticism from me!  Good for all of you!!

Engineers, mechanics, craftsmen of all kinds.  I respect those who create and make things with their hands.

Scientists, Physicists, Doctors, except for those (mainly a small sub-group of medical doctors) who do it just for the money.

Thinkers, introverts, and the ‘quiet ones.’  You know who you are, and I do too!

Nurses.  Caregivers. 

Anyone who works with/rescues animals.

All dogs.

Certain individual cats.

I appreciate professionalism –notice I didn’t write ‘professionals’ which most aren’t.  But professionalism is an ACT, something you DO.  Professionalism is returning calls or emails, answering questions clearly and concisely.  It’s doing what you say you’ll do.  I appreciate follow-through.  And good communication.

It is not necessary to admire or even like your family unless they’ve acted in an admirable or likeable way.  You didn’t choose them and genetics doesn’t mean shit.  My family are boring conformists.  I don’t specifically dislike them, but I don’t need to see them either.  One of you is toxic. 

I suppose after six decades I’m just tired of the bullshit and I’m now too old to take it anymore.  Now I’m just a Cranky Old Artist…. If you can relate, let’s meet for a drink sometime & chat.  If that’s a problem for you well… then… Fuck Off!