What’s it all about …

The Adoration of the Golden Calf
The Adoration of the Golden Calf

Words, words, words.

Not comfortable with them. Don’t trust them.
That’s why I paint.
If you want to win an argument, if you want to change someone’s mind, if you want to change the world, you need words. I’m sure of that. And I stumble and forget and get confused but when I paint … it flows.

Art, music, a painting never changed anything. Never changed anyone’s mind.
The greatest paintings, individually, they’re 4 minute pop songs. With all the trivi­ality of that and, sometimes all the deep connec­tions and lingering emotional charge and potential of that. We hope.
But they can grab you for those 4 minutes. For those 4 minutes you’re not alone. We can commune. Us. Share. Dance together in our imagin­ation.

And at my opening on Friday people kept asking questions … derr … of course you did … I would.

And so …

Take my piece: The Adoration of the Golden Calf.

I started with the “civil” war in Syria.
Guilt and shame tearing at me.
And I look to Nicholas Poussin’s painting.

The Adoration of the Golden Calf
The Adoration of the Golden Calf

Because it’s embedded in my cultural world.
Because it’s in “the canon” — so it’s embedded in others’ worlds too.
Because it’s shared in our stories, the stories that still, almost, bind us together.
Because, when I started on it, we were “commem­or­ating” the end of the First World War.
And because it was Aaron what done it. Fucked up. But he still got to lead us to the promised land. How does that work? It was a little bit personal.

OK, so we need an altar, a plinth. And I take Edwin Lutyens’ cenotaph on Whitehall. An empty tomb (a kenotaphion).

And then I need Wilfred Owen’s poem, written during the first world war, quoting Horace: Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori (It is sweet and right to die for one’s country), yeah, right, whatever. English lessons at an English school. So it goes on the plinth.

And then we need a golden calf. And so I take Arturo Di Modica’s tacky and revolting Charging Bull from Wall Street as an appro­priate stand in. What drives this sort of inter­na­tional politics after all? Money … wars.

And we need a place for it all to be and so I steal the mountainous landscape from Poussin’s own painting.

And in the sky, tracer fire over Damascus.

And I put it all together and make a drawing. Lots of drawings.

And do you need to know this shit? No.
But does it help? Maybe. Maybe it always did. It did then, in the 17th century.
And maybe we shouldn’t forget the way our culture grew and consumed and subsumed new ones and can now welcome new stories and bind us all together in a shared dreaming.

Celebrating Unity in Kassel

Documenta-Oguibe-1

Lovely day in Kassel, at about 4:30 am, workers from a local construction company began dismantling Olu Oguibe’s “contro­versial obelisk made for Documenta 14, titled “Monument to Strangers and Refugees,” (“I was a stranger and you took me in”: Matthew 25:35) with two heavy cranes.

Oguibe-2

By 9:30 am, the obelisk was entirely gone, strapped to a flatbed truck and sent to a construction site on the outskirts of the city (where it now remains).

Oguibe

Hmmm …

Well, I suppose … we couldn’t burn it.

via hyper­allergic and again

Brace brace brace … and fight fight fight.

Redux

Gaza Sphinx
click to enlarge

Because the premise is a lie … was always. Because family feuds are worse, civil wars not and because antisemitism is not exclusive when it comes to who the semites are … because Trump is, Netanyahu is … not …

And so people die. And live without hope … and now less … if that’s possible.

And not to aesthetisise anyone else’s pain, and not to ignore the ancient greek’s misogyny … why is this shit still going on … I’m not naive, just sad and angry.

So, What’s going on then?

Real photo­graphs, real film, mechanical camera thingy. Ay? Why?

OK, I’ve been thinking about this: it seems there are at least three things going on here. Three scams. Three cons. Three lies.

There’s the illusion of choice, there’s “democrat­isation” and there’s the delusion of perfect­ib­ility.

Consumer capit­alism is predicated on the pivot of choice: you CAN buy this (can’t you? — look at this ad, this promo, this review) … or not. If you don’t buy; that’s your choice. Whether you can actually afford it is neither relevant nor irrel­evant it is simply not acknow­ledged, accepted or even recog­nised … no other altern­ative exists.
So — I cannot afford a better camera but I can afford A camera and a lot of people can’t. End of.

To make images as memorable, meaningful and powerful; as engaging, exciting and charming; as art-histor­ically engaged, culturally hip and polit­ically pointed; as nuanced, as subtle and as emotionally engaged, as THEY do, all you need to do is: be true to yourself and buy our best kit.
You must not listen to the old fogies who tell you that there are technical camera skills you need to acquire, art history you need to study, people skills you need to hone and a socio-envir­on­mental-political stance you need to at least start to define. Not to mention the practice you need to put in, practice and show and listen (and sometimes reject or ignore what they say) and then listen again and do it again and loop round and round and round and so on and on and so on.
And who is this self we are supposed to be true to — do you know? I don’t. And I really don’t care.
But we can do this shit without buying anything at all. Bastards we are and we can learn and get better.
And sometimes just take a picture with a “different” camera in exactly the same way way we might with our bloody phone.

Then there is the perfect prime: the lens that can …
The perfect camera that could … or at least a better one …
There is always the plastic surgery that might …
The mind-fullness that … the wellness … the fitness … the will … ah, the will. The will to get x, to take y, to claim my birth­right as a Randian Übermensch … or to just be a slave to a system that drip feeds us answers and solutions to our dreams and fears and cravings … or is it Soma.
When you send a film away, as we always used to, unlike the profes­sional who always kept control, other people make all the decisions that are left and they don’t edit, they don’t choose but do choose how to print, how to maximise the inform­ation, how to present the “idea” — we’re left with a fait accompli — and does that leave us any less autonomous, empowered or embodied? Like we’re caring about this?
They are so focused on the con and the take and the rewards that they don’t have the time to worry about this shit, never mind the consequences. Would you, would I?

So we can say no.
We will use the tools we have at our disposal. And we will learn their limit­a­tions and their joys. This camera was really quite good when I was a kid and it still is. Ansel Adams couldn’t dream of … oh yes he could … and digital is just beginning to … and is this really what matters when we start to contex­tu­alise with Instagram and Flickr and Facebook and whatever … Whatever. If you speak with an accent is what you say any less valid?

Oh, and there’s something else too, alluded to in the way I scanned the photo­graphs: they’re things, in the world, in our world, touchy feely lovely things we can hold in our hands, inter­rogate and, if we want: put on the wall — they are ours.

And we will tell our friends and our families our own stories.
And we will tell you to fuck off.