I am not sure that working in the fine arts is a healthy place for some artists, I had a dream of an artist who I had known well many years ago who in the dream was arrogant and disengaged and seemed disinterested in common concerns. In reality, I would say he is too busy and engaged in his career to be able to engage. The dream though showed a different side of him, and I know it is just a dream but it was telling. He simply threw an artwork at me and I suddenly thought, does he think everyone is an archivist of his work?
It was simply that he didn’t care for my words which were along the lines of it is great to see you again. He simply didn’t care if he saw me again or not, his prime concern was his art and its preservation. The art that he threw at me was for the archivist really and I wasn’t the archivist although I did think about how and if I could archive it.
The dream was in two parts, one part was about street culture, tattooing customised vehicles and graffiti. The other was about the presentation and engagement of high art. One of my friends had built a strange hybrid hot rod street motorbike that had a big utility area on the back. Then I was in a fine art environment where people were competing for the money and interest to preserve very finely made and delicate objects that needed the right environment to survive.
It was a mix of academics, artists and aspiring types who wanted to see work that was cutting-edge and at the very top of artistic output, It reminds me of the work I saw at the National Gallery in Canberra, fine ceramics, detailed and exquisite pieces of technical mastery. Some critics see Modernism as delusional, or maybe that was postmodernism I will have to check, actually yes it is delusional and things are getting a shake-up.
The influx of images within what we have left of our attention spans is a place to play with any number of feelings and approaches. What I liked about my dream was the tattoos on some of these aspiring street artists come commercial artists who were kind of cruising the landscape of late capitalism. There are self-published books, prints, font packs, and original artwork on virtual highways and byways.
Then there is the clinical appraisal and long-term survival of delicate objects that need museums, archivists and dedicated purveyors of culture.
Some of the pioneers of graffiti culture say that graffiti was the only activity that allowed them to exist or gave them a voice. There have been a few major graffiti exhibitions over the decades that have all fallen flat. Mostly the criticism is that the artists don’t have anything particularly interesting to say in their work collectively. There are always individual artists who break through and find an audience in fine art but collectively there seems to be a problem.
As someone who makes art on paper as well as walls and other media I always feel that everything I make doesn’t actually exist. It never seems real or has any place in the world we are currently in. That it seems is the main fact that nothing actually exists unless it is allowed to exist by those who are the guardians of the neo-colonial late capitalist directive which uses catchwords like ‘acceptance’ and ‘art for all’.
There are a lot of practising artists right now and from the past who never had the chance for their work to exist. A lot of it depends on the work’s survival which is difficult considering the cost of space. I remember a lecturer I once annoyed with some of my experimental work said the work was ‘nothing’. I suppose that is the fate of some artists, they can’t join the fold. In any case, it isn’t easy to find a place for your work to exist. I think that is why I am still interested in working on walls, there is a lot of nothing everywhere and the people who do it become something through the act of creation.
The same can be said of any artistic output but the guardians of graffiti don’t really have much control of the output and at the moment there is a lot of variation and approaches. Graffiti always has the advantage of being a testing ground for customisation although fine art is the pinnacle. As Frank Stella said in an interview art is a pyramid with a lot of people at the bottom.