Sound-bite wisdom and vibes

I posted a bit of a whinge on an Instagram post about some things I have talked about a few times, namely being shunned for writing about mental illness on a platform in 2003 by a big-name UK street artist. What I haven’t talked about is the garbage book produced a few years back by this hero of small-minded people, that is full of sound-bite wisdom, and hypocrisy and that takes about five minutes to read even though it has a decent word count. The other emotionally stunted UK male I had to deal with in 2014 whom I have spoken about before described me as cringy and it made me think of all of the millions of dollars some of these artists have earned making them come across as so self-interested and focused on their public-image that they can’t deal with anyone talking about mental illness or trying to have a real conversation.

I am not dredging this up to keep going on about it but I want to talk about the way critics and artists have had to exist in a world of surfaces and mirages. Andy Warhol was the ultimate poker face and I understand that you have to be that way in public but art is so varied and subterranean that I saw a critic writing about how the Guggenheim museum was rehanging its collection to get away from the chronological construct of the canon of Modernism for instance. A lot of art ends up in landfill because there is a lot going on and artists have become so cutthroat that they end up mimicking all of the things they probably personally hated before they climbed over all the people on the way to the top of the pyramid.

The problem is the critic can take your work at face value and shut down what isn’t in

their hierarchy and understanding. It all becomes too hard to flesh out the story they have created and add players outside of the main narrative. We need simplicity and logical congruence, yet also a hardened exterior that won’t crack under the pressure of being around even more self-interested people than you. I naively thought critics were more intelligent and could navigate outside of their comfort zones but once they find themselves having to dig a bit deeper they give up, to turn back to the agreed narrative which is what the Guggenheim museum had to do on their rehang but what does it really do now?

In some ways, artists’ works that were too hard to categorise will come out of storage but it’s like colonialism in that most of the other artists who didn’t find themselves loved by critics were killed off by the general ignorance of human behaviour and social constructs. The world of smaller galleries is even worse as they are at the brunt of these culture wars and only the most hooked up agreeable high-fiving types get a chance. That also isn’t a given but when I look at the general butt-kissing of a lot of practising artists I am not critical of it but I feel like people feel they need to be perfect and can’t express the stuff people want to avoid. I probably haven’t mentioned the old story from around fifteen years ago when I was at a gallery opening and a young lady was suffering from mental issues and people were freaking out. 

I was real with her, I talked about the problem she was having and gave her options for help.

This young lady couldn’t believe it, she stepped back in surprise and acknowledgement because I spoke to her and pulled away the veil of having to be normal. Anyone can have a mental episode and I understand that most people are taught to act in certain ways and only acknowledge certain behaviours. This problem affects all levels of society and cultures that when I was ready to head to China I said to my trainer will I have to explain why I have my medication or that I have a mental illness. 

He said basically you won’t need to mention anything, I understand what he meant because everyone knows about mental illness and nobody really wants to know about your private affairs but I do think that having some flexibility in your mind and allowing yourself room to truly think differently should be supported. I suppose I have my own limits and biases as well but I definitely like people to feel comfortable exploring stuff that is a bit cringy. A lot of people are critical of how safe art has become in the way people want to be agreeable at all costs with a social media account dripping with good vibes. If you consider some of the bad boy artists of the last few years some burnt every bridge imaginable and one, in particular, turned into a sexual predator or at least is alleged to.

To conclude, thinking is not easy, and dealing with emotions is not easy but if you think about it anything worth doing is never easy. It’s not that everything has to be hard but the least I can expect is for people to conquer themselves rather than all of the external things. 

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”

Sun Tzu

The above quote gets butchered by self-help gurus who need to be seen driving brand-new SUVs to keep the bad vibes away but the emotionally stunted types have only conquered the external but you can’t avoid the inner needs forever. Nobody is perfect but let’s all throw some love at the old car leaking oil that still works, if only barely. 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s