Criptic Critic Conscience and Known for it

Monday, November 19, 2012

Part 4: Conversation with New Zealand Art Collector Jim Barr & Artist/Lectuer at Massey University, Bryce Galloway

Hey Tao Wells Wells Tao and Jim Barr - can you please tell me what you guys consider to be 'political' art - and please don't be deliberately obtuse - I'd love a straightforward answer from each of you. Maybe accompanied by an example. Thanks!
  • Sarah Jane Parton For example, I consider art that talks about the politics of bodies to be political, and I think that Bryce Galloway is making 'political' work with the Incredibly Hot Sex with Hideous People zines.
  • Sarah Jane Parton I found et al's show at the CAG in 2007 to be incredibly moving in the way she/they elevated the discussion around domestic violence in some of the elements of that work. Uber political.
  • Wells Tao Can you tell me Sarah Jane Parton what makes any art not political.
  • Wells Tao Politics being one manner in which to discuss art, political art would emphasise this manner without eliminating other considerations. Art that is considerd non political could perhaps be said is such because it doesn't offend/challenge/ critique etc etc.. the powers that be/ are/ status quo, etc.. i.e Therefore the very Who that says what is "political art" is important
  • Wells Tao To use your example Sarah Jane Parton of Bryce and, I would agree that the content of their work is political, but because it doesn't leave the confines of the petri dish of gallery culture, through the refusal to promote the fact that they have been paid to take a role out in the public; to display societies conscience and its critique...etc etc. With out the active promotion of their role and the agitation that creates with the public, the work to me misses a crucial characteristic of transparency, that I feel all art is judged against. Which for me makes works like the two we are talking about despite their assumed intent/ political content, actually nasty types of fraud. Is that clear?
  • Bryce Galloway Tao, I make no secret of my role as a lecturer and constantly write to that narrative in my work. Perhaps you haven't read my work for a few years. I appreciate the point you are making but you seem to privilege a NZ context. I'm sure I've heard/read you champion the work of artists/activists who are university academics from other shores.
  • Jim Barr Lot's of art is political, the real question is does it result in any change to opinions or action? The answer to that is most often no
  • Bryce Galloway Well that's a bloody big ask. And how do you measure that? Art is usually for a small insular art crowd of polite liberals, agreed. For me it's about making lesser gallery art or "relational art/public sculpture" that PRETENDS to give a shit about "other audiences."
  • Wells Tao HI Bryce Galloway, The point is when you promote your work, is the first thing that comes out, your position at a University? No it is not. I've already agreed that the content of your work engages with political, but even the times you take a more overt risk of dangling your employers name before the public, the over all public perception, if I may be so bold (no you can't, right) is not aware that your art work (and all the other art lecturers etc etc ) is a job paid for by them.
  • Wells Tao And Jim Barr, it surly is a matter of quality over quantity... in terms of change, especially the question, what is the "quality" comprised in an act of political art, whose qualities are they reflecting...
  • Bryce Galloway Well, short of having that appear almost as a disclaimer on everything I produce, I'm not sure how you'd expect that to happen any more than it already does (for me). I think artists, in general, avoid such overt mediation as a matter of course, not because anyone is trying to fool the public but because of beliefs in audience agency etc. You're right, that that might not alert the public to the degree of university sponsorship of the arts. And I agree that there is a problem, the way academic voices and curatorial voices have come to dominate the art scene. I don't think the answer for me and my kind is to NOT take the filthy lucre just so some straight game-player can move into the lecturer position.
  • Wells Tao Here Bryce Galloway, is an example of a "straight shooter" doing what I consider to be the actual job of University Employment, you know "critic and conscience" and all that.. note the way he is introduced in this NEWS article (and note who is interested in his opinion!), "Senior Lecturer in Environmental Science at Massey University Mike Joy told The New York Times that New Zealand's image as a clean, green nation is as "fantastical as dragons and wizards." " See the way he promotes his job because surprise, it also represent a position as an authoritative standard holder that he simultaneous acknowledges and respects.
    An environmentalist has launched a scathing attack on the 100% Pure NZ campaign.  
  • Bryce Galloway That is great. But it's the way he is introduced by the media, not the way he gets to introduce himself. And probably because universities are scientific research are perceived as going hand in hand. Maybe that's your issue right there; that there's not a culture of saying Dr X, research lecturer in Fine Arts. That may be what you want to see, but that's not just a problem belonging to art academics, because the public, especially scientists, often don't consider art to be valid research.
  • Wells Tao What a lame copout, sorry Bryce but really... what ever
  • Wells Tao I was about to congratulate you on being the first to agree that it is a problem, and before I can, you take the step of; it's not your problem.
  • Wells Tao There is not a culture of saying X lecturer in Fine Arts at X University, simply because you don't do it. As a member of the public I am asking you to do it. I don't expect you or anyone to do it. But I am asking you to be transparent and honest. That you (artist/lecturers) can not do this I think the public have an interest in knowing. Essentially it is like failing to label your ingredients... we (the public) don't know what we have bought/ paid for... don't get to discuss the consequences..
  • Bryce Galloway You misunderstand. I was trying to say many artist-academics are trying to call what they do "university funded research" but the public perception is, "Research? Making Art? Nah...
  • Bryce Galloway ...and that contributes to it not being reported as such
  • Bryce Galloway in no way am I saying this is the main contributor to the problem you perceive; this is only in response to the example you presented from Scientific Research. I imagine scientists get asked - first question - "Is this university or private sector funded research?" As an artist/academic, I do not get asked such questions about my art projects, I am more likely to bring it up myself. Perhaps you are more concerned that artist/academics are borrowing from the bohemian legacy of contemporary art when they are really funded by "the man." I agree, that university-funded art often takes less political risk while surfing that bohemian legacy
  • Sarah Jane Parton I'm sorry I haven't been able to contribute yet guys - have to get some work made for a show. But I AM thinking about saying something
  • Barry Thomas OK here's my take... I absolutely agree with Tao. wearing academic and artist hat is equal to wearing curatorial and artist hats - If (and I apologise for not knowing anything about BG's work... He would not doubt be in the same/similar position about me/ my work?) but when we have sanctioned - highly priced likes of Regan Gentry's see through house - it's clear politics are utterly watered by the money, decision making process - the like of which - almost exactly led the people's wishes to not want that motorway extension - bulldozed by "the powers that be" ... the oligarchy. Of course then - you get the cute situation where it "pays" the oligarchy to have "politiical art" paid for so they can assume the high ground as - liberal and inclusive of robust other ideas... that it/ they have demonstrably just murdered by bulldozing the motorway extension through people's lives, etc etc. Pleased to note that my meme cabbage patch (Jim) did and continues to change people's attitude to the real world "politics" of urban landscape, individual's and artist's willfullness to simply take action... direct action often in yarn bombing, guerrilla gardening, urban farming since four years before Beuys 7000 Oaks. Add to this all the other "occupations" of people who are so sick of the way things are simply getting off their chuffs and making - quite often illegal (as the patch was) - occupations to make their points. So Sarah J... it's not the simplistic content it's content plus context that is the real spark behind achieving Jim's aim to move masses. Another example would be Bryce making work (if he hasn't already) that has - these kinds of debates as subject - ie. actively looking at his employment/role/imbursements, power plays with vulnerable students - whatever - as subject nay? Now that would be radical, real, and anyone reading such would see his vulnerability exposed/ his edges bared. How exactly would he take aim at his own (well remunerated) feet though
  • Wells Tao well, I think the point is that no individual can change what is essentially a policy decision that institutions have taken by not taking a position on the law. I was interested to see in a recent job advertisement for an art lecturer position at Massey University that included was article (I forget) of the education act of 1989 that I have much quoted, that employees will accept a role as critic and conscience of society.. now WINZ and other institutions don't quote the direct law cause it is open to too much interpretation.. they have policy set by governments that lay out how the law is to be implemented. University Art Schools, utilize a culture of "embarrassed" staff, that accept their cultural inferiority as failures in the art market place to excuse them from having to articulate what it is that the law empowers them to do. The art-academic is in denial over their role as a maintainer of cultural standards that make up what is considered the status quo, the norm. And because of this denial their other duel role, that of what I can only still aptly describe as a behavior of avant-gardism is overly developed as a kind of smothering over compensatory practice... a sense of unconditional expression that denies it's very real strings attached. The fact that this behavior is rewarded by the market place, best symbolized I feel in the work of Michael Parekowhai's million dollar deal with the NZ tax payer.. to me is just further evidence that there is absolutely no incentive to change this behavior, this is simply the new norm. But by articulating this argument I think we can all rationally examine what is it that we as a public are investing in, both monetarily and in terms of cultural authority, if its primary result is simply a few private gains
  • Wells Tao Barry, the artist-academic role would only be similar to the art/ curator role if it was subject to the same laws. It is not
  • Bryce Galloway Much truth, much truth. I would never deny that radically political art is not compromised by the oft contradictory charter of the university, e.g. Tao's "critic and conscience" bating meeting the university's insistence that lecturers "will not bring the university into disrepute." There goes the reflexivity right there. But I'm not prepared to admit being "a nasty kind of fraud" (for reasons previously stated). As to the bit about, "...a culture of "embarrassed" staff..." Please clarify. @ Barry: warts-and-all art on the teacher/student dynamic is probably also off limits to me. Caught out there. As far as I can tell, Tao's urging for political art only includes capital 'P' politics. I don't get that. I'm going to bow out of this thread now. I've made many concessions to your argument Tao. Your own position seems a little more impervious. I guess that's your role
  • Wells Tao huh? Bryce I don't follow or understand what you have said above, but this is facebook right, what eve

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