Thursday, April 10, 2008

Art , Class , Accessibility

My personal misgivings about "conceptual art" have always been about class and accessibility . Art that requires an artist's statement or manifesto to understand means it can only be understood by those educated in conceptual art. Art that requires the white walls of a gallery to contextualize it , fails to be accessible to to the majority of people who for reasons of class , will not step foot inside a gallery.

Because of this , the world conceptual art becomes a gated community where the entry key is connections , money , education and ample free time. Only the social elite need apply .

Brendan Fowler aka BARR , despite his "cred" in the D.I.Y scene doesn't seek to prove otherwise with the piece he made about our band and Jay Reatard. The piece in question (titled 11/16/07, 11/18/07) costs $3000, the most expensive piece in the show.

The price of the speaks loud and clear on WHO Mr.Fowler seeks as an audience. And it ain't "the kids" .

(In stark contrast , the most expensive anything by my and AIDS Wolf drummer Yannick's art factory , Seripop , was 150$ for a 16 color one-of-a-kind silkscreen monoprint.)

You better have a good job or large trust fund if you wanna buy some of this brand of empowerment.

Our buddy Jake overheard this BRILLIANT tidbit : "Why isn't Child Abuse ( Our LPU labelmates , FYI) in it?" and his friend said "Well, I
guess he knows those guys and knows they're good dudes".

No news on if he will be doing more of this deep , hard hitting work about the bands Child Pornography , Anal Cunt , Fag Cop , Two Dead Sluts , One Good Fuck or canuk punk legends , The Dayglo Abortions.

Read a review of the show here.

Unfortunately , Brendan declined an invitation to our Knitting Factory show this Friday. A shame because I have tons of questions to ask him about art , class and the controversial works of some of the artists featured in his magazine. Because if Raymond Pettibone's (bless his soul , I love him to death!) drawings aren't "socially questionable" , I don't know WHAT is. That's exactly why his work is so relevant.


Brendan Fowler said...

Hey AIDS Wolf team,
I just walked in the door 20 minutes ago and saw an email from Jake inviting me to your show. I wrote him back saying that I would love to talk, but that I can't make the show because my best friend's new band is playing the same night. I asked him if I could meet up with both you and he before the show, or on Saturday. I haven't heard back yet.
That said, I don't understand why you would have written much earlier in the day that I declined an invitation to go to your show tomorrow night.
I do very much think that it would be nice to get to speak in person and I'm sorry for the scheduling conflict. Jake is very organized, though, and I feel like if anyone can make things happen, its him, so I look forward to hopefully meeting up with you before your show or something like that.
(If you would like to contact me directly, you can email me, )

And just as you all were alerted to my show by a friend in common or something like that— I would suppose— I was alerted to the uproar over here on your blog. I have very much enjoyed catching up on what everyone has had to say, and as such it is with great restraint that I must say that
I'm going to refrain from furthering this dialog in blog format strictly for the hope that we will get to speak in person so soon.


Brendan Fowler

Aviram said...

You guys are missing the point. You must have known a name like AIDS Wolf would offend people. So, why can't you have the balls to say fuck off. Don't you think it's ironic that your using your own art education to criticize his work? The your counter point is a seperate issue.

oops said...

Hi there,
Just wanted to offer something for the record. The conversation was with Jake and Luke directly, not overheard. I prefaced it by saying Luke is a really good and friendly person, and we then talked about different interpretations of the name Child Abuse. I was not speaking for Brendan, I was just having a casual conversation with two people I think are nice, mostly about my personal emotional reactions to a certain word (the R word mostly). I'm guessing you probably didn't choose you band name to make people feel warm inside. We've never met personally, so I don't really know, but maybe you chose it to question or invoke those emotional reactions that humans get. I only ever suggested (not as fact) that Brendan was maybe just questioning the usage from another spectrum.

It does make me kind of sad that a conversation had while hanging out with Jake and Luke was used here as ammunition, and out of context. The "BRILLIANT" jab makes me double sad, considering I thought I was having just a friendly conversation with Jake. I do feel a little duped....

chloe lum said...

Just thought that the comment about Child Abuse perfectly highlights the hypocrisy , not just in this work but in a lot of oversensitive "pc" dialogue.

I do have the balls to say fuck off but I also have the brains to deconstruct the work which is an attack on my band, a project I am VERY proud of. I'm not dumb , and playing noisy punk or identifying as working class doesn't mean I have to be inarticulate.

Yes , I an an art education but I don't believe in using it to exclude people or making them feel small. I do and will continue to use it to crit works and evaluate aesthetics.

In full I have a problem with works that require rhetoric to be viewed.

For the record , my thoughts about my band's name can be found on the comments of my previous post.

oops said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
oops said...

I really only wanted to drop by and let you know the context of the conversation, and that it was solely my view. I am an unrelated person. You quoted it as Brendan's views. Please separate to two.

However, I will be the first person to admit that I am a sensitive person. I don't personally feel good when I hear certain words used in certain contexts. The last thing I ever want to do is hurt another human or make them feel uncomfortable. That's just me though. I do however tend to put a person's demeanor and character before their use of words. I suppose that is "hypocritical" in a way, but I sleep ok at night. I am basically an "up with people" kinda person. When a situation comes up, I often let people know how I feel. Other times, I am afraid. Confrontation is something I struggle with.

From all that I have read here, I interpret your band/art as an attack on "oversensitive "pc" dialogue". Honestly, and please don't take this as disrespect, doesn't Brendan's show give you validation in a way? You are basically getting what you wanted. A response.

Sorry for the deleted comment, I didn't paste the whole body of text in correctly the first time.

Brendan Fowler said...

So, speaking of misquoting people repeatedly, have you even seen the show? Have you even seen what the piece that you are tripping out about says? What about the other piece in the show that explains it, did you see that one?
So, how about lets just deal with direct quotations, like, how about this one from the ABOUT AIDS WOLF on your myspace page: "We are a cult . Our intentions are unclear. We bring ill will. ************************ AIDS Wolf embraces the hate. If they can’t draw you in, they will make you run away cursing and bitching. Their songs speak to the terminally alienated, the relentlessly negative, the inherently repugnant. The Montréal four-piece (two guitars, drums and insane warbling) formed in early 2003, to the protestations of most of humanity. Since the beginning, they’ve sought to live the life: to practice complete aesthetic immersion, create music in some form every day, and live healthfully to facilitate their creative endeavors, no vacations allowed. AW greets our modern gloom with heady zeal. **********************"
I don't think I needed to go much past "Our intentions are unclear. We bring ill will. AIDS Wolf embraces the hate..." but just to be fair, that is the whole quote. Okay, so you said you embrace the hate and bring ill will. I was offended by your art, made art about it, and then you got offended. But it seems like you have gotten really really offended by it, like offended to the point of “is this the same Aids Wolf that decided to call itself Aids Wolf in the first place”? And the “intentions are unclear” part is great, too. Almost sounds like you are aiming at some sort of, gosh (gulp) m-m-mysterious c-c-conceptual a-a-art or somethin’… or at least the kind that stresses you out. I can relate, or something—I mean, I’m actually not quite sure if you like things to be totally legible or not, your intentions being unclear and all, but I’ll just say that I don’t like mystery so much myself, which is why I have made some of the most literal art I can in this case.
I was very much looking forward to speaking in person about it but it looks like we’re going to miss each other this time around. Have a great tour, and hope to catch up with you at some point in the future.


Brendan Fowler

andrea longacre-white said...

'Art that requires an artist's statement or manifesto to understand means it can only be understood by those educated in conceptual art.'
So people also don't know how to read? How to learn? How to think about things they don't already know about!? Can't read an artist statement and have/engage in a complex dialogue? Who is being classist?
Brendan's performance p.s. was free, and your hated white walled galleries are free as well (and all ages).

chloe lum said...

Andrea- Of course people know how to read , please don't put words in my mouth. My problem with "artspeak" is not that it requires reading but that it is often worded in a (deliberately ?) obtuse , intimidating and confusing manner.
I don't hate galleries , white walls or not. In fact I'm somewhat of an artist myself. But the issue of their accesibility has zero to do with cost to attend and everything to do with the culture surrounding them.
I don't believe it's possible to make a work , place it for sale for 3000$ and call that work accesible.

I also have issues on WHO gets to show work in these spaces and how the selection is done. The whole "who you know , where you studied" thang.

Brendan - yes , our band's manifesto and bio both talk of embracing the hate. In the 5 years our band has been actively playing and touring we've received very little love.
Without intending so , our music and name seem to ENRAGE many people.
As mental self preservation , we take the route of embracing the shit that gets thrown our way and harness that energy creatively.
Our intention has never been to alienate , but to seek those who like us , feel alienated from society . Our initial ideas behind this band totally posi and naive "We just wanna play the type of music that excites and inspires us!" HA!

It wasn't until had more interaction with the world , as a band , that we realized there were 2 camps.
Those who would like to see us dissapear and those who would join our team , often actively telling us that our band changed their life.
In short we don't make music to piss off the people who dislike it but a) to express our own feelings and ideas and b)to serve anthems for those who might feel the same way. We are there for people to GET OFF but do our best to stay positive under constant attack .

As far as any confusions goes , we were told by Jason at CMJ that he had invited you to meet us at the Knit and you declined.

This was before Jake emailed you.

I think you miss the main point of my offense though.

a) the aesthetic content of the work.
b)the inherant nepotism and classism of the high art world.
c) the COST of the work.
d) the apparent hypocrisy of certain artists doing "socially questionable work" not only getting a pass , but getting praise. (It it because they are nice guys , lionized by the art world or both?)
c) that fact that the work seems to be moral policing .

For the record I have not seen the work in person . I don't live in New York and was only there for 18 hours , during which we played 2 shows and got our van fixed.

I judge art /music by aesthetics not by explinations.
If you feel like discussing this more you can give me a call.
Maria and Jake both have my numbers. I am interested in hearing what you have to say and have a few things to say myself.
I feel we can only go so far talking online or via email and think in person or by phone is best.

Brendan Fowler said...

I agree with you absolutely about this dialog having outgrown it's space in blog land and I would very much be interested to talk over the phone. But, as it is that you are the more upset one, I think it would be more appropriate for you to be calling me. Maria and Jake both have my number, as well, or you can email me for it
And please know in advance of a conversation that I do not feel angry or hostile. I love talking about this stuff.

But one last public statement, just to clarify something about price and art for anyone else who may be reading but who not be there for a phone call: have you checked Raymond's prices recently? Guess what a work a third that size is? Oh, fifteen to twenty thousand.

andrea longacre-white said...

On issues of legibility. Have you read Brendan's press release. It's pretty straight forward, and as a frequent reader of press releases, sure there are ones that are obtuse, but there are also ones that aren't. Its just (conveniently) ignorant to say that all artists engage in an obtuse art-speak on purpose to isolate. And beyond, maybe thats not such a bad thing: taking a second read, a second thought, a more complex meditation.

Though a small strata of people are buyers of works from the gallery wall, people in large numbers view, read about, think on and feel challenged or moved by art. That being the case, price doesn't seem relevant in discussing a piece's aesthetic success or relevancy. Are Warhol's irrelevant under your price = accessibility = quality formula? The majority of artwork I've seen, and I'd argue that most have seen in our modern era are not in person, but online, in catalog or book form, and as such we're living in a time where the old discussions of and distinctions between 'high art' or 'low culture' just aren't really relevant (which is a great breakdown with the advent of small independent galleries, printers and publishers and instant accessibility online!). Unlike the time of Greenberg, there is no one ambassador of culture, taste or high mindedness.

In terms of nepotism, there are numerous instances in the music world of industry people's sons, daughters etc. starting bands and then provided with easy access into said system. Of course preferential treatment exists in the art world, that happens in any 'world' around long enough to establish the advent of a 'legacy' (i.e. any world). But its a bit reactionary and plain uninformed to say with sweeping assuredness that that is all that goes on, the only way to gain entrance or enough to sustain once in the door.

On the other artists / Pettibon end, when artists make work that questions social norms in a critical manner it would not be called 'socially questionable'. That is called 'social criticism'. Your naming your band Aids Wolf is a perfect example of 'socially questionable' for as you say yourself when you picked the name you 'honestly never thought it would ruffle feathers' then by your own admission, there was no 'critical dialogue' attached to the name, just throwing in a trendy animal reference. I'm sure Raymond Pettibon who has donated works to raise money for AIDS in Africa causes would be totally down with your using it in said enlightened manner.

And lets talk -isms, what about a seemingly straight all white band who takes their name from an epidemic which has historically wiped out huge numbers of gay and minority populations? So glad the white kids can be really fucking punk and just grab the name of an actual plague, ignored by the government and right wing America for its curative properties involving the 'fag problem' as well as its devastation to poor black- African communities. But hey, if you can use it to be 'vaguely menacing' and help you stand out among the '*maybe 5 or 6 active' noise bands in ye ole canada then its all worth it right!? But here I am 'squirming over something so inconsequential', and for nothing! You're sick of defending your band, you keep running into people being upset...maybe it's actually offensive?!

p.s. In regards to the actual art, your aesthetic criticism started with it's 'wrinkling' under the frame'...maybe next time it should have been a shadow box or more professionally framed in something more expensive? but then of course, none of the visual elements (from layout to typography to image choice) which everyone so quickly jumped on, all criticizing like right graphic design students just off their grid studies could possibly have been intentional? Considered elements of rough form actually informing the content? course not...
If this was just art 'made to play the game' as that clever friend of yours likened, it would have definitely followed all those quaint rules you listed because then it would be unilaterally agreed upon as 'good', design students and yourself could continue to misuse the word 'aesthetically' in their calling it pleasing. which brings me to my-

p.p.s. I don't know if you really have an understanding of what contemporary 'aesthetic' theory is if you are saying 'issues override aesthetic'. Aesthetic in our modern art making times actually includes the artists' intent, the conceptual working in tandem with the purely visual. From Wikipedia aesthetics means a 'critical reflection on art, culture and nature' as well as 'new ways of seeing and of perceiving the world'. That is what makes art art, and not a well designed band poster, or a piece of pretty wallpaper.

Jason Glastetter said...

Before this point, I have felt no need to comment on here. I though Brendan and Chloe were having a quite engaging discussion, which I'm sure will translate into the real world soon enough. Though I do have some issues I need to take up with the most recent commentator, so I thought, 'hey, why not sound off?'

"seemingly straight"
Wow, you are making an assumption on someone's sexuality based on your perceptions and then go on to liken THEM to right wing America?

Everything else is sort of minor, but while I'm here, I guess I will make a few points:
-Maybe I didn't study enough art history, but wasn't much of Warhol's goal to make art accessible to the masses, AND a large part of achieving that was keeping prices down as much as possible. Though obviously now they are more expensive than anything, that wasn't Warhol's intent. I suppose in your world where the artist's statement works together with the visual, Warhol is simply a huge failure.
-Wikipedia is not a valid source.

Not trying to be too hard on you there, but the first thing did sort of bother me, which if you are upset that a band uses "AIDS" in their name, I'm sure you understand.

M*P*Lockwood said...

Andrea, you said:

"Have you read Brendan's press release. It's pretty straight forward,"

Seriously? This is my favorite un-sentence from that press release:

"BARR performances explore the spaces in which Fowler’s body performs before the audience songs taken from records about spaces for audiences, continuing the process as it presents itself live and in real time."

This could almost be a parody of art-speak BS. See, I went to art school too so I can translate this into English:

"Fowler likes to sing about himself and the scene, on record and at shows."

I could break down the layers of intentional redundancy and obfuscation in that sentence alone, but I think it's obvious when compared to the translation.

What I would really be interested in is an explanation of how playing samples of Justice is "morally negligent." ???

Forkimified said...

AIDS Wolf is a silly, silly band name.

Does anyone actually think that this band promotes AIDS? Or Wolves with AIDS? Maybe they're VERY socially responsible, raising awareness to try to obtain treatment for AIDS-infected wolves!

Do you believe everything you read? Do you believe AIDS Wolf is an evil cult devoted to hate? Most people who aren't mentally disturbed are able to seperate fantasy from reality, and silly things from serious things, and you'd think an 'intelligent artist' would be one of those people.

How about instead of picking on a band for their name and myspace bio, you try to dig a little deeper and find some people who actually promote hate to target? There are plenty of Nazi bands out there, etc. For example, check out Prussian Blue. They're a couple of kids who sing Nazi propaganda songs written by their mother. What's more offensive, that, or a band named after a silly urban legend?

But, watch out! There are also those bands that MOCK hate bands, by being excessively offensive in a cartoonish way. What you have to learn to do is seperate the tongue-in-cheek from the serious.

Grow a sense of humour.
(unless you WERE being humourous in the first place...)

Art vs Music said...

Aidswolf should be stoked they were even referenced..
Instead, by attempting to criticize Fowler they've ended up just making complete asses of themselves.

what a shame for them.

Holy Moly! said...

Hello internet,
My thought is that conceptual art, is not the domain of any one social class. Art can simultaneously obtuse/intentionally confusing and populist.

Anyone can make a "gallery" and invite anyone inside; this includes people with no money (c.f. ABC NO RIO, Department of Safety, etc.) You can buy a bucket of paint and have "white walls" for $20.

All of us know plenty of people who are rich and dumb, when then should it surprise us that people can also be both very poor and very intellectual?