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March 2002, 54 posts, 1817 lines


GEE, did anyone see that show at........(insert show) Wasn't it just ........ (good, bad, indifferent) Weren't those ........ (paintings, sculpture, ceramics, fiber-art, conceptual installation pieces) just ....... (positively magnificent, just like the work that charlie ray does, more like pascke but with soul) I really hated the fact that ....... (it didn't agree with my burrito, it didn't address the marxist dialectic appropriatly, not enoughs boobies(pecks)). If it were more like ....... (individual chicagoans it would be better, me I would do it better,if nancy wilson was in it then it would rock) I bet ........ didn't have to(buy their monitor and return it after the show,Buy the beer for their openings, Be annoyed by people asking where they went school) If I were them i'ld give it up and become a ....... (web-designer, waiter,appendage meant for bumping into peoples asses on the el') I did like that ....... (one on the left, (girl/boy) in the ...... Coat, CD I just swiped). God all that was great because I ....... (I gave someone a card to my show, I got a show, just loved the work)


On 1 Mar 2002, diego bobby wrote:

funny. This really ought to matched one for one with similar statements by galleries or artists about their exhibitions -- not the usual verbose art-talk, but similar terse differentiations into accepted catagories.

- Generic Class .... (painting, sculpture, mixed media, other)
- Material ... (oil on canvas, bronze, wood, stuff found in dumpsters)
- Subject ... (me, us, them, other)
- In the Style of ... ()
- Ism ... {fill in your standard isms}
- Prices ... (high, medium, low, free, ..)
- Intent ... (sell stuff, impress others, impress mom, ..)
- etc


On Sun, 3 Mar 2002 joymore at wrote:

There are two.

One as a 'cover' with 25 email addresses, 1,287 Bytes. Twenty five more addresses to add to somebody's spam list.

The other as a 604 byte 'offer' in ALL CAPITAL LETTERS, repeated so it shows twice, as a 61,440 Byte WORD file.

-Like many people I never open WORD documents, I toss them.
-Like many people I groan when another 89,932 Byte email arrives with a total readable content of 604 Bytes.
-Upward and onward into the Digital Age.

I probably dont want the job. I'd be working for an idiot. I also think a listserv should not be used for spam.



Chicago Art Workers.

Please send information about your May and June 2002 shows as soon as possible, and let me know if images are available. Anyone know of any special Art-Fair shows? The boat off the pier show? Hotel Shows? Stray shows? Any of you going to Liste? I'm working on the Recommend for the May/June issue and need to know this info by the end of next week, March 22 if possible.



New Art Examiner [down]

Anyone; will host notices for any upcoming apartment shows during the Chicago Art thing. See the index page, [] -- if there still _are_ apartment shows..

Pass on this information to any apartment dwelling artists.



Hi Kids,

Tiny party # 2 :

... come to say good luck and goodbye …But most of all come and help me celebrate anything that’s good. You are all invited, even my enemies. But please…please… let’s keep it tiny.

Saturday …starts around 9 -10

I’ll have some hard liquor but BYOB because I’m really broke.

1707 W. Division 2nd floor rear…773. 278. 4793


Have you dreamed of seeing me dressed as the Pope, fighting a leprechaun? Sunday would be the day.

2nd Lamprey St. Pat's Parade

Sunday, March 17, 3 p.m. 2025 S. Halsted, Chicago

All are welcome, especially those in appropriate costume. The parade starts at 3, processioning around Halsted and 18th Streets as the whim may lead us. A pope, St. Patrick and various leprechauns will be in attendance.

Afterwards, we will reconvene at the Whale, to devolve, depreciate and dissemble as a special meeting of the Ever So Secret Order of the Lamprey. This meeting will be an Adjudication of performances based on meditation on the Word "LUCKY".



Such big words and my poor head hurts already from practicing what you americans refer to as st. patricks day. In canada we call this drinking.


Roi Vaara a performance artist from Helsinki is looking for an evening at a Chicago gallery for a 50 minute performance.

I got this message from Asimina over at Links Hall as they can't hook him up.

and I can't either.

He's hoping for April 10th or 9th (10th is preferred)

If this seems interesting to ya give me a shout or feel free to contact him directly at roivaara at

I attached his CV and performance description in a txt file.




I know a lot of you are very busy getting ready for Art Chicago and you probably aren't thinking about other cultural events that might be happening right around the same time. I'd like to bring two very important events to everyone's attention. I noticed that on May 8 and 9, Chicago is going to be visited by two extraordinary forces. That these two events are happening in immediate succession to each other is both a cause for celebration as well as something to be very afraid of.

Wednesday, May 8: Motorhead and Morbid Angel at the House of Blues Thursday, May 9: Godflesh and High on Fire at the Double Door

Motorhead and Hire on Fire are easily two of the loudest live bands on earth right now. This is not an exaggeration. You would be hard pressed to find a sonic experience more physically affecting and powerful. The only concern I would have as someone who plans to attend both of these shows is that there is a very real possibility that if you see Motorhead on Wednesday, you won't be able to hear High on Fire on Thursday. If you attend both of these shows you won't be able to hear a damn thing when you go to the gala opening at Navy Pier on Friday night (this may or may not be a bad thing).

I know that some people on this list might argue that this has nothing to do with art and is off topic. Look, things have been extremely boring in this city lately and I think all of us would do well to go out and experience something that is truly powerful, masterful, extreme, and unrelenting. Vitality is wherever you can find it. Lemmy is nearly 60 and he still has it - a LOT of it. High on Fire features the guitarist from Sleep, whose epic album "Jerusalem" should be played loud at every gallery opening including at Art Chicago.



Mr. Fischer are you now or have you ever been a Marijuananaut?


I agree with Mr. Fischer. Many of you could use a good kick in the ass to jumpstart some ideas... pure raw energy...that's what's missing....


I can see the Artforum headline now:

Chicago art saved by deathmetal!!


hey all,

I'm getting bored doing FYI every week. An idea came up after talking to jno yesterday -- I could ask other people to give me a list of recommended shows for the week -- just one person's picks per week. This could include music, performances, web sites or other cultural things (like that page in Artforum). but please, no poetry (sort of a joke, but not really).

Anyone interested?



Other people also do listings, notably the dapper but apparently OtherGroup impaired Greg Gilliam at

But, Keri - I like your list and rely on it more than most. Additonal recomendations from an occasional guest would be great, but I hope you don't give up.

The problem with various listers is this: I barely know Keri by sight, yet after reading FYI for so long, I have an idea of her tastes and resources, and have learned to trust her take on the scene. I don't go to every show she mentions or avoid ones she does not, but if something I don't know about shows up on her list I have an idea of its context. This is good.

If another person is a guest lister, I have no idea. I may as well pick at random from the pile of cards and email announcents and the Reader. If Keri is terminally bored, I'd rather her find a regular successor who I could learn to understand. Otherwise, it would be fun to have others of us post personal favorites from time to time.



I am going to be doing local listings for Probably not as frequently or consistantly as FYI, but we'll see what happens. I see nothing wrong with sending duplicate postings to this group, less as personal picks than as what I've heard about that you may have not.

If you want me to list you, send stuff to bulka at with "for pform" in the subject line. Date, time, address, cover, website, something descriptive.

I have a better idea of what I'm not interested in than what I am. No poetry readings or open mics, no parties, gallery shows, rock'n'roll or theater, unless, of course, they cross some wierd line. Parades, protests, interventions, public bacchanals - of course. And old-style RSG/Lower Links type performances if anyone is still doing those.

My list for you now is -

How to Manage Fear a new performance by Lucky Pierre March 22, 23, 29, 30 April 19, 20 8pm at the Lucky Pierre space 2003 W. Fulton (Damen and Fulton) Chicago $7 or pay what you can

Deus Ex Machina a five weekend festival of machines autonomously creating art and sound fridays and saturdays march 22-april 20, 7-11pm Peter Jones Gallery 1806 W. Cuyler (one block north of Irving and Brown Line)

the Carnival of the Dead music masquerade, puppetry revelry March 28-30, April 5-7 thurs-sat 8pm, sunday 7pm Links Hall 3435 N. Sheffield $12 or pay what you can reservations 773-281-0824

Burlesque Tartare fashion, striptease, vaudeville April 7, 8pm at 10pm - Japonize Elephants The Hideout 1354 W. Wabansia $9 info: 773-395-0644


On Wed, 20 Mar 2002, bulka (actually 'greg') wrote:

My biggest info source is email, including the mailing list. I've received a number of emals from the list which lack address and phone numbers. I've guessed why - senders put this info in automatic signatures files, and the program strips out such signatures. This is true of more programs than - many of you are sending out invites with no location info.

Thanks Greg;"

You are right, but ChicagoArt.Net is not a remailer, and doesn't strip things out, their automated program just truncates texts and removes extra blank lines. I think the exhibitors are so wound up trying to get it right while they are typing on-line, that they often *forget* to add addresses and contact information.

All the information is available anyway if you ever need it, just check [] and look up the exhibitor. The stupid designers of the ChicagoArt.Net web site should just auto-append the location information, if you ask me.



Hey MB -

Apparently I am a "read only" member of the other group list. Could you please post the following message.

Hey folks,

I'm usually a lurker because I'm neither artist nor critic but a patron (attending openings and sometimes buying stuff under $100). I've got a big tip for all art promoters out there.

My biggest info source is email, including the mailing list. I've received a number of emals from the list which lack address and phone numbers. I've guessed why - senders put this info in automatic signatures files, and the program strips out such signatures. This is true of more programs than - many of you are sending out invites with no location info.

So my tip is ALWAYS put the address and phone number of the gallery in the body of the email. Oh, and don't forget the date and time as well.


On Thu, 21 Mar 2002, bulka wrote:

If Keri is terminally bored, I'd rather her find a regular successor who I could learn to understand. Otherwise, it would be fun to have others of us post personal favorites from time to time."

Or just to know that she would take (occasional) recommendations from others, maybe even words of praise or damnation. And I agree, you do better than other resources - even though your list looks like an adding machine tape. I keep expecting to scroll down and see subtotals. :)

I recommended 'guest editors'? I think it was Paul Brenner of 312 - he just wasnt looking at you.



here is another show to see this weekend...a different experience than the same old West Loop or Pilsen.

Brad Tucker: A Two Site Exhibition

The Suburban

Saturday, March 23 7-9 pm

244 W. Lake Street, Oak Park, IL 60302 (708) 763-8554

Green Line: Ridgeland Stop


boom Saturday, March 23, 5-7 pm 836 Wenonah Avenue

Oak Park, IL 60304 (708) 524-2541


Now that really hurts. This part of Pilsen has been doing its duty to bring vibrant work and dialogue to this city since before LA rolled into town. Not to mention that a good portion of west loop is old skool enough to kick your sweet smelling ass to the curb. we made it a hell of a lot more likely that you would even dream of camping at this state park. Furthermore we don't slag you in our pr so please refrain from doing it in yours. If you want folk to head west we will push them that way. Just talk to us when you're not feeling so lonely in your prairie school knock off. Otherwise talk about the Art. Directions and names are not as magnetic as they once were. From a community trying to do what communities do... Be all Mayberry and shit Floyd the Barber

On Thu, 21 March 2002, Pedro Velez wrote:


In our pop culture we ridicule those kids who think that being most popular is the only thing that matters in highschool. Now, though, the kids who did well in science and english and social studies are working for the quarterback and homecoming queen. This is a suck-up society.

And off in our little subculture, do we talk about art, aesthetics, philosophy? No, we bitch about not being asked to the prom.


To Bulka

Yes, this is a suck-up society. So the question is: how does this interesting fact relate to aesthetics, enduring values, and/or style?


I love Pilsen brother!




March 13, 2002.


Panel Discussion Thursday, March 28, 6:00 - 7:30 PM Claudia Cassidy Theater at the Chicago Cultural Center 77 East Randolph St. 312-744-6630

This panel will address overlapping roles, including artist, critic, and curator, that are played in today's artworld. In the past, these roles were separated and participants were strongly discouraged from performing in more than one category. Panelists who have occupied dual and triple roles will address questions such as: How does one maintain objectivity and fairness when in decision-making positions? Under what conditions can overlapping responsibilities serve to promote one's own career or that of one's friends? How does the performance of varied roles affect one's work?

Panelists are Margaret Hawkins, Michael Rooks, Corey Postiglione, Anthony Elms, and Annette Ferrara, with Claire Wolf Krantz as the moderator.

This program is presented by the Chicago Art Critics Association in collaboration with the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs. Admission is free.

Claire Wolf Krantz


On friday night I wrote something that I regret to Boom Editions. I scrolled through and read it without realizing who it was from but saw instead who the initial mail was for. So I need to apologize to Boom. My anger was vented inappropriatly. To Pedro, all of the stuff I aimed at Boom plus, I'm staying in Chicago and I'll continue showing the same stuff I've always shown. That being the finest art and ideas you can see at any given moment from the people who live here and work here. Chicago after all isn't New York Or L.A. It's Chicago and i'm glad of it. Before I go some words to live by. If you have to engage in something make it worthwhile. Make it your own. Make it something you desire to understand completely. Make it Art if you can. But don't make everyone around you unhappy while you're doing it. Remember that criticism is not opinion, opinions are like assholes, everyone has one. Criticism actually engages in critique. Which involves analysis, otherwise known as the method of studying the nature of stuff to determine it's essential features or relationships. Remember also that the friends you have around you are just the people you meet at parties. Ken F. Already knows this it isn't pretentiousness its the art world. Oh, one last note to the othergroup. I also apologize to you for airing my dirty laundry on this service. It won't happen again, I swear. I'm Unsubscribing as of this note. Its been a marvelous party. Keep it real Y'all.



Who do you think you are diego bobby? all your spouting off suggestions on how to live? You are so outspoken, and then you unsubscribe? I don't think you have a handle on your opinions.


How come I'm in the middle of all this? I visited both galleries that night.


Well see the problem with this soap opera is that only half the characters use an alias so it is inconsistant. Diego Bobby is of course Michael from Dogmatic (Horrors! Exposed!) and Leonard C. Pants has to be Adam Mikos. Mikos doesn't even live in Chicago anymore but he still refuses to use his real name (something he hardly ever did when he lived in Chicago anyway). Since, as Nato helpfully states, this site is mainly a soap opera with little piddling debates about practically nothing, I think maybe we need to make a group decision. Should we all come up with funky pseudonyms and make this into a better soap opera based more or less on stupid shit about the Chicago art scene, or should we use our real names and just apologize every five minutes for saying what we probably really think anyway? (I guess the third option is to allow Pedro to continue to antagonize us because despite this irritating quality, he's still quite lovable).

Marc ("Marc Fischer") Fischer


Anyone; will host notices for any upcoming apartment shows during the Chicago Art thing. See the index page, [] -- if there still _are_ apartment shows..

Pass on this information to any apartment dwelling artists. /jno


On Tue, 26 Mar 2002, Nato Thompson wrote:

I second that. We all regret on occasion spouting off. I'd rather you be here. Anybody else wanna chime in with a vote of confidence?



On Tue, 26 Mar 2002, Marc Fischer wrote:


-- Who is that dude who signs "Marc Fischer?"
-- It's Marc Fischer, you know.

I wanna be... ummm.. maybe something arcane, like "John" misspelled..

/jno [down]


I have always had a soft spot for the way in which you say things you will regret. It is comforting to me to see that kind of bombastic, email-before-you've-had-your-coffee type of style. I give you big props and encourage you to reconsider your unsubscription. Maybe it is because I don't watch television that I enjoy the bouts between you, Pedro, Marc and occasionally, Bulka. It is like a little soap opera family that I adore. So, please stop acting like snivelling regrettful wuss and get back into the fray. Fuck em all!



Yes, continue the fray. Make public mistakes of fact and errors of judgement. Where else can I annoy or confuse or whatever it is that I do to Alan Ravits. And, bobby michael, get back in here.

What's that soap opera where they have space aliens and a bedroom with a closet that is a portal to hell? Can we be that one?



-Never annoy.
-Sometimes confuse.
-Always entertain and amuse.

Al Ravitz


I've just come back from the CACA-sponsored panel on conflicts with artist/critc/curator/collectors wearing too many hats. Not a great turnout and, not that it the fault of Claire or any of the panel, not a very stimulating discussion.

I think the problem is, first, that the Chicago art world is such a small, low-stakes opporation that these conflicts are moot. There is no money, only small-time, local fame or glory. Choosing to write about a friend who's work you own, or whether to include your own work in a curated show at a store-front Saturday gallery, may be a uselful ethical exercise, but it really doesn't matter.

The other thing is that criticism really doesn't matter, either. Once upon a time, before most of us were born, let alone writing or making anything, there was a tight, meaningful dialogue (even if it was just between a dozen guys in the White Horse Tavern). Art was made in response to other art, or to an essay or review, or even an ad; it was sort of one big collaboration.

Now, there is no common project. Artists are too concerned with marketing an original product to play off someone else's work; no one reads the art mags except to keep track of who is getting the most free PR; the hermetic group of academics are the only ones to read theroretical stuff, and what is popular there is the gibberish of Deluze and Gutieri or that stale buffoon from Las Vegas.

As long as Culture is going down the chute, I'd rather be dancing in funny clothes at the head of the line than sticking a whiney finger in an overflowing dike. Someone who torches a Starbucks or Whole Foods is doing a better job at what art should be doing than any installation in a museum, gallery or "alternative" space. Either that, or turn your back on the world and make beautiful, well-crafted things.

rantily yours,



I, and I'm sure a lot of others on the list, spend every damn waking minute and a lot of fucking money getting people a place to stay, getting shows set up, getting my own work in order, rolling back rental car odometers, doing promo for both my own shows and the work I host etc. etc. to hear somebody say I shouldn't be - even in an objective tone.

I tend to not put myself in my own shows as I, myself, don't have the mental or physical bandwidth to do both at the same time and usually my own work doesn't fit in that well with the work I'm hosting. And it really isn't that personally rewarding to show my own stuff at my own place, I'd much rather hang out with other people who run spaces and meet them, and see how they do it, and meet their friends and drink their beer. I mean, to me, half of showing work is the experience. There isn't much experience involved in dragging my work from the workshop next door into the exhibition space. Those who can pull off both at the same time and enjoy it, more power to em. I gave it a shot and it wasn't my bag...

To me, it's a pretty logical fit. I spend about 3-5 evenings/days over at deadtech each week. A lot of times it's helping people install/teardown and a lot of times it's just sitting on the space in case someone comes by - it's a pretty good way to block out your time and say, "While I'm sitting on the space I'm going to work on my own stuff." I didn't get into running a space in order to spend 20 hours a week managing the 500 dollars that's been sitting in my deadtech account for 3 years.

I agree with the notion it's a low stakes operation. I, myself, really don't give a damn if Fred Camper can't make it. We have some decent artists come through our space and it isn't because we got a good write-up anywhere. It's because word gets around that we run a tight ship and treat artists fairly. Sure it's nice to get a crit, but hell, are my friends really going to give a damn?

rant #2 on the topic in the bag....

Hey, somebody go bitch at Ed for setting up Version>02 and putting out Lumpen and Select issues about it too.



Damn it, and I just bought the gasoline...the critics are stealing all the good ideas. I guess that leaves glass blowing.

Mr. Bulka -at the risk of a silly conversation- I was wondering if you would offer some clarification as to how you think that an action such as torching Whole Foods and Starbucks, our favortie lifestyle labels, would be better representative of what art should be doing? I'm not trying to be snotty or confrontational, I'm actually curious as to what you meant by that. Though I do wonder, (and I may be incorrectly interpretting your metaphor) if blowing up the dike is your answer, why walk in the parade, even if at the front? If you think the system is that fucked, why bother?



I guess, Michael, that the difference is in the way we see the world. I personally think that living life fully is important, most particularly when the world is such a mess and sometimes when our personal lives are diffucult. It's the only life we have, and throwing it away on anger and negativity - even when justified - is only to give in to the messes we have to deal with in our lives. For me, it means making the best art I can, because making art affirms life. It has nothing to do with turning your back on the world, or (at least for me) feeding the commercial world. For myself and like-minded people, making and looking at art feeds that part of us that needs to deal with the world. It nourishes us to go on fighting rather than to collapse in despair. That also means taking moral and ethical questions seriously - not that art or artists are so moral, but art has traditionally been one of the places where life affirming and moral questions are given serious consideration. My heroes are the Tibetans who go on creating texts and painting their temples even though the Chinese blow them up; all the Holocaust art that was made, surreptitiously, in the camps by people who died there. Only their art survived, at least some of it, and there are some amazing drawings that have survived. Yes, Chicago is a small art scene, but people live here and make art here, and we - they - deserve to be taken just as seriously as the artists in New York, or L.A. or whatever.

Even though we often differ in opinions, Michael, I always appreciate your taking the time to go to events and to think about them. It seems to me more important to be engaged in issues than to agree about them.



Oh Kids, You keep feeding the CACA's desperate need for existence . Every other six months they come out with some trivial idea, call it a round table disscussion and then complain when the crowd seeks answers. There is no CACA. You guys don't need it, it is a mirage. Keep doing your work. Keep doing good shows, look outside Chicago. If you want reviews in magazines, call the editors, pay for an ad and then ask for what you deserve. Rememeber, there are some alternatives available in Chi-town, Ten by Ten and, and the FGA, of course.

Now some suggestions, you don't need a round table to figure this out.

1. If you curate a show, please, don't put yourself in it. Temptation is there but you can fight it. Control yourself. In the long run, it will work in your favor. Besides, by curating shows you'll be able to meet a lot of people that could show your work.

2. Do not write reviews of your friend's work. Other people can do it. Plenty of people. Besides, there are hundreds of artists that make better work than an artists who is your close friend. Now, just because you talk to someone in an opening that doesn't qualify as making a friend. I'm talking about good, close friends.

3.If you edit a magazine, don't feature youself in it. It doesn't look good and hurts your credibility. The magazine should serve the larger community, people that need it.


Why not put your own work in your own show?

Is this set of guidelines a kind of moral code or something, is it because it is good manners? Is it pretentious? Let us kids play. . We just want to show our work and invite you all to see it. It's called "fun"...

A Kid


On Thu, 28 Mar 2002, bulka wrote:

- Are you abondoning ship too?
- And is meta-criticism dead too?
- I see you composed the 'subject' as a question.



On Sat, 30 Mar 2002, Timothy Cross wrote:

It is pretentious, especially when we suspect that it is just being passed off as if somehow _your_ work is included by curatorial choice, "because it is so good."

But I do not think anyone would object if you titled your self-included exhibition, "My Work, and Four of my Friends." I think an open declaration removes the edge from the ploy for exposure.

And, then there is the great 'American Tradition' of Walt Whitman who wrote his own critiques, and sold his book from a wheelbarrow. That must be equivalent to hawking your hi-art wares from a stand at a County Fair.

I don't see anything wrong with hawking your wares through self inclusion, I am more turned off by artists who talk incessantly about their 'work' as if there is nothing else in the world. And I suspect that, except for a few reviewers of ecclesiastical purity, everyone else writes about their friends and acquaintances. And what better way to explicate art than a personal familiarity with the objects which extends to the maker, her history and circumstances. It affords insights not available to the scholar-critics.

Additionally (humph, humph), need it be pointed out again that art is not a religion, that there is no orthodoxy -- certainly not among the commercial galleries, who promote what 'sells' with singular disregard for any other qualities.

The rest of us don't really make art for commercial sales -- if I make something I really like I simply do not want to sell it to some stranger. We make art as a dialog with a small group of friends, or just to solve some curious problems, or to comment on the state of.. anything, or to show off. It's a way of life too.



The position I have held for years is that artists who put together shows that have a direct relationship to what they are doing as artists SHOULD put their work into the show, In effect, this makes their interest in the subject transparent, They are not pretending to be objective but are saying, "I have a personal interest in this subject - it is the subject of my artwork." As a critic, I don't think I've ever thought that inclusion in a group show means that this is the best work you can find for a particular theme. After all, the curator or organizer has a subjective point of view as to why she includes this work and not that. I assume that the included work is the most relevant - not that I expect bad work in a show, but I'm most interested in how a particular work relates to the theme. Therefore, if an artist throws his/her work into a show that is not relevant, or the theme of the exhibition seems to be thrown together just to show the "organizers" work and that of her friends, I ignore it. It's not that hard to smell self-promotion, which has its place - but not in organizing group shows.

Also, it's fun to see what other people are doing about something you're wrestling with. Why compare everyone else's approach without including your own? After all, that's what some shows are about, and shouldn't be disguised as something else. It's a problem, in my opinion, for an artist to claim that his idea is the latest, most important idea around (happens to be the subject of his work - doesn't show his work - but if the idea catches on, the curator benefits as an artist as well). I like the transparency of an artist saying - "these are the ideas I'm working on and I'd like to see what other people are doing as well."

Anyway, that's my opinion. It's not shared by most people in the establishment, but who made up those rules? Who benefits by them? Not artists.



Hi claire,

Up to know I've just been a fly on the wall to most of these othergroup chats, but now, for some reason I feel like buzzing around the room for a while.

For what it's worth, I have to ask why the idea of theme is such an important one? I seems that everything must be rationalized and justified within the context of an exhibition. In my humble opinion, what we need is a little awkwardness and incongruity. Most of what I see is smoothed out and slicked up. There is very little edge in much of the art that I see lately, and what edge there is is due to artwork that is tapping into some political or social agenda. The art itself is not edgy. Of course the art does not have to be "edgy" to be interesting but if someone wanted to generate excitement and enthusiasm within a scene, I would imagine that rather than convincing someone that art is important and vital by telling them (with words) some artist or group of artists needs to SHOW them by their works that art is vital.

Self-promotion is good. The things that I make do not fit within a theme. I do not have a particular agenda that I hold dear. Maybe my theme will be no theme? Maybe my naive and awkward voice will become clear by contrasting the smooth and articulate mainstream?... maybe, maybe not.

Is it just me or are the curators ideas more important than the artists works?

A kid


Hi Timothy,

I generally don't get involved in these chats either, but I thought that you, Bulka & Jno had interesting things to say. I was not talking about artists' works having themes. In my opinion, interesting art is about itself, not about all the jargon that justifies it. But art IS about ideas - not slicked out and packaged, but struggling to get through. We sometimes need words (those that are not familiar with the work) to gain entrance to the work.

I was also not talking about some artists getting together and showing their work and promoting it in any venue they can find. Sometimes that's a good way to get acquainted with some work you're not familiar with, or groups of artists you don't know.

I was talking about institutional resistance to artists putting their own work into curated shows. No major institution in Chicago will permit this. That's stickier, because the institution, by its very nature, not only validates the show, but also the artists. That's when a group show is judged by its theme and whether the curator's theme stands up via the work that is chosen. That's when supposed disinterest and objectivity is supposed to reign, and I'm not at all convinced that whether or not the artist includes his work is the deciding factor of whether the show is interesting or not. And for me, interesting is the most important thing in a group show. Did I learn something I didn't know before? Was I introduced to artists who are thinking about x,y,&z in a fresh way? etc. Self-promotional shows do not belong here, in my opinion, because that turns the institution into even more of a promotional venue that it already is, but whether or not the artist includes his own work in the show is not the deciding factor of whether the show's intent is to show off the artist or to examine ideas.

Is this clear as mud?



I agree -- it is possible to curate yourself into a show and have it work -- it's tricky, but possible. didn't Damien Hirst do it pretty well with



Well, I must say that this discussion would benefit from a deeper analysis of aesthetics than simply negotiating the art market. I swear it is the most thought out discussion on this list serv is the consideration of the art market itself. It's lamentable because it reflects a field more proximitous to investment banking than creative ways of being in the world.

There is a deeper discussion that we need to investigate and it has to do with what is the point anyway. I mean, for me, Damien Hirst putting himself in that exhibition really doesn't matter because he really doesn't stand for much of anything anyway. It really isn't offensive to me if non-socially minded people reveal themselves to be conniving insiders because well, they are. Whether or not they use a malignant system to their advantage seems besides the point.

The entire curatorial/artist breakdown is a dubious supposition that needs to be reconfigured. The death of the author has resulted in only a mild shift in artistic practice and if anything a move to the right by museums. (But to defray this fairly negative belief, I do think that good citizens out there are producing amazing ideas in other fields of enterprise) With the authority of the individual deeply problematized, shouldn't curatorial and artistic practice be completely revamped? Collaborative work and the development of social spaces should be more in the vein of aesthetic practice. Tactical media projects and socially developed models are far more credible. They just don't fit the economics of the current dead in the water modernist infrastructure. I'm ranting only slightly, but to get to the point ....... the movement between artist and curator and insider all just seems like a useless balancing act in a useless game. Who cares? If you don't really know why you are involved in the process in the first place then why start being ethical in this regard?

If there is something to save in the art world then I would like to hear what people think that is. I believe there is. I just think the economic and social positions are in dire need of being addressed. It isn't so obtuse as this.

Bulka might lament that art used to be about ideas, but he refuses to get involved in the ideas that are currently out there. I couldn't imagine what that CACA meeting consisted of. Dear god. But it is good he's interested in dialogue at least.



The Chicago art world is not small. It is small only if you hang out with your friends or if you read the Examiner or Fred Camper. Chicago is very active and huge compared to many places I've been to. Lack of money and good writers, now that's another issue.

Jno said:


I don't believe this at all. I want to figure things out for myself... Why should anyone explain their work to me. Those are not explanations but justifications. I'd rather watch a Spielberg movie. They are preachy but at least I can have some fun. Are viewers that stupid? Then why make art, instead of making a painting just write about it. All this academic bull takes all the fun away from art. And all this "everyone else writes about their friends and acquaintances" is getting me tired. That's not a fact and it shouldn't be used to justify something that's wrong. That's just an excuse for people that can't think for themselves or owe "big favors."


On Sat, 30 Mar 2002, Pedro Velez wrote:

I was not talking about "explain[ing] your work". Artists are just such bad writers that 'Artist Statements' are taken with more than a grain of salt by reviewers, if not outright neglected. But just about any other information helps a reviewer in establishing credentials, and helps in explaining the work. And, yes, the work needs explaining.

With respect to "write[ing] about their friends and acquaintances," I can only answer from personal experience: With one exception I have never been reviewed except in the proximity of the reviewer and myself, my history, and mutual contacts. "I want to write about your work," I get, as an example, and I supply additional information. I have only one example of a blind review of my work, occupying a full page of AfterImage, years ago. And, boy, did he get it wrong.

I have the same experience being at the writing end. Unless I can see through the work to the artist, -- and it sure helps to know as much as possible about her and her past work -- the review is just speculation. I have to feel very strong about a speculative interpretation to continue through to publication.

You may want to "figure things out for yourself", but no, I think viewers often don't get it, or.. yes, viewers _are_ that stupid. It is too bad, but a lot of work finds no meaning except when placed in context of related work, and against the background of the artist. To pretend otherwise is just bullshit - you are just pretending that vagueness somehow has meaningful content, that the contemporary art you see shines with embedded significance, whereas much of what you see just radiates bogons.

I think the galleries and curators are largely at fault in for this failure of understanding where everyone walks around objects with a look of deep meaningful significance. The galleries owe it to their viewers to tell what it is they are looking at, what is significant about it, (even) what it means, so that the viewers need not stand around in stupified silence -- which seems one of the usual reactions at openings.

It looks nice, but often it irks me to see the white walls looking like all the other white walls everywhere else, with art discretely presented as individual icons, perhaps with small numbered tags, while the audience walks trancelike from piece to piece as if they were shuffling past the stations of the cross, expecting salvation or enlightenment when they reach number 14.

The white-wall and numbered-tag aesthetic of the Stray galleries attempts to capture connoiseurship, collector, and museum dreams. It has little to do with life as it actually is. The buying public at the off-the-beaten- track galleries consists of fringe lunatics, speculators, and decorators. Only the decorators have any taste. ...and artists. Artists buy.

Ultimately (you are correct, Pedro, in this sense) the work will have to stand on its own; _we_ will be long dead, but the stuff might still be there. But the only artwork which will survive such a test of time is what is already recognized as transcending any need for exterior qualifications at the time it first presented. And how often does that happen?

_Everything_ you see is work in progress. And as artists we look to contemporary art not to identify the contenders for instant classicism, but to have it serve as pointers to possibilities for our own efforts. We look at this stuff -- recognizing shortcomings -- to steal ideas, to weigh possibilities, to learn what is happening at the boundaries, and find the direction of contemporaneity.

- Bulka: " really doesn't matter."
- Jeff: "Damn it, and I just bought the gasoline..
- Timothy: "Is this set of guidelines a kind of moral code ?
- Nato: "The entire curatorial/artist [] .. needs to be reconfigured.
- Claire: "who made up those rules? Who benefits by them?

(sorry about the ellipses)



Good thoughts, Jno. I agree with what you say and how you say it.

I do think that writing about friends is sticky. There is a line to be drawn between occasional writers who are primarily promoting their friends' work (and this happens nowadays) and writers who are able to maintain enough distance in their empathy for the work to be able to contextualize it and to examine those elements that fail as well as those that work. If a writer can do that, has enough experience to distinguish between caring and respect for the artist and the ability to look carefully and dispasionately at the work, then that friend is the best person to write about her friend's work. Usually, though, that involves the critic's and artist's time - the time to see many attempts, many bodies of work that unfold in time, in order to understand how the artist's intentions manifests itself in the work, and even more important, how the work transcends the artist's intention into something more meaningful than the artist knew he was doing. That's the work I like to write about. And, more and more, it turns out that I know the artist in question, because I've been looking at art for a long time and I've made it my business to meet and talk with the artists' whose work I admire.

What do most artists want? In my experience, they want to be taken seriously, to have their work looked at with care, and of course to have their work admired. Criticism can function well for the first 2 desires Although it's not the only way to have your work taken seriously, it helps. The way criticism is used in the art market, including the artist's desires for fame and fortune, is unfortunate. But that doesn't change what is important about criticism - the fact that an experienced (hopefully) art looker and writer has taken the time to think about a given work and to attempt to put her thoughts into writing. And taking the flak from sticking your neck out and saying what you have to say in print. Critics are paid very little, and so the rewards have to come from somewhere else. Some do it for the love of art, of thinking about art, some also love the ILLUSORY power and prestige that comes from having your name in print. Is making art and running galleries to show it any different? People are people, and that includes everyone in the business of art.




I just have to put my two cents in .... At what point do we stop blaming the writers and critics, the galleries and the viewers for misunderstandings. These people are all looking towards the artists for answers and explanations. Why is it everybody else's fault that the art fails in some way. Art fails... often. If someone doesn't "get it", assuming that there is something to get, maybe we people who make the stuff should be a little more articulate through the things that we make.

A kid


I agree Tim. It's OK to ask for information or talk to the artists but if the work doesn't carry the message... It's like buying music. Do you expect a musician's statement in the record sleeve. No, you either get it or not. Sometimes you need to listen to the record more than once to like it or not. Sometimes you dismiss the record and years later listen to it again and realize that it was great. Music is as subjective as art, which is pretty much the same.


I think Jno and Claire have made some good points recently (and Jno's 'Stations of the Cross" metaphor is really a winner). Some more thoughts and opinions...

If you decide to make art and share it with an audience that is larger than yourself, you should expect to be held accountable for the work that you do by the audience that is on the receiving end. You are sharing your work with them. You are actively inviting people to experience your ideas. If they aren't 'getting it' then you can either try to deny your responsibility to viewers outside of yourself and your friends, or you can at least make an effort to foster a greater understanding of whatever it is you do. You should be prepared to say something articulate about your ideas, and the people that represent you (curators, artists who organize shows, gallerists) should be able to thoughtfully participate in the dialogue that may happen around your work in your absence (for example if a confused or irate viewer visits the exhibit and wants to talk about it). Artists should be prepared to take responsibility for the work they do. Gallerists and curators should be prepared to be held accountable for the work that they show and the artists that they represent. This is only natural. You are soliciting an audience. These people are not sneaking a look at your diary; you are publishing it.

Many angry receptions to artists' works are further exacerbated when artists and the people that present their work prove themselves to be incapable of articulating and defending their ideas and concerns in a clear and thoughtful manner. Putting new ideas, images, and objects out into the world can pose a challenge to peoples' preconceived notions of what art is and what it can be. If you are unwilling or unable to defend your work after posing this challenge then you probably aren't really doing very much other than baiting and taunting people. Critics that provide no substantial analysis of what they have seen and how they understand it are similarly guilty of failing to really put their asses on the line. Anyone can write a glib sarcastic three sentence "review" of an exhibit. The entertainment value of this kind of writing is extremely short lived. Its use value usually starts from a point of being nil so asking whether it is dead or not is sort of a moot point.

Most art avoids controversy because most potentially controversial art is only shown to art audiences (who are unlikely to get upset). Because a lot of art is targeted toward the smallest and most insular audiences, and because many artists go to art schools where they are surrounded by peers and professors who are more or less sympathetic to what they do, most artists are never tested in this way. They are never forced to defend or explain what they do to an audience that is willing to forcefully disagree. When the time comes that they might really need these critical skills, many artists and gallerists find that they don't have them. Critics perhaps feel more likely to be tested or challenged on their work/words so they are sometimes better prepared to respond to these situations. But most culture wars are battled over works of art rather than the criticism of works of art (But critical writing is a tool that can be used to illuminate or defend the ideas of serious artists who may communicate much better visually than verbally).

Most artists are inarticulate as are many of the people that represent them. Artists and Gallerists send out press releases and artist statements that overflow with jargon that no one agrees on the definitions of, and buzz words that convey a 'feel' but no real content or clear statement of intent. is filled with this shit. Many artists and gallerists are lacking in self-criticality so they produce solo shows that are filled with vague art, or group exhibitions where audiences are expected to come away with some kind of understanding or thesis based on one vague work of art per artist and a generic "theme." Most viewers need clear thoughtful work and a meaningful context in order to have an enriching experience. I'd rather err on the side of providing too much context and information than present vague exhibits of vague art that pose no coherent argument and are attended and accepted primarily out of a feeling of social obligation to the artist and gallery (and perhaps the promise of free beer). Artists should be able to make clear art. They should also be able to write and if they can't, they should at least be able to talk. And if they aren't very good at that either, then they will probably need to find a critic, gallerist, or curator that is. Would you go to a doctor who told you that he was ready to operate on your brain but couldn't quite describe what he was going to do to you or how he was going to do it? Fuck no!! I don't like going to those kinds of exhibits either. We hold people that fix our cars and our bodies accountable for the work they do. Artists and curators and galleries deserve to be held similarly accountable if they want to participate in a world that is larger than themselves.