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August 2010

The Sound of Wringing (2)

There is no excuse for failing to feel liberal guilt about race and class.

There’s another one for the list. It’s the Guardian’s Theo Hobson. He’s embracing his inner sorrow and waving his credentials.

Liberal guilt is nothing to be ashamed of. It’s really just the political expression of that rather old-fashioned thing, conscience... To ‘suffer’ from liberal guilt means that you are somewhat uneasy about all sorts of awkward things that it is tempting to harden your heart against, like global injustice, global warming, racism... It means you sometimes worry that you might be prejudiced against all sorts of people.

All sorts of people. Well, not all sorts, obviously.

If this little parade of privileged anxiety fills you with derision, then you are a Tory. Rejection of liberal guilt is the very cornerstone of the Tory soul, the unofficial definition of Tory.

And hey, reducing those who disagree to a “Tory” caricature...

Well done, for turning up to banker school, or to that internship your uncle wangled no way entails smugness or – God forbid – prejudice

Despite Mr Hobson’s claims, rejecting “liberal guilt,” as manifest all but daily in the pages of the Guardian, doesn’t require an indifference to, or denial of, real injustice; merely a dislike of pretension and dishonesty, and a wariness of guilt being distorted into a pantomime and fetish – in which rhetorical self-harm is an assertion of superiority.

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You Are Privileged to Witness Just How Brilliant I Am

Omar Kholeif, whose plea for racial favouritism in the arts recently entertained us, is enthused by a project named Unrealised Potential.

The project features,

An expansive collection of proposals from a breadth of contemporary artists, writers, musicians and curators.

And how does it work?

The unproduced ideas are lined up in the first gallery, alongside a set of terms and conditions, whereby visitors are invited to purchase the artist proposals for ‘realisation.’ The setting adopts a similar structure to an auction space, where a red sticker is placed on each idea sold, with the purchasing ‘producer’ being offered two years to realise the project, before it returns to the marketplace.

Isn’t it just wonderful? And so terribly clever. Visitors to the exhibition get, 

The opportunity to purchase the right to interpret and realise an artist’s idea.

An artist’s idea. Oh fortune, she smiles upon us. Think of it as a remix, but with no original recording, or demo, or evidence of talent. Apparently, this constitutes,

Critical and, at times, contradictory commentary about the commercialisation of the arts.

And not a cheap and derivative hustle. Why, the very idea.

Some readers may recall the ICA’s Publicness exhibition of 2003, which - in ways never quite specified - “interrogated globalisation” and “notions of the public realm.” The exhibition’s four-page press release promised the thrill of “proposals for projects that may never be realised.” In other words, the artists were so heady in their conceptualism they could short-circuit the tiresome business of actually making or finishing anything, and could instead be acclaimed - and paid - simply for airing “proposals.” One almost had to admire the efficiency. After all, it saved everyone – especially the artists – a great deal of time and trouble. Though you can’t help wondering how the artists would have felt had the audience adopted a similar approach to visiting the ICA: “Let’s not bother going and just pretend we did…”

And lets not forget the non-existent giant flying art banana, a theoretical masterpiece that cost Canadian taxpayers over $130,000 and which, had it materialised, would have said something unflattering about the previous incumbent of the White House. Because, hey, artists are just so goddamned edgy.

But back to Mr Kholeif and his keen curatorial insights:

The very act of potentially encouraging complete ‘amateurs’ to consider the delivery parameters of such creative output offers audiences an insight into the graft and expertise required to produce a successful creative project, while simultaneously reminding them of the risk involved... What is worthy here is this notion of process: audiences are granted the privilege of witnessing the multifarious facets of an artist’s psyche.

You heard the man. It’s a privilege. Well, having climbed the heights of Mount Vanity, let’s bask in the glow of that creative lava stream, shall we?

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Friday Ephemera

Bellies. // Jet trains. // China’s 10-day traffic jam. // High-rise tennis court. // Tornado plus fire. // Norway’s Svalbard Science Centre. // Superpowers. // Post-apocalyptic Tokyo. // Prague panorama. // Ninjabread men. // Nuclear icebreaker Lenin. // Building the Statue of Liberty. // Long exposure fireflies. // The perils of working from home. // Octopus kites. // Orson Welles’ Dracula (1938) and other radio dramas. // “The United States may be using climate-change weapons.” // Wireframe motorcycle. // Earth and Moon photographed at a distance of 183 million kilometres. // Bee. // Get groovy with the Houseplant Picture Studio

Reheated (13)

For newcomers, three more items from the archives

Details, Details

On the socialist pieties of Professor Zygmunt Bauman.

The professor claims that “the quality of a society should be measured by the quality of life of its weakest members.” My initial response to this was to think of a drunken woman I sometimes see not far from where I live. She’s a slightly incongruous sight around mid-morning: fag in one hand, can of cheap beer in the other, chugging away merrily and looking a little unsteady. I’m guessing she’s not a physicist or a brain surgeon, or even a professor of sociology. It’s unlikely, I think, that this woman can hold down a job and I’d guess the odds are good that her morning beers are paid for with state benefits. Now if Bauman wants us to judge the quality of society as a whole by the quality of this woman’s habits and decisions, or the decisions of others like her, that seems a tad unfair. It’s also unclear what, if anything, Professor Bauman would want to do to this woman - sorry, do for this woman - in the name of “social justice.”

Entitlement (2)

Seumas Milne demands “social justice” and the right to take your stuff.

Note the phrases “naked class egotism” and “unchallengeable entitlement.” Now to whom might they apply? Those who wish to retain just under half of their own earnings, or those who feel entitled to confiscate even more from others in order to indulge their own moral sentiments, or pretensions thereof? Do notions of greed, presumption and selfishness apply only to people above a certain level of income? Or can they, for instance, be said of some recipients of welfare? Can such things be said of the state, or of the righteous Mr Milne? To how much of your income is the government morally entitled?

When Hippies Weep.  

Eco-hippies weep for fallen trees. “I want you to know, trees, that we care.” 

And feel free to skip barefoot through the greatest hits.

Friday Ephemera

Keith Boadwee is an Adjunct Professor of Fine Arts at the San Francisco Art Institute. // Journalism warning labels. (h/t, Mr Eugenides) // Cat fashion show. // Communication gloves for firefighters. // Max Fleischer’s Superman. (1941-42) // Time-lapse Perseids and Milky Way. // There’s something in the water. // Shark clip. // Ice guns. // Buzzing the Grand Canyon. (1959) // Backwards ABBA. // Hey, DJ. // I said... Hey, DJ. // Paint job. // Walking table. // Twinkies deconstructed. (h/t, MeFi) // Custom wheels. // The Moon versus Australia and other issues of size. // Freefall speedcubing. // And this is how you yo-yo. 

I’m Other, Subsidise Me

The writer and film curator Omar Kholeif tells us The Arts Need Diversity Schemes

It is no secret that the new British government is making sweeping changes to arts and culture policies. From budget cuts to the entire restructuring of national and regional arts funding, the unstable future of our collective culture is increasingly debated.

Our collective culture? Really? My own visits to galleries of modern offerings have been remarkably short on feelings of affinity and collective ownership. More typically, the experience has been one of alienating tedium due to the self-absorption of a curatorial caste. 

In the midst of that, we must also consider where minority groups fit into the equation.

But of course. There just isn’t enough racial politics in “our” art.

Will policymakers choose to maintain positive action programmes? [...] As a young arts professional, I have only recently felt my career taking off, having utilised the often-controversial diversity scheme as a springboard.

Some readers may be surprised to learn that their taxes have been funding racial favouritism.  

After graduating with a first-class degree, I spent what seemed like a lifetime twiddling my thumbs in unsatisfying entry-level roles and, like many humanities graduates in my cohort, waiting at the job centre.

Which may shed some light on the value of an arts degree and the wisdom of pursuing that particular line of business.

Without the financial means to fund further my education, or the resources to devote time to unpaid work experience, I ended up taking on opportunities unrelated to my vocation.

See above.

Last year, just as matters had started to improve, I was accepted onto a curating fellowship. It was originally founded in response to a survey in 2005 that revealed only 6% of London’s museum and gallery workforce hail from a minority background – a disproportionate ratio, considering that black and minority ethnic residents make up nearly a third of the capital’s population.

As this is a Guardian comment piece, the density of assumption is of course quite high. Note the implicit belief that every conceivable ethnic category of humankind should be “represented” proportionally in all areas of endeavour - or at least those that suit the author’s current line - irrespective of individual choices and priorities. Note too the implicit belief that if reality doesn’t correspond with this expectation, then something nefarious must be taking place, regardless of whether evidence of such has actually been discovered.

No evidence of foul play appears in the piece and a lot seems to hang on the claim of a “disproportionate ratio” of minority employees. But London offers a range of niche employment for which many people relocate from other parts of the country, where ethnic demographics may be very different and much closer to the offending 6%. If some types of employment in the capital reflect national rather than local demographics this isn’t inherently scandalous or evidence of injustice. In and of itself, the ratio of minority employees in London galleries isn’t the most compelling justification for “corrective” racial profiling. 

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Friday Ephemera

Hyrax rides tortoise. // Suren Manvelyan has been photographing eyes. // America in colour, 1939-1943. (h/t, John Symes) // Remnants of Supernova 1987A. // “The Earth is expanding rapidly.” // Southern sky panorama. // Magnetic putty. // Tigers and pigs. // Tiger Dust. // Abandoned lairs of supervillains. // Supersized art. // Bug nests of note. (h/t, Coudal) // Because all food should taste of smoke. // A film I just have to see. // Papercraft Queen. // Attention, hepcats. It’s a James Brown ski party. // Bid now for a jar of Elvis’ hair. // Intriguing dioramas. // Agreeable graphs. // Avengers pre-make. // Useful Idiots.

Gillian’s Vortex is Out of Order

Anna steers us to the latest doings of “holistic nutritionist” and health guru Gillian McKeith. Readers may recall Ms McKeith’s television series You Are What You Eat, in which our host thrilled the nation with her enthusiastic cataloguing of human excrement. Ms McKeith’s latest venture is more ambitious still. Indeed, it’s positively mind-bending.

The Gillian McKeith Wellness Retreat in southern Spain is an educational inspirational centre for the spirit, mind and body to learn, discover, explore and get closer to the essence of Your Self and Life; and through this process you seek to garner inner harmony and balance.

I can tell you’re intrigued. Who wouldn’t want to get closer to their essence? Intimacy with one’s essence is apparently achieved in seven days by means of,

High enzyme vegan foods, raw meals, sprouts and juices,

Combined with,

massage, Chi Yoga, meditation,



After seven days of tennis, sprouts and essence fondling,

You will receive a Certificate of Completion and join the Path for a whole new life.

You’ll also receive a bill for £1,500. Though the fee does include,

a nurturing staff,

nurturing mountains,


swooning eagles.

Yes, the eagles actually swoon. Imagine the spectacle of magnificent birds keeling over from sheer emotional fatigue. The place must be littered with them. It’s the “natural vitality” of the region that does it.

Oh, there’s more.

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