Category Archives: Art

The Accountant – how to deal with clients

I instantly fell in love with Ben Affleck’s character Christian Wolff from the film The Accountant. Something about being awkward, fit and hot, plus having the exact same delay between shots he fires with his anti-aircraft rifle. But best of all, his client meetings. He is my new hero when it comes to dealing with new clients.

Here, have some memes:





Gary Hume at White Cube

Old Art Review

Gary Hume at White Cube, Bermondsey 6th March – 21st April 2013

The limbs so arranged suggest both legs and fingers. From one angle the sculpture appears to be a giant hand, with middle finger raised in the common western cultural gesture meaning “fuck you”. Despite the phallic origins of this gesture and the upraised middle limb, the sculpture is undoubtedly female, or at least in some way related to femaleness.

what it is and what it is not. The segments of the piece are both obviously limbs (of a human being) and not limbs, since the central section rises into the air like the trunk of a tree abruptly cut off and shorn of its limbs. It is both female and not female, not just because of the separation of the hand and the body, since the limb is amputated at the wrist and the shoulder, but also expressed through the pink painted flat surface of the visible wrist. It is the puke pink of faux femininity, the colour of girl’s plastic toys so recently extended to any product, from handbags to laptops, that will apparently turn on everyone’s desire as long as they have a vagina. Our unease is explained when we read from the gallery notes that the limb has been cast from the arm of a mannequin, that quintessential object of the not-human, famously disproportionate to make clothes look better and often lacking in heads or limbs. Further, the fusion of two of the arms at the shoulder at the base of the scultpure gives the strong impression of buttocks and legs, but stuck together in a neat uniformity that cannot speak of a human female, but rather of that most famous doll, Barbie herself.

In this installation, the interplay of real and not real or female and not female is further extended.  The base supporting the sculpture is made of rough-surfaced railway sleepers, which assert their presence in the room through their subtle but potent smell. This seems to be a reminder of the natural world, juxtaposed with the artificial surface of the painted bronze. Similarly, the works of art around the walls are entitled “Three Yellow Horizons and a Green Wood”, depicting natural scenes using unnatural materials – gloss paint on aluminium. Historically, women have been equated with ‘nature’ while men, or masculinity with ‘culture’. Imbued in the idea of culture is intellect, progress and industry. Here Hume has taken a mass produced post-modern object vaguely related to feminine forms and arranged these damaged limbs to resemble other mass produced post-modern feminine forms in a material and at a scale that suggest both old and ancient symbols of masculine triumph.

I hesitate to speculate on the artist’s position on these institutions, from ancient Rome to the modern fashion industry, since the piece seems to fold time and history over itself to the point of collapse, and the sculpture clearly invites levity. However, looking at similar works by Hume, for example ‘The Tumble’ where a clearly female figure appears with arms and head facing down, midway through a cartwheel, it seems Hume has a narrow view of the female forms he depicts. In ‘The Tumble’ the form is once again segmented and coloured in pale pink with long curly hair, doll-like in every way save for the impression of movement. As I walked around this piece, dwarfed by its size and in closer contact to the wooden pedestal than the work, I caught a glimpse of my small and indistinct shadow on the brushed surface of the bronze. Everything about this work ties femininity with artificiality and violence, leaving individual humanity a mere shadow on its surface. I am obviously conscious that the author is not synonymous with the narrator, however my personal reaction to ‘Liberty Grip’ is “fuck you, Gary”.

Modelling For Photographers

This is a statement for anyone interested in working with me as a nude model for their photography.

I’ve noticed nude/art photographers tend to want a very particular “feminine” look in their work and I do not necessarily represent that. I have an excellent, very “feminine” figure but I am also a person.

I have an unusual hair cut, it is shaved at the sides with a long section in the middle and it is often dyed pink or blue. My sense of style is varied but often tends towards the tomboy. I am a very active person. Myself and most of my friends live our lives with alternative ideas about gender, sex, sexuality, relationships and social norms.

I previously had little idea that these things could affect nude photography but they very much do. I am unlikely to be a passive subject in your work.  I will desire to be expressive, and in ways that may seem unusual. I will stare into the camera. I will want to talk to you. I like being happy, and find it a strain to act demur.  I do not sit, stand or walk in a “feminine” way, although I am able to. My mannerisms and the way I occupy space with my body are not feminine in a traditional sense. I do however love being female. I am in touch with my body and celebrate its femaleness, it is simply that my female expression is far from the more popular cultural norms.

I would be interested to work with photographers who would like to explore this set of elements in their practice and I know it can lead to extremely interesting photographs.

Please also let me know if you have read this and are no longer interested, I much prefer to be told “no, thank you” promptly than to be waiting on a reply that never arrives.


Review of ‘International Art English’ by Alix Rule & David Levine

‘International Art English’, finally a name coined for something that seems to exist but is hard to define (Rule and Levine use the striking analogy of pornography: ‘we know it when we see it’), a curious version of English that is ’emphatically not English’ used by that collection of art individuals and organisations known as the ‘art world’ to describe and promote the latest fine art.

This essay, simply titled ‘International Art English’, attempts to describe the special language used within the art world by analysing the text of thousands of press releases from prominent online art feed e-flux. The essay points out the curious vocabulary and sentence construction prevalent in IAE and goes on to suggest the likely origins of its peculiar syntax. After a comment on authority, the authors speculate on the ‘implosion’ of the language, since its functions of authority and exclusion are becoming lost amidst a growing, indeed global readership who are becoming conversant in it.

Although much of the press reception of this essay has mentioned the labels that describe the art works in museums (a version of this kind of ‘English’), this essay focuses exclusively on the ‘purist articulation’ of International Art English – the art world press release. I think this fact is pertinent, because museum labels (as distinct from contemporary exhibition hand-outs) can commit sins that IAE is in part trying to avoid, namely telling the audience what they are supposed to believe about a piece of work. As a speaker of IAE (I have an undergrad in Fine Art and spent more time writing than making) I appreciate the difficulties inherent in art labeling. I was recently in the Museo Del Prado in Madrid and found myself consciously offended by the descriptions accompanying Bosh and Goya, prescriptively describing the themes and intentions of the work to what the writers seemed to be assuming was a stupid and disinterested audience. Most infuriating was the tone of the text, which left no room for my personal desire to read the works in psychedelic terms (I had just returned from a 14 day trance festival, how else was I going to read El jardín de las delicias?)

This leads us to the question: how should a work of art be described without unduly influencing the audience’s reactions? Provoking some kind of sensation in one’s audience is one of the key preoccupations of the artist. It is also a key truth among art makers that no two people will react to a work in the same way, or if they do, the range of reactions across many observers will in no way be predictable. How then, to interest a potential audience without closing down their possible reactions? As novelists say, how is one to “show, not tell”? IAE may be one way of answering this question. The authors of the paper describe the tendency for certain words to be over used, for some words to change their meanings, meaning more than one thing at once, or even losing their meaning entirely; for the ‘antieconomy’ of more words, not fewer, causing a propensity towards lists, grouping unrelated words and pairing of like terms.  For those initiated into the world of IAE, there is a sense of pleasing vagueness that describes yet clearly does not describe the work before them. Of course, for the uninitiated, IAE illicits an opposite yet also successful reaction of ignoring the gallery text altogether.

Perhaps we are being too hard on IAE: how is one to use words to describe works of art that are exclusively visual or sound-based? How often are excellent novels translated successfully into film? It is no wonder that words like reality and space are over-used and recodified with new and ambiguous meanings. The activity of describing visual art in written language has always been a ruse,a sleight-of-hand and the quirks of IAE have been ignored all this time because it is only polite.

Now, by naming the language which has been growing and metasticising (‘Germanly’) in its own innocent art bubble for the past forty years, while its idiosyncracies were politely ignored, Rule and Levine risk bringing about the implosion they fear in their essay.

One part of the essay, however, was highly reassuring to me as a former art student, namely, the acknowledgement of the desire to admire IAE for its linguistic frippery rather than its content. While my fellow students racked their brains over how to understand and replicate this codified language I secretly gloried in the aesthetics of the sentence construction, enjoying the particularly poetic tone of some of the less dry pieces and rising to the challenge in my own work. As a not so very good artist I spent many hours in the wordier worlds of art, from my dissertation to writing about my work to agonising for hours over a clever title, or creating whole works of art out of them. I even spent much time steeped in the work of Deleuze and Guttari, the very philosophers who, in translation in American art journal October are the supposed culprits for the entire IAE phenomenon (as one friend of mine on Facebook exclaimed “damn! I knew it would be the French!”). To have acknowledged in public the peculiar literary delight one might take in IAE is to scratch an itch I did not know I had. Rule and Levine allude to interns writing press releases as one of the few creative tasks in their jobs. My own tutor once described his desire to somehow apprehend art, to make it less intimidating, so he decided to write about it. It seems obvious to me that a large part of the ridiculousness of IAE is surely to do with its position as a creative outlet for artsy people who, for whatever reason, do not actually practise art.

Of course, all of this is poppycock to anyone outside the art world, since who outside reads these press releases anyway? Rule and Levine slip into IAE in their own essay and this review has done the same, written as it is by an acolyte of the mystical church of Fine Art. Any form of art writing has always been to make one sound as if one knows what one is talking about and in more recent years to make buyers of art sufficiently baffled as to part with ever increasing wadges of cash, an aim to which it has clearly been highly successful. Rule and Levine do mention the idea that if IAE is abandoned, it is likely to be replaced by a form of elitist English for the ‘reliable distinctions it imposes’. They encourage us to enjoy IAE in what is possibly its golden years before it all becomes even more insular, and decidedly less funny, than it was before.

The dark half

I’m so glad N showed me to love the dark.

My common companions lately avoid horror films, steer clear of dub step, disapprove of organised fighting… all these things are fleeting, of little evidence. Yet I take them as so. My companions claim: why would I invite negative things into my life? Yet to me this attitude makes me think of a shying away, a closing of the eyes, a turning aside of the gaze. Allowing one’s gaze to slide over “negative things” without seeing them could be argued to be a gesture of not allowing them to take up your time, to remove one’s interest in a thing is to destroy it.  However I disagree with this analysis of “negative things”.  These things that are dark, that have a bad attitude, that are hateful or involve viiolence are not inherently “negative things”. To divide the world with a clear line between “good” and “bad” is not the behaviour of a long-thinking adult. Instead we might describe things by their utility. Is such-and-such a thing worth my attention?

By this definition, “negative things” seem to have incredible utility. I will leave you to ponder for a moment what useful attributes they might have.

But it is true, these things are frightening to look at. N helped me to stare unblinking at our common childhood experiences, many of them “bad”, to understand them, look through them and where useful, incorporate and wield them. He taught me to look unflinching into the way we express the dark, the buried, the hidden, the shameful, and the powerful in our culture. How we try to make sense of the Yin in conscious life. What that says about us.

It is staring into the fear that makes the fear retreat.

And incorporation. I do not mean to imply that an individual must be some kind of “complete whole”, particularly not of dark and light, because such a thing is overly simplistic, perhaps absurd, probably unnecessary. I simply mean that all emotions can be an ally. All things can be an avenue for play. An opportunity to connect.

Experiencing the dark without fear, rather as part of your power and the richness of your experience, is an integral part of life. To deny it, to avoid it, to slide over it, is to suffer a poverty, to lose a limb and to close down. How do you justify the loss? Because something is “negative”? Does it really have no worth? Because you are afraid? Is that an excuse you still use?

2012 is coming to an end

I felt a slight shock when I realised that 2012 is almost over. Here is my traditional post musing on the things I’ve done this year.

I gave away (almost) all my worldly possessions. I went to my third BiCon. I had group sex! I had group sex more than once! I had group sex with people I’d only known for a day! I went to Doncaster, Middlesbrough, Manchester, Bradford, Cambridge, Portugal and Madrid for the first time. I walked outside of Birmingham New Street Station. I cried infront of a painting. I went to a psytrance festival. In a foreign country. I swam in a lake sparkling with fool’s gold. I saw a lizard. I volunteered for litter picking at a festival. I saw how the world works. I learned how to get food out of bins. I was travelling/homeless for two thirds of the year. I read/watched the entire run of Promethea, My So-Called Life and Firefly. I fell in love. I added some notches to my bedpost (including three girls and a royal marine!) I blagged three nights in a caravan after a festival. I went backstage. I was a runner for stilt walking performers. I met some famous drum ‘n’ bass DJs. I did bi activism. I stayed over in a squat. I stopped being scared of London. I saw Tube mice. I hitch-hiked. I ate melon and liked it. I kissed a guy with a forked tongue. I made many new friends. I stayed on a boat in the Lake District. I met many people who will change the world. I tried mushrooms. I stopped taking sugar in my tea. I got so ill my period came a week and a half early, and I mistook it for kidney disease! I broke up and got back together with the same person! I walked on a slackline! I learned to juggle! I protested outside the deputy PM’s house! I lead a protest charge with “She’ll be coming round the mountain”! I marched with the trade unions against austerity (twice)! I saw a world title boxing match! I went to a gig with someone I didn’t know. I saw my father. I met my step grandmother, and other estranged family. I entertained revolutionary thoughts. I  took my clothes off for cash. I joined libraries in four different cities. I got a tax rebate. I “looked poly” in public. I confused people. I loved it when my boyfriend kissed a guy. I stayed awake all night and worshiped the full moon. I wrote dirty stories for money. I went to OpenCon. I was captain of a starship. I lost my childhood. I quit my job. I had dinner at Harvey Nicholls. I was looked after. I busked on the street. I got pet rats and had to give them away. I felt human. I stayed alive.

This year I’ve had a So-Amazing Life.

And what have I learned? When it comes to food, you get what you’re given, be grateful for it, don’t waste any and always share. When it comes to sleep, just do it when you want to or when you can, there’s no need to worry. You can learn to change your sleep over time, including where you can tolerate doing it. A futon on slats is the best way to sleep ever. Food is only out of date when it smells bad. Food is all around you, the more humans in any given space, the more free food you will find. The humaniverse will take care of you, if you let it. Be patient. Walk everywhere. Be the change. Doing new things makes life feel full. Being somewhere comfortable with nothing to do slows time down. Follow your highest excitement. Whatever your heart sings for. Who dares, wins.

Still to come:

get dp’d, apply to a PhD, start my own business, get a tattoo, get my driving license, go to Burning Man, eat at high table.