wars: The Last Art Show survey update
Ranko Bon writes
and paints. Since 1976 he has been writing Residua, a book which will
soon contain one million words (see his website, www.residua.org).
He has shown at EAST International in Norwish in 1998. Together with his
wife, Lauren, he directs the Hereford Salon, a place where artists can
talk to each other. He taught at the University of Reading.
In April 2000,
Ella Guru, Stuckist web mistress, received the following from Mr Bon:
is sending me to you. Here is the story. I send around my pieces about
the art world pasted on postcards. I've been doing this for some six years
now. The postcards are of interest in themselves, and a number of art
and literary magazines have published my texts as postcards or vice versa.
This includes Butterfly (London), Statement Art (Amsterdam), and Tank
(London). By the way, I am also offering a collection of my postcards,
selected by those who collect them, to a gallerist.
TYRELL AND NICK SEROTA
(March 16, 2001)
Last night I watched Blade Runner with my No. 1 son, who came from New
York for a few days to see my mother and me. We watched it on his computer
in our kitchen. No matter how many times I see this movie, I am delighted
by it anew. But this time I was struck by something I have noticed never
before. Dr. Eldon Tyrell, the chief inventor and owner of the corporation
that manufactures replicants, the more-human-than-human robots around
whom the film is constructed, looks very much like Nick Serota. I do
not know the name of the actor who plays Dr. Tyrell, but the resemblance
is really striking. Last night I had a feeling the two men had much
more than looks in common, but by this morning much of that feeling
has evaporated. I am not sure exactly what I had in mind while I was
watching the movie. Indeed, what rôle could replicants play in art?
I (March 19, 2001)
a couple of responses to this piece from the "Let's Make Art!" list.
The first is from Sandy Starr and the second from Brett Hamil. Both
of them agree about the striking likeness. Sandy offers some useful
information about the actor in question: "Dr. Tyrell is played by Joe
Turkel, who also appeared in three Stanley Kubrick films: The Killing
(1956), Paths of Glory (1957), and The Shining (1980). In The Shining,
where he plays a satanic barkeeper, he looks even more like Serota than
he does in Blade Runner." Brett focuses on my last line, though. He
does not think replicants are incompatible with contemporary art. As
he suggests, they may be playing a major rôle in it. Here goes: "Note
that, in Blade Runner, the only way to distinguish replicants from humans
is their lack of empathy. Thus the replicant artist would naturally
favor inhuman symbols of commodification and mechanical metaphors of
hyper-consumerism à la pickled sheep and Brillo boxes, because the empathy
required to appreciate actual subjective human endeavor, such as a portrait
painting, is beyond the workings of their replicant minds." "Just a
thought," he offers modestly at the end of his message. It goes without
saying that it is a great joy to travel to the truth with one's friends
from around the world. Step by tiny step, we will get there!
September 2000: Ella Guru, who makes it publicly known that she disapproves
of the Stuckists constant harping on about Tracey Emin, has received and
commented on the following email from Mr Bon's list:
Ant Noises Two - A Letter to "The Jackdaw"
Date: Wed, 13 Sep 2000 09:40:45 +0000
ANT NOISES TWO:
A LETTER TO THE JACKDAW (September 13, 2000)
I missed the opening
at the Saatchi Gallery of Ant Noises One. This was in late July. I was
abroad at the time, and so I passed my invitation to Dan Crowe, the
editor of Butterfly. He was invited, too, but he needed another invitation
for a friend. The reason Dan came to my mind was simple: all the mail
I get from Saatchi is addressed to Ranko Butterfly. I knew Dan would
appreciate this. The association must have been established when I sent
to Charles a copy of Butterfly No. 4, which contains a bunch of my needling
pieces about Sophie Calle.
Back to Ant Noises
Two, though. The opening was yesterday evening. The names of the stars
of the show were not surprising: Jake and Dinos Chapman, Tracey Emin,
Damien Hirst, Gary Hume, Sarah Lucas, Richard Patterson, Jenny Saville,
and Gavin Turk. The OBAs. Tracey's name was the only surprise, in fact,
as she has made a great deal out of not selling anything to Saatchi.
This must have affected the price of her clapped-out bed from the Turner
Prize show at the Tate. The rumor has it that the price the masterpiece
fetched was one hundred and fifty thousand pounds. The rumor also has
it that Charles could have done much better if he had bought an essentially
identical bed from Billy Childish, Tracey's ex-boyfriend, who wanted
only twenty-thousand pounds for it, the amount of the Turner Prize itself.
The OBA stuff is
a bore, predictably enough. First you see their works at the Tate, then
at Jay Jopling's, and then at Charles Saatchi's. I saw practically everything
on display for the second, third, or fourth time, which makes mockery
of the term opening. Still, the crowd was fascinating, just as it was
at the opening of the White Cube Squared in Hoxton or Tate Modern at
Bankside. To tell the truth, I was surprised by the numbers last night.
The huge gallery was stuffed to the gills. To gauge the number, I kept
pestering the crew engaged for the evening. The best estimate for the
number of people there came from a young waitress, who studies art someplace
in London: "All I know is there are eighteen hundred glasses available
for the event." In short, tired as it is, the OBA phenomenon is still
alive. It still draws people who want to be seen at openings. How much
longer? That is anyone's guess.
The champagne flowed
so freely that I fell asleep in the train to Reading. The conductor
woke me up just as we were pulling out of the town. It took me an hour
and a half to get back. Pacing along the deserted platform at Didcot
Parkway, I had an opportunity to enjoy ant noises in their purest form:
wobbly tracks covered with homogenized garbage, rusting locomotives
emitting clicking noises as they cooled after a hard-day's work, musty
windows of locked-up waiting rooms, blinking lights of the power station
looming ominously in the distance, the faint smell of machine oil mixed
with urine, pavement sticky with chewing gum. Ant noises galore. Yes,
the opening at Saatchi was a great success.
Miss Guru's repsonse:
Yeah, and how about
that article in the Evening Satan last night, where Miss Emin
was outraged that art movers set up her bed: "If some one else sets
it up its just dirty linen. If I do it, it's Art."
Although I've been
fed up with the Stuckists habit of picking on Tracey, I have to say
sometimes she just begs for it. (And does Mr Saatchi realise he paid
£150,000 for a piece of "art" that will become worthless when the artist
27 June 2000:
Ella Guru, and many
others recieved the following:
Subject: Not open
Date: Tue, 27 Jun 2000 12:20:42 +0000
Here is one of
my postcards in electronic form. My apologies to those who get it both
by e-mail and snail-mail.
NOT OPEN FOR DISCUSSION
(June 27, 2000)
In response to
my article about the Last Art Show survey, posted on the Culture Wars
website (www.culturewars.org.uk), Jonathan Day from Corvallis, Oregon,
writes that he has no interest in my five survey questions regarding
the show, scheduled for June 21 of this year in London, but he adds:
"First, if someone
who calls himself an artist is able to participate in this showÑthat
is, is able to burn his own "work"Ñthen I think he should. The more
of his own "work" be burns, the better. Second, if he cannot bring himself
to burn his own work, he may be an artist. If he can, he certainly is
He concludes that
this is not open for discussion, suggesting that he may be an artist.
Unacknowledged by Mr. Day, the Last Art Show thus provides a useful
criterion of who may be, as well as who definitely is not, an artist.
Such a criterion is undoubtedly of great value in an age when it is
so difficult to distinguish between the two groups. As Mr. Day's criterion
is not open for discussion, it can be applied without further ado.