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More emails from Ranko Bon

Dr Tyrell and Nic Serota (24 Oct 2002)
Ant noises two: a letter to the Jackdaw (13 Sept 2000)
"Not open for Discussion" (27 Jun 2000)

Culture 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:
Charles 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.

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?

Addendum I (March 19, 2001)
I received 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!

13 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:

Subject: E-Postcard: Ant Noises Two - A Letter to "The Jackdaw"
Date: Wed, 13 Sep 2000 09:40:45 +0000


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 dies?)


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27 June 2000:

Ella Guru, and many others recieved the following:

Subject: Not open for discussion
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.





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 not."

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.

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