(disclaimer – I somehow decided to “f” bomb the heck out of this essay. If you are offended just remember that Christina Rees started it :)
I like Michael Morris.
He comments on articles using his real name and says intelligent things.
He also makes interesting art that just keeps getting better.
I do not usually comment on articles – but I do read (many of) them and have opinions.
Luckily, I have a decent amount of art friends and often, without much provocation, make them engage with whatever ideas are haunting my brain.
Last Saturday I saw Mike, and talked to him about his most recent comments on Christina Rees article in Glass Tire that exhorts Dallas artists to fuck shit up.
I promised Mike that I would actually go on record with my opinion about that article; so here it is:
It is too damn hot to fuck shit up.
Most artistic movements happen in more temperate climates. 93 degrees, which is sweltering in New York, is considered a cool night in Dallas.
When it is 107 degrees outside you don’t want to fuck shit up – you want to do something much more banal: survive.
I look at the costumes of DEVO and just think – ugh – it is too damn hot to prance around in costumes.
Frankly it is even too damn hot to be naked right now – you will be sunburned in 15 minutes flat.
It was even too hot to riot in South Dallas the other day.
Very angry restless people could only riot for 30 minutes before going back inside.
Do you know how much you have to care about something to brave triple digit heat?
If we were in Portland, and it was 73 degrees, I can only imagine the fuckery that would be going on right now.
Not needing air conditioning is freedom.
At the Design District Gallery Day, Brian Gibbs passed out fans and everyone used them. Inside of the galleries.
And even though I generally think fans are only meant for church or movie scenes portraying southern plantations, it was nice to have a fan that day.
Even this past Saturday at Muscle Nation’s pop-up show, very few people stayed more than 30 minutes. Even though it was 9 p.m. at night, it was still really hot in the Good Year building.
I had an ice cold beer that I had pilfered from Circuit 12 and there were looks of envy and then despair when I told them this cold beverage was found elsewhere.
This sucks because summer time is the perfect time to fuck shit up. The cool kids don’t have to study. There isn’t a lot of huge programming sucking up everyone’s time and resources. There is a vacuum.
Yet, the reason why there is a vacuum is because everyone who can afford to gets to fuck out of Dallas.
They know it is too hot to really do anything.
Fall and Spring are just too busy.
Kids have to study, playas have to play, and hustlas have to eat.
Winter should be where we get our edge on everyone else but the Holidays weigh us down (we have to travel to our ancestral homes, and who is really from Dallas anyways?).
So, we just seasonally aren’t equipped to fuck shit up.
Even all around art ballerz like Kevin Jacobs are trying to beat the heat.
Our company threw a beer pong tournament and this month we are doing a pool party. (in Denton!)
Although super fun, I am well aware that we aren’t knocking down new cultural ground with these events.
It’s not all bad though. We can still go crazy on the interweb.
Here are six things that I think would really help the Dallas arts scene and can be done from the comfort of an air-conditioned space.
- Live Work Artist Residencies
- Arts Political Action Committee
- Intentional Community Building
- Cultivating Audiences (non Museum)
- More Video and Performance Art
- Multi-genre Art Collectives
1. Live/Work Artists Residencies
I think the single most important thing that can happen in Dallas is establishing more live/work artist residencies. It creates space for artist to make better work, attracts better talent, and gives our best talent a reason to stay. Can you even imagine what 5 Centraltraks would look like? What about 10? Artists don’t just need places to work, they need places to live. It doesn’t have to be fancy or on a 10-acre retreat. A 2 bedroom apartment in a mostly empty downtown high rise would work just fine.
2. Arts PAC
What if some of the larger informal/volunteer based arts organizations, like Art Conspiracy or ArtLoveMagic, spun off a Political Action Committee? 500 creatives who were mobilized to vote could swing local elections. People who can swing elections normally get what they want. Also, a membership voting bloc could try to address other systemic problems like access to health care. It would be like EASL on steroids.
3. Intentional Community Building
We need to know each other. There are pockets of the art community that don’t EVER support or interact with each other. Artists who work on the grassroots NEED to know what type of art is being shown in the DADA and CADD galleries. Patrons of museums NEED to support an art collective event from time to time. If you are in the SMU MFA program shouldn’t you know who is in the UTD and UD MFA program? What is it, like 20 of you at one time? Seriously. You might know some of the professors and artists from Brookhaven and El Centro, but what about the art coming out of Mountain View and Richland? What about the people who are actually trying to fuck shit up? Do they even know each other? Are you friends with the Henderson Art Project? North Texas Business Council for the Arts? Will we ever stop making fun of Samuel Lynn Gallery? (one of my favorite pastimes is being an unofficial defender of Samuel Lynn). It’s okay – if Green Bandana does anything well – we know how to build communities. We got you North Texas. Two words: Art Olympics.
4. Cultivating Audiences
Christina said one thing that really resonated with me: there isn’t a big enough audience to support you. If that is the case then one of greatest priorities should be to cultivate that audience. You don’t want to have the same old people at your shows or your gallery. We constantly need to focus on bringing in new people, new blood, new energy, and new ideas. Not everyone is going to be an art history nerd. Not everyone is going to be informed. In sports this is called the casual fan. They are critical to the business success of sports. We won’t get to a large number of super informed patrons until we get a large number of casual fans. Don’t try to convert someone before they come – just get them there. Be accessible. Engage the casual looky-loo.
5. Video and Performance Art
I love new media art. When I curate a show – it usually deals with technology in some way. Yet, I have noticed a dearth of serious local video and performance art. Someone asked me to put together a show of video artists, and I honestly couldn’t think of more than three (Michael Morris, Danielle Georgiou, Morehshin Allahyari). The only serious performance art group I know of is Slik Stockings. Now, this could be my own lack of knowledge – but I do see most of the art being shown in Dallas. So, lets say there are 5 really amazing local artists that I don’t know about in each genre. We are still at less than 10. I guess this probably a broader conversation about where we separate genres (are gifs video art?) – but whatever the answer is – I want more of it.
6. Multi-genre Arts Collectives
I am happy about the rise of art collectives in Dallas. It is sort of like having gangs. I want more of them. I want to see artists working closely with their peers, and not just in visual arts. In music, theater, dance, film, everything. Create some new genres while you are at it. This is where you have a great opportunity to fuck shit up, and make something worthwhile. Or at least have some fun or a shoulder to cry on. Plus more collectives means more guerilla shows means more cold beer. We all love cold beer. (Although I don’t think you should just give it away but that is another million word essay).
So there you go – these are the ways in which I would like to fuck shit up. My company will be working on ideas 1 through 4, and there is an outside chance we get to #5.
Let me know if you want to help.
We gotta beat the heat.