Category: Rant

Dear Artists & Art Publicists: Let me help you do your job.

Don’t make me do it. (Photo by badjonni.)

All right. I’ve had it. It seems that just about everybody with a working e-mail account has seen fit to blast the digital universe with promotional messages laden with bandwidth-guzzling attachments. Everyday, I get dozens of e-mails with PDFs and Word documents and high-res JPGS. And all I gotta say is, for the sake of speedy internet access everywhere, STOP RIGHT NOW. An explanation:

  1. Attachments: When you send your precious press release as an attachment and not as in-message text, here’s what happens: I gotta download it. I gotta open it. I gotta eat up precious memory on my creaky freelancer laptop to discover that some genius artist is recontextualizing the meaning of ‘other.’ In other words, you’re wasting my time. And on days when I’m cranky, it means I don’t open the attachments. I just delete your e-mail and think you’re a hoser.
  2. Stop it with the PDFs Already: For fuck’s sake, it’s a press release, not a last will and testament. When I’m done with it, it’s gonna be used as avian toilet paper in the cage of my pet parrot, Polly. Save the 1500KB worth of memory and send me an in-message text. I’ll be far more likely to read it. If you’re really cool, it’ll include direct links to the event you’re promoting. (See item #4 on this list.)
  3. Photos: If you want to send me photos, don’t. Get a Flickr account. Upload them. Send me the links. If you don’t want the world to see them, set them on private and generate a special URL for viewing. There are other ways to manage photographs — other than spamming the world’s servers with them. If you don’t know what any of this means, talk to the nerds in IT about options. Seriously, those freaks know what they’re doing.
  4. Links: They work. Try them. If you’re e-mailing about a particular exhibit, how awesome would it be if you sent a link to that exhibit. Or, if you’re a PR agency, how awesome would it be if you sent a link to the exhibit you’re promoting, rather than a (useless) link to your agency’s corporate website.  Thinking about sending a PDF with web addresses buried in the text? See item #1 on this list.
  5. HTML: If you’re all hell-bent on some fancy looking communique with embedded images, may I introduce you to the low-res world of HTML. There are easy-to-use services, such as iContact, for this. Ask around.

That’s all for today’s Welcome to the New Millennium tutorial.

Thanks for your continued support.


Dear A.I.G.: WTF????

Mortgage, 2009 by Jota Castro at the Galerie Barbara Thumm in Berlin. (Image courtesy of Galerie Barbara Thumm, via Rebel:Art.)

There’s nothing that ruins a good Sunday morning better than finding out that the company at the heart of the financial collapse, A.I.G. — a company that has received more than $170 billion in taxpayer-funded bailout money — is handing out $165 million worth of bonuses to its executives and managers. The reason: the firm is contractually obligated to pay them. It turns out that the government cannot revoke bonuses promised before the bailout began — which means that anyone at a bailed-out firm pledged a bonus before Feb. 11, 2009, is legally entitled to the money, as reported in the last line of this report from the Washington Post. (Dear Congress: The shit hit the fan last September, what the hell is up with Feb. 11, 2009 as a marker? Bogus!) 

It gets better: “The bonuses,” reports the New York Times, “will be paid to executives at A.I.G.’s financial products division, the unit that wrote trillions of dollars’ worth of credit-default swaps…” In other words, the clowns that helped get us into this mess to begin with. Apparently, we need these assholes, because nobody else understands what it is they’ve done: “…the company said in documents provided to the Treasury, any steps that encourage specialists at A.I.G. Financial Products to leave could open the U.S. government to further risk because of the hazards still posed by the $1.6 trillion portfolio of complex derivatives those employees are working to dispose,” writes the Washington Post, which was first on this story.

These hosers even get the honor of being referred to as “talent.” Edward M. Liddy, the government-appointed chairman of A.I.G. (we-the-people own 80% of this mess), wrote to Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and said, “We cannot attract and retain the best and the brightest talent to lead and staff the A.I.G. businesses — which are now being operated principally on behalf of American taxpayers — if employees believe their compensation is subject to continued and arbitrary adjustment by the U.S. Treasury.” I dunno about that Mr. Liddy, as far as I can tell, there’s not too many people hiring right now. I’d love to know which well-capitalized companies all of these financial geniuses plan to defect to. 

A.I.G. also has the cojones to tell us that the bonuses aren’t that big. According to the Post, about $121 million of the bonus money will go to more than 6,400 people, for an average payout of about $19,000. “These are not Wall Street bonuses,” an anonymous A.I.G. exec told the paper. “This is an insurance company.” Yes, an insurance company that is currently being funded by my paltry, muthafrackin’ taxes. And for your information A.I.G. dude, I could live on $19,000 — quite comfortably — for six months, so if this money isn’t that big of a deal to you, please feel free to refund it. Also, I don’t care what the letter of the law says about your bonuses, this is about having some sense of moral decency at a time when millions are struggling. (More on that here.)

If you haven’t already, read this harrowing series about the A.I.G. debacle — in one, two and three parts — in the Washington Post. It’s an intriguing tale, one that tangentially involves figures like chrome-domed junk bond king Michael Milken and ho-lovin’ guv Eliot Spitzer. Juicy! (Dear CNBC: The series contains this innovative thing called “reporting.” You might want to check it out.)

Afterwards, get in touch with your senator and your congressman and tell them how much this all sucks.

Further reading:

Breaking: The Whitney Lobby Report.

A site-specific installation based on the idea of site that becomes a boundary to transgress or at least acknowledge as both container and barrier, allowing for a more experiential role for the spectator as well as the creation of new types of spaces, whose qualities might be unbound, drawn in, or otherwise made pliant by their creatorsOh, wait, it’s just a stanchion. (Photos by C-M.)

I popped into the Whitney this afternoon to check out Jenny Holzer’s seriously stonerrific new solo exhibit, Protect Protect (Whoa! All the moving lights!) Unfortunately, I couldn’t snap pix to show you, ‘cuz there’s no picture-taking allowed inside the museum’s hallowed halls. (A policy, I’ve said before, is bogus. And a policy that — to be fair — many museums, not just the Whitney, enforce.) Thankfully, in response to my soulful pleas, the helpful folks over at the museum’s Twitter feed let me know that I was more than welcome to snap away in the lobby. So I did. 

Behold, the first ever Lobby Report©, an incisive look at life just beyond the cash registers.

Click on images to supersize. More after the jump.

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NY Post to Art: Drop Dead.

The New York Post would probably like this better if it were a glass-walled high-rise. (Photo by F. Trainer. See it large.)

As a teenager, I had the visual misfortune to go to high school in Orange County, California, land of cookie cutter developments, cookie cutter strip malls, cookie cutter freeways and cookie cutter nose jobs. Which is why I’ve always appreciated the visual chaos of New York: from the blingarrific oversized billboards in Times Square to the polished chrome gates of row houses in Queens to the graffiti that covers just about every surface not policed by a business improvement district.

Which is why reading Lois Weiss’s real estate column in Rupert Murdoch’s mouthpiece today was such a complete and total buzzkill. Weiss picked on one of my most personally beloved buildings in the city: the Artkfraft Strauss building on the corner of 12th Avenue and 57th Street, where all the blingarrific lights that once illuminated Times Square used to be produced. Weiss reports that the building has turned into “a symbol of neglect and a mag net [sic] for petty crimes.” She describes the tags as “ugly” and the graffiti as “unwanted.”

Now hold on a minute there, Tex. Who said anything about “unwanted”? The Artkraft Strauss studios are inhabited by artists from chashama, who use the space to produce sculptures and paintings and performances. (See here and here.) The art on the building is a combination of graffiti that has accumulated over time, along with original pieces painted — with permission — from artists as far away as Spain and Germany. On a week-to-week basis, the walls are added to, by figures both renowned and anonymous.

There are many people who may not find the building’s exterior aesthetically pleasing. (It’s not as if I’m in love with every last piece.) It’s the gestures I find inspiring, especially in a city that, block by block, seems determined on becoming cookie cutter. Chashama: please don’t buff the art. The rest of the city can homogenize. Let the artists, freaks and weirdos have at least a corner.

Things from ’08 that we don’t want to deal with in ’09.

Starting with…election coverage of any kind. (Photo by mlitty.)

  1. Obamart and Obamerch. Please stop. He’s a politician, not the second coming.
  2. Ironic mustaches.
  3. YouTube graffiti-making videos set to hip-hop soundtracks. Like watching paint dry. Literally.
  4. Stories about the death of print.
  5. Stories about the death of blogging.
  6. Self-designated architectural movements.
  7. Any art involving excrement or bodily fluids. If we wanted to admire turd logs, we’d get a dog. 
  8. Bailouts.
  9. The use of the word “intervention” in art or architecture. Unless it’s describing some burned-out celeb and a gram-bag, put it to rest.
  10. Artist-led auctions.
– with reporting by San Suzie and Yvonne Connasse.

Dear L.A. Times: Waaaaassssup?

Get me rewrite! (Image courtesy of Olivander.)

Regular readers of will know that I’ve spent the last couple of weeks directing evil thought waves at the L.A. Times. This is because roughly a fortnight ago, the paper where I held my first media job (features department assistant — the glamour!), had debuted an arts and culture blog called Culture Monster, which, needless to say, hits a bit close to home. After a couple of rather hysterical posts on the subject, I decided that the best course of action was to write the L.A. Times a very nice letter, asking them to reconsider their blog’s name. Crazy. I know. But I figured that even though I haven’t been part of the blogosphere since its paleolithic days (1998), I have managed to get linked to by one or two well-known arts sites over the course of my short and senseless existence. Besides if there’s one thing I can claim in all of this, it’s my name. Because how “monstrous” is a newspaper arts blog ever truly going to get?

Anyhow, after sending my note (to a battalion of arts editors, writers and even the reader representatives), all I heard for roughly a week was crickets. (Though the reader reps were kind enough to send me a mass-produced form letter thanking me for my thoughts.) Then I got a nice response back from a blog editor saying that my e-mail was being considered and that someone would get back to me with a decision. And ever since then all I’ve heard are more crickets. Last week, I reached a point where I was worn out enough to let the matter quietly drop. But then I figured it’d be far better to go out in a kamikaze blaze. Either that, or I was gonna have to challenge Christopher Knight to a Jell-o wrestling match. (I think I could take him.)

Anyhow, this is all a long way of saying that I’m posting my letter to the Times. (Read it after the jump.) Please forgive the first paragraph, where I talk about how important I am. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned about the art industry, it’s that being a gasbag usually gets you waaaaaay farther than humility.

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