August 27, 2005

You Don't Have To Send In The Clowns, Phoenix; They're Already Here

by Jerome du Bois

We failed, utterly and completely, in our argument to keep a cheap and inevitably misanthropic carnival scene out of downtown Phoenix --a vision of humankind which is unkind, stunted, spoiled, self-indulgent, adolescent, and misogynistic. Since then, a couple of creeps who are part of the other side came out to gloat on their victory.

Over on livejournal, a man who calls himself The Klute first criticized us with one sentence, then, when I wrote about his words and scene, came back with a lame screed about Shelley and pseudonyms, then said he was going to drop the subject of me, and then didn't. And when he didn't, he said something about me feeling left out of the big hullaballoo they're setting up down there. Sure. Listen, you wouldn't find us down there even if we wore the necessary biohazard suits. Locals keep making the mistake of thinking we feel left out. No. We left. We're out. We're glad we're out. We do not want to be part of your skanky scene. But your damned right we'll write about it.

They have to think we envy them so they don't have to examine themselves.

The other creep is none other than Steve Gompf, a member of the board of Artlink, the people that brought you the disaster of August First Friday, and who are now belatedly scrambling with meetings and wrestling with unfamiliar city codes. Gompf responds with the levels of imagination and intelligence we have come to expect from that dis-organization:

Thank you so much for your continued support of the downtown arts and particularly for your post plugging Wasteland Circus: The Final Curtain show starts at . . .

We have put you on the guest list and hope you can make it. I just spoke to Jeff Falk and we decided to dedicate the show to all the folks at and especially to you and Catherine for all you have done for the Arts in Phoenix. Keep up the good work.

Thanks again,

Steve Gompf

Typical high-school irony, from a man who must be approaching forty. He's fronting points for Jeff Falk, too, who wisely stays away from us. As for what we've done for the arts in Phoenix, I'll bring up once again The Collective I, a public art project which would expose, among its many wondrous effects and features, how impoverished the credentialed artists would turn out to be, when competing with the general population of the state. That's what they're afraid of, and they should be, since so many of them are imposters.

Gompf adds a kicker to his note:

PS The line about always wrestling with Trent Reznor I found really HOT! And to tell the truth I think I would let him win.

Great, another fruitcake, who doesn't mind exposing a humiliating and self-debasing image of himself to all the readers of this blog who don't share his infantile tendencies.

So here are two champion clowns for you, Phoenix. Laff it up.

Posted by Jerome at 08:40 AM | TrackBack

August 26, 2005

Go Read Michael Yon's Gates of Fire

We don't do this often, but we support our troops, and their leaders, one hundred percent, and we're proud of what our troops do, even when life in combat gets real complicated. Go read Michael Yon's Gates of Fire, which, among many treasures, contains the priceless sentence:

"But when the shooting starts, a plan is just a guess in a party dress."

Nevertheless, when the shooting ends, we win. And we will win, and keep winning, and freedom will continue to light the world.

Posted by Jerome at 11:15 AM | TrackBack

August 25, 2005

A Speculative Anatomy of A Local Public Art Project

by Jerome du Bois

Once upon a time I worked for two metal sculptors, who occupied the same studio. Call one C, the other A. Often we would pile into the pickup and drive from here to there, usually for food, and on the way we would pass a concrete platform by a canal that could possibly be designated a bus-stop / public art site. C and A would speculate about their respective responses, and, although I had at least as much art background as these two men, I usually just listened. But of course I made my judgments.

C was of the heroic-statue --or turd-in-the-plaza-- school, depending on one's judgment. He would make a thing --of metal and glass and whatever-- and people would stand around and look at it, and then go wait for the bus in a conventional bus shelter, maybe with a little wave of brushed-aluminum flair.

A had a different take. The thing was next to a canal. Was there a way to filter, disinfect and divert some of the steady water . . . ? You could set up a pump . . . You see, to me, anyway, A did the most basic take a human can do:

Where am I?

Answer: Phoenix, Arizona, where it's triple-digit temperatures at least half the year. His idea was to create a giant shaded but open ramada with wide cooldeck walkways surrounding a cool concrete, three-dimensional maze of waterfalls and stepped rills and small channels and zigzags, like a perpetual Escher come to life. Sophisticated, directional misters and waterwalls. Greenery, flowers bursting out everywhere. And, yes, it would extend out to the street, where the benches would be kept cool for the waiting patrons.

Compare that to something --a standalone piece, anything, plug in your favorite statue-footprint --Tom Otterness!-- which people have to stand in the broiling sun to look at and then . . . what? Be uplifted? enlightened? enlifted? No.

Today I read that Dennis Oppenheim (bad idea) has been selected over Tom Otterness (worse idea) and Donald Lipski (ditto) for a $300,000 public artwork outside a new Scottsdale Police Department facility, which includes the forensics laboratory.

I'm going to discuss why they are all variations of the C school of public art, self-aggrandizing, egoistic, site-unspecific, and a cheap bauble addition to the city's charm bracelet.

And then I'll describe my own alternative born out of the A school, which again addresses the question: Where am I?

Tom Otterness is just Fisher-Price writ large, and often nasty. His response was cacti and desert animals cast in bronze in his usual toothpaste-squoze style. Eight feet high. Next! Jeebus. He probably had an assistant dash off a couple of ideas. What these stupid shapes, blazing and burning our eyes in the Arizona sun, may have to do with forensics and law enforcement, must be left to lurk in the lichen of Mr. Otterness's mind.

Donald Lipski, with his Scottsdale-O-Scope, cannot do much better. Where am I? I dunno, but look at this thing, look through this thing. I made it out of ten thousand watchamacallits, plus a few widgets. And forensics? Say what? Hey! I made this thang! Me, Donald Lipski, famous artist! Science: Police Department? Huh? Mortal stakes. No? Okay, bye.

So along comes Dennis Oppenheim with his usual giant clunky cutout crap, only it refers to forensics in a very crude way --tire prints, DNA, fingerprints-- so the Scottsdale aficionados go gaga. But look at it:

(Photo by David Kadlubowski / Scottsdale Republic)

Those little blobby dancy shapes in the background are metal cacti, transformed somehow by the magic only Oppenheim has mastered. I really don't know what the area in front describes; I can mention a simple omission, though: SHADE, you dumbass.

What, people are supposed to follow the thin petal thrown by that pitiful frond? Even abandoned Jonah had more shade. Oh, and Dennis --Where are you?

I'll tell you where. It's just my speculation, but Marilyn Zeitlin, Ted Decker, and ASU just got hold of a bunch of Oppenheim's sacred archives, a bunch of drawings, and so forth, so now they are the go-to place for the portable Oppenheims, I guess you'd call it. (I don't know what's going to happen to the big blue perforated-metal shirt out front. Transported to President Crow's front lawn later, maybe?)

Here is my answer to what should have happened there.

I would learn from every one of Robert Irwin's mistakes at the Getty Garden in LA, and then create a true garden for the men and women who will work in that building.

What do they do in there? They confront horror, and the splattered results of the hell that humans inflict on one another. They look at the pictures nobody sees, that nobody wants to see, that nobody should see; they handle the "materials" we will never have to, so we don't have to. Every day, every night, they wrestle with scientific uncertainties and blank walls that would have us up all night, all day, with the heebie-jeebies.

So I would spend $300,000 (some invested for continued maintenance) on a completely-shaded, fragrant, water-filled garden, full of nooks and crannies and paths, and little spots to watch waterfalls . . . and filled with the perfumes of flowers, of gardenia and roses and jasmine. The sound of water, the smell of flowers, natural beauty to look at all around, the cool cool cool of shade, waterwalls, real cushions on the benches, benches with backs to lean in to and breath deep the sweet wet cool air . . .

The piece would be about the people who work at the site, about maintaining their psychological health. Not the site itself, its architecture or its immediate surroundings; and certainly not the artist, his or her reputation ("I've been wanting to make this thing for years!"); or a feather in the city's cap. Why should useless art trump the psychological health of those who travel on the drop edge of intensity, disappointment, frustration, and human pain every day?

No way. And, to be honest, making a place for them to decompress would just be compensation for the $300,000 going to an art piece rather than a crucial piece, or two, or three, of forensic equipment. In fact, that would be the only way it would be worth it; to bind wounds that most of us will never see.

Posted by Jerome at 05:30 PM | TrackBack

Welcome Back, My Friends, To The Joke That Never Ends

by Jerome du Bois

On Saturday, The Paper Heart presents "The Wasteland Circus: The Final Curtain," yet another raft of performance pieces and video works by a lot of local stale bread. The Phoenix New Times has a little squib about it. The funniest part of the whole piece is the notion that this would ever be The Final Curtain coming down on these perpetual peripathetics, especially now that the loudmouths and musicians have won over the Mayor. They'll just move back and forth between Roosevelt Row and Grand Avenue, as they have always done.

Ever since the puerile need for attention has become institutionalized as "performance art," spoiled brats have inflicted their silliness on thousands of people who foolishly put up with it. Let's put a paper bag on our head and sing "Over The Rainbow" a capella and badly, over and over, and videotape it for a loop. Why not?

You can get away with anything.

That's the beauty of it: nobody can judge you. You can't fail. It's an infant's dream, being the center of a benign universe. No anxiety, everybody accepts you. Entire careers (Paul McCarthy) have been built on this very first solipsistic Freudian phase.

That's why Jeff Falk can drag out the same old meaningless macro mash-ups --"spooky ancient tribal surf," "mutated vaudevillian style," "kick out the jams," "challenge the audience"-- again and again. (Although this is the first recorded, I mean unrecorded, instance in which he does not use the phrase "cutting-edge." Maybe he's losing his edge as he's getting long in the tooth.)

Falk says "Wasteland Circus: The Final Curtain" will provide a sort of "greatest hits" compendium of Wastelands past. Featured "acts" will include performance artists Falk, Annie Lopez, Leslie Barton, and Peter Petrisko, Phoenix "godfather of poetry" Jack Evans, over-the-top slam poet The Klute, videographers Steve Gompf, Scott Massey, and Jose Gonzalez, and the band Last Wave, whose music Falk describes as "spooky ancient tribal surf."

"[The Final Curtain] will have a circus-tinged -- or tainted -- theme," Falk says with a chuckle. Falk himself will be hard to miss; he'll be dressed in "a clown suit with some bad face paint" -- sort of a perverted ringmaster.

It all sounds so edgy, doesn't it? But look at the list again. I don't know how long Massey, Gonzalez or The Galoot have been around, but the rest . . . I pay five bucks to see people I've seen everywhere I've stuck my head in for the last ten years? Do you think they have new things to say, do, or be, or are they just going to ride on the glory of their "greatest hits"? (Who needs new blood, anyway? They'll just hog the stage.)

Jeff Falk in a clown suit; that's new. Joel Grey on his worst day would blow his greasepaint away. Annie Lopez in a wedding dress but with a black leather mask. Never been done before. Leslie Barton and Peter Petrisko telling dirty jokes. Lenny Bruce could fade them into the wallpaper with a look. Steve Gompf, always wrestling with Trent Reznor, and losing. (And Un Chien Andalou was a loooong time ago.) And of course we all walk around with our favorite Jack Evans poems dutifully memorized.

Meet the new Phoenix, same as the old Phoenix.

Looks like it's going to be a long season.

Posted by Jerome at 07:22 AM | TrackBack

August 22, 2005

Jeff Falk, First Fridays, and Islam? WTF? [Updated]

by Jerome du Bois

A pseudonym over at a blathering forum called livejournal has posted a couple of things about us, which garnered the usual comments, all of them also by pseudonyms. I must say, if these are our intellectual adversaries, we're in great shape.

The main guy I'm going to call tobaccoslave, since the cute little thumbnail that accompanies his post shows him sucking on a coffin nail like a tough guy. The cigarette smokes you, dude, not the other way around. (Since you ask, I'm almost five years tobacco-free. Thanks for reminding me, man.)

Tobaccoslave's second post is about "That's The Name of That Tune." He mistakes us for academics, which is just dumb. He thinks I'm stuck in some classical tarpit where poetry must rhyme just because I spin off some doggerel in the middle of my post. I could do that all day, man. I have to stop myself from rhyming too much; it would be silly, and I have serious points to make.

He wrote this post, I see, because I attack his "profession" as a live poet in my little doggerel. You want to talk about poetry slams? We went to one a couple of years ago, waaaay out in the East Valley. Jeff Falk (yes, your buddy, tobaccoslave, more on him below), Annie Lopez, and their crew were out there, and yes, there was at least one golden plastic putti on a stick on display.

There were other artworks on the walls and floor; and there was a bald-headed woman at the microphone yammering away, and here's the thing: nobody cared. Some listened, some talked to their companions, others wandered among the artworks, as we did, because the composition this person came up with was apparently as compelling as Muzak.

My point? Why do anything if you can't command the room? Does that happen at your gigs, buddy? No. Everybody knows. Everybody's already trained to be quiet and pay attention to the person at the microphone, and the next, and the next, and the next, no matter how self-indulgent, navel-gazing and stultifyingly boring the whole long evening is.

Don't come out of the dressing room until you know you can stop them in their tracks, turn their eyes and ears to you and you alone to wait with bated breath upon your very next words.

Until you can do that, you're a hack.

Which brings me to his first post, which apparently got copied, or which he posted, to a lot of other losers users at livejournal. (The person who admired "Enough With The Pink Already" was astute, though. A woman, I think, by the pseudonym. Naturally.) It's very short. He calls us the biggest hacks in Phoenix, and then he writes something which cracked us up:

They hate Jeff Falk, First Fridays, and Islam.

In that order, tobaccoslave? Are you fronting points for Ffej Klaf, as we playfully call him? We attacked the guy because he glorified Che Guevara, degraded Abraham Lincoln, and made light of 9/11 (the plane silhouettes). Otherwise, we think he's just a career public-money artist and lifelong narcissist and microphone hog.

We've made our position on First Fridays clear enough. And what's he bitching about? He and his crew will get their way, crooning like loons if they wanna, bouncing their voices off brick walls up and down Roosevelt Row.

As for Islam, see the sidebar. We'll be getting back to the subject of Islam in local schools (and worse danger: think Beslan here). One comment: one of the dingaling commenters pointed out in a nasty way that the Arabs gave us the Arabic numerals. True enough, but also remember the numerals predated Islam, making the commenter's point irrelevant; and remember also that the Arabs left out the most important numeral, which had to come from India: the zero.

Oh, I know shit, all right --but don't you dare call me an academic.

[Update: I hate getting the wrong kind of traffic. I wish the livejournal people would just go away. Three days of yadayadayada. The people who use and comment on livejournal squirt out little squibs of stupidity, less than a sentence long most of the time, like itty-bitty dogs marking their territory. As for the tobaccoslave, this is the squinkydoodle's reply so far:

Apparently, he's real uppity about people using psudeonyms when writing, yet still links to Instapundit, Lt. Smash, Michelle Malkin (last name actually Magalang), and others in his blogroll without irony.

I don't know Citizen Smash's real name. But the rest is just stupid --Glenn Reynolds, anyone? --and the Malkin reference is plain racist.

And this is what he chooses to talk about first. I can tell, this guy has got the chops, all right. Yawn city. And I still don't know or care to know his real name. What difference would it make now, anyway?

Posted by Jerome at 08:20 AM | TrackBack

August 21, 2005

That's The Name Of That Tune

. . . here we are now, entertain us . . .
--Kurt Cobain, "Smells Like Teen Spirit"

by Jerome du Bois

Since Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon last week endorsed the two major programs of DPAC and Artlink --a monthly carnival, and cheap housing for artists-- the egregious past failures of the leaders of those two organizations, and their bungling of August First Friday, become moot. In a letter dated August 12 and making the rounds, the Mayor wrote:

. . . I have often said that my own vision for downtown is "to see First Friday become Every Friday, and then Every Day."

The City of Phoenix shares that vision. In fact, a 64-page document entitled "Downtown Phoenix: A Strategic Vision and Blueprint for the Future" (adopted in December of last year), devotes 4 pages to the creation of a downtown arts district –-specifically citing the success of First Friday. Here are the first two recommendations on a list of 14:

· Increase the presence of visual and performing arts and artists –-including live music-– in the downtown. Take the next steps in creating a multi-use downtown arts space that will provide exhibit and performance space for local artists, possibly in a historic building . . .

· Encourage more artist housing and gallery and performance space downtown. The artist housing should be included in the downtown housing strategy . . and . . . as part of the ASU ground-floor retail strategy and in other public and private developments.

So that's the name of that tune. We predict that any real talent, and any aficionados who like a quiet, clean, well-lighted place to contemplate art, will relocate elsewhere, far from modified and eyelounge. Nothing major has come out of downtown Phoenix anyway, for twenty years. (Show me the Anselm Keifer of Phoenix; the Marina Abramovic. Or anybody of their caliber.)

The cavalier carnivaliers will block off Roosevelt Row and turn First Fridays into a cross between an all-ages rave and the Tempe Arts & Crafts Fair. With the cookiebrain bands and poetry slams, the performance rants and mantra chants, the yammering all down the avenue will be blessed bedlam for the whole damned crew. They love it. Thinking? We'll let the intellectuals do that. High, serious art would be seriously out of place there, and that's the way the collectives want it. As I noted before, art is just the bait.

Just to be clear:

1. We are for the separation of art contemplation and entertainment.

2. We are against any special tax or housing treatment for artists in any way.

3. And, since it got to be such a big deal, we are for the separation of art contemplation and food.

All of which shall fall, once again, on deaf ears. But this is for the record.

Posted by Jerome at 11:20 AM | TrackBack

August 19, 2005



Nature Photography by Catherine King.

Two birds of a feather form a greenheart,
and watch each other's back in a dangerous world.

Posted by Jerome at 08:50 AM | TrackBack

August 17, 2005

Let's Stop The Charade

[This is Part Seventeen in The Pride of Phoenix Series. See sidebar.]

In the beginning, we begged for this. But it's not about the art anymore. It's more about being seen.
--Phoenix artist Randy Slack, on First Friday, August 5, 2005.

by Jerome du Bois

August 5, 2005, proved to be an exciting First Friday for the Roosevelt Row art scene, and generated more print and electronic postings than usual. Twisted knickers everywhere. I've been catching up with it. What follows will wander here and there, based on some published accounts. If you can handle it, dear reader, please come along. In my fifty-sixth year, and more alive than ever, I continue to be astounded by operators, by those who work the system, and try to turn the dials their way. This post is full of questions. Are they rhetorical? No. Will I open comments for responses? No! But think about them.

Let's begin with parking. Everybody down there bitches about the lack of parking.I swear, these people are such easy targets. Kimber Lanning, in an article published Saturday, August 6:

"If you're from Scottsdale and your car is going to get towed, you're not going to come," Kimber Lanning, owner of the art gallery Modified Arts, said, referring to the possibility of police cracking down on minor parking violations.

The woman has been there over six years, and she hasn't come up with a solution to a problem she helped to create, and should have seen coming. But this is simple, Lanning, simple.

Let's go back, say, two years. If the half-dozen so-called players on Roosevelt Row pooled their resources, and their good reputations, and put some money down (city matching funds?), they could have already even-graded and upgraded the lot across from Holga's to create at least one firm parking lot --not even asphalt, there are other less-expensive surfaces and processes, and lease portable lights if you have to-- where people pay and you have security and everything's cool and legal. Then upgrade the lot across from monOrchid, too. Actually, they should have started on the west side of Modified Arts itself, to make it nice and neat.

But they didn't and haven't. They just complained, and complain. (And, if they're Wayne Rainey and Reid Butler and Glenn Lineberry, they talk about developing farmer's markets and artist apartments and don't even talk about parking. No money there, I guess. Although it's hard to find out anything about Row Three Artists Homes since November 2004, and there is no open city / farmer's market where they said it was going to be, starting eight months ago. It's a lot of hot air.)

Are you telling me the owners of those vacant lots wouldn't want to make some income on them, while getting a deal on basic upgrading, and while we're all waiting for ASU and the Genome genie to answer our every development dream? (Or even if those two things never happened.) And the city couldn't give them any tax incentives to help what they persist in calling the "burgeoning?" Where's the proactive thinking? Where's the imagination?

In a Valley built around driving, these creative class entrepreneurs, so-called cultural leaders, and city department officials, couldn't or didn't anticipate the need for parking solutions, even while the vacant lots were staring them in their vacant faces.

Enough about parking. On to the "raids." These drama queens . . .

Greg Esser has worked in the bureaucracies of two city governments (Denver and Phoenix; no longer with Phoenix Public Art Program); he's deeply involved as a landlord in several properties on Roosevelt Row; and yet he supposedly got "blindsided" by the unexpected descent and invasion of the eeeevil city note-taking code enforcer gestapo fascists, some even disingenuously wearing "soft clothes" --some of whom he must have had acquaintance with in his previous job.

In a post on the eyelounge website, dated Monday, August 8th, he helpfully includes a list of the invaders. I wonder if he knew any of them in his previous job? I wonder why no one gave him a heads-up? If you read his statement, it includes sentences like the following:

We know that undercover police officers and other city officials have been attending First Fridays for at least several months recording observations and collecting information. The issues they are investigating now appear to extend far beyond underage drinking, open container violations and parking concerns as we have been told.

They knew beforehand --for several months-- that the city was curious about their operations? And they didn't look around, do some research, change anything? Clueless or arrogant?

These were individuals we spoke directly with and observed first hand. They came last night prepared with previous research and background on our businesses. We have no idea how many others or who else may have been working last night in addition to what we witnessed directly.

This from a guy who used to run the Phoenix Public Art Program, and who brags about "fighting" crack sales and prostitution when the cops wouldn't.

And speaking of the ones in the know getting the heads-up, I wrote in my last post:

Where were DPAC and Artlink before this official visit? Why didn't they know? The city officials didn't bother to tell them, and why should they?

Get the point? DPAC has only been around a couple of years, in its present form, anyway, so I was willing to give them a partial pass on developed relationships, until I read this post by DPAC on azindymediyecchh:

Less than a week before August's First Fridays event [on Tuesday, August 2], the Phoenix Police department held a meeting with local art community activists and leaders to discuss their plans to put a small contingent of police officers at that First Friday. They indicated that their main concerns were that of public safety and orderliness. They indicated that 1 county agency would be there to inspect street vendors (ostensibly again for the public good).

From this meeting, the arts community representatives worked to spread the word through email and flyers that parking and vending areas would be restricted, and worked with various city officials and business owners to find alternative sites. The art community members left the meeting with the understanding that a police presence would be at First Friday to advise and issue warnings where appropriate.

What ultimately occurred was a phalanx of representatives and enforcers from city and county offices descending on the First Friday event, some giving out information, some taking notes and many unwilling to identify from what department or office they were sent. The same art community leaders who had worked with the city officials to help the process of education and solutions felt blind-sided by the all-out assault of regulatory agencies and secretive information-gathering.

In addition, the show of force with patrol cars, motorcycle officers, plain-clothes, "soft-clothed," armed and mounted police to a historically benign monthly event was unnecessary, expensive and intimidating.

The brash actions exhibited by these city and county departments points to a policy reversal of cooperation from the city, and the open and transparent communication process the city had said it would maintain.

It's all on the city, see; the ball is always in the city's court, according to these artists' reps; the artists bear little responsbility. Why is it always on the city to keep the communication process open? If what DPAC said happened, what does that say about the political savvy of the art people who have been down there so many years? They seem quite lame.

Now, Artlink is a different culprit . . . After a half-dozen years or so, nobody from Artlink has bothered to cultivate friendly relationships with every damned city department that might ever have to intersect with the domain of Artlink's supposed mandate. It simply has not been a priority, even though the steady, reliable, ongoing city mechanisms, neatly organized by department and ready to work for the public good, provide the very foundation and infrastructure for the so-called creative endeavors of the faux-called creative class.

They --every one of the board members of Artlink; I say it-- have been very very poor midwives of the future of this city. If any single one of them --it doesn't even matter who, really-- had a real relationship with the city --daily, vital, ongoing, push-pull, clarifying and mutually supportive-- Boo-Hoo Friday may have been completely avoided, and the inspectors and code enforcers, who may have preferred being home with their families, may not have been called up for their sworn civic duty.

But Kimber Lanning and Shari Bombeck and Michael the Magic Number and Wayne Rainey and Glen Lineberry and Cindy Dach and Greg Esser and Steve Gompf and Ted Decker and Beatrice Moore and that whole hoo-haw crew --some of whom have money hanging in the balance, in the form of the Phoenix Artist Storefront Pilot Program-- can't come up with a parking lot; and they can't, over ten years, cultivate one person, or muster even one phone call from a sympathetic insider, to give them a heads-up on any drop-ins or sudden ambushes. That is lame, lame, lame. Leaders, eh? If I was one of Artlink's sponsors, I'd re-evaluate my position in light of this failure of leadership. If I was a member, I'd reconsider my dues. And yes, I know everybody's a volunteer at Artlink. So? That doesn't mean you do less than one hundred percent.

Artlink --link, link, link-- implies connection and communication and cooperation and we're all just exchanging wisdom at a geometric rate in the internet age . . . But the so-called #1 artwalk in the USA, I think I read somewhere, organized by Artlink, got busted. Why?

Okay, I'll provide the standard movie line:

What we have here . . . is . . . fayl-yerr . . . to gummincate!

But that's bullshit. What we have here is arrogance, and arrogant ignorance, and the stink of artists' egos and artistic privilege, easily dispelled by some handy room freshener. They have had years to link. Ginger Richardson, in her August 8th article, mentioned a "tenuous relationship" between the artists and the city. Still tenuous after all these years. Why?

We claim that Artlink right now is failing in its mission, and it showed on August 5th, as embarrassingly obvious as a mandrill's red ass.

There's a lot more. Next, definitions. First I'll separate out the continued conflation of "artist" and "gallerist" and "arts representative" in these recent stories. Then, clarifications of edgy and seedy. Oh, please, come along, come along --some of you will tear your hair out, Hallelujah! you've earned it and you deserve it! and some of you will shake your heads at the ranting man, what's new, but some of you will understand that we --Catherine King and I-- stand for reason, and standards, and some goddamned respect for art.

In the several articles about Boo-Hoo Friday, the writers often conflate exactly who were wearing what and how many professional hats in these meetings with the Police Department and various "city officials." That is:

artists who are gallerists;
arts representatives (e.g. Artlink board members, DPAC) who are artists;
arts representatives (as above) who are not artists;
arts representatives who are "community activists" as well;
combinations of all the above

--were all conflated in the articles. This is sloppy, at the least, and if someone were to tease some threads apart, potentially interesting networks may emerge.
In the meantime, Ginger Richardson et al need to dig deeper.

Now, about edgy:

From an anonymous editorial in the Arizona Republic, August 12, 2005:

Hurt feelings notwithstanding, the city and the artists are still reading from the same First Friday book. One is simply on the chapter titled "Keeping it Edgy," while the other is deep into "Keeping it Safe."

Okay, what is edgy, even inexactly? Body suspension? Sword swallowing? Human flamethrowers? Onsite tattooing? Bondage demonstrations? Human branding? Rabbit skinning? Renting out yo mama for unspeakable acts? (It's all been done.) We've already seen, at Holga's, paintings of eight-year-old females urinating ("The Seven Deadlies," by some forgettable jerk), or just lifting their skirts (Beatrice Moore) . . . TIME OUT!

In November 2004, politician Tom Simplot wandered around with a microphone downtown on that First Friday. I shall be sampling many inadvertent nuggets from this mine. First, this brief exchange with Prudence Crosswhite of @Central Gallery at the Burton Barr Public Library:

MR. SIMPLOT: You are a grandmother, grandfather, you want to take the kids out for a Friday night, is there [he refers to Roosevelt Row, including Holga's and Modified] where you would go?

MR. CROSSWHITE: I think so.


MR. CROSSWHITE: I think that a lot of this is appropriate for all ages, and I see all different ages, people from all over the Valley every First Friday.

"Grandpa, why is that little girl lifting--"

"Oh, look at the balloon clown! Over here, Tyler, Taylor, and Towner! . . . Oh, look, he's making a French poodle!"

It's time to admit that the so-called art downtown is simply the bait in the bait-and-switch. None of it has to do with artworks proudly, respectfully displayed on a wall or standing on a floor or filling a room as an installation. The First Friday scene is not about intellectual or emotional contemplation without distraction. Art --real art-- is the first time-honed concept among many disrespected and sacrificed down there. Human dignity is another, and respect for women. It's all about a carnival on First Fridays: loud, adolescent, drunken, and cheap and hollow as Mardi Gras throws. A nitwit parade. Woodwork squeaks and out come the freaks.

We lay our cards on the table, old-fashioned as they might sound. Visiting art, for us, should be like visiting church, or at the very least the most special library you could imagine. I know it sounds romantic, but too bad. We don't accept low standards, or whatever fools half our age are trying to pull on the gullible down there every month. We know high quality, we know high standards, we promote comparisons at those levels --the intervals are clearly marked for the reasonable-- and we will condemn every damn venue that promotes crap like pole dancing and burlesque and pathetic narcissism, while still claiming any kind of artistic high ground. Baiting with spoiled bait, and switching way down in quality. We don't accept it. We expose it and fight it.

The contemplation of art should be totally separate from any kind of festival atmosphere. It seems obviously quaint to point out.

Because they don't want you to look at the art. It's a charade, a three-card monte game. It's about the artists and gallerists and reps and imposters and pretenders, not the "art" they make. It's about their careers and a place to develop them. They think they are entitled to an arts district, and that is the core of their ignorant folly. The city --and the Copper Square people who have fostered this corrosion at their northern rim-- have so far gone along with this folly, but they ought to begin to question such entitlement thinking.

Not long ago Phoenix artist Jason Nye moved to Las Vegas. In response to the recent brouhaha here he posted these words on the new Artlink discussion forum:

I moved to Vegas and went to my first First Friday. They block off a portion of the streets and have vendors, bands and street performers. Artists have their work under tents and there are also galleries in an area about 2 square miles. It was more like a festival. They also had busses picking up people for free. I was impressed by the work I saw as well.

I really hope Phoenix reaches this point because it was really cool and clearly Las Vegas supports the arts and artists.

Phoenix probably will reach that point. It would be easy to close off Roosevelt Row from Sixth Street to First Street, to make room for the chainsaw-juggling Ukrainian unicyclist, and all the colorful distractions who follow in his wake to keep you from seeing that the art doesn't sell.

I can't imagine any self-respecting artist wanting to share space with these clowns, and I mean that literally in some cases.

Now, about "seedy."

Beatrice Moore loves the seedy and knows the grime, as we've written before. From the August 5th AZ Republic article:

The event brings as many as 10,000 diverse people to downtown Phoenix, an area in dire need of energy and nightlife. Over-regulating it could kill the very spirit that makes it such a success.

"It has to be applied carefully," said Beatrice Moore, one of the driving forces behind Phoenix's arts community. "You don't want to kill the fun, eclectic nature of the event and make it too sterile, too tame."

It's about the event --look, world, like a million places on Earth, we can assemble 10,000 fools in one place for no reason that advances anything in any way, except the breathless anticipation of more of the same next month.

Kimber Lanning offers up a couple more nuggets through Tom Simplot, back in November 2004. One excerpt:

. . . And we also, thirdly, we're going to need a little bit of defense from the city when we start getting upper-scale people coming in sort of gentrifying the area, who are like, well, I don't think that building [she means her place, Modified Arts] is very pretty. You know what I mean?

>> MR. SIMPLOT: Well, and let's admit it, that's happening right now.

>> MS. LANNING: It is happening right now, and we need to have--

>> MR. SIMPLOT: You have some great stuff going in down the street.

>> MS. LANNING: --ah, but we need to make sure the city values what we have enough to say to people--

>> MR. SIMPLOT: That's right.

>> MS. LANNING: Wait, you chose to move to an urban area, you're going to have to deal with the night life and the festivities that are happening here.

Let's pick this exchange apart, slowly. Lanning sounds pretty defensive herself. What does "upper-scale people" mean? And "gentrifying the area?" Isn't that what Esser and Dach did with Sixth Street Studio --e.g., make it neater and cleaner than Modified has ever been? But they are her chums, and certainly not her targets.

But here's the core: she wants the city to defend her from improving her place in any way whatsoever. Even from criticism. Can you believe this shit? This is what she is saying:

Come on down, rich whoevers, plunk your money down for a new-old place or loft or house or whatever; but just hunker down and contribute your money, your presence, and your living occupation of your property, but shut up about any civic improvements in your neighborhood. Kimber Lanning and the Grant Pimps have got the scene sewed up, so shut up, upperscales, and spend your money --but locally, dammit! locally!

We know for a fact that Kimber Lanning has not applied for an award in the Phoenix Artist Storefront Pilot Program. (We have appended the list at the end of this post, supplied by Sheryl Taylor of the Phoenix Downtown Development Office.) She doesn't think her facade needs improvement, apparently; or she will improve it on her own, with her vaunted volunteers; or she'll do nothing, as usual. She will leave it skanky as it ever was. Why not?

While we're on Lanning, and quality, let me recover another nugget from the Simplot interview. This person, Ms. Lanning, is supposed to be an aesthetic gatekeeper. I know; I've had my portfolio interview with her, reflections upon which I have published elsewhere. Read this:

MR. SIMPLOT: And how do you decide, you have so many artists to choose from, how do you decide who to show?

MS. LANNING: You know, I go with my gut. It's I don't have a specific thing that I'm looking for, but I look at portfolios a couple times a week, and I just-- you know, I see something and I know. Right now, I'm booked, I'm usually booked almost a year in advance, and I have several artists that have stayed with me and they come back and they show year after year, so--

Clear it up any? Not at all. She might as well be blind. Did you get anything out of that paragraph, reader? Any ruler or guide or list of criteria or art movements she wishes to avoid or thinks are passé. Nothing about personal, aesthetic preferences, developed over a lifetime of contemplation, or trends she sees in these portfolios that pass under her . . . nose, might as well be, for what we learn. And this is one of the major players down there, aesthetically; she knows it, in her gut.

My next subject is whether the art sells. We are so far on the outside that we have nary a whisper of what's going on down there; so I scratch away with whatever figures fall before me.

No gallerist is required to publish their sales records, but I sure would like a peek at theirs. I wonder . . . 10,000 people attend First Friday. If one percent --100 people-- buy a work of art averaging $100, that comes to $10,000 --one dollar per attendee-- and spread over, say, 50 galleries (out of 80, they say), that comes to an average of $200 per gallery. A $200-dollar average yields $400 per gallery. Ten percent would make it $2000 per gallery. That would be the beginning of respectable and professional, but . . . Ya think? I think not. (If I remember correctly, the nut on our modest upstairs gallery was $300 per month. And we weren't getting paid.)

Look closely: the very existence of First Friday in Phoenix is a testimony to the impotence and limpness of the falsely-named "burgeoning." It's a protective shell around a failure. It really isn't about the art anymore, as Randy Slack admitted; it's about how many warm bodies you can get down there on a regular basis to justify squeezing money out of the city, county, and state --and to look vital, anyway. But what's so vital about street vendors of t-shirts, or some funky pseudo-percussionist, or the contorting mime, or the jugglers and the clowns when they all did tricks for you . . . ?

Once a month, or even four times a month, for a half-dozen years at least, with galleries coming and going with the transience of fireflies . . . Real galleries have regular hours --and steady appointments with regular clients-- and don't depend on two weekends a month, hyperventilated and oversexed, to make their nut.

Real galleries have legitimacy. And they show quality art. I would love to hear a list of the great, lasting, institution-owned, appreciating-in-value artworks that have burgeoned out of downtown Phoenix in the last dozen years. I really would. You know, the ones everybody knows about --and I don't mean an old Randy Slack twelve-foot banana, or the monkey guy who left town, or some popped-art boys.

In November 2004 Tom Simplot interviewed Wayne Rainey, too. I know that was awhile ago, and may not seem to apply to August 5, 2005; but it throws light on how people try to fool themselves and others.

First, and I'm not going to excerpt the inane exchanges, Rainey and Simplot talk as if shade magazine was still viable then. Neither one mentions that the last issue of that magazine hit the deck two months before and they both knew it was a dead duck.

Second, affordable housing for artists. Again, why should artists --and not, say, supermarket clerks-- get special deals for housing? Well, because that way Rainey and his crew can get "city help" for their projects. Supermarket clerks just don't have the cachet that artists are supposed to both exude and attract.

MR. RAINEY: It's getting harder and harder to develop anything downtown that's market rate, much less affordable. So, I think we have this slim window of time, the time that we can set aside some affordable housing for artists. There's a couple of projects that have already started like the Row Three Project, that's started, and there's some others that are in the wings that could happen, but they're going to need a lot of help. They need a lot of fostering.

Fostering. Earlier, Rainey says that the Row Three Project has received city funding. Incidentally, it's very hard to find out anything about this project on the internet. It's also interesting that he is/was/might be embarking on this new project when monOrchid is wilting on the original vine. But I'm not a real estate mogul. I'm not the one who said, "Let's build this city and built it well." Wayne Rainey to the rescue!

And when you go down there, just behind monOrchid, as we two did today, we find that there was no groundbreaking in January for the Row Three Project; there is no Project, yet; there's just the same condemned buildings with the same forlorn chain-link fence around it that we've seen there for years. Maybe the project is just delayed, right? Maybe. These highfalutiin' high-talkin' city movers and shakers, you know, they may be dealin' behind the scenes, or . . . Maybe the slim window of time closed.

MR. SIMPLOT: The artists aren't only here around the Roosevelt Row area, they're also --let's face it, artists are living down around Grand, right?

MR. RAINEY: Yeah, actually, Roosevelt is almost like the done scene now, you know, this is where the established guys are, it seems like to me. So, we've got a lot of high end galleries are starting to proliferate down here. Grand is the hot, new cutting edge scene that's really happening.

Hard to believe we're looking at the same streets. Again, I know he's talking in November 2004, but by now . . . monOrchid has FOR RENT signs out front. It does not exhibit artists anymore. Rainey's and Joshua Rose's magazine is toast. Holga's is a shithole. Row Three Artist Homes seems to be on hold or in thin air. And there is no such thing as a high-end gallery on Roosevelt Row. He's deluded.

After driving around the whole area again today, we saw that nothing much has changed; it's blasted and dusty and chain-linked and funky. It doesn't really matter what the crowds hide at night; the sun tells the truth with every sunrise.

And looking at the list of those taking advantage of the PASPP, we see little reason to be enthusiastic about the burgeoning.

Which brings me to the applicants, so far, for the Phoenix Artist Storefront Pilot Program.

Copper Gate Plaza: Tom and Alice Mattingly (realtors)
Paisley Violin: Derrick & Gina Suarez (restauranteurs)
Garfield Galleria: Donna Trigilio
Michael Anderson, Sculptor: Michael Anderson
Legend City: Randy Slack (painter)
eyelounge & MADE LLC: Cindy Dach and Greg Esser (m/m artists)
Arizona Testing Laboratories: David Therrien (pretentious asshole)
Lumbre Gallery: Gabriel & Salcido, et al (metal artisans)
The Chocolate Factory: Hector Ruiz (wood sculptor)
Rocket Surgery Studio: Patrick O. McCue
501 E Roosevelt: Kathy Petsas
Alwun House Foundation: Dana Johnson
Studio Art Warehouse: S. Hofberger, C. Suiter et al.

Thirteen applicants out of over eighty galleries so far. A little less than half the money still available ($224,000). No takers. Part of the problem: a lot of these galleries are just one-artist vanity places; they rent; they have no capital behind them, no money in the bank, source of matching funds, no line of credit, no patrons, and no weight.

I'm curious about a couple of these folks on the list. David Therrien, who has been trying to wangle angles out the city for over twenty years, is still snuffling up to the public trough? Well, why shouldn't they give him money, since he did such a fine job with his vision for Jackson Street?

And the Alwun House? Another old grant-getter. And the Paisley Violin, an unremarkable salad bar, just because they might throw some art on their walls on a regular basis (as they did with mine, so long ago)?

The burgeoning is inflated, and First Fridays is a charade. It is not about the contemplation and promotion of serious art; it is a carnival of twits, and its only end is the continued legitimization of bureaucratic operators masquerading as a faux-creative class.

Posted by Jerome at 07:50 PM | TrackBack

August 12, 2005

Welcome To Skankytown

[This is Part Sixteen (!) of the Pride of Phoenix series; see the sidebar.]

by Jerome du Bois

Monday's article in the Arizona Republic about police and code enforcers showing up on Roosevelt Row during last First Friday omits a few important facts, and imputes false power to the artists. But first, let Ginger Richardson give us the background:

Many Phoenix artists believe the city went too far last weekend when it sent more than a dozen police officers, as well as health inspectors and code enforcers, to look for violations at the popular First Fridays art walk.

A police presence had been expected at the event, which routinely draws more than 10,000 people to the downtown area. But gallery owners say they were "blind-sided" when officers and city inspectors arrived, taking notes on everything from food trays to possible building code violations.

"It was the way they did it," said Susan Copeland, a spokeswoman for the Downtown Phoenix Arts Coalition. "It almost felt like a raid, like they were raiding a speak-easy or something."

The anachronistic "speak-easy" reference is telling, since speakeasies were notorious for drinking and other illegal activity, which is exactly what has been going on down on Roosevelt Row for years. Underage drinking. Everybody knows, okay? And that's why the police go down there regularly. Of course, nobody's asking why the underage drinkers are there (art appreciation?), the first important fact omitted from the article.

And now that the city is throwing more money at these fools -- the Phoenix Artist Storefront Pilot Program, the second important fact omitted from the article-- maybe the city felt it ought to check out where the money is going. I sure would. I'd be down there taking notes for a baseline, or making sure everybody is on the up-and-up, codewise.

Which of course they aren't; the third important fact.

There are others. Let's look more closely at these facts.

Underage drinkers are downtown mainly because of Kimber Lanning's Modified Arts and, to a lesser extent, Wayne Rainey's Holga's. For six years at least, Lanning has been running an all-ages music venue almost every week, sometimes more often. Holga's has bands playing outside on First Fridays. Also, there's a band called the MadCaps which play out of the back of a truck down there, too. (One of the players co-owns Carly's restaurant, on Roosevelt Row.) These regular musical events, especially Lanning's, created an underage drinking scene which she has done nothing to curb or discourage. None of the gallery owners has. If they had, the scene wouldn't be there. (When was the last time you saw uniformed private security guards outside Modified --hired by Lanning-- to make sure nobody broke the law or got hurt?) And yet she's got the damned gall to say:

"There is a lot of mistrust out there right now," said Kimber Lanning, who owns Modified Arts. "But I am trying to give them (the city) the benefit of the doubt."

The city should mistrust her right back. She creates the scene, then she asks for help controlling it without helping to control it herself. (The bottom line is obvious: there won't be a viable art scene on Roosevelt Row until Modified shuts down the music. It's like a tumor in the heart of the Row.)

"I am just speechless, and infuriated," City Councilman Tom Simplot said. "They asked us for our help with parking violators and underage drinkers, and somehow, somewhere down the line it ballooned into this horrible event."

No, Mr. Simplot, a horrible event is a drunk or date-drugged teenage girl getting raped behind Holga's on First Friday. Wait until that happens, and you have to face her, and her parents, and then you can talk about what's horrible. (And if you were the one who used the word "Gestapo," you need to clean up your vocabulary, and put on your thinking cap, too.)

One point of agreement seems to be that the extra police presence did help curb underage drinking and the number of people walking around with open containers of alcohol.

"To be fair, the Police Department did do what it said it was going to do," said artist Greg Esser, who owns the eye lounge gallery on Roosevelt Street. "The police presence was very noticeable and people did respond to that."

Yes. People responded by drinking in their cars someplace else --a nearby grocery store parking lot?-- and then driving back downtown and going gallery-crawling, probably literally.

About the "raids:" What the gallerists and artists faced was a legal visit by city officials who are paid by taxpayers to make sure of public safety. And the artists and gallerists whined about it, because that's what they do best.

It was the way they did it, whines Susan Copeland, presumably an adult.

Unannounced. Surprise. Like a raid, huh? Scary!

They say inspectors entered their galleries and pointed out violations that ranged from serving vegetable trays without a food handler's license to not having proper permits for operating a commercial business in a residential building.

Wait a minute! They pointed out things? With their fingers? With their words? And they took notes? And they were right? Jeez, I'm gettin' the vapors in my own speakeasy!

When I worked for Schlotzsky's, and for every other restaurant and nursing home I've cooked in, inspectors would come by from time to time, unannounced. That's the point; you're always supposed to be ready for inspection.

These clowns weren't, but now they're bitching and whining about it. They were "blind-sided," meaning that they should have given warning. Why? Why should they get this privilege when nobody else does? Because they're artists; because they're special. Because they're spoiled and entitled and coddled. Babies.

No one was cited, but the artists fear that's the next step.

As it should be.

The newspaper article doesn't say exactly why the inspectors and code enforcers were there. In fact, the article states, nobody knows how many inspectors appeared:

Exactly how many city and county inspectors were wandering about First Fridays is in dispute. Artists claims that as many as six city divisions were represented; Phoenix officials say they are aware of one or two individuals from two city departments, plus a representative from the county health department.

City Manager Frank Fairbanks doesn't clarify much:

"We're a little embarrassed; we didn't know all of those departments were going to be there," Fairbanks said. "I think the intent was to do an educational effort . . . but I am afraid that the appearance wasn't good."

The second man in Phoenix government didn't know "all of those" departments were going to be there? Why not? and why were they there, in August?

His explanation is almost not English:

"I think the intent was to do an educational effort . . . but I am afraid that the appearance wasn't good."

In other words, it was a warning: straighten up or next time you get slammed for money, for real.

But why were they there then? I think it's because of the ongoing and upcoming approval and distribution of $500,000 in taxpayers' money to downtown gallerists for the Phoenix Artist Storefront Pilot Program. I think those inspectors, and whoever sent them --which real reporters used to find out-- were thinking ahead and doing their jobs. I wonder why the PASPP wasn't mentioned anywhere in the article?

Finally, Ms. Richardson implies that the downtown artists and gallerists have a lot more power than they really do.

Phoenix officials, including Mayor Phil Gordon and City Manager Frank Fairbanks, spent most of the day in high-level briefings, scrambling to reassure the arts community that their studios and gallery spaces would continue to operate and be welcome downtown.

Since Ms. Richardson supplies no quotes or supporting statements, we don't know how "high-level" the briefings were -- who attended these briefings besides the two highest-level city officials? And "scrambling to reassure," eh? How does that work? Yelling into phones in each hand while laying your head on some artist's shoulder?

scrambling to reassure the arts community that their studios and gallery spaces would continue to operate and be welcome downtown.

As if any city official could back up such reassurance. Tell it to Thoughtcrime, who thankfully got their asses handed to them by their landlord after ten years, long overdue in our opinion. (They are one of the reasons Phoenix is in its fix now, unless you think grafitti cartoon storefronts and offensive performances are the recipes for success.) Another downtown tumor excised.

We can't figure out why city officials are intimidated. The downtown artists have no power. Where were DPAC and Artlink before this official visit? Why didn't they know? The city officials didn't bother to tell them, and why should they? What are the artists going to do, pick up their marbles and go home?

If only. Then Phoenix could have a genuine downtown, organically grown, not forced down the public's throat by privileged babies.

Posted by Jerome at 04:45 PM | TrackBack

August 06, 2005

We Don't Take It

by Jerome du Bois

There's a local website with the ishy name of You know, it's like art, because it's made from art, but it isn't art; it's only artish.

Couldn't resist, because one of the pieces they just published on their new online magazine is similar: it's a lot like information, because it's made from information, but the writer, Steve Jansen, is too lazy, ignorant, and spoiled to get it right. (I'm not linking it.)

The piece is about me, and our blog. Mierda! I could do a better job of kicking my ass than this limp biscuit and his lame offering. (Nothing about Catherine except to mention her name. Good. These clowns are learning: leave her alone.)

We've heard Mr. Jansen's attitude before: we are supposed to take it. Tug the forelock, scrape the foot, stepinfetchit, go with the flow --just the way he and his generation get through life. To paraphrase a line I've stolen before: Congratulations! You're just what we've come to expect from years of postsecondary education.

But we don't take it. We won't take it.

Now I'll fisk his short piece.

It begins:

Fifty-five year old Jerome du Bois didn't get his way. Now the downtown Phoenix arts and business community has [sic] had to pay --with unwarranted allegations and mean-spirited attacks against them.

It's great to read that those two "communities" (used to sound chummy, that word, now it's like overchewed gum) have "had to pay." Behold the power of The Tears Of Things! Walls fall! Buildings tremble! Of course, when we go down there, they're slumming along as usual. Last night's First Friday, according to this morning's local news, required an unusually large police presence to prevent the notorious underage alcohol abuse which is common to what is supposed to be a string of art galleries, not Teenage Wasteland. (When they said "burgeoning," the kids heard "purging," and obliged.)

I don't see that we've had any effect whatsoever on either Roosevelt Row or Grand Avenue --except perhaps to throw some shade on some public officials, and some light on the whole scene. But we'll grab what glory we can.

What does my age have to do with anything? Although the last five years, besides our dark time in the Phoenix art wasteland, have been the happiest of my life, because of Catherine King, who I waited so long for. I've also written more in the last two-plus years than in the previous twenty, and I'm proud of every word.

unwarranted allegations and mean-spirited attacks

We stand behind our allegations, and where legal definitions do not apply, we are the warrant, Mr. Jansen, the living warrant, with the scars to prove it. Go read the dictionary for details.

It's they --these downtown art boosters-- who are mean-spirited and stingy, especially toward Phoenix and the future, sacrificing both on the greasy altar of their aggressive mediocrity. They attack anyone who doesn't join them at the public trough.

As a result of politely being told “no” to some of his artistic endeavors (which happens all of the time to artists),

It wasn't polite, perhaps, but it was I who said no to being treated like a fool by an intellectually stunted human being who detested ideas and thinking. He doesn't even get the story right. Go ask Kimber Lanning again, if you want, anyone, about her two telephone calls. I've written about this before, but Mr. Jansen, as we'll see, can't be bothered to do his homework, laid out for all to see in public. Well, for whoever is interested, I don't mind clearing out these few weeds. Nobody told me no; I walked away.

And we started our own art gallery, Art For Our Times, kept it open for a year, and were shunned by Artlink and most everybody else. Our gallery was online as well. Then we closed it.

du Bois and his wife, Catherine King, have embarked on a two-year running online temper tantrum known as The Tears of Things blog. Fashioning himself as an “art critic,”

I also fashion myself as a fashion critic.

As for "temper tantrum," he's just mad because we can say what we want whenever we want, and he and his crew can't do anything about it except yell and wave their hands and stamp their wittle feet. We are self-credentialed experts as well as degreed professionals. Autodidacts. We do that larnin' stuff on our own, like responsible grown-ups facing a dangerous future. Mr. Jansen is done learning, apparently.

Sometimes we get angry, sometimes we weep, sometimes we laugh. Right now we're writing a novel. It's about art, actually; we're at least 25,000 words deep into it already.

But Mr. Jansen doesn't see our freedom of speech as a good thing. Like a lot of emails we've received since we've been online, Mr. Jansen just wants us to shut up, or, barring that, be totally supportive of the scene. In this he is completely, typically, unoriginal.

Mr. du Bois has generated a great deal of controversy

I have? I have? Where? Lemme see!

among Phoenix area artists by harassing those who are actually helping to build a community.

Yeah, well, when I hear the word "community," I reach for my car keys. It usually means one or two strong people shoving a bunch of weak ones around. Examine every art movement since the turn of the 20th Century: blowhards and sharks leading sycophants and remorae, with a few exceptions, such as Jasper Johns. He didn't take it, either. He whomped it and redefined it. But nowadays it's about hiding in communities and collectives, and getting the public to finance them, too. (And the public doesn't even ask why. That's what we do, ask why.) It's a regressive, tribal strategy, strength in numbers, because it hides the cowardly motivation that the arrows, or the panther's claw, will miss you and take your comrade down. Whew!

As for harassment, it connotes tormenting persistence. But this is the way it works: we put ourselves before the public as much as any of these people we criticize. Email is open. We respond to reason. If they put their heads up in public as a role model; if their words are recorded on the internet or in print; if we personally talk to these people; we will pick it apart to the best of our ability. We care about truth and quality and high standards, not about indulging people's egos and careers.

Reading through any number of his exhaustive posts, one is reminded of a more inarticulate, myopic and nasty version of Moses Herzog, the schizophrenic middle-aged character who obsessively writes letters (most of them unsent) in Saul Bellow's famed 1964 novel. Only in today's age of digital self-publishing can such amateur critiques receive exposure of this magnitude.

Two big differences: we're not schizophrenic, and we do send the letters. Again, this is the usual whining that we should have gatekeepers or just be forbidden to publish. And, of course, the cuckoo accusation. Old as the hills. And the amateur one, too. One looks in vain for Mr. Jansen's writing, but here we are, putting our words out there and standing by them and for them. Whereyat, Stevie?

Upon visiting the website for the first time in over a year,

Nothing like research. Nothing like bringing in the big guns.

that same familiar and overwhelming feeling was ever present: pure and unequivocal boredom.

Though this person hot links a few posts, he never directly quotes my words. I know why. My least sentence blows his best one away. I am a writer, a real writer. He's a pretender.

I recently found out that I indirectly made the hit list in a post about the Writers' Bloc that is absent on facts and soaring with self-deprecating diatribes (

absent on facts

But he offers no correctives anywhere in his short posting.

self-deprecating diatribes

I don't know what this means, since the very last thing we are is self-deprecating. Are you kidding? We brag on ourselves. A lot of these whiners are mad because we celebrate our life, our fashion, our freedom, our talent, our creativity. We are overcomers. We brag on ourselves, and we will continue. And we'll poke fun at people if we want to, and we'll honor the dead as we have always done. (Funny nobody mentions that.) We're smart and angry --and stylish-- and we kick ass. If that's a source of irritation to you, Mr. Jansen, then why don't you go ahead and fuck off for another year. You won't be missed.

This is the formula for a majority of his entries, which also consist of the “I Slam Islam” series and draconian views of undocumented peoples.

We'll never apologize for attacking Islam. In fact, thanks for the opportunity for me to help advance a changing attitude, wherein we respond loud and clear when we hear that someone loses his position for saying that "Islam is a terrorist organization" or "The Koran needs to be broken." People should be able to say what they want, so we say:

The best Muslim is an ex-Muslim.

Stuff that in your faces, dhimmis --and Muslims, too, who are simply dhimmis to a psychopath named Mohammed, cursed be his name from Ein Sof to Ein Sof.

As for the weenie phrase "undocumented peoples," Mr. Jansen demonstrates the typical liberal tiptoeing through the tulips of political correctness. Anybody who thinks we're racist has simply not read the blog. As he has admitted.

The nature of dissent is healthy. Social movements can't exist or improve without discussion, opinions and criticisms. The late Ken Saro-Wiwa, who used his pen to exploit the injustices done to the Ogoni people in Niger Delta region, said, “Literature must serve society by steeping itself in politics, by intervention, and writers must not merely write to amuse or to take a bemused, critical look at society. They must play an interventionist role.”

Saro-Wiwa was wrong, and Mr. Jansen is a stupid writer. Saro-Wiwa did not used his pen to "exploit the injustices;" Mr. Jansen means "expose," but he can't find the proper word. Now: Literature better damn not serve society, otherwise both will be doomed. Nothing is higher than the sovereign individual, certainly not a "society." And we two sure as hell don't write to amuse ourselves. We're not detachedly bemused. It's hard work. We're bleeding and bruised. We believe we all are in both a physical and spiritual war, and we fight on both fronts. With our words, our images, our talent, our imaginations, our hearts; whatever we can bring to bear.

In the case of The Tears of Things, dissension comes in the form of brash heckling, calling people pathetic and suggesting that they are racist because they incorporate non-White identities into their art (

Here he's talking about Amy Silverman, who I called pathetic --and I do so again: hey, Amy, you're pathetic! you writ it!-- and Hector Ruiz. Mr. Jansen, the racist schtick --is this the best you can do? Read the blog. I grew up in Hawaii; most of my friends were nonwhite; two of my kids are married to Hispanics; I have mixed-race grandkids; my stepson is half-Mexican; please get your facts straight. As for brash heckling --hey, yah! whenever I damn well feel like it.

Not only is this ineffective,

Really? By what standard or measure? No examples or exposition.

it's a suicide-bomb attacking style that is standard operating procedure for the blog.

This is just a disgusting lie. Shove your suicide-bomb image, you insensitive turd. I would never use such an image, especially in this time of war; but this kind of filthy verbiage is standard operating procedure for a troll-twit like Mr. Jansen.

Mr. du Bois is essentially a stay-at-home assassin against the arts. It's obvious that he never actually goes inside the galleries and instead reviews the exteriors by photographing the buildings in unforgiving lighting conditions.

Now we get to the funny part. The photograph Mr. Jansen uses for his last three words is the forlorn front of Kimber Lanning's Modified Arts. Unforgiving lighting conditions are the least of this vampire's worries. She and her sycophants cannot even stand the light of day. And Mr. Jansen can't even see when he steps into the doo-doo.

About going inside the buildings: again, we've written about this before, how we went in and out of them for two years. The guy just doesn't or won't or can't read, or his lips get tired real soon.

The consensus among the downtown Phoenix artist community is that The Tears of Things used to be an effective means to rile people up and spawn a diminutive level of discussion.

Is this writing in English?

spawn a diminutive level of discussion

Like salmon murmuring under their breath or something? I'm lost.

Some of this banter can be found in the comments section that follow a number of entries, which du Bois either deletes if it doesn't meet his “standards” or exploits in an insulting way.

Comments are closed because someone you probably know, Mr. Jansen, or somebody who knows that person, will immediately try to publish our phone number and address. One of my standards is protecting my wife and myself from harm, and I pity the fool who tries it. In fact, let me make a public announcement:

If that information ever reaches public view, and we suffer harm from it, I will go after the blog that publishes it, first, and then I'll find out who is behind it and make the perpetrators pay.

Now that the blog's novelty has worn off, the few readers that are left are still seeing the same lily white noise over and over.

And in the end, we simply become bored to tears.

We care nothing for novelty. We write because we have to, because we love life and the future and humanity. Read it or not, we're writing.

In one of Herzog's letters, he writes, "A man may say, 'From now on I'm going to speak the truth.' But the truth hears him and runs away and hides before he's even done speaking." We can only fathom where along the path Mr. du Bois has misplaced any and all signs of the truth.

Again, what a genius writes!

we can only fathom where along the path . . .

To fathom, fathead, is to understand deeply, your very first and last failing among many, I'm sure. I think what you wanted to say was:

We can only speculate where along the path . . .

But I ain't no English teacher, and you sure ain't no writer, Mr. Steve Jansen, so you figger out your own salvation, hopefully with fear and trembling.

Churchill had a better quote about truth, about how men sometimes stumble over it, but then pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and, after looking around to make sure nobody saw the faux pax, run off.

That's you, ish.

Posted by Jerome at 03:45 PM | TrackBack

August 04, 2005

¡Ya No Mas!

by Jerome du Bois

Related to The New Mango, but real, go read about George Moneo's meme for the Cuban people, the slogan with the heels dug in:

I've had enough!

As Catherine says, "Corners are crossroads."


This is Cuba today.

There's no way to go but forward. Freedom is inevitable.

Posted by Jerome at 12:44 PM | TrackBack