“Part of what I was thinking in this meditation, was about the wonder of love. And of being in love. And to know it’s on those two spacecraft. Even now, whenever I’m down, I’m thinking, and still they move, 35,000 miles an hour, leaving our solar system for the great wide open sea of interstellar space.”—
Ann Druyan, on her experience recording her heartbeat and brainwaves for the Voyager Golden Record while falling in love with Carl Sagan. via Radiolab
“What nobody is comfortable with is a movement in which virtually the entire spectrum of middle class and poor Americans is on the same page, railing against incestuous political and financial corruption on Wall Street and in Washington. […T]hat’s a story our media won’t want to or know how to handle.”—Matt Tiabbi inRolling Stone(via @DylanSchenker)
I spent last Thursday night at #LibertyPlaza, awake all night and cleaning through the cold rain, so that I could be there Friday morning for what was looking to be a tense standoff. When the announcement was made that the company who manages the property had backed down (article), many of us took to the streets to celebrate.
While I was marching through Wall St. I saw a clearly well-to-do business man alone on a big balcony with his hand on his cheek. He was leaning forward, looking at the protesters and he looked worried. I looked at him, and in the passion of protest belted, “You should be worried. You should be very, very worried.”
The thing is, it was the same balcony where just a few weeks prior people were seen drinking champagne and mock-toasting the protesters (video).
“…A hashtag has no owner, no hierarchy, no canon or credo. It is a blank slate onto which anyone may impose his or her frustrations, complaints, demands, wishes, or principles.”—Jeff Jarvis, The Hashtag Revolt (via)
So in keeping with my thoughts from yesterday about finances, I’ve decided to follow through on a tweet from last night and make my finances public.
Thank you to everyone who sent me private messages relating your stories. They were helpful and inspiring.
Displaying actual bank account information in this manner is pretty taboo in the art world. Or in the world at large, for that matter. At least as far as I know. So much of what we do is built upon an impression. I want to dissolve that impression and present a more complete picture of myself. I want to stress again (and again) that this information is being presented purely as data. I am not seeking sympathy, (future) envy, or any other “-y.” I am posting as a way to begin to understand what alternatives might exist for me. I will not publish names of collectors or who the credits are coming from, just amounts and general descriptions.
If this leads to what amounts to career suicide, so be it. I would rather be transparent than build a career on false impressions. Even if those false impressions might be serving what I want to believe is a “greater good.”
When I did something similar last year someone close to me, of an older generation, sent me an email saying that it was TMI. That it was like sharing your sex life with strangers. That people didn’t need or want to know that stuff. Well if that’s true, then here it is, my cumshot. And ironically, despite this being a publicly viewable document, the action is being taken for personal reasons. I want you to know that I am the same person on the outside that I am on the inside. I don’t want to “hide” anything except that which is revealed through my art. I want you to see this as much as I want to know it for myself. This clarity of conscience is the only way I’ll be able to sleep at night.
Over the years there have been plenty of examples of similar exercises. One that comes to my mind immediately was a show I saw at Mixed Greens, last year, I think, where the artist had drawn copies of all his/her receipts and bills, and presented them on a table (do any of you remember what show I’m talking about? I couldn’t find it on their site).
Another loosely related example could be Dan Grahams 1965 ad “Figurative:”
Status (now w juicy $ numbers on just how starving I am!)
As much as I want to be at Liberty Plaza right now, I am stuck in my studio. Glued to my phone and its updates, but needing to keep working and hustling to try to find a few hundred dollars before: my studio landlord loses his patience (I still owe him $100 for Oct rent), my phone is shut off (owe ~$200), my website is turned off (overdue hosting fee of $190.80). All of which are pretty imminent. My current account balances total somewhere around $70, with no idea of when the next sale/check might come. There are always a few things on the horizon, and there are. But at the moment that horizon feels pretty far out.
Why am I sharing this?
First: I AM NOT COMPLAINING OR WHINING. I am making these choices. These are facts that I share as information. To attempt to close a gap between the perception of this artist and the current financial reality of this artist. And to be clear, finances aside, I have an amazing life. I am happy. Culturally rich. Financially poor.
I AM NOT LOOKING FOR A HANDOUT. I am looking for a radically new way of approaching my existence on this planet. I haven’t quite found that yet, but I am making a lot of observations about how I don’t want to be.
For example: I’m becoming increasingly weary of the smoke and mirrors game in some sections of the art world. We are rewarded on our perceived value. It’s speculative. Even if you’re not in a big market we are valued based off of an essentially fabricated reality. I’ve been hustling the last few years and have had some amazing professional opportunities and a ton of support from amazing people, despite not having gallery representation. Some of this has been a result of how well I sell the positive cheery “Man Bartlett,” and some of this has been carried on the backs of how you perceive “Man Bartlett.” I don’t know how much has been a result of the actual work I’m making, which is the reason I’m still doing this at all. I’d like to think a majority, but I am not that naive. We all have agendas, to varying degrees, but I BELIEVE in the work. Fiercely. I’m willing to set off some smoke and angle some mirrors because of this belief. And I’ve structured my life around being able to be as lean as possible to see those beliefs through.
But above all, I should be accountable, responsible and transparent. After all, that is what I’m/many of us are asking of the corporations (specifically banks) who have so royally fucked us over, and of the politicians on both sides of the aisle who have helped them. To that end, while I’m coming out I didn’t pay my taxes in 2009 or last year because I am afraid to, and lack the means and desire to have someone help me sort it out. Afraid I wouldn’t be able to afford what I owe. I think about this on a near daily basis. It weighs on my chest. Yet until recently I’ve been able to better compartmentalize it.
What’s been mulling around in my head ever since I started checking out the #OWS protests, is the commodification of ideas. And specifically the idea of art as commodity. For some reason, the commodity is bothering me a lot more recently. Seeing the latest auction numbers made me a little more sick to my stomach. Powhida, Dalton, Ben Davis and many others have talked about it at great length, maybe I’m finally coming around. Or maybe I’m just getting bitter and need a break from everything. By tomorrow I could be singing roses and drawing hearts. Today I’m ready to fold. But not before I post this. ;)
Change… Just that word gives me shivers these days. But the change I’m thinking of here is not a political change, it is a change within myself. My own actions. The awareness of my consumption. And just…awareness. I turned a blind eye for too long. And if you’ve seen my Twitter or Facebook streams recently you’ll know I’m making up for lost time.
Yes, the banks should very much be held accountable for their actions over the past x-number of years. Yet why have I put my trust in them? Honest answer? Because it was convenient.
My first bank account was with Fleet in Boston (later they merged with BoA). I went with them because they were around the corner from my apartment, were giving out free coffee and were actively seducing myself and other college freshmen into opening accounts. And I think they had balloons outside. Balloons are fun. I like balloons. I am a sucker for balloons. Then when I moved to Chicago in 2003 I opened a BankOne account (later they merged with Chase). I went with BankOne because they had the most branches. More was better. When I moved to New York, I was able to keep my accounts. It was easy to justify having a Chase account because there is a Chase ATM or bank almost everywhere in New York. And they offer a lot of services. But at what cost? That’s what I’ve been asking myself quietly since the bank bailout in 2008, slightly louder when I realized that the TARP had no strings attached, and most pronounced since #OccupyWallStreet began.
Over the last few weeks of following the Occupy movement I’ve witnessed a steadily growing number of people who agree. As such, I’ve decided that I will close my Chase accounts and move my money to a local credit union. If you live in New York and have suggestions, I’m open. I will gladly exchange some convenience for peace of mind.
There is tons more. To follow…
— *Photo taken with an Olympus Pen camera that I got for free from Tumblr/Olympus. I think I’m still supposed to disclose that? I’m part of this project.
On Finances, Path, Olympus Pay-to-Play, Collages & Epically Titled Drawings...
Uh, so yesterday was a bit of a doozy. I was up at 6am, spent most of the day in the studio. I uploaded a new lino-cut, “Path" which is available over on my website. I also finished a drawing I’d been working on since April 2010; the rather epically titled and impossible to remember, “the pervasive and unyielding expansion of form and mortality.” That was intense. I’ve done two others that size and they’re emotional beasts at the end. Usually because so much happens during their year+ long creation periods. Then after dropping off my work for the nutureART benefit (and riding into Manhattan to get a cheesesteak from 99 Miles to Philly) I uploaded a bunch of new collages from the last few weeks. As Friday was my last day working over at Tara Donovan studios, I guess I was making up for some lost time.
I make the work I want to make. If you look at it from the outside, it might appear schizophrenic. It’s not easy to draw parallels between a drawing of thousands of tiny dots and a collage of ’50s/’60s Americana advertising images. Or between a block print of a maze and a shamanic performance taking place online about where you’re from. I make the work I need to make. Others, if they so desire, can draw connections. This diversity keeps me thriving, and challenged. As opposed to following a single track like a one trick pony. Speaking of which, if I believed in moratoriums I’d call one on yawn-bombing.
I’m having a very good year professionally (New York, Houston, Berlin, London FTWs). Yet the threat of breaking under financial burden is very real. It is a daily flirtation. A daily ritual. Where will it come from today? Will I be able to do ______. How am I going to make this work. To be clear, I don’t always ask these questions, I just keep working and hope they’re answered. And they almost always are. AND I recognize I have a choice. I share this because I seek transparency. I seek transparency over the smoke and mirrors that too often rules the art world. And the world world, for that matter. I want you to see me for who I am, in person and online. One and the same… What I have, and what I lack. In character and materiality. If that comes at the cost of the perception you WANT to have of me, so be it. I exist in multiple simultaneous roles at once: artist, human, lover, comedian, pontificator, etc. I am both broke and rich.
Markets are not the problem. Desire is the problem.
If I can pay my rent, and eat, there is little more I need. At this particular minute I’m struggling to pay my rent. But that’s totally fine. Experience has taught me that this too shall pass. Keep working. Through it all.
The Occupy Wall Street movement is looking more and more attractive as my options seem more limited. My options are of course infinite, as are yours. And to be clear, I am not of the repressed, oppressed minority. I am still a white dude. I hold a degree. Albeit a BA in theatre, but a degree nonetheless. I am an obnoxiously happy guy. Yet I believe deeply that we should have the ability, and the support, to create the lives that we want to create for ourselves AS we want them to be. As artists, as people.
I digress. Or not. It’s all related.
I was mailed an Olympus camera yesterday. Apparently I’m 1 in a thousand who was given a “free” camera to take photos with to promote the thing. Total, unashamed pay-to-play marketing campaign. That I agreed to, no less. But that I was specially selected via Tumblr apparently because I’ve been labeled some sort of taste-maker, is kind of funny to me. It’s a nice camera. A DSLR no less. I think I’ll take it down to Wall Street.
UPDATE: Oh Universe! You funny! As I was finishing this post I checked the mail at my studio only to find a Klout perk in the form of a $25 Macy’s gift card. I wonder if the protestors need anything from there… Or maybe I’ll get a pair of pants that don’t have a hole in the crotch.
this is why I’m taking Occupy Wall Street — or, perhaps more specifically, the ‘We Are The 99 Percent’ movement — seriously. There are a lot of people who are getting an unusually raw deal right now. There is a small group of people who are getting an unusually good deal right now. That doesn’t sound to me like a stable equilibrium.
The organizers of Occupy Wall Street are fighting to upend the system. But what gives their movement the potential for power and potency is the masses who just want the system to work the way they were promised it would work. It’s not that 99 percent of Americans are really struggling. It’s not that 99 percent of Americans want a revolution. It’s that 99 percent of Americans sense that the fundamental bargain of our economy — work hard, play by the rules, get ahead — has been broken, and they want to see it restored.
When I was a kid I drew a lot of mazes. Like this one, circa 1988:
I had a dream the other night about self regenerating labyrinths of a yin and yang variety (described here).
Yesterday I was sitting in my studio, staring at a slab of linoleum. I started to draw circles on it but my hand stopped. I stared some more at it and the next thing I knew I was drawing what would become this print:
A single continuous line. An intentional naivety. A stream of consciousness. A first attempt at re-envisioning an activity that gave me a ton of joy as a kid.
Self Portrait as Living Mood Ring (proof of concept)
A handful of years ago (2008?) I had the idea for a colorfield “painting” that takes live data from my heart rate, body temperature etc and converts that into a color. The “painting” is then displayed on a wall, similar to how a lightbox would be. It’d be live a live mood ring. And when I die, it just goes blank (maybe w a replay option). It’d be an edition of ten. Any of you know of something like this? Or know anyone who wants to help make it?! They could also be clustered if multiple people had their “portraits” made…
Thinking about this now because a) it may never happen and b) I had a dream last night about two self-regenerating labyrinths as small connected sculptures, with LED red dots trying to make it through. They are connected yet separate. His/hers. Or his/his hers/hers etc. If the two dots make it out of the labyrinth at the same time then the sculpture shuts off. There are no walls yet there are infinite walls. There is no path yet there is only one path. That sort of thing.