The Estheticist (Issue 1, July 2010)

The Estheticist is a free ongoing service of art consultation around practical, philosophical and ethical issues around the visual arts profession. To ask a question, email estheticist@aol.com. Participants accept that their questions may be used for a printed publication that will serve as a professional development tool for emerging professionals in the arts. Please specify if you want to remain anonymous in your request.

QUESTIONS TO THE ESTHETICIST

July 2010


Dear Estheticist,

As a an educator, should I be encouraging my students to make what I think is truly challenging work or work that will be easily consumed and integrated within a professional or academic market? Where does the greater responsibility lie, to each student and their livelihoods or to my future hopes for society?

please don’t answer “both” :-)

Encouraging Educator,  San Juan, Puerto Rico

Dear Encouraging Educator,

You are making that assumption that by encouraging your students to make truly challenging work you will negatively impact your students livelihoods, which I am not certain is the case. But let’s set aside financial considerations for a minute and think about a few comparisons: Should a law professor teach his students to be efficient crooks so that they can quickly ascend to become the next corrupt government or should he teach them to fight to defend social and civil values? Should a medical student rather learn boy scout first aid techniques or how to do heart surgery?

As an arts professional, you are entrusted with the education of young people who are easily impressionable.

At a first glance, making commercial work may seem to them a more viable career opportunity; in reality, it only turns them into mediocre individuals who will never know any better. As their professor, it is your duty to show them that commercial success in art is a possible byproduct but by no means the sole goal, and that success in art lies beyond making money. You should teach them to be the best artists they can possibly be, as if you were teaching yourself. If that entails making challenging work, and questioning art to its roots, that’s then how it should be.  Teach them what you with you would  have been taught as a young student. Make them better artists than you. If they so choose, later on, to descend into commercial mediocrity, that will be their choice.

Sincerely,

The Estheticist

Dear Estheticist,

I recently curated a group show at an alternative space and an important review was written for a major weekly publication. The critic missed a lot of key points about specific artworks, (i.e. omitting names of collaborators, misquoting artists) and also seemed to misunderstand the participating artists and my approach to the medium at hand. I’d like to set the record straight. Is there any way to try and correct the misconceptions or do I just let the critic lie?

Sincerely yours,

Curators Anonymous

Dear Curators Anonymous,

No one can do anything about a critic’s opinion, but if the critic misquoted, gave misinformation or mischaracterized any other factual aspects of the show, by all means you must respond to correct that situation. This should be done in the traditional way of writing a letter to the editor. You may also try to do it in other ways, clarifying those points in an open letter for instance. This second option has its consequences, as you risk indirectly drawing more attention to this critic’s opinion more than it should. At any rate, however, you should stick with debating the factual aspects of this critic’s review, and not on the more subjective take on, say, your curatorial angle.

Sincerely,

The Estheticist

Dear Estheticist,

How do I ask for credit to an ex-boyfriend with which I have done long and intensive collaboration, which includes a video in which I perform and a costume if he uses the footage in all situations?  How do go about explaining that a collaboration in nature is with two and more people and that it is actually helpful to credit each other?  Since I am more involved in the art world it’s a little hard to explain these things to another person who has less experience but it’s very important to me that I have the credit for the work I did as I credit people I work with as an obvious automatic response.

Thank you,

Genevieve

Dear Genevieve,

Thank you for your interesting question.  Based on how you present the problem, you are right: you should receive some sort of credit for this piece. The way

you receive the credit would depend on how it was originated: if both of you came up with the idea, then it is a collaboration; if it was his idea and you helped, you should still receive some credit, eg. he should be credited with the concept and you with the costume, performance, execution, etc. In any case, yours is not a unique situation; many people who  work together (and sometimes ARE together) in what appears very spontaneous situations later on argue about issues of authorship such as this one.  It depends how far you want to take this, but one benevolent way to handle this is that you should share with your ex-boyfriend other examples of similar collaborations where both artists get credited (say, Christo and Jean-Claude, Claes and Kosje Oldenburg, Diller and Scoffidio, etc). Technically, you are legally entitled to sue your ex-boyfriend for using your image without authorization (assuming that no release form was signed). But you may not want to take your case that far, nor would it serve you much purpose. The best is to move on, let that be what it was, and learn from the example when you engage in future collaborations.

Sincerely

The Estheticist

Dear Estheticist,

How many viewers are enough?

Paul Ramirez Jonas

Dear Paul,

They will never appear to be enough.  But you will know they are too many when you lose sight of yourself.

Sincerely,

The Estheticist

Dear Estheticist,

Should I move to Detroit? It seems so…open. I like my fun part time adjunct jobs here in Chicago but feel like this could drag on forever (showing in friends apartments, teaching part time, renting.) Will things be different in the “D”?

Laura, Chicago, IL

Dear Laura,

Thank you so much for your question.

There are two main reasons why one moves to another city: because career opportunities are better, or because your personal situation will improve (quality of life, love interest, etc). You should ask yourself on whether either of those two areas will improve if you are to go to the big D. At a first glance, unemployment is really high in Detroit, so employment-wise it would be a challenge. It is true, however, that Detroit offers a very interesting and inspiring emerging art scene that, while smaller than Chicago, lies at the epicenter of social and cultural environment that is prone for the creation of very interesting art. But the main issue is, if you want change, why not real change? Move to Berlin? Los Angeles? New York? Buenos Aires?  They all have vibrant art scenes. The West Coast is very open (space-wise). Amsterdam is open too (mind -wise).  You are right: staying in Chicago will take you nowhere career-wise, but staying in the Midwest won’t change it either.

Best

The Estheticist

Dear Estheticist:

Too often my viewers think my works of visual fiction are actually factual.

What is the most effective way to signal irony?

Beauvais, Knoxville, TN

Dear Beauvais,

Thank you for your question. The question for you is, why would you want your viewers to know the truth? Ignorance, in this case, is aesthetic bliss.  Think about the conundrum that every parent faces about when to tell their children that Santa Claus doesn’t exist- they eventually will come to the age to realize the truth, but  when parents break the news prematurely they cruelly and abruptly destroy a child’s world of magic and fantasy. As artist, you give your viewers the gift of a possible reality, and it is not your job to undo it for them. Let them figure it out on their own- most eventually will, and they will feel rewarded —even if they are infuriated by having been temporarily fooled, they will be delighted with themselves for having figured it out. And if for some reason they never do figure it out, they never deserved to know the truth in the first place.

Sincerely,

The Estheticist

Dear Estheticist,

What should I wear for the opening of my solo show? Does the same dress code applies when I’m part of a group show?

Ramón

Dear Ramón,

Dress code at an opening is extremely important. What you are wearing often says more about your work than the work itself, because, let’s face it, no one looks at the work on the day of the opening, but everyone checks out what you are wearing.  For a solo show, it is common to overdo it (like wearing Prada), which would make you look like an amateur “solo show artist”. The best is to take your cue from the dealer, or curator- always dress a bit less flashy than them so they feel that they are the stars of the night (in the end, they don’t have the creative outlet of making art, so let them have their little moment of fame). But don’t overdo it: to dress too casually is very 90s and it is too used by middle-aged artists, which you don’t want to do.  For a group show, you need to take the cues from your fellow exhibiting artists: they will hate you if you try to outdo them in wardrobe, plus you will look like you are desperate for attention. For that, it is best to dress as if you were just attending the show as a guest.

Sincerely,

The Estheticist

Dear Estheticist,

Halfway on the process of making an art piece I discover that another artist has already made a project so similar to mine that it will make my work seem like plagiarism.  Please consider that this is the only piece I’m producing specifically for a group show that opens in a few weeks.  There might not be enough time to abandon the idea and start something new.  My name is already printed in the invitations and catalogues.  What should I do?

Ramón

Panama City

Dear Ramón,

Thanks for your question. Here are a few considerations for you to ponder: 1. Would the trajectory of your work logically evolve into a piece such as the one you are producing?  If this is the case, you should not be afraid to make a piece that resembles another. Many works look alike, but the intentions, the context, and the reasons for which they are produced vary widely. Think about white on white paintings. It is more important that your piece has a natural connection with the work you have done in the past than whether it looks like someone else’s. One possibility would be to include a device (a handout, for example) that would help explain how you arrived to this particular solution.

2. Is the artist whose piece was made before of a previous generation? If so, you should dedicate the piece to that artist or make a Dan Flavin-esque reference to him/her (like “to Dan Graham, who is crazy but interesting”).  If the artist is a contemporary of yours, and furthermore, if his piece is in the same show, this would not be a good idea. At any rate, it is preferable to accept the coincidence frontally and honestly than pretending to be surprised about it.

If, on another hand, this work is not logically connected to what you have done in the past, and this other artist exists in competition with you, I suggest that you just pretend that you intentionally made this piece just to fuck around with him.

Sincerely,

The Estheticist

Dear Estheticist,

Are artist residencies really the only answer?

If so, why did Smack Mellon reject me?

Jin

Dear Jin,

Artists residencies are no solution to having an art career, if that is what you mean. They are a bit like drugs- they are addictive, they make you feel good and productive, and on a limited dose they do help, but soon you can become a residency junkie, floating from one residency to another, like those people in universities who like the idea of being a student forever. As a result, those artists who are constantly in search of residencies to get a career forget to get a life. And the problem is, if you don’t have a life, you don’t have a subject to make art about, and your work will start looking like  bland, flavorless and generic residency art.  In this sense, it is healthy that we don’t get accepted into every single residency we apply to.

Sincerely

The Estheticist

Dear Estheticist,

Here’s my question- what is a good way for a curator to sustain meaningful relationships with artists over time AFTER exhibiting their work? Sometimes it feels like the exhibition planning stage is an intense period of collaboration and then once it’s over we move on to the next project and part ways.

Best,

Julie, Chicago, IL

Dear Julie,

Thank you so much for your question.  The answer is simple: most artists want to stay in touch with curators after doing a project and most do. However, artists are strange specimens who can often display little generosity in their interactions with people who they don’t see as immediately being able to further their career, and this is why you may feel that after working with an artist this artist may feel that you are a “been there, done that.” The best thing is to be direct with them: tell them that you want to have an ongoing dialogue, that you are interested in their work, and that you hope that you two may share a career-long professional dialogue.  Most experienced artists understand this perfectly and will respond gratefully; the young ones who are getting started and still feel they are the hottest thing in the universe will eventually come around and understand the dynamic, but it is for the curator to set the ground rules, so that not every time that you ask information for a project it will mean that you will give them a show.

And in the case of those who may ignore your reaching out for a deeper dialogue or demand a completely utilitarian relationship, the question then for you would be: why bother?

Sincerely,

The Estheticist

Dear Estheticist,

How can a curator answer every single email to every single artist who drops an email to her/his inbox? Is it ok not to answer?

How can a curator raise money possibly for every artist that she/she wants to work with or in need?

How can a curator make sure that the money s/he raises in a museum that that money goes to for what it is raised for?

Can curators monopolize access to the part of the world that they are thoroughly informed about? Whose information is that anyway?

How can a curator get out of his/her “connector” mode and share his/her resources with other professionals locally and internationally without losing his/her “edge” and knowledge pool?

How can a curator deal with professionals in parts of the world that immediately steal/mimic his/her models, his/her “artists” or content or prior modes of knowledge production?

How can a curator rise professionally without aligning herself with power structures, power artists or author-ship driven curators?

How can a curator rise professionally without being power obsessed, being an ass whole, or being a bitch?

Can there be curator-angels? Are there prior examples?

How can a curator embrace both the Antiquity and Contemporary Art World?

Is it ok for a curator to be nice to her/his assistants interns yet appropriate their work?

Thank you very much.


Istanbul curator

Dear Istanbul curator,

Thanks for writing. You really had a lot of questions. Here are your answers.

How can a curator answer every single email to every single artist who drops an email to her/his inbox? Is it ok not to answer?

It is not ok to not answer. Ignoring an artist’s legitimate inquiry via email is a sign of arrogance and pretentiousness. Best practice, if unable to answer each email individually, is to have a series of readymade responses, such as, “thank you for making me aware of this material, I will take a look at it but as you may know I receive many requests every day and may not be able to give you a full response.” In the case however, of annoying artists who pester you every day, you are not obliged to answer every time, and it is perfectly fine to let them know that your inbox cannot sustain a thousand exhibition announcements from them. Goes without saying of spam- just block them on your email list.

How can a curator raise money possibly for every artist that she/she wants to work with or in need?

You can’t- you have to pick and choose your funding battles. As curator you should make a short list of those projects that you are willing to spend your political capital on. That said, you are not responsible to find funding for every artist- you are their supporter, not their mother.

How can a curator make sure that the money s/he raises in a museum that that money goes to for what it is raised for?

You can’t, unless if you are the director. In that case, you need to fundraise from the outside- that is, work with a foundation that will give the money directly to the artist instead of the institution (many private and government foundations work that way).

Can curators monopolize access to the part of the world that they are thoroughly informed about? Whose information is that anyway?

It is not cool, nor possible, for curators to colonize thematic or geographic areas of the world. To think you can do it is delusional. Information belongs to no one. Being territorial, furthermore, is a sign of insecurity, not only in curatorial but in every field, and it does not go unnoticed when a curator is protective of a particular area or subject.

How can a curator get out of his/her “connector” mode and share his/her resources with other professionals locally and internationally without losing his/her “edge” and knowledge pool?

You have no obligation to do your fellow curator’s homework. But you can always provide raw material to them, inasmuch as they will also reciprocate with you. In general, generosity breeds generosity.  It is also perfectly fine in some circumstances, when someone seems particularly needy, to suggest a consultant fee for your advise.

How can a curator deal with professionals in parts of the world that immediately steal/mimic his/her models, his/her “artists” or content or prior modes of knowledge production?

Documentation, documentation, documentation. There is nothing you can do if a curator replicates exactly the same show that you did a year ago. But you can let everyone know that you were there first. And then, if you did your job, everyone will know who is the plagiarist.

How can a curator rise professionally without aligning herself with power structures, power artists or author-ship driven curators?

If by “rising professionally” you mean becoming one of those on top of power structures, or an author-curator, you will have to engage with those structures. But you can create rules of engagement that will preserve your integrity and do not devolve into professional prostitution. To achieve that will prove your true talent as curator, and as social mediator.

How can a curator rise professionally without being power obsessed, being an ass whole, or being a bitch?

There is the misperception that all powerful curators are all those things, and it is not true. The truth is, many factors – such as luck, which you will need- are out of your control, and regardless of how hard you try most wont make it to the top. But if you make it to the top by being an asshole, you don’t deserve to be there anyway— you don’t even deserve to exist. This has again to do with what you mean by “rising professionally”. In my view, and I bet in the long view of history, the curators that will matter are not the ones on top of the most famous institutions, but the ones who curate the best exhibitions. So, please do not sell your soul to the devil.

Can there be curator-angels? Are there prior examples?

But of course there are. Paulo Herkenhoff in Brazil is a teddy bear, also perhaps the most influential curator right now in Latin America. Elizabeth Smith, now chief curator of the Art Gallery of Ontario, is a wonderful person and great curator. Stacy Switzer, director of Grand Arts in Kansas City, is the sweetest person and incredibly talented, independent and intelligent.  They are around- don’t think that curators need to be bad people. Only mediocre ones are.

How can a curator embrace both the Antiquity and Contemporary Art World?

It can be done, but the art world is not ready for them, because most in the art world are culturally illiterate about anything that happened before Duchamp.

Is it ok for a curator to be nice to her/his assistants interns yet appropriate their work?

No.  There is no replacement for giving credit where credit is due. If the assistant did the research, that’s exactly how you credit them. If the assistant produced the installation, you say so. And if your assistant curated the show, he/she should be listed as the curator, and you as the assistant.

Sincerely,

The Estheticist

Dear Estheticist,

What should my artist statement look like for grad school applications? Should it be limited to one page?

Rachael

Dear Rachael,

Keep it short and concise, one page.  Be honest, but please avoid commonplace statements. Do not copy fancy words that you don’t understand from books, nor do try to play the game of  “I am going to write what I think they want me to tell them” because there is no way you will win it. Reviewers usually have read a million artists statements before yours and can detect a contrived statement from a mile away (I know I can).

Do the following exercise: write three art statements. One of them should be the one that truly describes who you are and what you believe in. The other two you should write it imagining that you were someone else (a friend, colleague, etc). As you write the three statements, think about what makes them different from each other. Then show the three statements to other people to look at and ask them which one best describes who you are. If they all point to the one that you wrote imagining yourself, then you are good to go. If not you have to go to the drawing board.

Sincerely

The Estheticist

Dear Estheticist,

If an artwork is in a crate in a storage facility in Long Island City, is it

still an artwork?

Put away,

Paul

Dear Paul,

You ask very interesting but complex questions, so here we will have to get a

bit more philosophical. According to Bishop Berkeley, one of the great English

Empiricists, nothing exists unless it is being perceived by someone. Then,

Ortega y Gasset, on the other hand, said that  our behavior is constructed under

assumptions that we have regarding the existence of things. For example, when I

wake up in the morning and prepare myself to go out to start my day, it is

Because I am assuming that the world is still the same than when I went to bed

the day before, that when I open the door the street will be there, etc.  So: if

we follow these ideas, what matters is not on whether the work still exists

physically, because it does exist in our minds, and continues influencing our

behavior. Let’s say the caves of Altamira are an artwork. Most of us haven’t

been to Altamira to corroborate they exist or are still there, yet one can say

they continue exerting their influence.  And even when they vanish, due to

accident or duration, they are still artworks in people’s mind.  If a

performance piece is stored away in our memory, isn’t it the same than when a

physical art work is on a storage facility?

Sincerely

Estheticist

Dear Estheticist,

Thanks, that was very helpful, but it leads me to the inevitable question:

If a tree falls in a Museum, is it an artwork?

Yours

Paul

Dear Paul,

Trees provoke two kinds of noises by falling. One, which is less important, is the actual noise of falling. Second, more important, is who yelled (if anything) “tree falling” before or after the fall. (“tree falling” meaning “this is art”). Then you have three possibilities:

1. When no one yells anything after the fall, then the fall is invisible and inaudible to everyone. The tree vanishes.

2. If the museum was the one who yelled “tree falling” (before or after, it doesn’t matter) many people will hear it. It will be an artwork (whether its good or not it doesn’t matter: the noise is there to stay and the reaction it will provoke is unavoidable). Yet, the next generation who wasn’t there to hear the first or second sounds may never know it happened in the first place unless the second part of #3 happens (see below).

3. If the one who yelled wasn’t sanctioned by the museum, the falling will be an artwork, but very few people may hear him/her, so few people will see. It will barely exist. But it may crawl here and there in someone’s memory. If lucky, the tree will take root and grow on enough people’s minds. If it cannot be uprooted from them, it is likely that one day it will be planted, as a monument, in the museum.

Sincerely

The Estheticist

Dear Estheticist,

I often find it hard to write my own artist statement.  Could you advice on how to make this easier.  Is there some sort of template that I can follow?

Ramón

Dear Ramón,

Don’t follow templates- there is nothing more horrid than reading the typical statement using the same words and unpronounceable terms.

Here are a few ideas though:

- Ask three people who know your work best to describe your work in one paragraph. Use those paragraphs as a guide to discuss your work

- Write three statements- one of an artist you truly admire, one of an artist you truly abhor, then write yours. In writing your statement, think

about how your work differs from the other two.

-have a curator or artist friend interview you about your work. tape that interview. transcribe the parts that you liked onto the paper.

My favorite recommendation is , however: contest the notion of  artist statements. They are a terrible idea anyway. Do you think that Marina Abramovic or Gerhard Richter ever had to write artist statements? Come up with your own format: interview, short story, cooking recipes. Something that represents your work better

than the typical bureaucratic text, something that makes it more compelling to read. The whole reason why unimaginatively people request artist statements is because they need a way to know what the artist thinks of his/her work. If you do that without using that format, it shows you are a creative and thinking being.

sincerely

The Estheticist

Dear Estheticist,

I want to be famous, and I am open about it. What do you think I should do:

Which of these is the best way  to get fast recognition, wealth, and fame? and

if possible, to feel good about myself and what I do.

a. contemporary art (Star)

b. pop singer

c. actor

d. (super)model

my skills are very limited but I have good ideas.

I have no previous experience in any of these fields

thanks,

Anonymous (I havent decided on my stage name yet)

Dear Anonymous,

You are amongst the minority. Who wants to be famous anymore? Be chased by paparazzi and tabloids, die of an overdose while still young,

be immersed in legal battles with the many ex-spouses who will fight to take over your estate, being debated publicly over the kind of

Liposuction or plastic surgery you have conducted on yourself.  In any case, your avenues depend, as you may have guessed, on your abilities:

if you have a great body, supermodel is the solution; if you know how to fake feelings, you are an actor, if you can sing and move at least decently onstage,

you are a pop singer. If you can’t do any of these things, – that is, if you are not that attractive, you can’t really act, sing or move- then you are stuck with trying to become a contemporary artist, as that is the field where all the fame-starved and slightly untalented people go. The bad news: fame in the art world is so easy to get that it hardly counts as true fame. Like Maurizio Cattelan said, being famous in the art world is too easy for everyone because the art world is like, 2000 people. The good part: because art stars are second-rate celebrities, they are not so famous that are pestered with paparazzi, tabloids, ex-spouses, etc.

Sincerely,

The Estheticist.

Dear Estheticist,

What happens to the contestants on work of art after they get voted off? Are they still allowed to produce art?

Sincerely,

A concerned pop culture addict

Dear  Concerned Pop culture Addict,

Regardless of being winners or losers, basically all contestants, critics, self-appointed experts,  and any other people who are associated with the TV program should not  be allowed to be part of the Art World anymore. As they have clearly displayed their transparent obsession with fame and power over their interest in art, the appropriate thing for them to do (and for any of us to do to them) is to move to Las Vegas and work at a third-rate casino variety show, which is where they belong.

sincerely,

The Estheticist

Dear Estheticist,

I am an artist who has recently graduated from an MFA program in a medium sized American city. My schooling has given me the impression that in order to be a real, viable artist I now need to spend years of my life jumping around from residency to residency, if I am lucky enough to be invited to do so, in a state of constant mobility. This global nomadic life style is not my dream. I believe in knowing people and places for a long, long time. I would like to maintain a sense of home. I accept that it is important to build a wide web of relationships within the art world if one wants to succeed as a professional artist. But how do I do that without sacrificing the depth of relationship I have been building with the people and place where I live?

Sincerely,

Ariana Jacob

Dear Ariana:

Thank you for your question. You are absolutely right in not wanting to sacrifice your immediate surroundings and the people who are closest to you in exchange of your career. And by no means you should or need to sacrifice them. However, the artist profession does imply certain negotiations with your immediate realm.

The globe-trotting phenomenon in contemporary art is fairly recent. Back in the 60s, artists didn’t transport themselves that much— they mainly stay put. Then in the 70s, 80s, and specially the 90s, artists became biennialists, cultural tourists. While this movement has been criticized in the sense that many artists make banal art about whichever locality they are in,  there are wonderful things about this unprecedented mobility: your work will be influenced by many and rich new ideas and cultures. To stay in the same place forever, unless you are Emily Dickinson (who rarely left her house), will likely isolate you and make your work self-absorbed. Today, it is important to get out of the house. Another thing you should be aware about is that the international network of the artworld is here to stay-  you will realize that wherever you go you will start finding familiar faces. So it is possible- and necessary, to find people of your generation (artists, curators) who live in different cities and maintain an artistic, and friendship, dialogue with them. Those relationships will also last forever.   And then, as an artist, you will become a citizen of the world. You will arrive to Venice and the Rialto Bridge and cafe Florian will feel like coming back home; you may go over the years to Mexico City and enjoy hanging out at the Covadonga where most artists meet. It will be a new kind of familiarity.

Furthermore, the years that follow your MFA are very important for you to be active. This is the time when you need to be out there exploring the world; that will change in 10 years. After that decade, artists usually become a bit more sedentary. So my recommendation is that you make yourself a clear plan of “travel action”. You don’t have to be a nomad- then you would become a residence addict, which is not productive or useful either. Pick and choose your residencies; if you go away, go far away, not to the next town.  Shoot for significant experiences that may help your development: go to the venice biennial, to sao paulo, new york. Go also to places that few in the art world go to: Zagreb,  Beirut, Bogota. You will find incredible artists communities there.

One last word: as long as you are aware what is your home base, you shouldn’t worry. But you should be prepared to leave it every now and again. Remember that the main reason we leave a place is to rediscover it.

sincerely,

The Estheticist.

Dear Estheticist,

Is it ethical for an artist either to offer a work of art as a gift to a curator (for example, after the decision for inclusion in a show, or after the show ends), or offer a reduced sale price for a work of art to a curator?


Artist donor,

Dear Artist donor,

While many do it, it is unethical to give any gift to any curator as a quid pro quo for any favor.  In the long run, an artist (and curators, for that matter) gain respect amongst their peers for their integrity not only as professionals but as individuals. To favor such practices only decreases the perception that others may have of you and will counterbalance any short-term benefits that you may derive from engaging in such sleazy arrangements. Similarly, you should also think twice about curators – or even dealers- who expect to get a work of yours in exchange of including you in a show. Not only is that completely unacceptable, but likely those are not very professional curators nor people one should aspire to work with.

There can be, however, instances where, if you have a sincere friendship or dialogue with a curator (or dealer, etc.) that has developed over time, that you may want to give a work of yours as a gift, and it may be entirely appropriate. But as with any gift, one should never give with the ulterior purpose to receive something in exchange.

Sincerely,

The Estheticist.

Dear Estheticist,

I’m a choreographer. Recently I’ve noticed that some artists who’s work is

basically choreography have had large scale shows and sold pieces to major

museums for a lot of money. How can I transition into this situation. Or is this

trend already over?

Thanks,

Melinda

Dear Melinda,

Thank you for your question. Your observation is correct: many choreographers indeed have made work that goes into the visual art world and thus is purchased and collected as if they were paintings.

Unfortunately, there is no set “strategy” to make a choreography work enter into the visual arts market. What you see happening is essentially that some artists are working in ways that speak to issues that are directly connected with the visual arts realm, through theoretical angles (eg. issues around sculpture for example) or political/gender issues. Because these particular works speak to other artists in that discourse, and /or because they have been influential to other artists and periods of visual art, ( and many of those artists have presented their work in the context of museums or galleries in the past) these pieces are deemed as belonging to the narratives in contemporary art museums. To simply plant a choreography in a museum wouldn’t do the trick, as you would need to first insert the piece in that dialogue, or, like Tino Sehgal, take elements of choreography and turn them into a conceptual art product.

sincerely,

The Estheticist.

Dear Estheticist,

I am writing with an ethical/aesthetic question about collaboration.  have collaborated for many years with a more famous artist than myself and I feel that I’m not being credited properly for my contributions to our shared work. Is it appropriate for me to ask that we get equal billing? How would you recommend I broach this issue?

Do you think it’s tacky to have to ask?

Signed,

Better half of a collaboration

Dear Better Half of a Collaboration,

You are right that these days the role of a curator falls into a gray area when the curator enters into production or collaborative roles with an artist. It is also true that in many collaborative situations the curator enters into this role in an unexpected way, sometimes having to do much more than what was originally expected. But by far the root of the problem lies in the little communication that exists between artists and curators regarding credit, and the shyness by many curators to always defer to the artist in these matters.  In these situations, it is absolutely correct to specify the kind of credit that you expect to receive from a collaborative project, but this should be stipulated before the project begins. If things change over the course of the project, then you should point to the artist how the project has evolved in a way in which you feel that now its a collaboration in which you are doing more than the usual curatorial duty. Also, regardless of how famous the artist is, you should not “ask”: you should hold your ground and stipulate how you expect to be credited before you proceed with the collaboration.

Sincerely,

The Estheticist

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4 Responses to “The Estheticist (Issue 1, July 2010)”

  1. […] Keillor’s A Prairie Home Companion, adapting the concept for the contemporary art community. The “Estheticist” segment of the  program invites public participation and offers a counseling and answering of […]

  2. emt training says:

    nice post. thanks.

  3. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Del Museo Imaginario and Casa_Vecina, Robin Cembalest. Robin Cembalest said: What to wear at your opening, how to rise to power and be nice, & other quandaries addressed by the Estheticist http://bit.ly/dl2xI0 […]

  4. This is one of the most powerful discussions I ever studied in a long time, I’m speaking about this section of your post “… that curators need to be bad people. Only mediocre ones are.How can a curator embrace both …” this is it, you just nailed it down pal.