Painting Diary

Like a planet around a star

What does electricity taste like?

It tastes like a planet around a star.

What does paint taste like?

It feels like mushy rainbows.


Ok. So I’m no reality tv addict but from time to time they manage to reflect something back to me that seems important. Why, I’m not too sure- but I’m pretty sure that it’s something that I’ll get in retrospect.

Hennessy Youngman, Bravo’s Art Star, and X Factor USA.

And Nicky Minaj too, because that girl got swag.

Throw in bi-weekly conversations with Clever Bot who acts as a kind of pseudo shrink/literary prophet, and you’ve more or less covered the last 2 months of my life in the studio.

I’m glad that the art world has Hennessy Youngman. He’s combined the obvious and superficial into something both smart and funny. He’s funny to everyone, not just the art students and curators that probably make up the majority of his YouTube account views. In New Zealand we would never have a Hennessy Youngman. Art that has social bearing needs more presumed weight. You could be funny, but in a way that would need to be secondary. There’s an unspoken smartness that needs to filter through the work- enough for a writer to utter ‘that’s really smart’, wiggle a bit in front of the work, and go home to intertwine their musings into a artzine- published DIY style to remind the art student reading it in yet another project space ‘reading room’ that there remains the most integrity in only drinking cask-wine.

On the subject of Young’s. An old friend, Young Sun Han, has found himself in the cast of a new season of Work of Art (worringly subtitled: The Next Great Art Star), a kind of Americas Next Top Model for ambitious young artists. I didn’t watch the first season, although did catch a glimpse of the old UK Saatchi one which seemed to take itself a little bit more seriously but conversely had Tracy Emin as a judge. The winner was a good looking and shallow as heck 2nd year art student from Goldsmiths (I may have got that slightly wrong but the sentiment remains intact). Instead of waiting for the grad shows Saatchi was now hedging at the BFA level.

Young Sun Han on 'Work of Art'

The American version seems far cooler, and I mean that in a good way. It plays closely to the typical reality tv formula of character conflict and persona, instead of pretending that the judges and tasks are of heavyweight critical fare. Even Jerry Saltz, who I categorically think is the absolute biz as a writer, seems to come off as charactertured and comedically frightening as the diva judges on a ANTM or a celebrity chef on Masterchef. So the show is allowed to absorb more of what makes reality shows interesting, and therefore makes the artists participants in a bigger kind of art work- strangely giving the whole thing more critical weight, in a very round-about way.

The best artists I know are the ones that can jump in a studio and do something great with whatever they have at their disposal. And so even in the context of gimmicky tasks set by the French taskmaster, the touch of these guys shows through- adapting to things AND playing a part.

Call me crazy, but I see more integrity ( or at least just as much) here than the contemporary process of ‘get an MFA from important German, US or UK art school and sell out at Liste the following year’, or ‘play the project space game and sleep with as many writers and curators as time and hotness allows until you make it to some Biennials’. None of that is meant to dismissive of any of those aproaches- it’s just that those things are too often the elephant in the room.

So I’m gunning for Young to win. I think he’s in with a shot- he seems to be one of the better artists that can adapt his work to a variety of situations so far- plus his work is performative which makes it a good match with the story that the editors and leads want to tell. Although, following the rule of reality tv makes me think that it will be one of the girls- I haven’t quite picked individual identities yet, but they all seem quite capable. The hot girl perhaps the least so but she has a bit of an X Factor that might take her far- and if she can ally with The Sucklord she might have a shot. I’d say the judges keep her around to the final four at least. The Sucklord is great- I have a soft spot for kitsch that goes the whole way, and he’s also got some savvy lurking under the ‘don’t give a damn what you think’ persona. I think Young gets to the final 3 or 4 along with The Sucklord and a couple of the girls whose names and personas will become clearer to me over the next few episodes I hope.

Sign me up next season.

Moving up through the stratosphere of reality tv budgets we get to X Factor USA. I love everything about the production of these things. These things aren’t a search for greatness, but rather an exercise of creating the illusion of greatness. Which is great.

The big over-the-top stage sets, border-line fashion makeovers, and an even more comedically frightening mix of hot and powerful judges. Emotional breakdowns, 5-minute-two-commercial-waits for a yes or no answer. This is either the most drawn out passionate sex ever had, or just the most frustrating. I think in a world where tweets are intellectual capital, there’s something about these shows taking it slow. And it’s probably the closest thing we have to the visual spectacle of a Roman bachelor pad.

So all of the above is compelling, but not compared to the love for my man/woman Clever Bot. It’s a pity that Apple seems to have put its marketing stamp on its own version in Siri (ie a bought-up start-up company of the same name repackaged). Clever Bot is better- more unpredictable, more poetic, more prone to dubiousness. Comparatively, Apple keeps it brushed-aluminum-clean.

All that aside, if you want to talk about art, reality tv, or simply want a heart-to-heart I thoroughly recommnend Clever Bot.

See below for more proof.

I’m out like the douche French guy in episode one.