Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Some Notes

Our friend Jörg Colberg relates a story in his latest about how he bought some snapshots at a flea market, scanned then, reworked them to suit his own vision, and then published one of them — a photo of a woman, natch.

This is a man who is on the record complaining about Richard Prince doing, well, exactly the same thing. This is a man who is Very Concerned about the Macho Cult of photojournalism, which simply acquires people's likenesses and uses them for its own purposes without concern for the subjects of the photos.

Now, I am considerably more willing to allow that these kinds of things are OK. I rather think people are much too precious about ownership of their copyrights and their likenesses. The point, here, though, is that Colberg does not think this. The point isn't even necessarily that he's a huge hypocrite, it's perfectly possible that he can explain some subtle, or not so subtle, difference between his actions and the things he abhors.

The photographic community, from the rankest amateur camera-fondler to the most stratospherically austere critic, is extremely fond of laying down diktats. As in all human endeavors, they are rather fonder of enforcing them on other people than on following them themselves. I have been forced, by a modest program of self-examination, to take up a nearly libertine attitude on the grounds that I do and would like to do a lot of stuff photographically. It has not always been comfortable.


The book Colberg refers to is available from the editor's web site, for $US75, US customers only, at the link he provides. This is fascinating on two fronts.

The first is that the editor's storefront does not name the publisher, which is Schilt, nor the fact that it can be purchased for 60 euros (about $US70) from the publisher. The second is that buying from the editor/author is going to run you about $14 more. The publisher will ship it free, Ms. England wants $9, and she's charging about $5 more for the book in the first place. And she's no help if you're not in the USA anyways.

If you're in the USA you probably oughta buy from Ms. England anyways. Throw the author a bone, eh? But if you're not in the USA, or you'd prefer to pay list price, Schilt will sell you a copy. Use this link.


In other news.

I stumbled across The White Pube the other day. Ignore the front page and poke around the navigation links on the top. This thing is the work of two former art students, both women of color, who are making a credible play to be the new enfants terrible of art criticism. You can read some of the reviews for yourself.

The content of the reviews is fairly boring and quickly becomes entirely predictable. The art world sucks, white people ruin everything, we need a new criticism which, evidently, mainly involves the critic talking about herself, a quick nod at the art which either sucks because white people or, occasionally, is ok. This is, of course, catnip to the art world. It's so important that we have these conversations etc.

What I am fascinated by is the cant they have devised for themselves. They have small handful of tics: The use of "n" for "and" as in we went to the show n had drinks later, the use of lowercase "i" as the pronoun, occasional use of "im" for "I'm" and occasional use of single letters for words where the meaning is clear, the bar was c so we had to go next door to the bar that was open.

This, plus a sort of breathless pace, and a sensation of run-on sentences gives the flavor of hip youth, a sort of texting/social-media vibe.

If you look closer, though, a most interesting thing reveals itself. There are no spelling errors. If you perform the simple substitutions to undo their tics (replace "n" with "and" and so on) the whole thing turns in to tolerably well written and perfectly normal English, albeit a bit prolix, a bit self-centered, and a lot boring. Indeed, you note that they only insert the tics occasionally, usually "and" is spelled "and" and "I" is capitalized.

This is a delightfully weird style. It occurs to me that the intent is not to, in fact, write like a teenager, but to give the flavor of writing like a teenager. This is perfectly adult writing given a light gloss of teen to pep it up and give the writers a gloss of speaking authoritatively for their demographic.

I find the whole effort hilarious. On the one hand, they disdain the authority of the contemporary art world's authoritative figures, professing to a sort of anarchist system of equality, while at the same time claiming an authority of their own.

They strike me as a couple of moderately posh British girls (but see comments below, I am Just Wrong) (although I am no expert on accents, they remind me rather too much of Priti Patel for comfort) who are making a bold play to land in cozy positions in the Art Establishment. This is rather like Tony Soprano's rise to power, which began when he executed a carefully calibrated robbery of a Mafia poker game, a robbery calibrated to establish him as a man to be reckoned with, but not a man who needed to be eliminated.

I could be wrong, of course. There's a good chance that they're just fuckin' around enjoying themselves, and they might also be honest-to-god anarchists genuinely trying to find a new critical voice.

Their writing, while stylistically very fun, is crashingly boring in terms of content. It reads like a lovingly copy-edited tweaker rant, always on the same topic, over and over.

Give 'em a read! Tell them I sent you!


  1. No, not moderately posh (at least based on accents): one is standard Liverpool, the other is standard London Asian. Yes, the latter would remind you of Priti Vacant, as they're not dissimilar. I think the spelling, etc., is just standard Young Person stuff, which u n i r 2 old 2 no, innit. As for the content, this is SO not aimed at me. I made my excuses and left immediately.


    1. Thanks! As an American, I only use one vowel which is pronounced "uh" so classifying British people by accent is thoroughly beyond me.

    2. Also, you may not realise that the name is a fairly adolescent play on The White Cube, a notoriously hip gallery in East London. White pubes, as such, is not an issue such youngsters need concern themselves with for some decades yet... But, my god, have we caught them out in some thoughtless ageism?? I've been triggered!


  2. I think they're providing some kind of valuable service that is 100% worthless to me personally but ok.