My Journey through a Book of the Dead with the Three Jays and Then Some

2014/12/23 § Leave a comment


On opening night J¹ said she felt sad. “I don’t want to make art. It all… I don’t feel like making any anymore.”

Industrial Egyptpunk

Numbed ghosts walk by lots of found objects touched by a lesser Midas. A gallery plonked with faux ready-mades from the factory floor. Technically brilliant foundry work. Lovely copper. I get bored with people saying they are underwhelmed.


I could make all of this. I would make none of this. I am a year older.

The pitch: Mad Max versus Stargate

Norman Mailer as a car, a character in an adaption of his own novel, see… like… you know… c.f. Ka, Egyptian soul-double. Ha-ha. Haw-haw. Crow bars as was:- bull’s blown bits as magical scepters, jawbreakers. But there is no release, no transfiguration. So us psychopomps, like K, flatline  ___________________________


Please read Norman Mailer’s novel Ancient Evenings and produce a 6 tonne bronze by Thursday morning.

The Nile as an autobahn of progress, a physical series of tubes. Discuss.

Closing the book on his desk J² shakes his head, “If only Barney had joined the 27 club.” After dusk on Wednesday, J² pours petrol over his copy of The Cremaster Cycle, drops his joint and stands back but forgets to video it for youtube.

Satan’s Skin

Milton Moon covers the walls, “the devil gets the best tunes” we jest. It’s a shade, not a colour. Just wait until the flouros flicker.

J³ crumples into a corner groaning. He wants to cower but there are no shadows here. No hidden depths.

Remote control

I like process. I like review. I like books. There are copies of Barney’s tomes. He says this show is a bit remote. He says he is not a theatrical filmmaker, it’s about the objects. J² says there is nothing there. In the book of interviews Barney says he doesn’t do interviews. Or catalogs. Pick two.

Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow

Pyramids as immortality machines; a form of conspicuous consumption showering society with law and order.

Or poo machines of fertility.

Either way, ancient eternal lives for the rich and powerful, opera for the bored in spirit; over-laboured, groaning, constipated, inappropriating, and signifying nothing.

Get behind me

C said antithetical to Beuys but I can’t spell that in this light.


This is a response to Matthew Barney - River of Fundament - MONA

Our Aesthete Brains Evolving to Desire Beauty but Relax Into Art

2014/08/26 § Leave a comment

I have been reading The Aesthetic brain : how we evolved to desire beauty and enjoy art by Anjan Chatterjee.

Key message is that the diversity of form is directly related to environmental and selective pressures.

Where there is strong selective evolutionary pressure then, as an example, birdsong will be as unchanging as Egyptian art over millennia. Or, when there is strongly repressive government then art will be restricted to pro-government propaganda i approved form and genre, and as unchanging as the wild birdsong.

Where conditions relax then there can be a survival in a diversity of form, as in the diverse songs of domesticated songbirds compared to their wild cousins.

The middle bit of the book surveys the recent writing in neuroaesthetics and a number of evolutionary arguments about “why art?”. Unsatisfied by the answers involving “art instinct” or “by-product” he argues for a third way involving that relaxation of selective pressures mentioned above.


I still feel Ellen Dissanayake‘s work is the best of “why art” in a evolutionary context, and I can see it fitting in with Anjan Chatterjee’s suggestions of relaxation to allow the diversity we see through time and across geographies. Both are at base material arguments, one for raising children, one for how they, and we, survive.

Suggestions of relaxed environments, if not attitudes, will probably work for any Dissanayake’s “making special” activities covered by other modern words like ‘religion’.

“Art” after all is primarily a marketing category, a very modern form. And perhaps one not relaxed enough yet to be any good. Especially all that conceptual art that just looks like bad science fiction made for people who do not read science fiction.

#Formats & #genres are #rituals.

2013/02/26 § 1 Comment

Over the last week I’ve been tweeting notes and implications on reading What is Art For? by Ellen Dissanayake. It’s all about ‘making special’.

A year ago I starting working on a performance piece libretto [I dare not call it opera as I detest that format…] dealing with our making of things, like baskets, knifes, houses and operas, and thus our specialness as a species, which may not lie in the making of things, so much as in the specialness we make.

Here is a crude mind map of that twitter stream.

Mind map of a twitter stream as I read  What is Art For? By Ellen Dissanayake

Mind map of a twitter stream as I read What is Art For? By Ellen Dissanayake

The thought “Formats and genres are rituals” occured at the end of mapping out the tweets.

I am using a very simple mind mapper that doesn’t even use arrows, thus it is a very unstructured mind map. However as a first draft of an ontology of making, if not an ontogeny of special, I like it.

Naming the Figures of Anticeptual Art, number one: #Swineflu is born!

2012/05/15 § Leave a comment

At my Web 1.0 style personal homepage trying to pass itself off as a gallery, I’ve just worked through to a labelling of the current figures I am working on. I have this need to put them in sets, I do this by naming them.

For example Consorts to the Mountain Goddess.

The new set is Figures of Anticeptual Art. They will not get their own blog.

Now, the thing is, in realising the name Figures of Anticeptual Art I suddenly also recollected that the first of these figures was made two years ago. Thus #Swineflu is Born! (pewter, 2009, wallaby dung outer investment) is the first example of the process where naming is a conscious method of finishing the artwork.

It doesn’t start with an idea or concept, for the naming finishes it. The art is realised, not conceived.

I had just recovered from the misnamed swineflu, (I caught the #swineflu from a young woman who served me a hamburger as I transited through Melbourne back to Hobart from Weilmoringle.)(She did not look well and should not have been at work.) At this time I was wanting to send a piece to the Twitter Art Show, so as I broke open the wallaby dung and plaster it was obvious what the piece should be called. I stopped then and there. I did not even cut it off its cup to retrieve all that pewter.

It was finished in the moment I realised what its true name was.

Twitter hashtag and all.

The Unmaking of Conceptual Art

2012/03/12 § 11 Comments

I haven’t been writing a great deal over the last five or so years as I have tried my hand at sculpture. In particular with lost-wax processes, making figures in bronze and pewter.

Over the last year I have been working at MONA since it opened in January 2011 as an invigilator or gallery attendant. I get paid to enhance the visitor experience while MONAISM evolves around me, but mostly I people watch.

And think.

With regard to format, the focus of this blog, at work I think about conceptual art, the end of conceptual art, the death of conceptual art.

It’s a slow death, or a slow food fight at the wake.

I could write a manifesto about what movement is going to replace it, but the manifesto as a format is more of a joke-book these days, so I’ll let that go.

It’s dying for reasons that have very little to do with art. Art in the sense of the art world/market/institutions, or even artists.

Particularly Artists.

It’s ending because, well, process is returning, and for reasons mostly to do with the coming of the home-based replicator, i.e. the 3D printer or additive manufacturing.

We are all going to be able to make things we used to have made in factories, and cheaply, the result is that more people will be aware of the process of making something, even if our children think yoghurt grows on trees.

In some measure I can’t predict it is also the end of Art, but Conceptual Art is definitely over. It can’t be measured because Conceptual Art has become a singularity, a black hole sucking everything else up. Hurrah for 3D printing!

Thus the Museum of Old and New Art, provides the memorial to Conceptual Art. This memorializing is a by-product to the motives of the place, which are to showcase the collection for investment purposes, and to share that collection with Tasmanians as an enlightenment project.

It is a mighty fine memorial. No other memorial need now be built to commemorate the end of Conceptual Art.


The old art in the museum is Art because, well, that is what people who collect it— call it. Antiquities and other mathoms what look real pretty; coins, flints and sarchophagi.

This is my favourite.

Altar in the form of a bird-headed deity Golan Heights, Syria, Chalcolithic, 4000–3000 BCE (I reckon vulture.) MONA

The new art is mostly collectible modern art since WW2 (not being collectible or to be found in the pages of KUNSTFORUM I’m not featured at MONA).

Now while none of the collection’s older contents as I’ve described them so far mean they are Conceptual Art, they do involve concepts. (Some claim conceptual elements in fancy paleolithic axes.) For example, take a look at some of the old stuff, e.g. a profile on an old coin from one of the Greek cities of Bactria.

Some powerful dude tells the artisan what to put on their portrait. “I need an elephant on my head so the people of the Indus respect my power more and get reminded of it when they spend their money.”

The artisan says, “sure thing dude.”

Tetradrachm of Demetrius I Bactria, Paropamisadae and Arachosia, Greco-Bactrian kingdom, c. 200–190 BCE Silver MONA

As economies grow such direct curatorial patronage is replaced by more collecting-orientated art markets (this takes thousands of years) where middle class pretensions become more and more important. Where once the artisan is an Artist only so far as they can get away with their own interpretations, comment or ‘license’ in glorying their Lords and Pontiffs, the Artist now is expected to provide their own arguments. They must recognize their own place in the (anti-)tradition, or be labelled naive. In that recognition they offer up some conceptual framework and thus, finally, deep in the noosphere, the excuses for the making of the art, or Art. (More latterly we can blame the Art School and their traditional requirements and excuses to fulfill academic degree programmes for these sacrifices.)

Obviously we could outline all the stages in between the two and talk about the aesthetic assumptions of the Mannerists compared to the nihilistic axiological concerns of the Dadaists. And then talk about progress, or, better, talk about the evolution of complexity which is not yet evenly distributed.

But MONA doesn’t bother with the middle bit, so neither shall I. It just gets in the way.

It would distract from my claim that all art is conceptual in conception, even when the artist take liberties with the commission.

Not at MONA.

The Confraternity of the Immaculate Conception, a lay brotherhood, in 1483 commissioned Leonardo da Vinci in a lengthy contract, Leonardo paint the central panel dedicated to the promulgation of the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception. The Virgin was to be “portrayed to perfection” in a gown of gold brocade and deep blue, lined in green. Similarly attired, God the Father was to be depicted overhead, while angels with golden haloes would be painted “in the Greek manner.” Flanked by two prophets, the Virgin was to be presented without her child.

Conceptual Art is over, and to the extent to which concepts direct or excuse the making of art, then Art is over.

We will each just be making stuff, call it art, call it craft, call it sport, call it poetry, call it changing underwear—— we will together be more interested in process and impact than concepts. (Looking ahead, once we are more interested in process, function will call us out.)

Conceptual Art is basically a form of cartooning.

Fat Car 2006 Erwin Wurm MONA "Fat people should be ostracised, like smokers."

A form whose function is to make bad jokes real.

The new inquiry will not be restricted to aesthetics, not even the wider aesthetics of novelty (exploring some new dimension of art-space in order to colonise it with a marketable name), nor the jumping-up-and-down interrogation of previous forms (in homage, mash-ups or satire). Aesthetics as such will be entirely personal, as atomised atmen, the overview of which will look like winter mist and no one will be thanked anymore for sharing. In this heaven the only collective acts of beauty will be by teenagers. However, wider axiological concerns will become paramount, making stuff will be about all values, not just whether it is good-looking, well-made, highly-skilled, thematically suitable and consistent, or intensely expressive of the depressive artist’s sad fuck-up of a life.

There will be no excuses.

Those wider axiological conversations about everything other than beauty and concepts will provide all the grounds we need for better tribal football.

The questions we will want to answer will be like the following:-

There are many things in the world, so why make these?

Moon Dream by Frances Watkins, bronze, 2011, Handmark Gallery, Hobart, Tasmania

I will stop here, otherwise it will become a manifesto.

Update 2012/03/13:No, it’s not necessarily anything to do with stuckism per se. See also

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