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message 1: by Tentatively, (new)

Tentatively, Convenience (tentativelyaconvenience) | 128 comments Mod
I'm not feeling either inspired or energetic right now so it's probably a bad time to start a new topic but I feel that it's my solemn sworn dagnabbitted YOU-KNOW-WHAT to keep Cognitive Dissidents alive & there haven't been many posts of late so here goes:

When I was older than I am now, I was more or less in agreement w/ the dadaists (& others) that museums are tombs, devoid of life & highly suspect as killers of what they entomb. Now that I'm younger again, it seems worthwhile to add that museums are to culture what history is to politics: they both make sure that what gets preserved perpetuates & endorses a very particular worldview.

I often kvetch about pay disparities in museums. Last I heard the directors of the various Carnegie Institute museums here in Pittsburgh were getting $250,000.00 a yr. As if that weren't enuf, there were perqs, too: the every expensive 'company' car, the all-expenses-pd 1st class 'business' trips anywhere in the world. That sort of thing. These are the same type of disparities that prevail in corporations (admittedly toned down considerably).

Take, eg, the former director of the Smithsonian complex in DC. He'd had a corporate job where he was making millions per annum so he took a step down when he took over the Smithsonian at a mere $800,000.00 a yr. Someone in Congress took a look at HIS perqs & pointed an accusatory finger & I'm glad they did.

This guy owned a home wch he made open to rich people to party in so that they might donate to the Smithsonian. These parties (& maybe even his house) were then pd for by the Smithsonian. Neat, huh? He gets to throw parties that solidify his own connections w/ the ultra-rich, & doesn't have to pay for a thing. Then his wife goes w/ him to, let's say S Korea, on a Smithsonian-related jaunt, & SHE goes to, let's say Cambodia from there, on a completely unrelated business trip of her own & the Smithsonian picks up the tab for all of it. In the meantime, maybe a Smithsonian bldg's roof leaks or what-not but they just don't have the money to fix that now do they?

So this director of the Smithsonian, after the accusations of funding misuse, is praised to the skies by the Board but then he quietly retires a few mnths later. They don't have any complaints b/c HE'S ONE OF THEM & THEY'D DO THE SAME DAMNED THING IF GIVEN THE CHANCE. Besides, they want to make sure THEY'RE invited to his next schmoozing party funded by whoever gets to pick up the tab this time.

Why do these museum directors make so much money? Is it b/c they've got so much responsibility? Probably not. The responsibility's farmed out pretty thoroughly. As is, I hope, shown in the above Smithsonian example, if they're shown to be responsible for anything particularly naughty they're let off b/c it's a white collar crime - & the more starched that white collar is, the less likely any consequences for the crime there will be. After all, only kings have the right to kill kings, remember?

Is it b/c they're so much more cultured than the underlings? From personal experience I think I can claim that many highly pd people at the museums where I've worked are considerably LESS CULTURED than I (& other people) are. An example: I was wearing a shirt w/ a picture of John Cage laughing on it at one museum where I've worked & the head of my department got angry w/ me for being a "Reagan supporter"! Ie: in her ignorance, she thought that Cage was Ronald Reagan, & that I, an anarchist (not that she wd've known what that meant) was a Reagan supporter. Oh these liberals are so CUTE & CUDDLY aren't they?

Refraining from more specific stories about the museum director I'm most familiar w/, I'll put it in a somewhat impersonal way: say there's a museum director who makes $180,000.00 a yr (+ perqs). In order for that director to be worth that much money, I'd expect them to be at least 10 times as knowledgable about culture as someone on the museum staff making $18,000.00 yrly. How likely do you think that is? & why do they have all these perqs ANYWAY? Isn't $250,000.00 yrly enuf to enable them to buy a car? To pay for its gas? That sort of thing? To enable them to eat well?

Here's my INSTITUTIONS OF HIGHER BURNING (& Class Warfare in Culture) explanation: directors of museums are fabulously well-pd not b/c of any demonstrable super-abilities but b/c their directorial 'right' to steer culture is determined primarily on the basis of their membership in ruling elites. if they aren't a member in the ruling elite than they have no right whatsoever, as far as that elite is concerned, to say what shd & shdn't be in the pantheon of preserved culture. Getting pd so well is an indication that they deserve only the best b/c of their DIVINE RIGHT TO RULE.

Now let's take the Andy Warhol Museum where I work as a projectionist & A/V technician. There was an exhibit by a guy named Glenn Ligon. He does paintings of written-out jokes by Richard Prior using a repeated recognizable glitzy technique. He does something similar w/ newspaper photos of major black cultural events such as the Million Man March.

When Ligon gave a tour of his work at the Warhol he was prompted by the director. They talked about the work. The astounding comment was made to the effect that 'there's no difference now between protest in the museum & protest on the streets'. Right, Ligon stood a really good chance of being tazared, shot w/ rubber bullets, pepper-sprayed, & arrested on false charges in that there museum while he explained his work!

& protestors, of course, are flown to the site of the protest & put up at the best hotels & driven to the protest & taken out to an all-expenses pd good dinner afterward. Right.

& what exactly were Ligon's politics? Exploitation of Prior's considerably more direct critiques of race-relations? All I saw was insured membership in the bourgeoisie.

message 2: by [deleted user] (new)

Mmm... a world I also know well. (Hello, fellow projectionist).

As for the Smithsonian (Hirshhorn), add to your list of outrages that the staff are overwhelmingly contract workers with little protection--nevermind benefits. In fact they are required to sign a statement before they are hired than they will not try to form unions. That was really surprising to me, coming from NY where most of the museums are unionized.

I'm not sure why unions still bother to give politicians campaign donations. Heres an example in their very backyard of union-busting at the highest level.

The second part of your post reminded me of another outrage. That of Mark Wallinger being award the lucrative Turner Prize in England for installing a plagiarism (errr, excuse me..."recreation") of someone else's very sincere protest art. So Wallinger recreates activist Brian Haw's Peace Camp which was installed on the lawn of the Parliament with all the risk that involves and strips it of any meaning while installing it in a gallery space. The gesture is neutralized; the judges can feels self-satisfied for their "edgy" choice and the funny guy wins a bunch of dough.


Here's the link; you don't get much info unless you read the comments:

message 3: by Tentatively, (new)

Tentatively, Convenience (tentativelyaconvenience) | 128 comments Mod
Egads. I looked at the comments on the above Telegraph link & found them to be.. unincisive - pretty much regardless of wch angle people were writing from. The most obvious thing to me is that Wallinger shd give the money to Haw who shd then, in turn, give the money to wchever NGO (or whatever) he thinks is doing the most 'good' in Iraq, if any. On the other hand, I wdn't begrudge Haw keeping the money. I DO begrudge it to Wallinger. Lardy, how 'depressing'. If I lived in England & I met Wallinger.. well, it's not a pretty thought. I hope he gets repeatedly robbed at bank machines.. but not hurt. Of course, it's not just Wallinger, it's the whole shebang. It's funny/sad to me that people get outraged about it's 'not being art' (or whatever) & complain about him having 15 people helping him. Maybe they've forgotten that many an "old master" actually had uncredited students doing alotof the work. etc, etc.. It's all so stupid every wch way ya look at it!

message 4: by Tentatively, (last edited Jul 05, 2010 10:12AM) (new)

Tentatively, Convenience (tentativelyaconvenience) | 128 comments Mod
Statement on What I Value
- tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - July 5, 2010

I currently work for 4 museums. 2 of these are art museums. I like this work better than most of the things I've done before for money, such as being a hard wood floor finisher, b/c the conditions are easier & the pay is, sometimes, better. But I'm less enthusiastic about the art world that these museums represent.

Sometime in the last year or so, I was working at one of the art museums & a drunk curator (who's yet to demonstrate anything in front of me other than an ability to schmooze w/ rich people) told me that it's "time you made some new pants". Apparently my "Pants-Pants" were too tattered & dirty for his liking. As if it were any of his business how I shd dress!

Sometime shortly thereafter, the very same curator sheepishly approached me & told me that a buyer from Saks 5th Avenue, the clothing store, had seen those very same pants & had remarked something to the effect that they were the best pants they'd ever seen. The buyer had asked the curator to approach me about making these pants for Saks. Despite the fact that this wd've possibly involved substantial money for me & that this wd've made me more prestigious in the art world, I declined the offer - perhaps saying that I preferred to be the only person wearing them, that I prefer being UNIQUE to having money.

Not surprisingly, I gained a sense of poetic justice from the curator's reversal of his position regarding my pants. Once again, it was demonstrated for me that some museum administrators are often little more than lackeys for their 'betters' - ie: for people in positions of greater monetary power.

Many mnths later, this same curator (#1) approached me & told me that another curator (#2) at a different art museum had expressed an interest in perhaps putting on a show of my 'work'. I gave him 2 copies of my 'business' card (definitely designed to stimulate thought & inspiration more than to generate 'business' for myself) so that curator #2 cd contact me if so inclined.

Soon thereafter, I met curator #2's assistant. She was fielding submissions to a proposed 2-minute film festival. I posted a 2-minute film of mine privately on YouTube & asked her whether they wd screen it. She sent me an email regarding it in wch she wrote:

"The work you sent a link to is conceptually and aesthetically very provocative, but I'm not sure it fits the theme or tone of the event: could I persuade you to make something new that deals somehow with history/memory/archetypal forms and discludes masochistic or sexual content? We're trying to expand the programming possibilities here, but have to tread lightly with this first go at putting on an outdoor film festival..."

I expected the work to be rejected & thought that the reason for its rejection was reasonable enuf - despite my not thinking of it as either "masochistic" or "sexual" - so that wasn't a problem. In her email she went on to say:

Curator #2 "was hoping you'd send us a compilation or other materials so
we can become more familiar with your work in general. I've seen your
website, which is helpful, but could you maybe send some video and music
recordings? Much appreciated if so."

- to wch I replied:

"Wch website?
At the bottom of this email is my voluminous signature
- wch has links to many things relevant."


but could you maybe send some video and music

I'd rather not. At 56, I have a larger body of internationally produced
diverse work than almost anyone else that I know of.
I've made 349 movies, have 152 audio publications, 12 bks,
have been published in at least 182 places, have work in perhaps
6 languages, have had my own large-scale sound projects, etc..
Much of it is available for study in one form or another online for free.
Some can be easily purchased, such as these:

For a copy of the CD/book/DVD about HiTEC published by Encyclopedia Destructica, go to:
& click on "volumes & issues" & then click on "HiTEC"

For a copy of my book that references my 1st 9 books:

Anyway, the gist of it here is that I've long since 'pd my dues' as the cliché has it
& I'm often just not interested in giving out freebies for self-promo.
If the world doesn't know who I am by now I can't be bothered to tell them.
After all, museums have money & I eke out a living doing things that I'd rather not."

I thought the point was fairly obvious: There's more than enuf online of mine
for any curator to study w/o having to ask for free stuff from me. The curator wasn't even bothering to ask me directly - he was asking thru his assistant & no direct offer of a show was being made. I rc'vd no reply to this.

I then attended a show that curator #2 curated. I thought it was pretty low-level conceptually & that, contrary to one artist's self-promotional statement, the work wasn't very labor-intensive. Given that I have much more labor-intensive work made long before the work presented, I sent this email to the assistant:

"After seeing tonite's program & hearing it passed off as "labor-intensive"
I decided I can't just sit back & let that go by so I WILL drop off 2 DVDs
of TRULY labor intensive work of mine but I'd rather communicate
DIRECTLY w/ the curator about this instead of thru this indirect communication."

I wanted to communicate directly w/ curator #2 b/c he was the one supposedly expressing interest but he was playing the part of the 'big man' & only communicating w/ me thru middle(men). I just found this annoying & obfuscatory. The assistant was offended - taking this wish of mine as somehow insulting to her. Her reply:

"Okay, you can drop off some DVD's, though I must tell you your last communication on the subject, which I shared with [curator #2..:], didn't exactly win you points."

Now here we come to the crux of the matter: many museum curators see themselves as gatekeepers to the granting of the IMPRIMATUR, the STAMP OF APPROVAL from the self-appointed 'highest authority' - if they let one thru into the ART WORLD's 'place of honor' then one is 'obviously' an important person - a 'real artist'. But, of course, as w/ any aristocratic court or elite club, there's a price to pay: one is expected to 'mind one's manners', to kow-tow to one's 'betters', & to generally ass-kiss.

Well, I'm all in favor of politeness & kindness - but there's no way I'm going to pretend like some pseudo-intellectual college graduate art world person in their 20s or early 30s is in any way my 'equal' as a person knowledgeable about culture in the world. & there's no way I'm going to kiss their asses in order to receive their IMPRIMATUR. No thanks but NO THANKS. The assistant's email also stated:

"it should be relatively apparent that the
"higher ups" entrust many film-related projects and tasks to me,
including those for which you may be hired as a projectionist."

I took, & take, this as a veiled threat that I may not receive work if I don't treat this
person w/ the 'proper' deference. To wch I replied:

"Never mind, I'm not trying to win points."

These curators are highly unlikely to ever be seen at any cultural event that I
consider to be important. You won't be seeing them at Project 53, at RECTL Cabarets, at Darker Scratcher Amateur Surgery Shows, etc. Why? B/c they only move in pre-approved circles. Having very little critical intelligence of their own
& certainly having a fear of anything that's not bourgeois, they only go to events at other museums or at places like the Miller Gallery & the Wood St Gallery. As such, they miss out entirely on the 'fringe' cultures that I, at least, consider to be the most vital & daring & RELEVANT - & they miss out on illegal & site-specific activities.

SO, to get to the "Statement on What I Value":


As such, I think that the Boat Kids Flotilla, the Indicator Species's "Hardest Question Ever", Ian Page's "The End of Television", Bike Fests, & our recent May Day Parade & the outdoor cabaret that followed ARE FAR MORE IMPORTANT THAN ANYTHING EVER LIKELY TO HAPPEN IN A MUSEUM. (In all fairness, I shd mention that the Andy Warhol Museum has presented the "Hardest Question Ever" - albeit in a not-very-cooperative way - & has cooperated w/ at least one Bike Fest.)


message 5: by [deleted user] (new)

So why not just shut up and make some new pants? Maybe some with brains squished all over them. You're obviously nothing but a SMARTYPANTS, anyway.

message 6: by Tentatively, (new)

Tentatively, Convenience (tentativelyaconvenience) | 128 comments Mod
The pants wdn't be very smart if the brains were squished all over them. Perhaps the brains shd be genetically modified into them. I wdn't ask for much - maybe just for them to have the ability to put themselves on me so that when I'm having a REALLY HARD TIME getting out of bed they can make it easier.

message 7: by [deleted user] (new)

The problem is that you wear the same pants all the time and they stink too bad. When he told you to make some new pants, he probably wanted to say "wash your pants once in a while so that they don't stink so bad". He was just trying to be polite.

The business about Saks 5th avenue -- he was just teasing you. But seriously, make some new pants. Make some new shirts, too. Make a new coat and jacket. Buy some new socks and underwear. New shoes would defintely be a good idea.

But most importantly -- wash them once in a while. You can lose a job (even one at an art gallery) if you stink too bad. I think you have seen this happen before. Maybe you just didn't realize it.

message 8: by Tentatively, (new)

Tentatively, Convenience (tentativelyaconvenience) | 128 comments Mod
Gee, somehow I don't think you're a friend of mine.

message 9: by [deleted user] (new)

Why should I care?

message 10: by [deleted user] (new)

Anyway, Michael, I am glad to have finally put this issue to rest. From here on out, you are to stop bashing your patrons and benefactors online, and you are to clean up your act. You have been warned.

message 11: by Tentatively, (new)

Tentatively, Convenience (tentativelyaconvenience) | 128 comments Mod
Did someone just drive by & scream "faggot" at me from a car?

message 12: by Tentatively, (new)

Tentatively, Convenience (tentativelyaconvenience) | 128 comments Mod
Sigh.. The "deleted member" of messages 5, 7, 9, & 10 apparently 'joined' GoodReads esp to write insulting messages addressed to me personally. Their moniker was "Mesmerizing". It's my belief that this person is an employee of one of the museums where I work. In fact, I'm fairly sure I know who the person is. They're NOT one of the people alluded to in my previous messages here.

As you'll notice, I don't name any of the museum personnel by name. It's not my intention to make personal attacks. It IS my intention to point out that there's a certain arrogance as a subtext to some museum/artworld figures & philosophies & unwritten laws. This, to me, seems born out by the threat that Mesmerizing posts here:

"From here on out, you are to stop bashing your patrons and benefactors online, and you are to clean up your act. You have been warned."

1st of all, I have no "patrons and benefactors". The people that I criticize are museum employees. I am a museum employee. I'm pd to do a job. I'm not even being pd by the people criticized! The museum is NOT SUPPOSED TO BE a feudal system in wch lords & ladies bestow their blessings on 'worthies'. & it's precisely the use of such language as "patrons & benefactors" that reinforces what I've already been saying: THAT SOME PEOPLE WHO WORK IN MUSEUMS & IN THE ART WORLD CONSIDER THEMSELVES TO BE SUPERIOR BEINGS WHO HAVE SOME SORT OF DIVINE RIGHT TO DETERMINE WHAT CULTURE IS. I, of course, as the 'lowly' person who actually PRODUCES CULTURE (unlike "Mesmerizing") am expected to be a servant fawning up to the ruling elite. This is plain sickening.

2ndly, I don't consider anything that I've written to be "bash"ing. Take the common example of "Gay Bashing": Gay Bashing is attacking gay people simply for being gay - it's a manifestation of homophobia. I'm critiquing specific institutional characteristics based on specific personal experiences. I'm not attacking ALL people in museum contexts - after all, I'm one of them & so are many of my friends.

Interestingly, most of the positive feedback that I got after sending out "Statement on What I Value" as an email was from friends who've worked in, or currently work in, museums. They were familiar w/ what I was talking about. Even some of the people I allude to in these stories who're represented unfavorably aren't simple villains - at least 2 of them are highly intelligent people that I actually like - esp, eg, a former director of the Andy Warhol Museum.

BUT THEN THERE ARE PEOPLE LIKE "MESMERIZING"! This person exemplifies the kind of incredible baseness that hides behind a facade of cultural sophistication. I "have been warned"! What are the implied consequences of non-compliance w/ his 'order' that I refrain from criticisms of the museums w/in wch I work?

I quote verbatim from Mesmerizing's last post (in this case under the "Doctors" topic):

"I hope you will die in some quick way. Like getting hit by a car. Like getting stabbed by some jigaboo."

Cd this be interpreted as meaning that "Mesmerizing" might deliberately run me over w/ their car someday when I'm arriving to or leaving from work? I think so. B/c I've dared to criticize some of the goings-on in a museum rightfully known for its open-mindedness, I'm threatened by one of my fellow employees w/ violent death - or, if not directly threatened, at least subjected to the implication that this is what I deserve.

I want to make something clear: this person does not represent some sort of majority opinion. They are insane. & they nurture a profound hatred for me. Why? I almost never see the person at the museum. We don't work together & I might see them once or twice a yr from 100 ft or so away. As far as I can recall, I've never been anything but polite to this person. Therefore, IMO, if this person were to harm me in any way (either physically or by trying to do something to my job) this wd be a hate crime.

Above I refute Mesmerizing's accusation of me of "bashing". To me, writing "I hope you will die in some quick way. Like getting hit by a car. Like getting stabbed by some jigaboo." is bashing. Not to mention racist. & judging by my personal knowledge of this museum worker, their bashing against me is motivated by a hatred of 'my type of person' in much the same way that a Gay Basher wd beat a gay man JUST FOR BEING GAY.

So what will the consequences of "Mesmerizing"'s bashing be? Of their threats? Of their wishing violent death on me? Will any of the people in the museum who know who "Mesmerizing" is fire or confront them for committing such an act? Does the current director of the relevant museum want such a person's behavior to represent museum attitudes & 'ethics'? Or will "Mesmerizing"'s viciousness be secretly OR OVERTLY applauded as my punishment for daring to be outspoken?

Whatever the consequences, "Mesmerizing" is a despicable coward - just like the kind of people who shout "faggot" at people from passing cars.

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