Episode 305 – New Markets for Artists / Ideas Are Needed

Ideas Are Needed

I am not saying you need to be a software developer, but any idea you may have that could change the way we communicate through art can be game changing if you take it seriously. The art world is small compared to something like the world of health care or academia. There is usually very little funding for the arts. Look at a visionary project like Kickstarter.com. That was a game-changing idea. It was simple: make a pitch, give different “rewards” like artwork to investors, and hope you get enough interest to fund your dream.

The New Funding Paradigm

Incredibly, they started in 2009, and as of 2010, they were already the largest funding platform for artists in the world. Kickstarter.com is a wonderful place to go to look for more visionary ideas, and is also a wonderful example of how to creatively build a business that helps artists share their work and raises money for them. Even if you do not con- sider yourself an entrepreneur, you’ve probably had ideas before that you thought could be profitable. Your ideas are not selfish or crass or not possible or long-shots, just look at Kickstarter.com and you’ll see that a good business idea can help everyone.

The Non-Visible Museum / the Kickstarter Project I Did with My Wife

In 2011, my wife and I started an art project called MONA, the Non-Visible Museum of Art. My wife and I do all our work together and the projects are usually high-concept art. For the purposes of this book, the story of how I raised over $10,000 in a week with an online art presentation will be both a course in how social media is used, and a course in the DIY (Do-It-Yourself) movement in art. What I describe may sound unusual or impractical to some, and you might have a hard time imagining how your artwork fits into this model, but you can use it to share your art with the world. Social networking, for all its pros and cons, is at the very least a giant game of show and tell, and as an artist, showing your work and telling a bit about it is what this book is a guide for.

To learn more about Brainard Carey and his services for artists, or to take a class from him, click here.  To join one of his free weekly webinars, click here. To download the workbook mentioned in this series, click here.

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Episode 304 – New Markets for Artists / New Frontiers: The Non-Visible Museum

Chapter 14

New Frontiers: The Non-Visible Museum

New methods of online communication keep emerging, and you can also invent one yourself. The current forms of communication continue to undergo revisions that are often necessary, and we are all challenged to use these updated versions.

Learn the Code

This is a last word on social networks in the Art World’s final frontier; a hyper-complex world of algorithms that determine how we communicate online, changing based on which services we use, or news sources we read. Understanding how new systems are written is the code, like in The Matrix. We must all learn how to speak this new language and adapt along with it if we do not want the systems to rule us. If you are reading this book, you are aware of online social networks and may be using them. They are part of your language now, and that language will be used more and more. I am sure that parts of what I’ve said in this book are dated already because things on the Internet change so fast. There will be new online games, new ways of sharing information, new apps for your smart phone, and much more that will effect how your work is communicated to the public. You can develop a stance on many of these new ideas, such as being a student forever, or being opposed to new forms, or limiting your time on new formats or even being an entrepreneur or pioneer in the field.

Micro-Entrepreneurs

Of course I fall on the side of being a type of entrepreneur, or the path of the Do-It-Yourself artists, but this is wide open territory. A project I did with my wife that describes one new frontier, is coming up. Online business practices are constantly being revised and will most likely continue to do so. That means you are on the frontline as a creative person and an artist with the chance to do something potentially amazing and historic. From creating new applications that can work on smart phones and tablets, to new ways for the millions of online consumers to see and buy your artwork, the way the world connects through the Internet continues to evolve. The people who create these new systems are pioneers because we all want better ways to share and communicate. Ironically, it seems an interactive touchscreen is one of the best ways to accomplish that.

To learn more about Brainard Carey and his services for artists, or to take a class from him, click here.  To join one of his free weekly webinars, click here. To download the workbook mentioned in this series, click here.

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Episode 303 – New Markets for Artists / How the Museum Used the Statement

How the Museum Used the Statement

How the museum uses the statement is also important. In my case, they presented it in catalog text, which provided a way to talk about the work that had some humor, and also explained that the work is about changing the way we feel and how we function. You can see from this example how a curator uses and interprets a statement for their own reasons. This is why it is important to have a piece of writing they can draw from.

The Application Process

Statements also help with your applications. They are often necessary when submitting images to a juried show or for a prize, though in this case, their function is slightly different. Here’s how a jury works, in case you’ve ever wondered. First, all the artist’s work is organized in a projected display that the jury views in a dark room. Generally, there is a moderator in charge of organizing the images and identifying the artist to the jury.

The Jury Waits for You

Before the next artist’s images are projected, the moderator hands out copies of the artist’s application to the jury and verbally introduces the artist, saying something like, “The next artist is X, and I will read his/her statement.” Then the moderator reads the artist’s statement. This is an important scene to visualize and understand because at this moment the jury isn’t looking at the images yet and will be solely focused on the statement. After hearing the statement, the jury will already have a preconceived notion about what they are going to see, and a bias for or against that artist. That is how powerful the statement is in juries.

Your Statement is 90 Percent of the Excitement

Where juries are concerned, it may be better to have no statement at all instead of a mediocre one that risks making a bad first impression. After your statement is read, you want them to feel excited to see your work, not confused about what your art is. Therefore, your statement should be very clear and enticing, the same way the beginning of a good article or book will draw in the reader. If you can elicit a feeling of, “Wow, that sounds beautiful,” or, “That sounds scary and intense, I hope I can handle it!,” you’ve done a good job. You are simply trying to get them to look forward to your images.

To learn more about Brainard Carey and his services for artists, or to take a class from him, click here.  To join one of his free weekly webinars, click here. To download the workbook mentioned in this series, click here.

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Episode 302 – New Markets for Artists / Why My Statement Works

Why That Statement Works

You can probably see what is happening here. Instead of talking about love, we are talking about our systems or bodies, and using terms like shareware and viruses to talk about our art. We are also not saying exactly why we are giving hugs and foot-washings, other than to remove the viruses in other systems. This is, of course, all a way to say we are trying to make the world a happier place one person at a time through hugs and foot-washings.

Myth Making and Being Sincere

This type of statement is similar to Joseph Beuys’s. It is an analogy for how we work. You could write a statement like this no matter what your technique or medium is. Try using other terminology, like gaming slang, or anything else with its own special vocabulary. What is also interesting is that when a curator reads the statement or prints it for an event, they have to put it in their own words. The next section demon- strates how a curator used our statement to explain our work during our show at the Whitney Museum Biennial.

How a Curator Uses the Statement

The curator Debra Singer wrote the following in the museum catalog:

For the three years, Delia Bajo and Brainard Carey, who form the two-person art and performance collaborative, Praxis, have used their storefront East Village studio in New York City to stage weekly afternoon events.  As part of their  New Economy project, this husband-and-wife team has offered every  Saturday a menu of four free services from which visitors and passersby may choose: foot washes, hugs, Band-Aid applications to help heal visible or non-visible wounds, and gifts of one-dollar bills. Using the rhetoric of systems management, Praxis describes itself as a “software development team” that uses the bodies of Bajo and Carey as hosts to test their operating systems. By receiving the benefits of The New Economy Project, participants become a part of Praxis’s performance, and so choose to “download” the “shareware” created by Bajo and Carey, thereby integrating the altruistic spirit of Praxis into their own “systems.” Though Praxis’s language is contemporary, the character of its project draws on strategies from experimental performance art of the 1960s and ‘70s. Through direct, yet intimate interactions with the public, for example, the New Economy project recalls the activities of Fluxus, the radical network of visionary artists who sought to change political, social, as well as aesthetic perception through performances that were often  absurd  and shocking in appearance, yet historically pivotal  at the same time. It also recalls the ideas of the art- ist and influential teacher Joseph Beuys, whose notion of “social sculpture” substituted the traditional understanding of sculpture, and art more generally, as fixed material objects for the definition of ephemeral actions and processes that could transform everyday lives. In analogous ways, Praxis, through their interactive, nurturing performances, offers alternative modes of economic and social exchange that serve as a comforting antidote to the potentially alienating effects of today’s world that is often dominated by technology and consumerism.

To learn more about Brainard Carey and his services for artists, or to take a class from him, click here.  To join one of his free weekly webinars, click here. To download the workbook mentioned in this series, click here.

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Episode 301 – New Markets for Artists / My First Statement

My First Statement

When my wife and I first began working together, our idea was to give out hugs through our storefront in the East Village in New York City. When we applied to shows we also needed an artist statement, and since we had just fallen in love and were using art to share that love, we considered using love or spirituality in the statement. Ultimately though, we decided not to use “love” or “spirituality,” not because they didn’t apply, but because the words are overused, are too nonspecific, and would probably not help the viewer understand what we were doing. Instead, we made up an analogy, using the language of software developers, which served our purpose. Here is the statement my wife and I wrote about our art work which involved giving out hugs and washing feet, in the third person:

Manifesto/Statement of Praxis

Praxis Software Development Team

Similar to the synapses occurring throughout our brains, the spaces between the neurons where nerve impulses are transmitted, the software team creates the synthetic equivalent of the chemical substance serotonin, which bridges those gaps. It is the mechanism that creates the spark and connection that lets us log-on, so to speak, with our limbs and higher functions. It is not the acts or performances that are central, but the software that is created by the practice and ongoing quality of the documented exchanges. The software that they manufacture is designed to make new paths for our own hardwired hardware within our systems which seek additional programming for smoother, faster, and more elegant operation.

Software Development

Designing a new operating system; Praxis OS 33.1

Through weekly demonstrations at the Tenth Street Studio, the software is revealed, so that others can download the shareware or integrate the program into their own operating systems, which is the well-known and popular central nervous system. Once it has been installed successfully, it quickly becomes a beneficial virus that multiplies and begins an overhaul of current systems creating a new parallel operating system within the old one, which is more flexible and can share information with enhanced ability. As a software development team, they use their own systems as experimental guides when inventing or altering their new OS. Developers Bajo and Carey found, through connecting their systems, a new virus-like activity which was beneficial to both systems, and soon they began deleting all other programming that previously assisted them, such as dairy products, alcohol, tobacco, drugs and caffeine. Their goal is to create an OS that will rival Windows or Mac X. This new system is built on a more organic model that incorporates artificial intelligence into our systems which, combined with the original and genuine model, creates a performance that runs extremely smooth with little or no crashes, and only a few bugs. When fully engaged, this OS will act as a fast igniter and stimulator so the human CNS will have an easier time encountering other systems with various programs and viruses that sometimes makes exchanges of information awkward, violent, and prone to crashes and disappointment. With Praxis OS 33.1, crashes are welcome, and in most cases, automatically self-repairing. As this new OS replicates itself all over the world, centers will be set up where new and old users can update, download, and log on.

 

To learn more about Brainard Carey and his services for artists, or to take a class from him, click here.  To join one of his free weekly webinars, click here. To download the workbook mentioned in this series, click here.

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Episode 300 – New Markets for Artists / Survival and Trauma

Survival and Trauma

As an artist, Beuys often used materials like felt and animal fat. To interpret what he was trying to say with his work was not easy,  but after reading this story, stacks of felt, a chair with animal fat, and a sled, suddenly have a very clear meaning about life, death, and the experience of being saved. Looking back at his career and life, we can see he was actually creating a sort of mythology around who he was. That would not be very interesting if he wasn’t also doing work that challenged our sensibilities and made us think.

What Will You Write?

Your artist statement could be like either of the ones I just mentioned, or it could be something completely different. The main thing to keep in mind is that it must be easy to understand and exciting. If your writing skills aren’t great, you would be wise to have a writer help you. Even writers need editors to help them present their ideas in the best way possible, so if you want a good statement and are struggling on your own, ask for help. Have a writer read this chapter and then discuss different possibilities with them. It is very important to have a great statement because, as a former gallery owner, I have seen how this first impression can make or break an artist’s proposal.

To learn more about Brainard Carey and his services for artists, or to take a class from him, click here.  To join one of his free weekly webinars, click here. To download the workbook mentioned in this series, click here.

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Episode 299 – New Markets for Artists / Write with Intrigue and Mystery

Write with Intrigue and Mystery

Here is a statement by artist Joseph Beuys:

Had it not been for the Tartars I would not be alive today. They were the nomads of the Crimea, in what was then no man’s land between the Russian and German fronts, and favored neither side. I had already struck up a good relationship with them, and often wandered off to sit with them. ‘Du nix njemcky’ they would say, ‘du Tartar,’ and try to persuade me to join their clan. Their nomadic ways attracted me of course, although by that time their movements had been restricted.  Yet it was they who discovered me in the snow after the crash, when the German search parties had given up. I was still unconscious then and only came round completely after twelve days or so, and by then I was back in a German field hospital. So the memories I have of that time are images that penetrated my consciousness. The last thing I remember was that it was too late to jump, too late for the parachutes to open. That must have been a couple of seconds before hitting the ground.  Luckily,  I was not strapped in – I always preferred free movement to safety belts . . . My friend was strapped in and he was atomized on impact—there was almost nothing to be found of him afterwards. But I must have shot through the wind- screen as it flew back at the same speed as the plane hit the ground, and that saved me, though I had bad skull and jaw injuries. Then the tail flipped over and I was completely buried in the snow. That’s how the Tartars found me days later. I remember voices saying ‘Voda’ (Water), then the felt of their tents, and the dense pungent smell of cheese, fat and milk. They covered my body in fat to help it regenerate warmth, and wrapped it in felt as an insulator to keep warmth in.

—Joseph Beuys

Why Is That a Good Statement?

The first sentence is about life and death. When I read the statement aloud during lectures, there are usually audible gasps when I read the part about the copilot being atomized on impact. Current research says that the copilot actually lived, and there were no Tartars in the region at that time, but in a dramatic piece of writing like this, no one is interested in the truth, they want to be entertained. Notice also, how the artist doesn’t describe the art itself. The story stands on its own as a memorable narrative about a transformative experience.

To learn more about Brainard Carey and his services for artists, or to take a class from him, click here.  To join one of his free weekly webinars, click here. To download the workbook mentioned in this series, click here.

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Episode 298 – New Markets for Artists / Write with Humor

Write with Humor

There is another artist whose statement I read recently, a Brooklynite named William Powhida. His work is often very political and narrative, and he pokes fun at the art world by pointing out hypocrisy and art scandals similar to insider trading. He is an artist and art critic at the same time. He recently had a print for sale on the website 20×200, a place where artists can sell prints. When artists submit their work, it must be accompanied by a short statement as well. The print he was selling had the word “fuck” written in different styles and colors all over it, maybe 200 times. His artist statement read: “It would make a good shower curtain too.” His sense of humor, like Marlene Dumas’, is refreshing.

Reading Is Different Now

We are living in an age where people scan the Internet. Unlike traditional reading, people tend to scan Internet pages quick- ly, looking for pertinent information and facts, and then move on. Your online artist statement has to be either very brief and memorable, or an extremely compelling story (whether it is fact or fiction does not matter). But like a good article or novel, the first sentence should pull the reader in.

To learn more about Brainard Carey and his services for artists, or to take a class from him, click here.  To join one of his free weekly webinars, click here. To download the workbook mentioned in this series, click here.

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Episode 297 – New Markets for Artists / Write Less, Write Sincerely

Write Less, Write Sincerely

Many artists think their statement has to be a manifesto of some kind, or a grand declaration about their work, but that is not the case. One of the best-selling artists in the world is Marlene Dumas, a contemporary painter whose work is mostly figurative. Much has been written about her work and what it means. Her well-known artist’s statement is very simple: “I paint because I am a dirty woman.” It is a wonderful statement because she is showing a sense of humor and also being slightly erotic. If you saw her images and liked them, you might read her statement and smile a bit, but it would probably not turn you off. If I were evaluating her work and read that statement, I would think she has a sense of humor and might be fun to talk with. The work itself shows how serious she is, and the statement shows her wit and hints at her personality without feeling arrogant or pretentious. However, her statement is actually much longer, closer to a poem and that was just one line in one of the most powerful statements I have ever read. The statement in its entirety is below.

Woman and painting

By Marlene Dumas, painter

I paint because I am a woman. (It’s a logical necessity.)

If painting is female and insanity is a female malady, then all women painters are mad and all male painters are women.

I paint because I am an artificial blonde woman. (Brunettes have no excuse.)

If all good painting is about color then bad painting is about having the wrong color. But bad things can be good excuses. As Sharon Stone said,  “Being blonde is a great excuse. When you’re having a bad day you can say, I can’t help it, I’m just feeling very blonde today.”

I paint because I am a country girl. (Clever, talented big-city girls don’t paint.)

I grew up on a wine farm in Southern Africa. When I was a child I drew bikini girls for male guests on the back of their cigarette packs. Now I am a mother and I live in another place that reminds me a lot of a farm – Amsterdam. (It’s a good place for painters.) Come to think about it, I’m still busy with those types of images and imagination.

I paint because I am a religious woman. (I believe in eternity.)

Painting doesn’t freeze time. It circulates and recycles time like a wheel that turns. Those who were first might well be last. Painting is a very slow art. It doesn’t travel with the speed of light. That’s why dead painters shine so bright. It’s okay to be the second sex. It’s okay to be second best. Painting is not a progressive activity.

I paint because I am an old-fashioned woman. (I believe in witchcraft.)

I don’t have Freudian hang-ups. A brush does not remind me of a phallic symbol. If anything, the domestic aspect of a painter’s studio (being “locked up” in a room) reminds me a bit of the housewife with her broom. If you’re a witch you will still know how to use it. Otherwise it is obvious that you’ll prefer the vacuum cleaner.

I paint because I am a dirty woman. (Painting is a messy business.)

It cannot ever be a pure conceptual medium. The more “conceptual” or cleaner the art, the more the head can be separated from the body, and the more the labor can be done by others. Painting is the only manual labor I do.

I paint because I like to be bought and sold. Painting is about the trace of the human touch. It is about the skin of a surface. A painting is not a postcard. The content of a painting cannot be separated from the feel of its surface. Therefore, in spite of every- thing, Cézanne is more than vegetation and Picasso is more than an anus and Matisse is not a pimp.

—Marlene Dumas 1993

To learn more about Brainard Carey and his services for artists, or to take a class from him, click here.  To join one of his free weekly webinars, click here. To download the workbook mentioned in this series, click here.

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Episode 296 – New Markets for Artists / The Artist Statement

Chapter 13

The Artist Statement

It is necessary for you to have a biography and personal statement for your applications, but there are ways around the form’s rigid structures so you can write something truer to your own voice that is easier to understand.

Artist Statements

Artist statements are perhaps the biggest stumbling block, and one of the most misunderstood pieces of writing. I owned a gallery for several years and received a lot of letters from artists with images and artist statements. I am, and presumably, so are most people in this business, a visual person, and when I got materials that looked good to me—in other words, that the images were compelling somehow—I was excited. However, many artists lost my interest with poorly written artist statements. When I see art, I know if I am attracted to it or not. I may not know why, but like anyone, I can point and say, “I like that one the best.” It is hard for people to put into words. The cliché is that a picture is worth a thousand words, and I think it is probably more than that. There are so many responses we have to an image on a conscious and unconscious level that it can be almost impossible to understand all the reasons we are attracted to it. So when an artist’s statement tries to explain an image, it can be like artlessly explaining a poem, which removes all its beauty.

Bad Statements Can Be an Artist’s Undoing

When I was a gallery director, I noticed that many times after reading an artist’s statement, the work that I was initially attracted to was no longer appealing. I remember one statement from an abstract painter who described his work as “lyrical abstract surrealism.” It was an awkward phrase, and the statement about how he was creating a new genre was even worse. He would have been better off saying nothing. Although I liked the work, I decided not to show it or continue the correspondence because I didn’t think I would enjoy talking to this artist whose statement was pretentious and unnecessary.

To learn more about Brainard Carey and his services for artists, or to take a class from him, click here.  To join one of his free weekly webinars, click here. To download the workbook mentioned in this series, click here.

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