Darker Days

#1

The journey of horror started even before she made it to the present. As soon as she gained consciousness again she felt this familiar uneasiness all over her body. “I am awake”, she thought and did not dare to open her eyes. Neither did she want to see the light of the fresh day nor read the time on her clock. An entire day of utter terror is ahead of her so unmerciful and cruel that she wished to fall into ashes.

She cried.

Everything is falling apart – at least this is what she felt right now. The very ground she is standing on, her warm space of comfort and safety, her will and strength. The pillars that have been supporting her for the last days are britteling away. Raw anxiety carved its way deep into her bones, paralyzing the muscles and chain her to the bed. If only her mind would have been paralyzed as well. No, she was awake and this fact scared her the most.

The whispering had made it back into her skull and becomes clearer with every minute she is clear. It rips up her memories she clings on into pieces while she can do nothing but watch. Gone. The world lied in flames in front of her, burning the last shreds that once were her retreat, her safe haven. There is no place left where she could hide from her own existence and the vast horror of her meaningless life became clear in the most brutal way.

She did not beg for mercy because she knew there is none for people like her. Each and every bit of pain she feels in this moment is justified. She deserved it. Her teeth were clenched together and the only sound that made it through her throat was a frail groan. Nobody had to explain to her why she has to endure this right now, she understood very well. While burning tears are running down her cheeks, she caught herself on wishing the old wishes again. A bullet penetrating her skull by force, scattering the layer of bones until it reaches the soft brain. She imagined how the bullet breaks its way out again painting a mural of vibrant red on the sidewalk. Her head would crush on the concrete, dragged down by gravity and her mind would finally be calm.  She seriously honestly did not want to wish for it but this is what happened right now. These ideas and thoughts scare her but there is no escape, no way to avoid the confrontation. She is facing herself and what she sees is frightening her so much.

That piece of shit is trolling

Arguments, discussion, different opinions, negotiations. All these things are part of our lives and while they can be exhausting and heated they do enrich our personal point of you as well. What we take from these encounters is usually depending on our own mindset. While I am able to apply the teachings of mindfulness for most of the time you should not deny one thing: there are some people who just want to piss you off. For real.

I am not talking about an ignorant question or the lack of ambition to inform yourself. It might be annoying but I am not upset by it. I am talking about straight up dipshits who fucking shit talk right in front of your face and wait for your reaction. Hoping they can start a vicious circle where the two of you can piss each other back until somebody starts tearing up and one stand triumphantly enjoying the victory. That dear reader is the point where I lose it and forget my mindfulness and zen. These people came to the wrong neighbourhood. I won’t be the one tearing up.

As a matter of fact, I have to say that I am simply not there yet to overcome my anger and investing some serious time to open a dialogue with a person who openly wants to upset me, in order to find a reason for his/her terrible attitude. Not there yet, working on it. So far my most convenient strategy was to explain that person very calm and clear that if he/she pisses me off, I will fuck them up big times. It usually sends the signal that their current behaviour is not ok.

That might be kind of (but in fact not really) acceptable in your private space. While at work and in any other situation in public space I was semi-forced to find a way to handle these people differently. Trust me it is hard and in my eyes less efficient, but I need to pay my rent. Here are 4 methods how not to enter the spiral of insulting each other and giving the troll what it wants.

Repeat their shit

Repeat very detailed what they just said as if you want to make sure that you got everything right. End the summary with the rhetorical question if this is their serious opinion/ proposal/ question.

Expose their shit

I usually experience these encounters when I am in public or with a group of friends. When I repeat their shit I make sure others hear it and are aware of the crap that is going on. Well, it only works if you have the feeling the environment is in your favour and generally sharing your point of views.

Question their shit

What is their damn point? Ask them what they expect from such a statement.  Point out the contradictions and explain where the bullshit lies within. Most contradictions I encounter are

  • expressing an opinion but not accepting the opinion of others
  • asking for tolerance by insulting others
  • potentially opening a conversation by being disrespectful

Explain why their shit is shit

Make perfectly transparent why you think the statement was shit. Whether it is racist, sexist or simply uncalled for because the person is crossing a line. Express the impression that you – emphasize on the fact that it’s your subjective opinion only – have from that encounter.

Make them understand that you know exactly what they are trying to do right now and why your refusal of dealing with this crap has nothing to do with being anti-social or a coward. It’s just the fact that there has never been an honest intention of conversation, to begin with.

Uh no, being an artist does not mean you can behave like shit.

Breaking news, I know.

After a recent incident, I felt like writing this text. Continuing with the theme of demystifying the art realm I would like to phrase this very clearly:

Artists are no gods and should be held accountable for their shit.

To start this serious topic in a fun way let’s have a look at this ranking from the Ranker with the accurate headline: Artist Who Were Bad People.

It might be rooted in the fact that I study at an art school and work with artists myself that I do not see them as sacred creatures who deserve to be worshipped. Of course, I admire art and I am very able to separate my appreciation of the actual art piece and my opinion on the artist. It is not one and the same thing. An online article that is describing very well this difference between piece and person written by Charles MacGrath and published in the New York Times carrying the suiting headliner: Good Art, Bad People.

That being said, artists are able to do bad things and as MacGrath asks in his article: “Why should artists be any better than the rest of us?”

The fact that people create art should not excuse their (crap) behaviour. Neither should admirers of art that nor should artists themselves think that. However, during my time at the art university, I sadly do experience the opposite.

For many people involved in the art scene the end does indeed justify the means. “But I am an artist” is a phrase I have heard a lot. Sometimes it is used as an explanation for whatever fuckery just happened and sometimes it is some kind of legitimation for some fuckery that is supposed to come. I mean… wtf.
The idea of writing this text occurred to me when I witnessed an artist yelling at a lady at the museums. The latter refused to acknowledge the artist’s press card because it was not following the guidelines. In reply to that, the artist started shouting that “she is an established artist performing at the Berlin Biennale and that she always gets into museums for free”. The people who overheard the fact that she is an artist were looking at her awestruck as if it excused anything. At that moment I did not really care if that statement was true or not. (It is true though) She could have been Andrea Fraser herself and it would still be not okay to show up somewhere and behave as aggressive as she does now.

Since I am not an established artist myself I like to compare them to the mentors at my school. Would Hito Steyerl behave that way? Would Olafur Eliasson? What would have been their reaction when they would have been there? Is it even relevant to be an artist yourself in order to criticise one?

“I am a well-established artist performing at the Venice Biennale and I pay for my ticket because that’s what people do.” ?

Artists might do think and work differently but so do mechanical engineers and doctors. Do we grant them extra treatments? Correct me if I am wrong but I don’t think that’s a thing.

To come back to the linked articles: After the incident, I researched on that artist and she did indeed perform at the Berlin Biennale on several occasions and her work is indeed fascinating. Would I see her show? Probably. Does this make her behaviour any less terrible? No, it won’t.

 

Not my friends

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I do love my friends with all my heart and I am usually excited to meet their friends as well. For most of the time I get along with them very very well and it enriches me on many levels. I tend to believe that interesting people enjoy each others company.
However, this is not always the case. On very rare occasions I get reminded that disappointments come in all shapes.

While I do value my friend’s company hanging out with their crowd can be a pain in the ass – for different reasons. Not having the option of simply leaving or avoiding interaction with people you are not connecting with sucks balls. You are forced to deal with the situation and being forced is something I hate.
Embracing these situations is a lesson I had to learn after being extremely rude and anti-social at several events. Apparently taking your book and sitting on the balcony all by yourself while everyone is playing games is not the most respectful way.

  1. Realize that there is something good in these people even though all you can see is a disappointing existence. Find it and focus on it.
  2. Remind yourself that it’s not about you but about your friend. It’s their day and this is why you are here in the first place.
  3. Find the most interesting person and try talk with them.
  4. Find a safe place where you can retreat when shit gets too much in order to rant with your other friends. Make an exit plan if needed.

Be honest

I won’t lie here: I have very high standards when it comes to my environment. My time is simply too precious to be wasted on people I don’t like. In the past, I had several situations where I realized that my friends are hanging out with people I am not connecting with and it is very hard to say: “Sorry, but I don’t like your friends.” Being nice has nothing to do with faking affection. There is no need on lying to your friends and it should be in your and your friends’ interest to have a foundation of honesty and trust. Use kind words to explain them, that you don’t enjoy being around these people while underlining that you are happy that your friend is happy with them.

However sometimes nice words are not doing their job and your friend might feel offended or hurt because their peer group is not good enough. Well, that sucks because their friends are indeed not good enough but they should kind of get over it and stop inviting you to their crap sit-ins or bring them to your parties.

I usually say that I am sorry because I truly am. I wish these people would be less disappointing, but here we are. What should we do? If your friendship is strong you will find a way and get over it. If not and your friend keeps pushing these people on you well knowing that you don’t like them: Is that person really your friend?

I take selfies in museums. Sue me.

After additional reflection on the entire question of “how to appreciate art the right way” I came to the conclusion that there is nothing wrong with selfies taken within the exhibition space.

I get it. I understand that it must seem odd how some museum visitors see the act of taking pictures of the art as more important than looking at the actual art piece. As mentioned in this former post I disagree on saying there is only one true way to experience art. Today I want to discuss the potential benefits of pictures taken within an art show.

First of all I want to state that I hate the idea of art as something sacred and holy that you are not allowed to handle with normal manner. There is no choir singing in the background while I look at art and I do not have to wait until a rush of emotions is running through my mortal body because I just have been struck with a divine god given enlightenment. Calm down crazy.

Along with the critique of the – as often called – unworthy or wrong visitor comes also the critique on technology as well. Cell phones and social media are supposed to be the reason why people spent less time looking at art. An article on artsy by Isaac Kaplan from 2017 discusses the question if cell phones had an impact on how long people look at art.

These results suggest that cell phones haven’t changed the amount of time people spend in front of art that drastically. The big difference the study found was the birth of selfies—or “arties,” selfies taken with artworks, […] Two people were taking so many “arties” that they had to be excluded from the study, because they weren’t even looking at the art.

So does the act of taking selfies decrease the overall art experience? Not necessarily. If you are not like the two people who didn’t look at the piece at all, it is fine. Kaplan mentions in his article two studies by Lisa F. Smith and Jeffrey K. Smith who came to a similar conclusion: The average time spent in front of artwork was less than one minute. If you don’t live in New York and have the rare opportunity to visit the MoMA you obviously want to see as many pieces as possible instead of sitting awestruck in front of a few. Also, your body has its limit and spending 6h in a museum is tough.

That said I want to come back to selfies/arties. The fact that somebody did take a selfie in the exhibition space does not tell you how much time that person spent looking at the art. Also spending less time in front of art does not mean less appreciation either. There is no evidence to that –  apart from your personal judgemental position. As long as there is no photo prohibition there is nothing wrong with taking selfies.

I also dare to say that selfies or even #ootd in museums are a good thing. In a time where social media and influencers are big players in marketing, you have to admit that any uploaded picture is free advertisement for the artist/museum/gallery/show. It is no breaking news that many well-established institutions do struggle financially despite their high-quality art collection and I think whoever cares for museums should be thankful that these houses can pay their guards.

Promoting art institutions as an influencer is an idea that I like a lot. Art is for me, not some God-given miracle and as long as nobody violates any rules or laws I don’t see it too problematic. The expectation that you should be able to talk about art in some phoney way or need a certain level of intellect to enjoy a museum the right way is a.) pretentious and b.) excluding a lot of people. And this is a problem because art is no privilege for the elite.

Dealing respectfully with a piece of work does not mean that you are unable to use it for your own purposes – meaning I will take pictures of it as an addition for my own body of work or use it to make a point. It is needless to say that art experience in our time is not solely visual anymore. Just to name a few: Erwin Wurm, Tino Sehgal, Andrea Fraser, Pierre Huyghe and also Signe Pierce are all artists who work with pieces that demand more from the visitor. Taking selfies or pictures in general by yourself is a way experience art as well and maybe even better than solemnly stare at a piece forever.

Say Cheeeeese!