Archive for the Overcoming Artistic Failure Category

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A Tijuana tourist prop, the donkey cart is a bizarre symbol of tourist border culture.  In the photos produced, tourists pose with live donkeys painted with zebra stripes, wearing hats that read things like “Cisco kid”, “caramba” and “drunk again”.  As a mixed child (Chicana and white), I interacted with the donkey carts while traveling in Mexico with my father.  The carts evoke memories of feeling out of place.  On one of our trips to Mexico a cruise ship docked in a town we were visiting and tourists from the ship disembarked. Several of them began to take my photograph.  At the time I was unable to articulate or comprehend what was happening and my feelings about it.  In retrospect this is an example of something that has happened often and always made me feel ill at ease.   I unintentionally raised the question of authenticity by being made in to a token and providing the perfect vacation photo, a little “Mexican” girl on display.  In the moment of confusion filled with assumptions over identity and representation I felt voiceless.  The Donkey cart mimics my experience of tokenization by appearing as a supposedly genuine artifact, one that tourists are allowed to read as a simple truth rather than a complex reflection of historical relationships between tourist and Tijuanenses.  Objects like the donkey cart exist for the purposes of entertainment and commerce in the tourist market.  But who is the joke on?  The tourist who is willing to pay for a photo on the donkey/zebra wearing a hat that reads “drunk-ass” or is it the person who pushes the cart, offering an exploitive misrepresentation of them selves.  For whose pleasure and at who’s expense are these images?

Through work with my own donkey cart I challenge these failed representations of human identity and culture in an attempt to salvage power and voice from what feels like a forced identification with a false identity.  In the Tijuana tourist tradition I invite the public to be photographed riding a fake donkey with the misplaced paraphernalia and signage of their choice.  The participants are prompted to mislabel them selves according to past experience of being misidentified.  The tensions that exist in my fascination with problematic symbols such as the donkey cart are teased out in a playful manner during the process of image production.  The donkey cart contributes to demeaning and lasting stereotypes about Mexicans, dumb, dirty and drunk. Yet I feel compelled to love and joyfully engage with these objects and challenge their message at the same time.  The donkey cart posses a tremendous potential to expose its own lies and absurdity.

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I stand on a platform. It’s not very tall, about two feet high. I look at you. You are standing on the ground, looking up at me. I am much taller than you. I have a physical advantage over you, I feel stronger than you. I could easily pin you to the ground, if I jumped. I can take you. I look down at you and I have power over you. I am looking at you. Pause. I begin to feel that it may be the other way around: you are looking at me. You are demanding that I give you something. I feel an expectation to perform. I am standing up here, taller, looking at you, and you expect me to use this position I have over you to do something for you. I am up on a platform, the object of your gaze. I feel vulnerable in my extreme visibility. I get stage fright, in French, “le trac,” which comes from the word “tracas,” hassle, trouble. I am unsettled and self-conscious: I did not come here to perform, I am not prepared. I have nothing to say. I look down at my feet. I look beyond my feet and to the ground. It is further away from me than usual; if I fall, I’ll fall two extra feet than when I stand on the ground. Thinking about this gives me vertigo, I feel like I am falling. I look up. I look beyond you, to where my taller perspective does not affect my balance. I pretend you are not here, my unwelcome audience. I look at the landscape. From up here, I can see things I usually can’t. This vantage point is better than the ground’s, from here I can see above the bushes and into that window. From here I can see better than you can.

I am standing on the ground, looking up at you. You are standing on a platform. You are looking down at me. I am smaller than you are; you are taller than I am. I am lower, I am below, I am inferior. I am looking at you and I am quiet. I wait for your word, for your action, for you to show me what you are up there to show me. I expect that you will start at any second, so I stop everything I am doing to pay attention to you. I prepare myself to absorb what you have to show me. I prepare: I keep my eyes open, focused on you, my thoughts waiting to hold your performance. I also prepare to judge your performance. I will like it, or I won’t. I prepare my rotten tomatoes, in case I dislike what you show me. I feel powerful in my position as your audience, having the agency to accept or reject you. I look up at you and meet your gaze. Your physical advantage is obvious. I fear I must like you, whatever you do, or else you might take me down if I express my disagreement. You are taller than I am. Your feet are close to my face. I look at my feet, sturdy on the ground. I look back up at you. I imagine you falling, I imagine breaking your fall with my body. I see the movement in slow motion and feel vertigo; what if I trip before I catch you? I imagine you’ve fallen off the platform. I imagine myself climbing up. I imagine standing on the platform. Pause. You are still standing on the platform and I am looking at your face. I see you are looking behind me, at something far away. I turn around to look where you are looking. I am too short to see what you see.

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Hélène Schlumberger was born in France and lives and works in the United States. She is currently a Master of Fine Arts in Social Practice candidate at the California College of the Arts. Helene is interested in sculpture as a tool. Her experience of social displacement informs works that deal with translation and the bridging of human connectivity over physical distance. Her sculptural works, sometimes interactive and sometimes reliant on visual metaphors, are often made in common building materials, and many are like stages anticipating their performers; their potential is realized when people use and activate them.

From Where I Stand is a series of objects Hélène has photographed because of their potential use as platforms. The text focuses on the physical interaction two people might have with these platforms. This iteration of the project is an excerpt from a larger series of images.

The third final project by a student in Jeanne Finley’s class on failure is by Erik Madsen. In the original project proposal, the artist intended to document “my successes and failures in my attempts to make contact with certain galleries or organizations as well as send work to a juried competition.”

Erik Madsen’s Failure class statement:

As a part of the Graduate Seminar “Failure” at CCA we were to propose a public presentation of our work as well as exhibit at a some point during the semester. I proposed three different venues where I believed I could have the opportunity to exhibit work. My first FAILURE came when I had failed to read the fine print for the Musee Hamaguchi competition, which stated that March 16th, 2009 was the due date of a mail in registration form — even though in very large text it had read July 22, 2009 as the due date to receive the materials for the jurying process. My second proposal was to exhibit one of my large film scrolls at Artist Television Access, second FAILURE came when I decided to wait and submit a short video/film for their 4th Annual Film Festival due May 29, 2009 which is a failure because it will take place outside the context of the assignment. Much of my energy has been in wrestling with digital technology (namely Final Cut Pro) after telecining my 35mm experimental film to mini dv. My third FAILURE comes from basically bitting off more that I could chew — I have not yet submitted work to the Donna Seager Gallery as of yet ( itʼs been a busy semester with Reviews and all), and still need to document the work I will be submitting- and this will also happen after the course has ended.

My initial impetus in proposing these three potential exhibition was to stretch myself and to make this class more challenging — as I already was going to have two exhibitions during the span of the course as well as one other exhibition that I had entered after the term began. So my methodology was to flirt with FAILURE and to challenge myself to think (critically) about where I could show- as well as where I would like to show in a practical sense.

Despite all this FAILURE there has been some successes during the semester. I successfully have exhibited in three shows this year- Painterly Prints at the Santa Clara University Department of Art and Art History Gallery, Illusion Helps at Orange Alley Project, San Francisco, CA, and ArtRead at the Oliver Art Center, CCA campus Oakland, CA.

This class called FAILURE was indeed not a FAILURE, but an amazing journey that all six of us undertook against all odds and at one point there was speculation of the course being cancelled. In fact it was an email about its potential cancellation that alerted me towards this class and I’m grateful because there was no doubt that I would have seen some FAILURE if I would have remained in what would have been my second theory class. Some would have thought that I being the only male in the class would have been a FAILURE, or that none of us is a media student or that two of us were second year grads with their thesis and thesis shows hovering above them. I thought maybe going on our field trip to Mont Tamalpais with Gregory Gavin with less than a week before my review was courting FAILURE and in fact I was contemplating not participating. The trip was great and I believe that it was a major part of my SUCCESS in my review as well as getting me to relax and being more open to taking risks and not worrying about the FAILURE of not passing my review or all the baggage I associate with FAILURE or being a FAILURE. This class (all six of us) I believe has benefited from the process of discussing,acknowledging, as well as facing and overcoming FAILURE. And it is through that process that has made this class about FAILURE a SUCCESS.




Exhibitions of Erik Madsen’s work:

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A print exhibition focusing upon the painterly print (monotype, monoprint, hand manipulated print..) Overall a very nice show where three different attitudes towards print are displayed fairly successfully and was probably a great complement to Kathryn Kain’s beginning printmaking class at SCU. I think the intention to exhibit work that incorporates both painterly and printmaking concerns was successful, I believe that the only failure in this whole process was that the postcards were not printed until the day of the opening, which may have hampered the opening reception a tad bit, but other than that I felt that the students, faculty and the public responded quite positively to the exhibition. We also got a small write up in the online art publication ARTSHIFT San
Jose.

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Illusion Helps was an exhibition that was part of the graduate seminar Painting Focus with James Gobel. The idea was to have an exhibit that used some of our material that we used both for our class catalog as well as our marginal poetics presentations (ideas and concerns that are on the periphery of our studio practices). So the concept for the how was to plaster (what I thought was floor to ceiling) the walls with xeroxes of some of our source materials which I guess was supposed to serve as a type of unifier between so many different styles of work. Overall the experience was great but I think the failure in the exhibition was that the idea of the xeroxes being “pasted” was undermined and the overall aesthetic came across a little under realised and fragmented. The response the the exhibit was fairly positive and was a productive avenue for creating positive camaraderie amongst the CCA grads as well as an interesting venue to get my feet wet in terms of exhibition spaces in San Francisco.

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ArtRead was an exhibition I entered as a means to promote the printmaking department as well as to create a dialog with some of the Print Faculty as well as the undergrads. I had two books Paper Knife (an accordion style) and Present Tense (a case bound style) accepted, both were comprised of lithographic images accompanied by text of some sort. I volunteered with helping to prepare the exhibition space during which I had the honor to converse with fellow print students and faculty as well as having the honor of meeting Betsy Davids, who is in my mind one of the most knowledgeable people in the area of bookbinding and book arts today. So overall this exhibition was a success in that had the opportunity to engage with people I haven’t met or rarely see due to the schizophrenic nature of the school and I took part as a grad student in promoting print and bookbinding.

The second final project by a student in Jeanne Finley’s class on failure is by Zina Al-Shukri. The original project proposal mentioned the intention of mounting a group studio exhibition of drawings and watercolors called What Happens Here Stays Here.

Here are images from the exhibition:

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As the TC Daily Planet just announced a few hours ago, the Visual Art Critics Union of Minnesota (or VACUM), a group I founded in 2002 (and led until 2005), has just announced it is disbanding.

For a sense of the history VACUM, as well as some insight into my feelings on its accomplishments, posted below is the letter I wrote to the group on reading the announcement.

Dear (now soon-to-be-ex-)VACUMers,

As this group’s original (some might say evil) step-parent, its namer, logo-maker, and its erstwhile co-founder (along with Jennifer Amie), I thought it might be appropriate at this point to say a few words of retrospection about it.

In 2002, after kicking around a few curatorial project ideas with several working critics in town, Jennifer and I took the plunge of calling as many visual arts writers as we could find at the time to the conference room of the Bell Museum, where she worked, on an unseasonably warm February weekend afternoon. Making a point of excluding no one and remaining open to everyone’s ideas, our intent was to investigate creating a critical cooperative of some sort, a banding together and pooling of resources and information that might help foster critical activity in town and act as a representative body for all critics. All in attendance seemed somewhat jazzed about these ideas, and some brought their own ideas, so we agreed to meet again and in time a group was formed.

The idea to start a critic’s association had been on my mind for several months in late 2001 and early 2002, during which I talked to similar groups (like CACA in Chicago and AICA in NY) and I searched my conscience to be sure I really wanted to take on such a chore. I recall sitting with Jennifer over a winter dinner, explaining my reluctance to add any more work to my busy schedule — because I assumed (correctly) that the bulk of the org’s work would fall on its nominal leader and also I assumed (again correctly) that that leader would probably be reluctant me. But, sure the cause was worthy, I assuaged my fears by making Jennifer promise that if we did this thing she would stick with it as co-leader/organizer (or whatever) and not abandon me. Jennifer lasted for about a year’s worth of meetings before she stopped attending and eventually gave up writing for publication.

Of the ten or twelve people who attended the meeting, fully half have fallen away through the years. Some have moved on to other towns. Some have given up writing. Some I’ve lost track of. Other people have come and used the group as they’ve needed to, then stayed or gone off to other things. A few rare others have stuck around through the lean and in-between, right up to the very end.

At its peak, real membership in the group (as opposed to the Yahoo group count) has hovered just above thirty, though meetings have never seemed to grow beyond the number of attendees at the first meeting. I myself gave up the leadership position of VACUM (I ended up disliking the term “president,” since we never had any formal standing as a body), in the spring of 2005. I was burned out and ready to become emeritus, though, because I truly cared about our efforts and about members of the group, I had to use the pretext of a move to Pittsburgh to extract myself.

In its first three-plus years, as was stated in the final meeting’s minutes, VACUM was remarkably successful. We gave each other mutual support; we mentored a number of young writers; we shared clips and critical information; and we met and mingled with artist groups in town (who, it turns out, were always happy to meet an organized group of critics). Then there were the programs we created from nothing and with nothing more than our collective effort. Sometime after the first year, we set up a lasting relationship with the MAEP through the “Trialogue” program of lectures on each of their shows. A year or so after that, we established the VACUM Attachment in the Rain Taxi. Further, it has also been suggested that VACUM’s greatest role has been providing connection and friendship between critics, who were formally not known for their tendency to mingle with each other. Significant relationships and passing dalliances, important mentorships and ongoing partnerships (as well as the opposite of each of these) are all part of VACUM’s legacy.

What I recognize now about VACUM is it came about during, and contributed to, a golden age of criticism in the Twin Cities. To list some examples of this: At the time of its founding and during its early years, Mason Riddle and Thomas O’Sullivan (two VAC-members) wrote art reviews as stringers for the Pioneer Press, and Judy Arginteanu (another member, though one who’s never attended a meeting as far as I know) and Matt Peiken (FoV) published regular art features for the paper. The Star Tribune of course had, and likely always will have, Mary Abbe, but it also published, back then, reviews by early VACUM member Doug Hanson. MPR had a weekly arts magazine with three dedicated arts reporters: FoVs Marianne Combs and Euan Kerr, as well as Chris Roberts. The City Pages regularly used to publish lengthy pieces on visual art (hard to believe, I know)—including reviews, features, and investigative reports by me, Patricia Briggs, and several other writers. Jennifer Amie wrote a regular column reviewing art shows on Mpls-St. Paul’s website. The Daily Minnesotan still had its vaunted weekly A&E section, and some alumni became VACUM members. The Pulse of the Twin Cities published, every single week, short art reviews by VACUM’s Valerie Valentine and by other writers. South Side Pride published pieces by VACUM’s Clea Felien, and the odd newsprint publication (Skyway News, etc) published the random arts writer, some of whom entered orbit around VACUM. Of course, there were also a constant cycle of well-meaning, short-lived, one-name publications — Object, Push, Ache, and several others that I no longer remember the name of — founded by idealistic 20-somethings who seemed sure they were going to singlehandedly revolutionize the art world; these, before they inevitably blinked out, published occasional member writings and contributed occasional VACUM members. Nationally, if you had interest, there were lots of publications to write for — including New Art Examiner out of Chicago, Dialogue out of Ohio, Art Issues out of L.A. — and some VACUM members did just that. Finally, when mnartists kicked off in 2002, right around the time VACUM was formed, for a time and up until recently the website published a wide range, and a significant number each month, of critical pieces. Many of the site’s visual arts writers have been VACUM members; some were steered to the site by their connection to VACUM. And some came to VACUM through mnartists.

What’s truly remarkable about all of this activity — some of you may have noted — is that, in the intervening seven years, it has all pretty much gone away. VACUM has proven unsuccessful in the face of all the insurmountable cultural forces chipping away at the perceived need for critical writing. And while a few venues have tried to fill in this gap — minnpost, a few blogs and web efforts (many focused more on marketing than fair and balanced writing), and, last but not least, ARP — the arts criticism cup now seems more empty to me than full.

Of course, we’re not alone in facing this constriction. Newspapers and magazines, publishers and writers are struggling all over the country. Just yesterday, one of the nation’s longest-employed newspaper critics, Alan Artner of the Chicago Tribune, was unceremoniously laid off. (He would not have been shocked; when I spoke to him last in the spring of 2006, he knew that his time would eventually run short, even though he’d been at it for nearly 30 years.) As I wrote in January of 2008 for mnartists:

“It’s easy to imagine a future time when there is no more art criticism. After all, daily newspaper art coverage, these days, is going the way of the mighty Wurlitzer, while new art magazines come and go more quickly than new iPod models. And the digital media replacing these old analog communication forms has turned out to be much more fickle and impermanent and generally incomprehensible than what once was….”

While I’m proud of VACUM’s successes, and I’m thankful for the sheer amount of dedication and effort that so many people have given to VACUM’s projects, at this point seven years later I realize I completely failed to accomplish my initial mission for VACUM: To bring about more and better art criticism in this town of ours. I have failed in particular in the goals of mutual support, of fostering critical efforts, of bringing people together. And, most egregiously, I have failed over time to make a clear case, to those in a position to help support us, in favor of criticism and in favor of VACUM.

I missed the meeting last week due to a prior commitment. If I had been in attendance at the meeting, I would have abstained from voting to scuttle VACUM, but I would have understood the reasons why people voted as they did. I can’t say I’m not disappointed in how this turned out, and in where we are culturally these days, but I don’t know how it could have turned out any differently.

In the aftermath, in the empty hole now left after VACUM, I only hope that a few people, at least, thought some of this was worth it. I wish you all well and hope to see you at a future Art Happy Hour, every 2nd Wednesday at the Bedlam Theatre, where we can at least continue the mission of getting shit-faced together in the name of art (www.arthappyhour.com; admin@arthappyhour.com; on FACEBOOK: “Art HappyHour”).

Yours,
Michael Fallon

An alert Friend of Failure sent the text to J.K. Rowling’s recent Harvard commencement address, wherein she credits failure for her eventual success.

…Why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had already been realized, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.

You might never fail on the scale I did, but some failure in life is inevitable. It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all—in which case, you fail by default.

Failure gave me an inner security that I had never attained by passing examinations. Failure taught me things about myself that I could have learned no other way. I discovered that I had a strong will, and more discipline than I had suspected; I also found out that I had friends whose value was truly above rubies.

Warning: What follows is a bit on the self-serving side. Not that blogs in general aren’t all in some way an exercise in solipsism, but I just thought you should know, in case you were shill-sensitive, that this post is wholly intended to tout a new project I am involved in: A Twin Cities-based blog of art criticism and arts writing called “The Thousandth Word.” It’s being published by Rakemag.com, and involves the effort of a group of six sharp-tongued and perceptive critics calling themselves “The Vicious Circle.”

Since you’re all religious readers of CAFA, you will likely recall that I reported here back in March that the Rake Magazine, for several years a chief supporter of quality coverage on the local visual arts, ceased print publication. Well, as it turns out, I was surprised to learn that Rakemag’s existence did not entirely blink out after that announcement. While there were drastic layoffs, and while the remaining staff were moved to a smaller, more humble location, Rakemag regrouped itself, retooled its business-model (in keeping with these virtual times), and began to expand its online-only list of offerings: namely, a growing roster of blogs on sundry topics.

“The Thousandth Word” is the result of weeks of discussion, negotiation, and planning. The first post of “The Thousandth Word” explains the process a bit, and lists the professional biographies of the six writers of this blog. The plan is for the Vicious Circle to fan out across the city and region, take a looksee at what’s being made and exhibited artistically in town, and write two monthly posts apiece on what we each discover. The result will be twelve or more critical posts on art for an information-starved community of local artists.

So, what we’ve got here, gentle art readers, is a bit of lemonade squeezed from the rock-hard old lemons of these current times of (artistic failure).

A FEW WEEKS AGO, over tropical cocktails at a party at my home, I spoke with my old friend and colleague Caroline Palmer. Caroline and I first met about ten years ago, when we both started writing around the same time for the alt-weekly in Minneapolis, City Pages. She was a dance critic, and I was a writer on visual art, but we had certain key things in common that guaranteed we’d become friends: we were both in our early thirties at the time, and nowhere as cool and hip as the average alt-weekly writer; we both had come up as practitioners, in our twenties, of what we wrote about (she a dancer, me a visual artist); we both had made a conscious decision to give up professional pursuit of artistic practices in favor of more secure and stable work and income (she a nonprofit lawyer, me a book publisher); and we both were, despite our giving up the practices, completely dedicated to and fascinated by our respective fields.

For various reasons, Caroline and I hadn’t seen each other for several years. I had been forced to stop writing art criticism for City Pages four years earlier, when the newspaper began to struggle with declining advertising income and space became a premium, so I no longer saw her at social events related to the paper. Then, in short order, I got divorced, moved across the country, got several new jobs and a graduate degree (in arts management), moved back, got engaged to someone new, got married, got another new job, and remodeled a house.

Eventually, we reconnected. Caroline has continued writing for City Pages, in the process becoming—after a year-long littany of layoffs, staff turnovers, firings, and other guttings (that started with the firing of the editor who first cut back on my visual arts writing) decimated the paper in 2007—the currently longest continously employed writer at City Pages.

At the party, I congratulated her on her longevity. “Yeah, I know,” she said. “I can’t believe I’m still doing things with them. You wouldn’t believe how much things have changed over there in the past year. It’s a completely different place. I don’t know. The atmosphere is different… It used to be fun and lively, but now it’s just glum.” We talked a bit about writers we knew in common who had been let go by the papers corporate masters—whoever they might be now—and how poorly they had been treated by the outsourced management. A few of the (unceremoniously) shit-canned writers—like film critic Rob Nelson, and music writer Jim Walsh—had an actual national following and cred.

“Well, at least you’re still writing,” I said. She smiled wanly. “Yeah, but it’s not the same. All they let me do now is write A-List blurbs,” (this is the same deal I was offered by the arts editor when he told me they’d no longer be taking visual art stories or reviews), “I really miss writing reviews. Saying something significant about dance, you know? I wish I could just find a place to write dance reviews. It’s really all I want to do.”

A LOT OF ARTISTS profess to hate critics, their inconstancy, their unpredictability, their lack of support of artists (read: of them), their recalcitrant independence. Some artists say “good riddance” to the critic who gets downsized out of the local papers and publications, and they exclaim, “so what? Things are tough all over. What have you ever done for me?” Then, in time, many of these same callous artists turn around and bemoan how hard it is to get attention from an ambivalent, overtaxed, overstimulated public.

It’s looking now, more and more, in this Web 2.0 mob-rules age of user-generated content, that artists won’t have to worry about being frustrated by professional critics anymore. Even though a 2003 report saw a huge lack of cultural coverage in the nation’s daily papers, things have grown worse. Among national and regional publications of late, we’ve seen significant layoffs in every field of artistic and creative endeavor. It’s been true in visual arts criticism, literary criticism, classical, jazz and other music criticism, even movie criticism. It’s gotten so bad, that the venerable national weekly news magazine Newsweek recently fired its entire cultural staff.

At the party, I had no answer for Caroline’s dream of writing reviews about dance. Though I still write occasional art reviews for local publications and several national ones, it’s true that the local media landscape has become increasingly denuded. It also seems that things will only be getting worse in coming years. The weeks since Caroline’s lament have seen two major firings of prominent professionals in Caroline’s field—both Laura Bleiberg of the OC Register and Deborah Jowitt of the Village Voice have lost their dance critic jobs.

And lest you pull out a gut-wrench “good riddance,” or “you’ve never done me any good,” or “you’ve never written anything worth reading anyway” (translation: you’ve never written anything about me), consider: Fewer working experienced critics means less opportunity for being written about (not more); fewer regular publication venues for arts criticism and writing means almost no opportunity for young writers to learn their craft, hone their judgment, and develop professional future careers as critics; and, ultimately, the loss of arts criticism means that the forces of blind commerce and bottom-dollar, high-yield economics will be dictating to the rest of us, for many many years to come, that our culture will be grayer, drabber, less vibrant, less diverse, and generally less understood and appreciated than it otherwise could have been.

Some arts organizations in Boston recently, on January 13, staged a “die-in” in response to a report on the arts economy of Boston published by the Boston Foundation. Called “Vital Signs,” the report, which was released on December 19, suggested that the directors of “struggling arts groups” should perhaps be seeking “exit strategies.” According to the study, while large institutions such as the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Museum of Fine Arts remain healthy, smaller groups are “losing audience and struggling to balance their budgets.” The Foundation suggests that an organization “whose vision has either dissipated or lost its resonance with its audience or supporters” should consider shutting down.

Apparently, at the “die-in,” which took place in an alternative gallery space in Cambridge, a self-proclaimed group of “artyrs” drank Kool-Aid as a symbolic protest to the report. According to Boston Globe reporter Geoff Edgers, leaders of Boston’s small arts organizations had a lot to say to the Boston Foundation.

“The report takes a very naive position in the end,” said Jurgen Weiss, executive director of Snappy Dance Theater. “What I take from it is, ‘Look, here are these big organizations. They’re big. So they must be good. And all these small organizations are having trouble keeping afloat. So by some kind of Darwinian process some of them should die off.’ ”

Kathy Bitetti, an installation artist who heads the Artists Foundation, [said]:

“They don’t fund us, they never have, and they have no sense of who we are… Unfortunately I think this report does more harm than good. They’re looking at a corporate model. Instead of spending money on these reports, they could actually be funding organizations.”

“No more bread.” –Said by a baker to Vincent van Gogh; the painter had been exchanging paintings to the baker for food. (I wrote this in my notebook during my visit to Dean Fleming at the Libre Commune; I think I saw it in a book I had pulled from his bookshelf to read in bed while sleeping in the extra room at Fleming’s geodesic studio/home, but I can’t recall for certain.)

“I feel—a failure.” –Vincent van Gogh in a letter to his brother written after visiting Docter Gachet in Auvers. While in Auvers, van Gogh completed dozens of paintings and drawing, including a portrait of the doctor that later, in 1990, would sell for $82.5 million (the highest price ever for a painting sold in auction—proving “failure” is a relative term). At the end of his two-month stay in Auvers on July 27, 1890, at age 37, the painter would shoot himself in the stomach, and he would die two days later.