Sunday, February 15, 2009

Megawords and Art Culture Ethics

I recently picked up a copy of Megawords Magazine, issue #7, that was laying around Space 1026 last First Friday. It’s from 2007, so my review here is a quite a bit outdated.

If you are unfamiliar, Megawords is a Philadelphia freezine. Produced by Dan Murphy and Anthony Smyrski, they record and discuss their interests in a commercially printed venue without commercialization. Quite a few people know of it, however, outside of Mary Tasillo’s Democratic Multiple presentation at Pyramid Atlantic last year, no one ever seems to know of or talk about what’s between its covers. (Maybe that’s why no one seems to notice all their misspellings).

This issue focuses on their typical intersecting interests in graffiti, music, media culture, and art. Structured as a series of interviews, they concentrate on several individuals whose creative foci are as serving as producers for alternative and niche populations. Some of them, such as Steve Powers and Ari Forman, former editors/producers of On The Go magazine, who discuss their struggles with credibility, financial strain, and the ethics of innovation versus selling out, come across as heroes of the contemporary art world at large. For these two, when the choice arrived between financial stability and surrendering creative control, they chose not to surrender.

Others of those they interview pontificate with great arrogance, with an underlying message of we know everything and we don’t care. They stress their rebellious and unique natures, overlooking how that doesn’t really make them any different from the rest of the world. I’m so weary of the “too cool for school” rhetoric. It leaves me hungry for someone with a dose of humility. If I ever encounter such, it will be much more original.

Despite this, some tidbits worthy of consideration do arise from their Q&A formats. Sam Schwartz, former editor of the Philadelphia Independent, provides real insight into journalism and cultural commentary. The artist known as Adams speaks of his work as a guerilla civil and social engineer. And finally, William Pym has some things to say. I was particularly intrigued over his comment, “Art’s got to be disposable. Made out of paper – or, it’s got to have the ability to last centuries. It’s one or the other.”

I am disturbed by his use of the word “disposable.” Why, in our culture of Styrofoam packaging and crowded landfills, did he choose this word? In the interview, he does not differentiate really between disposable paper art and what art that can last for centuries should be made of (could that be the Styrofoam of the art world?). Why didn’t he use the word ephemeral? Or recyclable? Pym goes on to compare art to some sort of spiritual indulgence, evoking the original purpose of indulgences.

If art is some sort of spiritual indulgence for the purchaser, I cannot help but wonder if that makes artists some sort of modern day pilgrim, nun/monk or shaman? If so, it brings another set of questions to mind.

What are artists’ ethical responsibilities to issues of disposability or recyclability? Megawords is printed on paper, which is made from a non-renewable resource – trees – in a time when our nation chops down a forest the size of the state of Pennsylvania every year to supply our paper needs. To give them their due, they encourage their readers to recycle their zine when finished. However, I’d encourage them to go one step further, and print on recycled paper to begin with.

The underlying question seems to be: is contemporary art above an eco-ethical responsibility in its creation? Or is it a worthy sacrifice? Can contemporary art be eco-conscious without being about being eco-conscious?

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Hope Poster Copyright Controversey Debated on Colbert Report

An entertaining debate on copyright and the issues of the Hope Poster by Shepherd Fairey. David Ross, former director of SFMoMA the Whitney Museum is featured. Check it out here.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Philagrafika 2010 in the News

Philadelphia will attempt to become the worldwide nexus of contemporary printmaking when a new art biennial, Philagrafika 2010, commences next year. From WHYY's Arts and Culture desk, Alex Schmidt reports. To hear the interview, visit here.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

The Drawing Soiree

In the basement of Hamilton Hall at the University of the Arts hides a space called Gallery One. Gallery One is the student-run gallery, a space set aside for students to experiment, exhibit, and curate, the art world version of training wheels. Book Arts and Printmaking MFA Candidate Bobby Rosenstock has coordinated a collaborative experiment currently on view called Drawing Soiree.

This exhibition is a testament to what art students can do with free time and a case or two of beer. After covering the walls of Gallery One with paper, he asked fellow artists to spend the night there with him, working spontaneously, creating a collective stream-of-consciousness on the walls.

Full of energy and rhythm, this installation doesn't care what you think. It is laissez-faire as art. Yet Soiree is free of the pretentiousness of similiar experiments. It celebrates young artists, but serious young artists trying to figure out what they can do. None of that overly cool, hipster/poseur crap here.

Rosenstock provided no signage or information listing how long Soiree would be on view, or when its doors would be open. And Gallery One is a difficult space to see for those outside of the UArts community. However, it is experimental exhibitions such as Drawing Soiree that proves that there are Philadelphia art students, and their exhibitions, that can defy the "student show" label.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Closing of the Rose

This weekend, Roberta Smith of The New York Times published an article about Brandeis University's decision to close their Rose Art Museum and sell their collection. Check out the article here.

Tyler Green has also been following the evolution of this story. To check out his thoughts, visit here.