Tuesday 26 June 2012

The guide for the unsuccessful art student (part 1)

You just finished your fine art degree, but no one cares. No mentions in the press, no prizes, no gallery offers, no residencies, no sales, no job, no internships, no way to store your degree show piece, no peer recognition, no street cred, no good hair cut, no trendy trousers, no one-night stand after the degree show opening.
Your artist statement said your work ‘will divide opinions’, but there were no opinions to be had. You are the solo album of the ex boy band member, who wasn’t the pretty one.

Don’t commit suicide just yet, though! Stick to this guide and defer your death by depression for at least 10 years after your degree show flop.

If you are from a poor background, please continue reading, if your background is a wealthy one, please click here for a guide tailored to your needs (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q_L52eExAHU).

This week: DON’Ts


1. Don’t move back in with your single parent

Now how did I know you only have a single parent? Well, you chose the poor background guide, and you were a fine art student - a tragic combination that can only manifest itself through the guilt of a single parent (mother) not being able to provide you with a ‘healthy environment’, or through general apathy towards your life decisions (father).

However it may be - do not move back in with your single parent! Seriously, don’t do it. If you can, stay at least one city away from them - better yet: an ocean apart. An ocean might soak up all the pity and secret resentment they harbour for your failure as an artist.

You know how bird parents push their offspring out of the nest to force them to fly? You’re the bird that claimed it can fly in this new quirky way, and you actually did for a second, but then nose-dived into the rocky cliffs below.
Unfortunately you survived, and, although your bird parent kindly offered you to come back to the nest, they don’t mean it - as all their claims in front of the other bird parents about how special you are, and how you’ll find your own way in the world, suddenly feel a bit stale when confronted with the possibility of nursing you for the rest of your flightless life.

Moving back in with your parent will bring them to wish you wouldn’t have made it out alive after your crushing defeat at the degree show, as at your funeral they could have claimed that you “were too in touch with the raw emotions a true artist feels”, that you “were too good for this world”, and you “were the special light in everyone’s life”. Do you see that single parent over there? That single parent has lost his/her child to art. Such tragedy! - it’s wonderful.

But you just had to make it out alive, don’t you? Anything that is said about a burnt out art student by his/her parents ends with a sigh and shrug - “S/he’ll get back on track... I’m sure... some day” sigh, shrug.
It’s your parent’s coffee machine for the rest of your life. No more frappuccinos for you, motherfucker.

What I’m saying is: Don’t move back in with your parents - it will kill your street cred right dead.

2. Don’t politicise your work

It is tempting to go from enjoying the blissful freedom of a capitalist state school system to categorically hating the same capitalist state once you are out of education and are expected to make a living for yourself. This is especially true for the failed art student.

How could you ever expect to enjoy art genius success (+ the money showers that come with it) when you are living in a system that is ill-equipped to even start to understand the political scope of your work? How could any of those capitalists swines like your work when it so clearly puts a mirror in front of their greedy faces?
Your failure surely doesn’t mean you are merely a shitty artist, it can only mean that you are a visionary. A socio-political visionary that cannot be understood in the present day, but only by future generations of global communist bohemians - and thus began your career as a political artist.

As a political artist you will either move to Berlin, or to the nearest Occupy enclave, or both. As a political artist you will trade in your intellectual freedom for political pragmatism: your art will now have a message. That message will be intellectually flat: FREE this. OCCUPY that. How dare they! How could they?
You will now be part of a group of people. You will have many friends. You won’t know all of their names, but you’ll know they are comrades. Comrades marching towards the goal to make your art even shitier.
You will be their historian, your art the chronicles of the failure of their ideology. That’s kind of fitting, though, isn’t it? A failed art student engulfed in failing ideologies.

But hey, you might be lucky and put your money on the right ideology - but then again you chose to do art with a poor background, so how good can your judgement be?

What I’m saying is: Don’t become political - you don’t know what you’re doing: You’ve studied art. You know nothing.

3. Don’t become a curator

By now you should have realised that the gallery’s door will forever stay closed for you, but somehow the following fantasy has manifested itself in your otherwise unimaginative mind:

‘Let me in, let me in,’ you scream waving your art threateningly - ‘But your art’s too shitty.’

‘Hey, maybe let me in and curate the shows you put on?’ - ‘Yeah, alright then.’

The gallery’s door swings open, high-fives all around, the baristas of the gallery’s own cafe know how you like your coffee, the volunteering invigilators with their master degrees in art history adore you through their thick rimmed glasses, the gallery’s manager gives you a knowing wink and then throws tickets to New York at you, as well as a paid studio loft in the Meatpacking district and unlimited coupons to exchange for sexual gratification from absolutely anyone who has ever claimed s/he has ‘a passion for art.’

And then, as the new great band in town starts writing songs about you, you pull your shitty art out from behind your back: ‘Maybe I could curate a show with one of my pieces in?’
All the smiles wiped off the faces, coupons voided, barred from New York, baristas’ spit in your flat white, you wake up in the industrial part of town, surrounded by people who graduated with you, who you always knew were even worse artists than you, in an abandoned, asbestos-ridden factory you’ve chosen as the ‘fantastic’ venue for the art show you’ve organised and curated, all of you clinging to the false hope that some kind of art mogul will get lost, and miraculously end up in your stupid impromptu gallery held up by desperation and rat shit.

What I’m saying is: Don’t become a curator.

4. Don’t start writing about art
It will just make you seem bitter.

Do you want to know how to turn your bad fortune around - how to become an actual, full fledged artist? Check out next week’s DOs.

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