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The Potluck Potlatch

I am ambivalent... maybe conflicted about spring auctions and the evolution of the Spring Salon. I attended the artist appreciation event because people I care about, members of the director staff, had invited me personally.

"Here is the micophone if you want to say something." He laughed.

Their professional income and livelihood and continued grant support depend upon artists contributing work to the auction. The artists receive appreciation. The gallery receives $250 from each gallery patron who wishes to take part in the draw and are given their selection, according to the whims of chance order, a choice of a donated art work. The gallery is shown to be supported by artists and it's patrons but, the income from the auction is largely symbolic... representing the gallery's effort to support itself.

Is the gallery auction another form of government condoned gambling? The gallery patrons are very enthusiastic making lists of preferences like gamblers at a horse track. Are they attracted by the chance nature of it?

Spring Salons in the past were exhibitions of work for sale purchased by art patrons and attended by newspaper art critics and thought of as the source of new and established talent and the mother lode of cultural objectives - a sampling of the mind of the people with disposable income - the middle class. The gallery received a commission. Spring shows were the primary income for artists. Everyone desired a solo spring exhibition. Spring, when the purse strings loosened after the hardships of winter were left behind us. The gallery staff were, for the most part, volunteers representing both artists and art patrons bringing the two parts of the sustainable economy together for the benefit of artists.

As the anti-professional theories of conceptualism flooded the art communities, government bureaucracies, institutions of higher learning; patrons of art progressively were evolved to, or replaced by, socialite gallery patrons. The "art workers" or bureaucracy of the galleries exploded. The population of Durham Region is around 610,000. It supports four public galleries, that I know of, with paid staff members that might be as many as 36 individuals. There have never been 36 professional artists in the region. The vast majority of government grants are divided amongst the galleries and that grant money comes directly out of the moneys once reserved for artists.

The extremes of grant malpractice and wasted tax dollars siphoned off into private practices and frivolities are gossiped shockingly by the glamour photographers and nude models on the fringes of the sex trade. It is that bad.

This is a simple, very simple model of the evolution of the art industry over the past 50 years. There are many other factors to consider... not the least of which is the power of the art shifted from the art patron and artist to the bureaucracy. As conceptualism entered the galleries the primary subject of art became a contemporary version of fascist and communist socialist realism administered by the state demanding subjects such as feminism, environmentalism, patriation of immigrants, gay, native and other fringe issues leaving the majority out of the algorithm and disinterested in the galleries. Considering that art, compared with mass media is not a good propaganda medium; I can only conclude that grant money for public galleries is money not well spent. Why not spend the money on tedious advertising slots in popular serials which are really evening soap operas staring blood splatter, political, economic, and sexual/moral collapse combined with paranoid fears of alien invasion? Or, as in the States, coerce screen writers and production companies to subliminally place propaganda within storylines? Yeah, like all those ads for computers with the make displayed obviously on the desk of a plain clothes undercover, secret service, policeman woman detective interrogator creature character.

The obvious conclusion is that artists such as myself and a good number of others I know would and do continue doing art without compensation and at our own expense as the cultural cohesion of "Western Civilization" decays. You know - the basic idea of home decoration with a little bit of a punch? Why pay a bureaucracy which does not promote art and artists as anything other than minions and products of the gallery's grant writing proposals?

Gallery installation as, art of the masses.

My ambivalence stems from the fact that I like some members of the art bureaucracy. They are artists as well, sometimes using exhibitions of others to express themselves as conceptualists, sometimes working part time in their own studios as dextral artists. I don't want the power to decide who receives and who loses their income.

I am in an untenable position with the entire body of expert opinion and cultural fashion against me.

I want to get away, to retire from it all, to disappear into the land. Go to ground. Get lost.

I have been preparing my touring equipment for travel, greasing bearings, changing oil, checking systems in preparation for the burial of my mother and a tour of North America. I enjoy getting on the road partly for adventure and partly just to get away from local politics, unsupportable law, thwarted participatory democratic (activist) constituent needs, unsustainable economies, and the top down whims of representational democracy's deafened professional party politicians playing follow the leader and their programmed fractal flocking bureaucrat minions.

When I leave I become different. My galaxy of cares is diminished and I become a poet/painter upon a quest... searching for America as a detached gypsy observer wandering like the migrations of pre-columbian northern tribal peoples moving from winter camps to the spring and summer encampments. Except for the Anasazi and other agriculturally dependant nations the original peoples of the prairies were nomadic and the peoples of the eastern forests seminomad. I am more interested in the long ago abandoned permanent agricultural settlements of the Anasazi sandstone community ruins, with kivas owned by the men and the lands they worked owned by the women, now administered by the Navajo Nation in conjunction with the National Park Service of America at Canyon de Chelly. To get there I must take to the road and leave the suffering artist of the Protestant European, iconoclastic outsider dog, the Van Goghian heritage, behind me.

I don't want it. You can have it. It's yours not mine.

I feel uncomfortable in the galleries as the artist, I don't belong there; my art does. Not me. We want to get that straight: A medium is a go-between, not a person, not a place, not an act but, it is a set of things and a set of techniques - almost like a craft or a trade but more plastic (open to extreme manipulation)... simple, basic is a medium... utterly unlike video and film which are a complex theatrical media subject to obsolescing... more like paint... not expensive with a long life protected... longer than generations of human lives. A continuum. A contribution to a continuum. A stone upon a stone.

A medium is like the gallery was, a place between the studio and the home or office, a place between the artist and the patron of art. A place with little character of its own.

A medium is not deconstruction... not a concept (idea)... it is a thing. More like the things which factory workers work upon than the words, spoken and written, which orbit the schools of higher learning like electron cloud fields.

Art is not a weapon. Art is not a revolution.

Art is an evolution which evolves as we do... from brutality towards...

I don't know what... something better? Something unknowable? Something more profoundly refined?

Mischa Postrach allowed me to work with him in his garage. I mainly ran out to get parts orders for him. We talked about art and mechanics. Mostly I commentated on his work and work ethic.

When he was setting the brakes he had one hand on the wheel and the other on the adjustment tool. He wiggled the wheel back and forth.

"I like the way you work Mischa. The way you feel it".

"An important part of a mechanic's work is by feel." He assured me. "You can only know these things with your hands."

John Snow, the artist/printmaker who first trained me said of the work, "Not all knowledge can be learned from books."

"I am a registered mechanic," Mischa said regarding my running for parts "but I don't hire apprentices because my work on trailers is narrow. They would not receive the kind of broad education of the power train that they deserve."

"Yes," I replied "I don't take on studio assistants because I cannot supply them with what they would need to make a living either."

His friends from other workshops in the facility came and went. We talked about the trailer which is a very interesting piece of engineering that they all appreciated. And we talked about the cultural revolution in Quebec which gave the engineers and workers faith in themselves to do such bold work.

I felt comfortable in the shop. I wore my studio clothing and got myself dirty. If things had gone as my masters had presumed, I would be spending a good deal of my time in print shops with power presses and master printmakers making things in editions that are within the means of people like Mischa, and myself. After all, the German Expressionists who inspired Picasso before World War I made prints for the people and the original revolutionary artists of Mischa's Russia made a simpler art and much less dear than Fabergé eggs. An art that could be mass produced for the masses of which we all are

a part and apart.

MIscha charged me for one and a half hours labour. It was mostly labour but, we were working from 9:30 until about noon.

"People came and went, I was distracted, we talked." He observed.

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