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Barry Schwabsky on Koons
“In my inner soul, art and life are inseparable.” –Eva Hesse
Greetings. I just came back from the opening reception of “It’s about Comics” at Scott Eder Gallery in DUMBO. I found out about the show after being invited by a friend via Facebook. Despite my ent…
This is about my experience attending a gallery opening focused on comic art. Warning, it’s pretty intense. I haven’t written anything while this pissed off in a long long longgggg while, and I’m a bit frightened I’m going to wake up to some death threats or something similar. But, well, I also think it’s important. Read on if interested.
So it was basically one guy’s personal collection, and their taste sucks. And apparently, nobody else was really shocked since they didn’t even bother to show up and take a look. Maybe because they read the list of artists and didn’t go looking for something nobody said was going to be there in the first place?
I don’t know, I don’t get what is important here. Somebody went to something they knew they weren’t going to like, then proceeded to prove to themselves they didn’t like it.
Get this: I just finished reading the entirety of Happy Mania - a comic which is frankly (imo), better than any single work by any of the artists featured in this show. Affordable and obtainable to anybody who loves comics and has a little a money to throw around. It was written and drawn by a very talented woman, and is one of my favorite comics of all. I’m currently half way through the first volume of Aya of Yop City, another great comic written by a woman. Beyond that I know dozens of women, professional and amateur, who’re making good comic work. One douchey’s guy’s personal douche-bag opinion about comics and art is not really worth a damn. In the big scheme of things, practically nobody is going to go to this gallery or care about this guy’s take on things. It’s not even worth considering, let alone worrying about.
You can go to a book store and buy something created by women, that’s selling thousands of copies. Why does it matter that some art-gallery snob is trying to (not) sell their collection of old stale art by (mostly) old timer guy artists, for absurd prices? Lately Saga is one of the best selling graphic novel series, but no - let’s not consider that, because some dickhead who means nothing to 99.999% of people who read comics doesn’t think women artists make anything very good - and therefore everything is wrong in comics. Step back and get a little wider perspective on things will ya, tumblr?
I’m sorry for the rant, but people sometimes seem so determined to keep everything negative on this site, and so incapable of giving praise where praise is due, that it drives me nuts.
Hello my dear. A few things:
1. I went to the opening excited to see the artwork and to meet and speak to some cartoonists and have interesting conversation and a generally good time. I did not go seeking disappointment.
2. Despite being a kind of lame gallery, they are not meaningless to 99.99% of the comics population. Few people attended this particular opening because it was poorly advertised/thrown together at the last minute, and it was thunder storming outside. In fact, this gallery has had a number of successful NYC shows, and also often tables at comic cons such at NYC Comic Fest this very weekend, and at MoCCA, CAB, and more. In other words, they have a valuable place in the comics world.
3. Believe it or not, this was not some random, isolated incident for me. I’m sorry you don’t think my experience is important, perhaps you are not a female involved in the comics industry and do not frequently have to deal with gatekeepers of this nature. I do. The truth is, there are many, many, many folks in the industry who still hold such similar beliefs, and unfortunately, they are often the ones on the pedestal with the megaphone.
This is of course true for most artistic areas, and professional areas in general. Consider this post on how women have been represented in the field of science. Same goes with comics. For example, I always think about how I had always thought that Art Spiegelman was the editor of RAW, having no idea for years that it was co-edited by Francoise Mouly. Why is this? Well, whenever I read about RAW growing up (on internet blogs run mainly by men or what have you), her name was almost always excluded. Thankfully this is now changing, and she is getting the recognition she deserves. My point is though, women frequently get written out of history because men are often the ones controlling what information gets circulated. Only since the internet I feel that tables are starting to turn, and the new, younger generation of alternative cartoonists generally seems to have their heads in the right place. But just because you can get Saga at your local Barnes and Nobles doesn’t mean we don’t still have a longggggg way to go.
4. I’m sorry you’re bummed out by us ladies and other “others” being so gosh-darn negative, man, about the injustice and general bullshit we have to deal with on a regular basis. Really, so sorry. But you know, when other people who experience prejudice in ways that I do not (because, I am white-passing, cis, straight, etc), the best way for me to better understand and learn about their experiences is from their own narratives, including blog posts. I think it’s important for people to share their stories, because, 1. Solidarity is important — i.e., whenever someone writes about a frustrating experience similar to my own, I am comforted in knowing that I am not the only one experiencing such things, and that my feelings about it are not irrational, and 2. Education is important — Again, I have learned a lot about the world just from reading other people’s personal experiences on things, and I expect I’m not the only one. You can’t get it all from the press, kiddo!
In the end, I feel the only way for change to occur is for the people to become more informed, and those personal narratives are nothing to turn your nose up about. Nothing is wrong with feeling angry about the state of things, and there sure is a helluva lot to feel angry about these days. And my dear, I think you might be mistaken in your thoughts that no one ever has anything positive to say on here. Take a look at the wordpress blog in which this post originated from, and notice that EVERY OTHER POST is a glowing review of a comics work. So, no, I’m NOT just dwelling on the negative. In fact, I’m almost always trying to shift my focus on the positive, because being angry all the time is tiring and depressing and difficult.
However, every so often, something negative happens that you just can’t ignore. Thanks for taking the time to read my experience, regardless, and hopefully this has been somewhat informative to a few people out there. Y’all the best!
sticks and stones may break my bones, but language dictates everything from social norms to legislation and it’s indeed often used to bolster violence and oppression sooOo
Listen: I love superhero comics. I have loved them for most of my life. My desire for more women in superhero comics—writing them, starring in them, drawing them, whatever—is all-consuming. I love the silliest excesses of the genre. I love its history. I love sound effects and ridiculous origins and the Merry Marvel Marching Society. I have six books on comics history in this room with me alone. I love superhero comics.
But I want to emphasize something that I don’t think is said often enough in the women-in-comics sphere: the endgame is not female superheroes. I mean, I want them. Like, really, really badly, with the kabooms and the day saving and the underwear on the outside. But superhero comics, at their core, are still fundamentally masculine. They’re about victory through force, they’re about saving those you perceive as unable to save themselves—they are, as they have always been, male power fantasies. And that’s not all bad! I love fight scenes and rugged individualism—honestly, I still love Lois Lane swept to safety in Superman’s arms. And I want comics about women that involve and even embrace these values—we need stories about competitive women, violent women, brash women, domineering women, even chauvinist women.
But honestly? We cannot operate entirely within the arena of superhero comics as they exist now and consider that “winning.” 50/50 gender parity within that slim slice of genre will be wonderful, but if it exists alone, it will be a failure. I want comics—tons of comics, enormous chunks of the industry—devoted to women and female concerns. I want classically feminine values to be celebrated. I want stories about sisters and wet nurses and cleaning ladies. I want Wonder Woman to save the day through empathy and I don’t want it to be seen as the lesser option when compared to victory through force. I want introspective meanderings devoted to a sixteen-year-old girl’s crush on Penny who lives next door. I comics that look nothing like comics do today.
Victory for women in comics means exploding the concept of “superhero comics” as we know it. It means comics like Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane, which look at the genre from a radically different perspective while leaving it intact—but it also means comics like Utena, which burn conventional notions of womanhood and storytelling to the ground. It means “revolutionary,” “transgressive,” and “alternative” comics that feature more than one female character and don’t include a rape scene to up their grit quotient. It means hundreds of pages devoted to Boring Chick Stuff, the type even the most ardent male feminists tend to shy away from. It means hearing about Phoebe Gloeckner just as often as we hear about R. Crumb. It means reimagining what “good” “exciting” and “worthwhile” means. We need to create comics—lots of comics—that maybe don’t appeal to men. We don’t have to have to trash cape-and-cowl fare entirely—but we need to surround it with other stories, other perspectives, and massively different definitions of heroism. Different definitions of story. The rules of the game are rigged. We have to write new ones.
“It means hearing about Phoebe Gloeckner just as often as we hear about R. Crumb.”
"No matter how well intentioned college reading lists, a thousand essays on state violence will not do the work of a single encounter with hostile cops; all three books of Capital fade in comparison to the unmediated education in capitalist exploitation that you get by working a low-wage job. If most “critical” art seems to presume an audience who is ignorant of the most basic general conditions of life, it could well be because most art institutions are run by people with little direct experience of the shittiness of the world. This could explain why many artists’ idea of an invigorating and shocking social critique is to point out that museums require money to run, hire low-wage staff, and in all other ways are not hermetically sealed islands standing outside of the general principles of capitalism.” —Hannah Black
“The Art Workers’ Coalition (AWC) was a loose group of artists, writers, and members of the creative community formed in January 1969 after the artist Takis protested the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) by removing his sculpture from their exhibition, The Museum as Seen at the End of the Mechanical Age. In the case with Takis, the artist was concerned with his ability to control the exhibition of his work after it had been sold (the Museum had exhibited his work against his wishes because they owned it and felt that their right of ownership superseded his rights as an artist to control its exhibition).This initial protest was a spark that ignited the coalition—which gathered members and concerns exponentially throughout the early months of 1969. At the time, the Art Workers’ Coalition was concerned with the responsibility of museums to artists and aimed their efforts at building a dialogue between themselves and MoMA.”
Read all the manifestos included in our current issue Valuing Labor in the Arts —> http://bit.ly/1k8yPju
Image courtesy Primary Information
WOW WOW WOW this is such an important article on Fvck The Media, wish I could have been at Smash It Dead!!
Do you think wikibooks or other open textbook projects can cut around the barriers by making a quality free learning product that addresses standards without bowing to white supremacy?
Well, short answer, yes. Are we there yet? Omg, not evenclose.
Not only that, but we also need to take a good, hard look at who is getting paid for anti-racism education works, and who is not getting paid OR credited for their activist work.
As a non-Black person of color who writes (maybe too often) about Black people in art and culture, I absolutely try to be hyper-aware of how I fit into the context of my writing.
I do my best to metaphorically eat this article for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Gradient Lair is one of the academic blogs I owe an unpayable debt to, as I have mentioned before.
If you look at the history of activism in the U.S., a clear pattern emerges of Black Americans, especially Black women, blazing a path, and then being plagiarized, spoken over, and rejected from movements they created. This rather disgusting trend has perpetuated itself in the information age, via social media.
I know for a fact that many academic blogs run by people of color are regularly plagiarized by white academics for their own benefit. It is a racist double standard that white academics are expected to make a living off anti-racist activism, and yet Black activists are expected to do these things for free, despite the double burden of experiencing racism while trying to teach or write about it.
The disgrace isn’t that social media is at the very cutting edge of academia today, it’s that the same people are benefiting at the expense of others, i.e. white supremacy in action. A white, male anti-racist educator commands a higher fee to speak than a Black, female anti-racist educator, and that is unacceptable.
I say all of this because, unwittingly, your question is extremely loaded. Bloggers of color are very familiar with the experience of creating activist theory and providing priceless content, then having it stolen and sold back to us by the white supremacy you mention. And yet, we keep going because the alternative is to be silenced completely.
The basic and most essential crux of this problem is that whiteness itself is framed by our culture as “objective”, no matter the topic. As if the less something effects you, the more of an authority you are on it? And yet, this only works one way: A white male is an “authority” on racism, but a Black woman’s writing on white patriarchy can be dismissed, ignored, or stolen without credit?
A “free learning product that addresses standards without bowing to white supremacy” would require that the above issues be addressed and corrected before that could be possible. You can’t achieve equality by adding three pounds to each side of a weighted scale. To address standards, we must change what we think of as “objective”, because objectivity doesn’t exist.
If you think that I am objective, dispassionate, calm, polite, or neutral, you are wrong.
And if you think any of the sources I use to either supportwhat I say OR that I use to demonstrate bias in education are objective, dispassionate, calm, polite, or neutral, you are wrong.
I’m doing my best to analyze what we consider “facts” by stuffing them back in the mouth they came out of, and taking a good look at the source. The recent development of an avalanche of accessible info redirects the responsibility onto the learner to think critically about what they choose to accept as facts. In many ways, we need to consider how what we give our voices in support of says about us, which narratives we accept and which we reject, and how that functions within society.
good post is good
I’ve also been really frustrated when I try to incorporate social justice-related concepts I’ve picked up through educating myself online into a paper and am then stymied because so many profs will only allow peer-reviewed sources on a paper. I don’t want to plagiarize and I don’t want to appear to be pulling things out of my ass. I’ve seen plenty of blog posts that basically gather links to a ton of sociological studies or whatever and synthesize/interpret them just as any other peer-reviewed paper might but for whatever reason (lack of access, institutional bias, straight up rightful disinterest in being a part of the white supremacist circlejerk that is academia, or even the fact that a lot of journals will subsequently not allow you to publish your work for free once it’s inside their EXTREMELY EXPENSIVE publication) this work only exists on a blog out on the internet.To rehash this work in my paper (by citing the peer-reviewed studies they used but “drawing my own conclusions” more like “agreeing with what someone else already concluded”) is exactly the kind of appropriation I don’t want to partake in.
& for me this is intrinsically connected to the ways that certain sources are (wrongfully) considered objective - white, supposedly anti-racist intellectuals are neutral on the topic of racism while poc are not, men are neutral on issues of sexism while women likely have a bias, etc. It’s not an accident that the institution that validates academic work is hostile to all of these groups, who are then squeezed to the margins, seek to publish their work online on their own instead, and are then further discredited for lack of peer review they could never access in the first place. Academia, you are garbage.
I want to thank you for putting into plain language exactly how this happens.
It’s basically the story of how they/we got here. The current sociopolitical climate is incredibly hostile to Ethnic Studies in the U.S.; as each new generation is less homogenous racially, culturally, and in a host of other ways, more and more legislation on restricting diversity in education is being passed.
This is the ABCs of gatekeeping, academic elitism, and how the process of marginalization happens in academia.
re: wiki books and other free resources for education
free resources won’t do much to adequately address the problem
recently the idea of MOOCs (massively open online courses) has basically collapsed because they don’t do anything but reinforce the status quo:
A global survey of almost 35,000 MOOC students engaged in courses of the online education service Coursera found that the majority were already well-educated and employed, and mostly males.
The survey’s results, published today in a letter to Nature, suggests that MOOCs reinforce the advantages of the rich rather than educating those who most need access to free education.
add to this the reality that:
the shockingly low number of students who actually finish the classes, which is fewer than 10%. Not all of those people received a passing grade, either, meaning that for every 100 pupils who enrolled in a free course, something like five actually learned the topic. If this was an education revolution, it was a disturbingly uneven one.
so if mostly affluent white men are taking these classes and, even then, most aren’t finishing them….
what the fuck is the point?
as medievalpoc points out, the problem isn’t lack of access or some other technological issue
it is a cultural problem
I was asked in an interview once: You’re writing another book with a female lead? Aren’t you afraid you’re going to be pigeonholed? And I thought, I write a team superhero book, an uplifting solo hero book, I write a horror-western, and I write a ghost story. What am I gonna be pigeonholed as?
Has a man in the history of men ever been asked if he was going to be pigeonholed because he wrote two consecutive books with male leads? Half of the population is women. I lose my temper here. And it’s certainly not at you. It’s just this pervasive notion that “white male” is the default. And you have to justify any variation from it.” —
“PAINTING HAS MANY ACTS that are put together as one. My exhibition at the Hepworth revolves around canvases that show figures demonstrating simple actions as vehicles for painting. There’s one painting, for instance, where a woman is getting dressed all at once—a very difficult subject to paint. She makes eye contact with the viewer and the stopping point is her gaze. There is usually a frontal address in painting, but it doesn’t always have to be aggressively physical. My process is akin to a rehearsal, where muscle memory is involved. It can almost be like building a house, where the series of marks are laid one on top of the other; if one mark doesn’t sit right, I’ll rebuild the whole thing from the bottom up. Or the process can feel like dancing, where there is a rhythm—a physical call and a response.”
- DANA SCHUTZ, from Artforum 500 Words