September 4, 2014
“To use for our exclusive benefit what is not ours is theft.” – Jose Marti
May I have the envelope please?
And the first winner of SMoCA’s 2014 Good N’ Plenty grant is… Mimi Jardine for her project “Mobile Remittance Unit”! This project as you all surely recall, is “a faux government office that processes and collects litter in an artistic and light-hearted way.” I’m not sure what this entails, but anything that helps makes our beloved 602 look as clean as Downtown Toronto can’t be nothing but good in the end, am I right? Of course I am. When have I ever been wrong about what the people can truly get behind? Rarely.
Sure, I backed Disco and ABBA, but I was totally on David Lee Roth’s side during that whole Van Halen meltdown thing, so as a whole- my ledger balances out just fine when you get right down to it. In fact, I have an excellent track record of calling it right- so much so that I usually win bar bets, can call out the right elevator to take if you like them empty, usually avoid traffic accidents, and when I’m really on, I’ll crush the occasional Nostradamus-themed Halloween party betting pool.
That’s me… Captain Correct. Good old Admiral Right as Rain. I tells ya, some days it just gets so boring being right all the time, but what are you going to do? I guess it’s just a curse I’m going to have to learn to live with. Sigh…. what’s that? There’s still one winner to go? My bad.
May I have the second identical envelope please? Wait a minute… I’ve always wanted to do this- I’m going to predict the next winner simply by placing this sealed envelope to my head in the manner of Carnac the Magnificent* and using nothing but my God- given power of being always correct, I will tell you who the last winner (or winners) are. [*YouTube it. :D]
Here we go…. it’s coming to me… just a sec… that’s strange… all I keep seeing is fuzzy outlines… you know- it’s almost like I’m looking at a copy of a copy… it’s not as sharp. And for some odd reason, I’m also detecting the slightly pretentious and somewhat cloying odiousness of gathered hipster. Sorry. I guess my ol’ mental mojo must be on the fritz, so I’ll just have to make an educated guess.
Since our first winner’s project was a socially relevant one, it makes sense that the runner-up just has to be one that’s more fun and/or cultural, right? So keeping that in mind, ladies and gentlemen, it’s fairly obvious that the second winner of SMoCA’s 2014 Good N’ Plenty grant is and can be none other then… (rips envelope open, reads enclosed card) the one and only…. PETER BUGG!!!
Um… (stops speaking, stares icily at card in hand) I’m sorry. I must have read that wrong. Let me read it again, ok? (reads card for the next 45 minutes) Well, that’s just great. Here I go and rip the guy a new neck hole, and Karma comes along and hands him not only a pony, but a full ride ticket to Disneyland and an ice cream sundae as well. And who wants to bet he got a free t-shirt too?
But in the end, that’s not the worst part of all of this, no siree Bob. The worst part is this makes me look wr… wor..urk.. wrah… wroooon… it makes me look less than accurate in the long run. Sigh… I just hate getting things wr… wor..urk.. wrah… wroooon… (hrrumph) less than accurate. But I’m a mature adult, and as such, I just need to accept that every now and then I’m going to make mistakes in regards to calling people out for what I perceive to be their personal bullspit.
Besides… it was the audience at the public event that voted for him, and it’s obvious that they felt his project had merit, otherwise somebody else would have gotten the nod, right? Granted, his project would theoretically accomplish nothing in the end, as it seemingly has no structure in place that would help facilitate an open dialogue to move the issue of gay rights forward, but maybe that’s just me- I’m an “end game” kind of guy, after all.
Screw this- you know what? I’m just gonna lick my wounds and move on. In fact, I’ll even take the high road and congratulate Peter on his win using that wholly original and unique idea that he came up with all on his own, which at it’s core, was somewhat creative to say the very least. Yep. even though I thought his idea was a little weak in it’s execution, I’ll give it full points for it’s originality, which let’s face it- is what separates the boys from the toys.
Damn. I actually feel better, I admitted he was more correct and that I was … wor..urk.. wrah… wroooon… um… less correct, and yet I’m still upbeat. I can totally see why people like to apologize every now and then- it’s apparently good for the soul. Who knew I had one? The things that you learn about yourself when you look inward, I guess. So with that off the table, let me check my e-mail real quick and we’ll start towards the end of my tale regarding my hospital stay in 2009. Let’s see…
No, I don’t need any help with my mortgage, nor do I have a need to see nude pics of Jennifer Lawrence, and I’m quite certain that yes, while it might be nice to meet a hot MILF, I’m also pretty sure I don’t need one to talk dirty to me either. I have a girlfriend after all, and other than the fact that she’s intellectual and hot, she also makes really good pumpkin cookies.
Can an Internet MILF do that? I don’t think so. Oh wait a minute… here’s a few messages regarding my last blog- let me just skim these real quick and see how the wind blows, metaphorically speaking. Hmm. Seems most are in my favor, at least in regards to my take on how to beef up Peter’s totally original, wholly innovative, and completely inimitable idea.
Well, that’s strange. This e-mail just says: “I saw that you gave Peter props on coming up with original ideas, what do you make of this?” and it has a link to a New Times story:
Interesting- it’s about last year’s GnP winners… seems like a nice little article, wonder why anyone would send this to me, as it has really nothing to do with what I just recently wrote. Maybe it helps prop up SMoCA’s judgment call that Peter really deserved to be a finalist for that grant, based on nothing more than his truly original concept. If so, I’ll really have to double down on that whole sincere apology thing.
What the heck, I’ll just read it real quick, and then we’ll get back on the path, ok? Oh, that’s kind of cool, it seems my former antagonist Ryan Avery won a grant at this event for his project “Related Records” which would serve as a way to “document some of the more fleeting musical/art/performance acts in the downtown Phoenix scene. He already has plans to record long-time local act Treasure Mammal in the upcoming months and says he wants to start doing more with vinyl in the next year.”
That is awesome. A Phoenix-centric recording concern? I can totally back that 100%, since there’s a lot of local talent here that could benefit from a serious marketing campaign. But Ryan and I have been chill for quite some time, so I still don’t see how this article factors into our past disagreements, do you?
Let’s check out last years’ first place winner Stefanie Francis. Her project, “The Happy Camper”, is “a series of Girl Scout-esque patches for the LGBT community. (There’s an “I-survived-Mormonism” patch with an image of Mormon underwear, to give you an idea). Francis says she wants to use humor both as a means of overcoming adversity and celebrating shared experience.” Ok… once again, I still don’t see what that has to do with Peter’s project- after all, it’s Girl Scout based, involves contradictory patches to be placed on uniforms, and it’s main focus is to seemingly open a dialogue in regards to the LGBT community.
Why would the writer of this e-mail think I’d be interested in her proj…. NO.
No way. Not after I praised him. Not after I celebrated his originality. Especially not after I apologized. Particularly that. No. No. No. No. I’m just reading the situation wrong, because at my core, it’s fairly obvious that I’m just a mean, bitter, hateful, misanthrope. Yes, let’s run with that. I’m just seeing it all wrong.
However… if I were to play Devil’s Advocate, what was the description of Peter’s project again?
“Equal Scouts” aims to get Eagle Scouts to wear Human Rights Campaign symbols in place of their usual American flag badges to raise awareness of the Boy Scouts of America’s infringements on gay rights”
Come to think of it, when you lay them out side by side… is it just me, or does Peter’s “idea” seem like a feebly re-worked retread of Stefanie’s original concept? Certainly, this can’t be the case, right? Nobody could have that much Chutzpah. Even Amy Silverman, the Godzilla-esque Mangling Editor of New Times doesn’t, and she’s basically a singing, dancing, jazz-handing, sparkly shoes wearing, modern-day P.T. Barnum when it comes to the art of marketing the truly sub-par.
Of course, I infer that description with nothing but respect. Allegedly.
But other than raising the question of outright plagiarism, one also has to wonder: who the hell judged this obvious reconstitution as worthy of inclusion? Ah, here we go: the judges were Ashley Hare, Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture’s arts learning director, New Times‘ Katie Johnson, Lindsay Kinkade of Design Republic, and artist and Navajo/Laguna Pueblo cultural attaché Steven Yazzie.
Wait a minute. Minus the random New Times blogger who writes glorified press releases, the rest are individuals that I actually know of or have respect for. Did I, and to a much more worrying extent, the judges at SMoCA- just get Rope-a-Doped ala Damien Hirst style*?
Son of a camel-humping, Libertarian-voting, skinny-tie wearing, Arcade Fire listening, bitch. I think they (and I) just did. Now, I know what you’re all thinking, and normally you’d be right: this humble Artbitch is gonna fire up his old nuclear-powered buffer, polish up his Admantium claws, and make a Peter Bugg salad all over again.
But you’d be wrong. Dead wrong. Kind of like Peter’s approach to creating an original project.
When all is said and done, I find his weak appropriation not to be infuriating, so much as just completely pathetic. Here’s the deal: I may not qualify to legitimately call myself one of the best artists working today, but when it gets right down to brass tacks, my work at the very least is honest.
I shoot my own reference for the majority of my painted acrylic works, come up with my own artistic concepts, and when unforeseen circumstances force me into having to use other sources, I’ll cop to the fact in a heartbeat, if I haven’t already gone and mentioned it myself, that is. And while I do regularly photograph both graffiti and architecture (IE: other’s work/art) I have never claimed those two elements as my work- the composition of the photograph is what I lay my name on, and my composition skills are kick-ass, if I do say so myself.
The key here is this: I might not make the cut as the world’s best Artist, but I also won’t go down as a pretender to it’s artistic throne either, and I’m perfectly fine with that possible gravestone comment. Let me be blunt- unlike Peter and others of his ilk, I have never relied on the gullibility of charity to fund my predilection for calling myself an Artist. Yes, grants are necessary and in some cases, they’re the only way that certain artistic endeavors are ever going to see the light of the day, so as a rule, I’m behind them 100%.
In theory, that is.
I’ve consistently believed that something given has no value, but something earned always does- this doesn’t apply to gifts or free Ding Dongs of course, but to anything that comes from a place of hard work and ethical decisions, two innate qualities that Peter and his body of work have sadly and constantly, lacked. In the final tally, all I can state is that it’s a sad day when we casually reward the act of copying somebody else’s notes, and doing it not just brazenly, but without shame. In the interest of fairness, there are quite a few of my fellow artists who do not share my point of view, but that’s to be expected in a scene this small and concentrated.
Mediocrity is a disease, and it should be eradicated as if it were a cockroach. My detractors like to throw around the “commercial” label in regards to my work, but it hardly registers as an insult at this point in my career, and why should it? My so-called commercial work is what funds both my personal projects and the charities I donate to, regardless of whether that donation takes the form of cash, art, or time.
As one of my past artistic mentors said to me quite some time ago: “If you want to be Picasso, you’re going to have to draw a lot of tap-dancing wedding cakes first.” And boy golly, was he spot on about that. In my career, I’ve been (with varying degrees of success) a freelance graphic designer, a muralist, a cartoonist, a screen-printer, a sculptor, a photographer, a POP artist, and at present, I find myself labeled a writer. And it’s all been a gas, no matter what. I’m an Artist, and it ain’t never been a half bad way to live a life.
By it’s very definition, the term commercial implies that one has achieved success, so I guess I can’t really complain when somebody hurls that particular invective grenade at my life’s work- besides, it’s not like it’ll do any real damage in the long run, as after twenty some-odd years, my metaphorical skin is thicker than Paris Hilton’s eye makeup, give or take a layer.
In general, I tend to engage my critics head on, whether it’s in person or typically- on the world wide web, where everybody is ten feet tall and a certified bad ass Constitutional lawyer as well. Not too surprisingly, most of these Internet interactions are usually filled with vulgar language and sadly obsessive remarks about my hair/beard/clothing, rather than an intelligent discourse about what I’ve either said or wrote.
However, there are the rare few that actually take the time to craft their e-mails and ask the tough questions. These people I like- they start with an “agree to disagree” attitude and run with it until the allegorical wheels fall right the hell off. If you look hard enough, civil dissertation isn’t dead, it’s just been knocked over the head and locked up in a dark basement, much to the degradation of all.
But calmly sitting on my hands while Rome burns has never been my style. Depending on the situation, I’m either the one setting the conflagration, or the one making campfire S’mores, utilizing the flaming ruins of what used to be a Starbucks. In other words, I just can’t wait for something to come to a head, I almost pathologically have to make stuff happen. With that mindset, it was obviously time for me to approach this issue from another angle, and get the perspective of someone more closely associated with SMOCA’s process for inclusion- someone who unlike me, actually had the inside track in regards to how the candidates were selected.
So, seeking that knowledge, and in the spirit of free and honest communication, I extended my hand across the wilds of the Internet, and sent an E-mail to Lesley Oliver, Marketing & Public Relations Manager for SMoCA, (AKA: Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art) that said the following:
From: Wayne Michael Reich [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Tuesday, September 02, 2014 7:02 PM
To: Lesley Oliver
Subject: Regarding Peter Bugg’s Entry for SMOCA’s GnP Awards.
My name is Wayne Michael Reich and I write a Phoenix-centric blog known as “ArtBitch”.
The reason for my contacting you is that I am currently writing a new piece that regards Peter Bugg’s recent win at the GnP awards. I was informed that you were the person on point to talk to. If not, I would appreciate being steered in the right direction, if possible.
I’m curious as to know why an almost identical entry of last year’s winning concept was judged to be qualified for this year’s inclusion, as these grants are seemingly deemed to highlight creativity, originality, and above all- community outreach.
For clarity’s sake, let’s check out last years’ first place winner Stefanie Francis. Her project, “The Happy Camper”, is “a series of Girl Scout-esque patches for the LGBT community. (There’s an “I-survived-Mormonism” patch with an image of Mormon underwear, to give you an idea). Francis says she wants to use humor both as a means of overcoming adversity and celebrating shared experience.”
And now let’s compare Peter’s project.
“Equal Scouts” aims to get Eagle Scouts to wear Human Rights Campaign symbols in place of their usual American flag badges to raise awareness of the Boy Scouts of America’s infringements on gay rights.”
According to the voluminous e-mail I’ve been receiving, the general consensus is yes, Peter did appropriate her original concept. I’m looking to publish by this Thursday, so any official statement would be appreciated, and I give you my word that whatever you write, it will be published in full, with no editing, if you wish to make any form of rebuttal.
If you choose to just offer a “No Comment”, that is also acceptable, and will be noted in the new piece.
I look forward to hearing from you,
Wayne Michael Reich
I’m actually impressed with myself here- I think I come off as professional, not snarky, and if I would dare to use a term not normally associated with yours truly, I seem almost downright diplomatic. So naturally, I thought that this approach would easily foster a mature and focused discussion on how to refine the selection process so that this type of obvious plagiarism could be weeded out in the future.
Have I ever mentioned my unfounded optimism in regards to people doing the right thing? Good. Because that sunshiny world view is about to be stomped like a narc at a biker rally.
Here’s SMoCA’s response, via Lesley Oliver:
“Dear Mr. Reich,
Thank you for writing and sharing your feedback. The Museum has no further comment regarding Peter Bugg’s project. The Good ‘N Plenty process is an open one and it has reached its conclusion.
We wanted, however, to provide you more information about the Good ‘N Plenty program so that you would fully understand the event:
Each Good ‘N Plenty cycle features completely different community jurors who select up to six presenting finalists and it is the audience at each event who votes to decide upon the “winners.” The voting audience, obviously, changes from cycle to cycle as well. Please see the parameters for the program below.
We hope that you will consider attending future Good ‘N Plenty events.
Attached at the bottom (of course) was a description of the Good n’ Plenty event, which reads like standard marketing boilerplate. Yadda, yadda, yadda, blah, blah, blah. What was missing was one small, minor, almost insignificant detail- an answer to the question I actually asked.
There are few things that are as galling as the “non-answer” answer- typically, I’ve always regarded it as a sanctuary for persons who lack the strength of character to be honest about what they really believe, but in this case, I’ll make a rare exception. She’s probably not allowed (by policy) to say what she really thinks, but at the very least, she could acknowledge what is so blatantly obvious to everyone, couldn’t she?
What amazes me is the total lack of concern regarding the impropriety of the issue I raised; “oh, this makes us look bad? Well, let’s just ignore it then, and send this guy the standard letter where we don’t actually say anything of substance.” Granted, I’m not the only person who’s noticed this act of weak-ass plagiarism, I just happen to be the one who’s currently the loudest about it. And keep in mind, this was brought to my attention by somebody else- I did not discover this on my own, otherwise I would have definitely noted it in my last blog.
But as I said, she’s probably not allowed (by policy) to say what she really thinks, so a metered and thoughtful response was clearly in order. So, keeping that compulsory set of standards in mind, here’s my response:
Thank you for your response.
Sadly, it was exactly what I expected.
On a related side note, if plagiarism is an acceptable form of creative expression, then I am afraid I will have to demur your highly generous offer to attend future events.
You know. Personal ethics and all that.
In closing, I wish you much success with next years event.
Respectfully, Wayne Michael Reich
There you go- when it’s absolutely imperative, I can be devastatingly charming, if need be. No vulgarity hurled, minimal snarkiness, and even a upbeat message wishing for personal good fortune at the end- that’s how you tell somebody in the most genteel way that the organization they work for has the ethical strength of wet tissue paper. However, this lily-livered response shouldn’t come as a shock to those of us who’ve watched SMoCA for years, as any museum that would tout a pyramid of oranges as art really shouldn’t be taken seriously in the first place.
And no… I am not kidding. If there exists any question as to why Artists don’t get the respect they deserve, all I have to say is this: Oranges. Stacked. In. A. Pyramid. are being touted by some with the same fervor as work by Michelangelo. I’d take some aspirin for this oncoming headache if it weren’t for the fact that my bottle of Tylenol was taken from me upon entering and quickly put on display.
If truth be told, I’m thinking that next year, I should do the same project as Peter did, but this time I’ll go one notch better and add glitter to the patches. Because everything’s better with glitter. Everything. Even plagiaristic homage.
To give credit where credit is due, I will admit that their “5 Senses” exhibition featuring an indoor waterfall was pretty cool, but I wouldn’t regard it as art so much as a triumph of engineering over indoor plumbing, and Lesley’s duck and cover response fits perfectly with their well-worn and somewhat weak methodology of promoting half-baked Koon-esque installations as the pinnacle of Art. I guess in the end, what’s important is that the right people got to keep their jobs, and our art scene took yet another hit to its already shaky and corroded reputation. You know… the usual standard operating procedure.
Gah. Sick of this. Between the spineless morality of faux Museums, and the artists they shelter from valid criticism, I’ve had my fill of the pretentiously untalented this week. Thank God for Vonnegut.*
*[Which is somewhat ironic, because he was a Humanist.]
But there is an upside to turning my back on this wretchedly pathetic affair- we can finally start down the path to finishing up my belated tale of being so near Death I could smell his cologne.*
*[Shockingly it’s “Paco Rabanne”- never let it be said Death doesn’t have good taste.]
So, without further ado, let’s get back to the reason we originally came here, to read about me and Fate’s thwarted attempt to shuffle me off this, the mortal coil, back in 2009. Now, where did we leave off? Ah, yes- I was talking about my Mommy issues and waxing poetic about cable TV.
However, It’s late. And I am really tired from being a cultural warrior this week, so I think we’ll take a break here and return to the final arc of this tale in the next episode of Artbitch, or as I like to call it- Mastersnark Theatre.
“Time will inevitably uncover dishonesty and lies; history has no place for them.” – Norodom Sihanouk