Right back atcha: In Response to: the response to: Re: RHIZOME_RAW: Response: Paradox of Political Art

Posted by Wendy Tremayne | Thu Apr 15th 2004 11:07 a.m.

>
Hi Lee,
Thanks for the reply post.. and here's my reply. I do believe we have
some unfinished business.
> Good ideas are good ideas especially for social change. copy and
> repeat.
couldnt agree more
> Even if an artist is doing it strictly as a way to gain attention for
> themselves then great.
> If its powerful and touches the masses then great. Advertising
> executives do it every day and get paid top dollar.
>
> I dont think you should have turned down the book offer.
> You don't seem to be alone in the naked people spelling words for
> political causes art movement.
> I ask why? and I am wondering why you think you are the first to
> think of this sort of "nudist" performance art as political dissent.

Who said I thought that I was the only one? I copied someone else, a
group in California, sent them an email saying "good idea, I'm gonna do
it in NYC." Didnt you notice that I posted pictures of other groups who
did this on my site?
This is the reason I turned down the book. Because someone else did
believe that they were the first to use nudist performance art as
political dissent and I didnt want to be part of that claim. They
decided to claim this 'art form' (if you can even call it that) by
publishing a book of all the people who used nudes to spell words to
express themselves against the war. I fought with them for a whole
year. First I tried to submit an entry for the book which included an
essay on how dangerous it is to claim such a medium by publishing a
book. When they wouldnt publish the essay I refused to be in the book.

This is not about validating any form as art. In truth, I think
spelling words with nudes is a rather sophomoric medium (however
complicated to produce). What matters is that at the time it was done,
it was affective. It raised awareness.
> you said
>> This was at a time when dissent was barely on the radar.
>
> Whos radar???? Your Radar ????????? Dissent >>>>>
> Its out there,

On February 7, 2003 there were no reports of dissent in the major media
and we were about to go to war. Because NO BUSH was so widely covered
by the media other people in all parts of the world knew that some
Americans were against the war. I received emails from nearly every
country on earth telling me how happy they were to know that Americans
gave a shit. This matters! And, the massive media coverage of NO BUSH
inspired groups in other countries to do the same. This also matters.
If it pleases you, dont call it art so that you wont subject it to this
scrutiny and can see it for its impact. Call it a form of protest. It
doesn't matter, what matters it that it was affective.

On Feb 7 2003 dissent was not in the papers. We were about to go to war
and it was very quiet.
> it never stops. I'm not trying to give you a hard time but I think
> you are being a bit naive and the Newspaper has inflated your ego.

This is quite silly, I think you are putting your own desired story in
here. I turned down a book offer, and although over 500 people emailed
me to volunteer to do the "next nude piece" I have not done the next
piece. I did not feel that it had enough relevance or would have the
same impact and I really have little interest in this medium. I did it
at the time because I was the right context for conveying the right
message. And I did not repeat it just because I could even though the
media was waiting for me to. Instead I thought about what project might
be affective and since I had no idea I felt was worth producing I sat
around for over a year letting the media interest fade and I instead
helped other people do their projects. Does this sound like my ego is
guiding my decisions? I also turned down offers to go on talk shows and
interviews with the press because I felt they wanted to play ping pong
with me in a political arena.

I think that this debate is falling prey to the very same subject that
the first email kicked off. It's not about validating someone's art or
being ego based, or fame, or any of this crap. All art is political!

It's about anyone, artist or not, using art to convey important
messages in a time when we need social change. Anyone who can, should.
And they should not be attacked for it, especially by artists! Art
doesnt belong to the talented, the famous, .... its available to
everyone alike. Finding flaw in political art seems like a really good
way to avoid doing it yourself. Judging it only keeps people further
from doing it making it unsafe ground to tread.

I dont want to begin a debate about Burning Man. But it serves a good
example of how art is for all. At Burning Man all artists are given the
same amount of real estate (endless amounts, however much they want) to
create. They dont have to be someone or pass some test. The famous, the
unfamous, the experienced and novice all have equal space. The result
is a community that uses art to express themselves in their daily lives
(at least their lives at the event). You just cant have this when
artists set bars on what the right context is, what's to ego based,
etc.. This things are the result of our current society's use of art:
commercial use.

> The other projects you are working on that I saw on your website are
> interesting and i encourage you to keep doing it but you are not
> alone. Have you brought your art to the frontlines of and angry
> blackblock taking on the cops. Your project was very safe outside of
> some risk of frostbite of the butt.

Safe. I doubt it. I did this project in NYC post 9-11 when security was
at an all time high. There was nothing safe about it. I also recruited
women I had never met. I had an awful lot of responsibility to bear
including a tide of nasty emails that I personally responded to from
pro Bushers who would be happy to see shot down by the very next
terrorist to hit NYC.

> Have you ever been to Dachau? The Nazis did much of their human
> testing there, they learned a lot about what a human could with
> withstand. Cold, Heat, Pressure. Although alot of people died there,
> they never used the gas chambers. Probably the saddest place I have
> ever visited.

What's the point of this comment? Are you defending Dachau because it
produced medial information?
>
> The VOMITORIUM sounds like fun., I would recommend to not ware your
> good shoes.
>
> Why do it in a controlled location? why not do it in a high-end uptown
> restaurant and not pay the bill because everyone got sick.
>
> )))))))))))))))))))))
> Once fame sets in there is another agenda that an artist must consider
> and that is their business of artmaking, their assistants, dealers,
> agents.

Not if you are not doing it for money or fame you dont.
>
> When it comes to political art, dont give a damn what ANYone else
> says, just do it until you learn how to not get arrested or until you
> sell out or until there is no war or pain and suffering and cold and
> power and ego and money and fame. Make it because something inside you
> is driving your spirit to make a difference.
> For some political art is just working for a childrens charity
> collecting money on the streets. Basically begging as performance art.
> For some painting landscapes with no underlying political meaning is
> more powerful than your average period piece protest slogan one liner.
> I personally think 15 years from now George Bush 1 and 2 will be
> mostly forgotten about. Either times will get better or they will get
> worse.
>
> Sorry for the ramble but I think you are out of touch with reality.
> i do think though that this thread has inspired some important content
> for consumption.

I think you've assumed a lot about me, my motives and project. Perhaps
my reply will help you see that. to date I have not done an art project
for money, even when I could. I'd rather prostitute myself in other
ways like having a corporate day job to earn money so that I never have
to bow to any agenda when making art.
I think you have my confused with someone who has an ego.

>
> Eat it up... spit it out...or swallow and shit it out later.
>
> Cheers,
> Lee
Right back atcha,
Wendy
>
> Infiltrate and Take Over
>
  • Lee Wells | Fri Apr 16th 2004 3:41 a.m.
    Dear Wendy:

    My apologies for coming across the way I did.
    I believe that I read you wrong.
    Please know that I think its a cool project and i look forward to
    seeing what can be spelled out with 500 women.

    Maybe I reacted to the infighting that does go on within the left.
    I do feel that this thread has been important and timely. Sort of a
    call to arms and agenda check for the political artists with in the
    Rhizome community.
    Which I think there are a lot of.

    Thank you for taking the time to respond.

    Cheers,
    Lee

    On Thursday, April 15, 2004, at 10:07 AM, wendy tremayne wrote:

    >>
    > Hi Lee,
    > Thanks for the reply post.. and here's my reply. I do believe we have
    > some unfinished business.
    >> Good ideas are good ideas especially for social change. copy and
    >> repeat.
    > couldnt agree more
    >> Even if an artist is doing it strictly as a way to gain attention for
    >> themselves then great.
    >> If its powerful and touches the masses then great. Advertising
    >> executives do it every day and get paid top dollar.
    >>
    >> I dont think you should have turned down the book offer.
    >> You don't seem to be alone in the naked people spelling words for
    >> political causes art movement.
    >> I ask why? and I am wondering why you think you are the first to
    >> think of this sort of "nudist" performance art as political dissent.
    >
    > Who said I thought that I was the only one? I copied someone else, a
    > group in California, sent them an email saying "good idea, I'm gonna
    > do it in NYC." Didnt you notice that I posted pictures of other groups
    > who did this on my site?
    > This is the reason I turned down the book. Because someone else did
    > believe that they were the first to use nudist performance art as
    > political dissent and I didnt want to be part of that claim. They
    > decided to claim this 'art form' (if you can even call it that) by
    > publishing a book of all the people who used nudes to spell words to
    > express themselves against the war. I fought with them for a whole
    > year. First I tried to submit an entry for the book which included an
    > essay on how dangerous it is to claim such a medium by publishing a
    > book. When they wouldnt publish the essay I refused to be in the book.
    >
    > This is not about validating any form as art. In truth, I think
    > spelling words with nudes is a rather sophomoric medium (however
    > complicated to produce). What matters is that at the time it was done,
    > it was affective. It raised awareness.
    >> you said
    >>> This was at a time when dissent was barely on the radar.
    >>
    >> Whos radar???? Your Radar ????????? Dissent >>>>>
    >> Its out there,
    >
    > On February 7, 2003 there were no reports of dissent in the major
    > media and we were about to go to war. Because NO BUSH was so widely
    > covered by the media other people in all parts of the world knew that
    > some Americans were against the war. I received emails from nearly
    > every country on earth telling me how happy they were to know that
    > Americans gave a shit. This matters! And, the massive media coverage
    > of NO BUSH inspired groups in other countries to do the same. This
    > also matters. If it pleases you, dont call it art so that you wont
    > subject it to this scrutiny and can see it for its impact. Call it a
    > form of protest. It doesn't matter, what matters it that it was
    > affective.
    >
    > On Feb 7 2003 dissent was not in the papers. We were about to go to
    > war and it was very quiet.
    >> it never stops. I'm not trying to give you a hard time but I think
    >> you are being a bit naive and the Newspaper has inflated your ego.
    >
    > This is quite silly, I think you are putting your own desired story in
    > here. I turned down a book offer, and although over 500 people emailed
    > me to volunteer to do the "next nude piece" I have not done the next
    > piece. I did not feel that it had enough relevance or would have the
    > same impact and I really have little interest in this medium. I did it
    > at the time because I was the right context for conveying the right
    > message. And I did not repeat it just because I could even though the
    > media was waiting for me to. Instead I thought about what project
    > might be affective and since I had no idea I felt was worth producing
    > I sat around for over a year letting the media interest fade and I
    > instead helped other people do their projects. Does this sound like my
    > ego is guiding my decisions? I also turned down offers to go on talk
    > shows and interviews with the press because I felt they wanted to play
    > ping pong with me in a political arena.
    >
    > I think that this debate is falling prey to the very same subject that
    > the first email kicked off. It's not about validating someone's art or
    > being ego based, or fame, or any of this crap. All art is political!
    >
    > It's about anyone, artist or not, using art to convey important
    > messages in a time when we need social change. Anyone who can, should.
    > And they should not be attacked for it, especially by artists! Art
    > doesnt belong to the talented, the famous, .... its available to
    > everyone alike. Finding flaw in political art seems like a really good
    > way to avoid doing it yourself. Judging it only keeps people further
    > from doing it making it unsafe ground to tread.
    >
    > I dont want to begin a debate about Burning Man. But it serves a good
    > example of how art is for all. At Burning Man all artists are given
    > the same amount of real estate (endless amounts, however much they
    > want) to create. They dont have to be someone or pass some test. The
    > famous, the unfamous, the experienced and novice all have equal space.
    > The result is a community that uses art to express themselves in their
    > daily lives (at least their lives at the event). You just cant have
    > this when artists set bars on what the right context is, what's to ego
    > based, etc.. This things are the result of our current society's use
    > of art: commercial use.
    >
    >> The other projects you are working on that I saw on your website are
    >> interesting and i encourage you to keep doing it but you are not
    >> alone. Have you brought your art to the frontlines of and angry
    >> blackblock taking on the cops. Your project was very safe outside of
    >> some risk of frostbite of the butt.
    >
    > Safe. I doubt it. I did this project in NYC post 9-11 when security
    > was at an all time high. There was nothing safe about it. I also
    > recruited women I had never met. I had an awful lot of responsibility
    > to bear including a tide of nasty emails that I personally responded
    > to from pro Bushers who would be happy to see shot down by the very
    > next terrorist to hit NYC.
    >
    >> Have you ever been to Dachau? The Nazis did much of their human
    >> testing there, they learned a lot about what a human could with
    >> withstand. Cold, Heat, Pressure. Although alot of people died there,
    >> they never used the gas chambers. Probably the saddest place I have
    >> ever visited.
    >
    > What's the point of this comment? Are you defending Dachau because it
    > produced medial information?
    >>
    >> The VOMITORIUM sounds like fun., I would recommend to not ware your
    >> good shoes.
    >>
    >> Why do it in a controlled location? why not do it in a high-end
    >> uptown restaurant and not pay the bill because everyone got sick.
    >>
    >> )))))))))))))))))))))
    >> Once fame sets in there is another agenda that an artist must
    >> consider and that is their business of artmaking, their assistants,
    >> dealers, agents.
    >
    > Not if you are not doing it for money or fame you dont.
    >>
    >> When it comes to political art, dont give a damn what ANYone else
    >> says, just do it until you learn how to not get arrested or until you
    >> sell out or until there is no war or pain and suffering and cold and
    >> power and ego and money and fame. Make it because something inside
    >> you is driving your spirit to make a difference.
    >> For some political art is just working for a childrens charity
    >> collecting money on the streets. Basically begging as performance >> art.
    >> For some painting landscapes with no underlying political meaning is
    >> more powerful than your average period piece protest slogan one >> liner.
    >> I personally think 15 years from now George Bush 1 and 2 will be
    >> mostly forgotten about. Either times will get better or they will get
    >> worse.
    >>
    >> Sorry for the ramble but I think you are out of touch with reality.
    >> i do think though that this thread has inspired some important
    >> content for consumption.
    >
    > I think you've assumed a lot about me, my motives and project. Perhaps
    > my reply will help you see that. to date I have not done an art
    > project for money, even when I could. I'd rather prostitute myself in
    > other ways like having a corporate day job to earn money so that I
    > never have to bow to any agenda when making art.
    > I think you have my confused with someone who has an ego.
    >
    >>
    >> Eat it up... spit it out...or swallow and shit it out later.
    >>
    >> Cheers,
    >> Lee
    > Right back atcha,
    > Wendy
    >>
    >> Infiltrate and Take Over
    >>
    >>
    _________

    Lee A Wells
    mobile: 917 723 2524
    studio: 718 349 7951

    lee@leewells.org
    http://www.leewells.org
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