There is a junk store a few doors down from my house. Actually it isn’t even a store; it is just an alley with a tarp stretched over it and a chicken wire gate in front to protect the merchandise, which is mostly old furniture and baby things.
There used to be a guard dog chained to the gate. His name was Roscoe. I detest dogs, for the most part, but Roscoe wasn’t bad. He was beautiful. A pit bull with a pink muzzle and fur that was mostly white but had a faint orange hue. Roscoe was ferocious; terrifying, the streetlamp was out on his side of the street and at night he would hurl himself against the fence if you so much as looked in his direction, let alone walk past him.
“For the collaborative project with writer James McGirk, we decided that we would do a dialogical writing piece. We agreed on two things: that it would be set in the future – around 2050; and that we would write as two characters meeting in a waiting area. Then, we developed our own characters without telling each other. And then let the story unfold through dialogue between our characters within the story as they were telling it.” Read about the Transparent Studio Collaboration…
The “gallery” still exists on paper and hosts an occasional salon – these being one-night-only performances choked with marijuana fumes and haunted by octogenarian Warhol hangers-on and younger artists whose parents are presumed to have money – but lost its physical space five years ago. Today the gallery is a husk, but for a couple of years this gallery, which shall remain nameless, maintained a convincing façade and provided our heroine A— with her first glimpse at the art world’s mottled backside.
Image from The Bowery Boys
Just finished reading Luc Sante’s Low Life: Life and Snares of Old New York and was amused by the volume of material devoted to my ancestor John McGurk’s notorious Bowery bar – McGurk’s. He served whiskey shots needled with benzene, turpentine and cocaine sweepings, in an environment bad enough to drive his ‘girls’ to suicide. Six succeeded in 1899 alone, succumbing to quickly quaffed drams of carboxylic acid. McGurk was run out of town soon after, relocating to California, where his reputation apparently prevented his daughter from enrolling in convent school. He died in 1913. McGurk’s was demolished in 2005 and 295 Bowery has been rebuilt as part of glass complex, and looks the better for it, I do declare:
A compelling takeaway I didn’t include in my post about Richard Nash‘s speech was his emphasis on how writers crave community. This was his lead into a demand-based publishing model, and had a queasy resonance for me. I applied to graduate school for this reason — I wanted to find other writers and gather a group of people together whom I could snipe and gossip about writing with. But this was an error. I don’t think it’s what I nor anyone else needs as an “artist.”
Community is a distraction, one concealing the hierarchies of a dying industry and glomming up the cozy entry-level inefficiencies that once made it possible to make a living as a freelance writer or hack journalist. Community is comfortable, but ultimately inimical to individual achievement. In the nebulous non-being between becoming amateur and professional one is encouraged to wallow in the same ideas as one’s peers, and a close-knit community becomes a self-reinforcing echo chamber of status, etc. The only people accelerated and empowered by such an environment are sociopaths — at least at the level I’m at.
The game changes once you’ve built something worth protecting, which is why [visual] artist colonies (grouped studios, shared leases etc.) and arguably the upper-tiers of the art school swindle function so well — they generate income and reduce inefficiencies — but there is no artistic benefit. And, until every individual component of an artistic community is capable of producing income, community is just another parasite drooping off the withering flanks of postpostindustrial cultural production.