Working with emerging artists on The Unicorn Factory by Liza Isakov
Most Art magazines and different Art Social Media Accounts focus on the finished products of the artists, their bios, and artist statements. Which are definitely very important to understand the mind of the artists, but it leaves the question – what’s their process? What informs their practice? There are mentions of the medium and the place, maybe even the inspiration; but it depends on the type of publication we’re talking about. But where was this final artwork made? Where’s the mess of the studio? The chosen materials? Favourite brush to use for mark making? That information is often talked about in podcasts and in some interviews, but there wasn’t a platform that focused solely on the artist’s studio. This is where The Unicorn Factory was born.
The Unicorn Factory is a contemporary art community that represents artists from all around the world. This is a space for artists and their studios. It highlights the messy process, the inspiration, and every element of uniqueness in the artist’s life. Artists and creatives are all unicorns full of magic, full of awesome bits and pieces, and The Unicorn Factory is here to share it with the rest of the world. The Unicorn Factory shares the behind-the-scenes, the trade ‘secrets’, and the quirkiness that comes with being an artist.
One of the biggest goals for The Unicorn Factory for me as a founder, is to have a physical space. A residency program with a gallery and store front, workshop space for all ages, and studios with all the items every type of artist will need for their projects. For now, The Unicorn Factory resides online, and shares many unique aspects of the Artist’s Journey. I strongly believe in education, and sharing what we know with others in order to elevate others, and help one another with reaching our goals. Every time I see an artist use something that I like, maybe a coloured pencil or a tube of paint; it haunts me and I want to be able to know what and where they found it. And there is a certain mindset sometimes, that you as an artist shouldn’t share your industry secrets, because what if someone steals it? It is a valid point, but I believe that if someone is actively seeking knowledge it’s because they want to learn, not to copy.
It’s been a pleasure talking to different artists about their practice in the last year since The Unicorn Factory started. I get to know them very well after the interview and it always inspires me to try something new, or revisit old ideas and see what I can make. I hope to make everyone inspired to go to their studios and seek inspiration. Seeing everyone’s spaces also helps to break the dream idea of having a huge studio filled to the brim with your work; that exists for some, but many emerging artists create their work in their kitchens, spare bedrooms, on the floor, in the pantry, and anywhere else that can contain their creativity. It opens up a conversation about what a studio is, and how different it looks to each and every creative.
Being an emerging artist myself, I learn to do many different things on the fly, and the biggest learning curve was how to approach artists and invite them to be on Unicorn. I think as artists, we are always asked to talk about our work but sometimes it’s so hard to put into words exactly what we do and what informs our practice. I found it hard at first describing what Unicorn is and what it could be, but I received a lot of support from my community and it feels great to see how many people believe in my vision.
To be able to work with my contemporaries, have conversations, seeing their process, it’s a privilege. I hope to one day make short videos about each artist that I am able to visit, once the pandemic is over. Showing the studio first hand, maybe romanticizing it a little, but also showing the real hard work that goes into being an artist.
The Unicorn Factory is curating it’s first online exhibition, all inspired by spring called Flora and Fauna. I am beyond excited to see the amount of support we’ve received so far, and cannot wait tot create more opportunities for artists and creatives from around the world.
Bio: Liza Isakov is an artist and art educator based in Winnipeg, MB, Canada, and is the founder of The Unicorn Factory. Isakov is an emerging artist creating works on paper, her practice draws inspiration from everyday objects and observations. Collecting items, imagery, and memories to create an image that reflects her sensitive mark making.
The light of an extravagant art by Anderson F. Santos
The extravagance of drag art makes the normative and hegemonic environments uncomfortable. It is a vital experience and not a mere infertile production. Those who are sympathizers of drag perceive the potential of this art to emancipate human beings and empower life experiences that, at all times, were silenced, excluded and invisible. The revolution is particular: its weapons are wigs, high heels, exaggerated makeup, never-before-seen dances, and hearts full of dreams. This is how his activism is articulated, or rather, his Artivism.
In Colombia, a few years ago, there was a drag event called “La noche y las luciérnagas” (The night and the fireflies); This event was a night in which drag artists from Bogota, Medellin, Cali and other cities raised their voices in favor of equality and the civil rights of sexual diversity. The name of this revolutionary event was inspired by the Italian poet Pier Paolo Pasolini and the French philosopher Georges Didi-Huberman. The constellation that emerges between Pasolini’s work and Didi-Huberman’s is a reflection of the struggle faced by those who are part of the ‘world of the dislocated’: the fascist darkness that seeks to eradicate any diverse life, in the face of the Multicolored and extravagant light that emanates from those who, with pride, stand up and freely live their difference.
From a political imagination it is still quite important to remember that consideration of the Dantean hell from which Didi-Huberman extracts the matrix that articulates a large part of his work: the utopia of a glorious ‘great light’ (lume) of Paradise and the factual existence of small and wandering fireflies (lucciole) that shine intermittently, and counter-rhythms, even in the midst of infernal contexts, such as the one experienced in Colombia.
Precisely on February 18 of this year an investigation was revealed stating that between 2002 and 2008 in Colombia there was a massacre in which more than 6,400 innocent people, the vast majority of them young, were murdered by the fascist government and pseudo-democratic of Alvaro Uribe. This heartbreaking discovery, which is still in impunity, not only speaks of more than 15 years ago, but also evokes and points out the current reality of this Latin American country, in which violence and inequality still do not cease today.
However, as Didi-Huberman puts it, “it is not the fireflies that have been destroyed, but rather something central to the desire to see – to desire in general, and therefore to political hope”; That desire to see like this is a light that shines, with hope, in the midst of these dark times is what is found in Colombian drag. Lesley Wolf, the most recognized drag queen in Colombia, endorsed the words of Miley Cyrus’s song “Nothing Breaks Like a Heart” to passionately express the Colombian reality: “This world can hurt you, It cuts you deep and leaves a scar”, “nothing gon’ save us now”, “Things fall apart”, but “there’s broken silence by thunder crashing in the dark”…
Bio: Anderson F. Santos is a young Colombian philosopher. Santos is interested in the relation between philosophy and mysticism but also queer theory. Santos is in his last semester of Philosophy at the Pontifical Xavierian University, in Bogota, Colombia. He takes also part in the intensive course of Philosophy and Religion at the University of Edinburgh. In addition Santos studied at Boston College on Christology, Latin American theology and women in the Church
Curator with a migraine by Charlie Meyers
Online space is infinite. Online space is accessible. Curator With A Migraine is a space carved out within the endlessness of the internet, representing both the art and story of the artist.
Everything that we are, we bring to our art. Curator With A Migraine portrays artists as whole beings who contain contradictory multitudes and experiences. The interface between art-making and health adds to a richer understanding of what it means to be an artist. I am interested in art that inhabits one’s own body politic.
My approach is holistic: representing whole people whose lives encompass trials and tribulations often left out of typical curatorial mandates. Those I profile create artwork through and around these experiences, their stories highlight how their body impacts their art. Chronic pain and illness, disability, adverse health experiences, and everyday ageing and changes to the body play a role in our development as artists and arts workers.
When we are working out who we are, we love to slice ourselves up into pieces of identity: star signs, places of origin, schools, genders, diagnoses, ethnicities, sexualities, belief systems, language groups, aesthetics. Recognizing all of our layers and identifying different influences on who we are can be deeply meaningful, but experiencing ourselves as divided and taxonomied is enriching only so far.
While Curator With A Migraine prioritizes the intersection of art-making and health, my curatorial mandate is mainly one of inclusivity and access. An artist’s creation is a living embodiment of an assemblage of incorporeal and material circumstance that should not be limited to one identity politic or rule. My platform is a conduit for artistic narratives without allegiance to any exclusive political alliance or tradition.
I curate artists who:
come as they are
make good art
Tell their story
Call others in.
I aim to allow the audience the time and space to accept the gift of what you’ve made, how you made it, and who you were while you made it.
Everyone is welcome.
Future Young Talent by Francesca Martini
I love thinking “yes, these are amazing pieces by my young students”. The space is filled with artworks and vintage furniture, which is also another passion of mine. I am not an actual product designer but I am quite obsessed with the aesthetic power of objects. I often change and move furniture and pieces around me, I just love to introduce always something new and unusual. I remember the first day my father brought me in a color shop. I spent every Saturday since seven and until when I got fourteen, trying to reproduce Renoir and Monet’s paintings. That has been my first approach with art, not so romatic.
What could have happened if I had the opportunity of learning a process since I was a child? A process that you can use every time you need to create something? This is why I want to talk about active learning, because I’m not only an artist, I’m the founder of futureyoungtalent.com. Art education is a topic that I feel very close to me, in particular with young students around age eighteen. Future young talent is a workshop program with an attention to design, self portrait and abstraction.
Of course I don’t assume to be the first to bring up this kind of pedagogical ideas, I was inspired by the Bruno Munari and Montessori methods. Every time I start a workshop is always a different test, sometimes I find something fresh that I have never seen before, sometimes is hard or instead relaxing, it depends from the class – but I have to say that every time is a success.
This project tries to give youngsters notions to understand, with a critic focus, art and design but also “a method to design”. I notice how hard it is to bring young people out of the school thinking and learning method, into something more abstract or surreal. Being able to design abstraction through a process is completely different from drawing lines casually.
One of the key parts of my workshop is to give “abstract thoughts” to kids which are used to learn how to write on the line and to stay inside the stripes. They can’t create something if they are not able to break the lines, to imagine how to go into an abstract world.
Different exercises allow me to act in different fields and make them accessible even to those who feel extraneous to the world of art and design, but rather creating a direct relationship that allows them to manage the production of art pieces with a process and knowledge.
These exercises are made of provocations to destabilize the ordinary way of working in the class. For example, when I start the lesson of self-portrait I always begin with this leaves exercise. A kind of abstraction process made of different phases. It demonstrates that through mechanical phases we arrive at an abstract work of meaning. It is interesting to think about what the meaning is.
It’s made of a process, is made by you, by your decision and I’s not made by the case. You will not arrive at the same line if you don’t start from the real leaf.
Bruno Munari teaches us how to design in steps, by simplifying it, split it and make it clear, understandable to those who then use the final product.
From design objects to utopian projects for the city. Works return an unconditional vision of reality. The works of Future Young Talent students are published in the aim of forming an annual archive of #futureyoungtalent production
Dear artists, we have to radically transform the learning process of art didactis and aesthetic-artistic education. We can influence the act of “learning” and we have to do it starting from the younger generations.
Bio: I’m Francesca aka Matete, I was born in Pordenone, a small city in the North East of Italy. I live in my studio, which is a sort of home studio and here there are not just my artworks but several art and design pieces from the future young production. For more info about my project visit futureyoungtalent.com.
Where are mother artists? by Sophie
As a Mother artist I was called to a creative communion with my womb. It began with a question of; ‘Where are Mother artists? Why is Anish Kapoor celebrated for his menstruation art(which isn’t real menstruation blood) yet real period blood, bled from a woman is not to be found in our famous galleries in the UK!’ This question has led me down quite the rabbit holeand I am here now to say; NO MORE HIDING THE MOST OVER LOOKED RESOURCE!
We need to embrace the power of the period into our lives, our culture and the way we work.
Imagine a culture which cultures limitless creativity, exceptional leadership and purposeful productivity!
Imagine knowing the prime time of the month to attract new clients!
Imagine knowing when to cave and take time out to reflect and contemplate!
Imagine tuning into the psychic, blowing your peoples minds with how you deeply understand them. Better than they understand themselves!
Well this is the untapped magic of the menstrual cycle.For too many centuries I care to think about this resource has been shamed out of ournatural rhythms. While we have been sleeping, the female hygiene and female contraceptive industries have been profiting in the BILLIONS thanks to the SHAME marketing.
Suppress your bleed (take medication)
Curse your bleed
Moan about your bleed
Wish you didn’t bleed
20 years I bought into this until I tuned into the medicine of menstruation. I can no longer tolerate this profiting from periods. It is time for radical change.
What if your bleed is of value? What if your bleed is planet saving? What if your bleed is your medicine?What if your bleed wasn’t painful? What if your bleed gave you guidance? What if your bleed was celebrated?
What if you were paid to bleed?
Bio: Artist, Professional Disruptor and Audacious Menstruation Coach for culture change. To see Made in Womb; A story of coming out head to www.ifeelwild.co.uk/art I invite your truth not your kindness. Deep dialogue is how we heal.
Art can save us by Anderson Santos
Ever since, I read Dostoyevsky’s Idiot (Идиот), I have not stopped thinking about that idea that develops throughout this work: the beauty that will save the world emerges from the hurt vulnerability, that is, from the violated vulnerability. When I remember the passage in which the atheist Ippolit questions Prince Myshkin, I am impressed: “Really, prince, was it you who once said that the world will be saved by beauty? (…) What beauty is that that is going to save the world? (…) The prince stared at him and remained silent, without answering”.
I wonder incessantly about that look of Prince Myshkin: what would his eyes say? This same question is updated every time I look at a work of art in which the eyes of the painted character seem to look at me. I think this happens because art is strictly connected to vulnerability, since in our relationship with the work of art a ‘vulnus’ is exposed, that is, a wound that calls us to reinterpret ourselves.
I want to talk about a Dutch woman who has accompanied me on my existential, spiritual and philosophical path for some years now: Etty Hillesum, the famous diarist from Middelburg. Something impressive about Etty’s Diary is that her spiritual development, that is, her journey from chaos to lucidity, from darkness to enlightenment, from disorder to stability, seems to be marked by what she calls “creative urge” (or “creative unease” and “creative talent”). Etty thought that she was born to create works of art, but she herself became a work of art, since her spiritual experience became a re-creation, which began from the moment she realized that there was enormous inner chaos, a spiritual constipation (seelische verstopfung), a tension of discordant forces that destabilized her.
I think it is because of the above that when I read Etty’s Diary or look at one of the many paintings, portraits or photographs of her, I think again about the question that Prince Myskin’s conversation with the atheist Ippolit raises in me. What has the atheist seen in the prince’s eyes? What have people who knew her seen in Etty Hillesum’s eyes? I want to dare to answer that in the eyes of the prince of Dostoyevsky and in the eyes of Etty that tension between suffering and goodness had to shine, which even in these times surprises us and leaves us astonished.
Bio: Anderson Santos is a young Colombian philosopher. Santos is interested in the relation between philosophy and mysticism but also queer theory. Santos is in his last semester of Philosophy at the Pontifical Xavierian University, in Bogota, Colombia. He takes also part in the intensive course of Philosophy and Religion at the University of Edinburgh. In addition Santos studied at Boston College on Christology, Latin American theology and women in the Church.
Celebrate sex through art by Karishma Joshi
Since centuries there’s an army of unseen people who have had something to say, feel or hide about erotica and the human body. Some argue that it is a part of evolutionary psychology or some think of it as a deliberate attempt by religions and governments to influence and control social behavior. Slowly, erotica became more of a taboo rather than a medium to explore our bodies and to celebrate one of the most divine of human acts.
With the internet came the freedom to explore. In the past decade art collectors, artists, designers adored what’s considered as deviant in art. Sometimes you can’t explain how you feel so you draw it, paint it or make it. In the virtual world regulations are relaxed. A hashtag can spearhead a sexual revolution where erotica made their way into our smartphones, our households and our lives.
The role of art in sexual evolution has been enormous! Erotic art not only normalized sexual forms which were earlier branded as taboo, but it also became a powerful tool to protest sexual injustice and to support global movements like LGBT. Take the example of FGM (female genital mutilation) where artists across the globe have united to spread awareness and bring their message to even the remotest parts of Africa. Another example is how masturbation and vagina art has played a defining role in closing the orgasm gap and highlighting the importance of body positivity. The role of deviant art in getting oral sex, anal sex and same sex intimacy out of the taboo zone into the mainstream cannot be ignored as well.
Deviant art can also be just about celebrating erotic freedom, for example , the Japanese artist Namio Harukawa used his fetish to make art . His illustrated narratives are of female domination in sex where women with large breasts, legs and buttocks dominate a subservient man by sitting on his face as if to choke him. Somehow, he manages to keep it unpretentious. Sex is hardly the focus instead, it’s just what’s unseen, obscure and concealed that attracts the audience’s gaze. That’s what separates porn and erotica. His works have been exhibited in many prominent galleries in Japan and the Museum of Eroticism in Paris. It evokes an emotional feeling or response, like any work of art.
Nonetheless, freedom of expression through deviant art still has a long way to go. It is still banned in a lot of mainstream digital platforms and print media. In some countries, artists can even get prosecuted for this. There are rules they say. But then what are rules for? Finding a way around and bringing a change. Erotic art has made many artist open up about sexual exploration, female empowerment, and challenging the taboos of depicting sexuality. Millennials are relating to it! Doesn’t it make to worship the idea of free and honest love?
Bio: My name is Karishma and art is my purpose of existence and a journey inward. I am Intuitive, perceptive and a self-taught artist. Ever since I was a child, I have always strived to capture my abstract perception of the world on canvas. I studied BA (Honours) in Media and Sociology and a Masters in Journalism with a specialization in documentaries. My experience with reiki and aura healing adds a dimension to a lot of my works.
Sending a message by Jos van Leeuwen
Some time ago, I went to visit a modern art gallery with a friend, where an exhibition was featured with a political theme. Both of us felt lost. It was impossible to gauge the meaning of much of the featured works and the intention of the artists who created them. Most of the time, we had to read the explanatory signs next to the work to understand what the works were about.
Then, my friend and I thought that maybe we did not look hard enough. Being regular visitors of museums and galleries who are well-versed in the methods of art criticism, we came up with a little game – first, look carefully at the works and register all kinds of cues, like materials, symbols, and patterns, then guess what the artist was trying to say, and only then read the signs to see whether our interpretation was correct. Surely such a careful analysis of the works would reveal their meaning?
Turns out we were completely wrong.
How could we know that the nondescript waves featured in the black and white film installation were images from two beaches in the Netherlands and Saint Martin representing the presence of different cultural layers in the artist’s background, rather than the oceanic awareness of the past?
And that the image of a ladder in the sea leading nowhere referred to the instability of the current political situation in the Caribbean, rather than the limits to upward social mobility experienced by people with this heritage?
I argue that the impenetrability of such works of art does not make them “deep” or “profound”. Rather, it means that the artist in a way has failed their mission. Apparently, the artist wanted to make a statement about a topic important to them. Of course, every artist is free to express themselves in the way they see fit. In this sense, no work of art can be criticized. However, the artist also wanted to represent this topic to a public, and the art gallery found this message important enough to feature it in an exhibition. In this sense, both the artist and the gallery failed, because their message did not come across.
It may be said that these artists make art for a specific public with a trained eye, and that members of this public might actually be able to get their meaning. But then art becomes an elitist exercise, which is only accessible to a small number of people. And was it not the mission of the artist to make a statement about something they care about, and the mission of the gallery to give voice to this issue? Then, again, both the artist and the gallery seem to have failed, for there is little point in presenting a message if it reaches only a select inner circle who already agrees with it
Even more problematic is that impenetrability is the rule rather than the exception in modern art. This has created an expectation that art has to be hard to understand in order for it to be good art at all. The preference for such art evinced by many art galleries creates a perverse tendency by which more and more obscure art is produced to cater to the expectations of curators and art critics. As long as artists produce something which looks hard to understand and connect it to some relevant social issue, there will be a market for such work.
In this way, the current preference for politically relevant but impenetrable art may even make artists lose their motivation to really put effort into their works. Just throw some images or materials together, connect it to a political theme, and you will get featured. Making art now only requires following this formula, and art becomes more and more a caricature of itself. But would anyone really consider such works as “good” art if they did not have this political layer? And is this really what we want?
Bio: Jos van Leeuwen studied philosophy, psychology and sociology. Currently he teaches at the University of Amsterdam and conducts research on the effect of modern society on mental health. Besides his interest in science, he has always had a keen interest in the subject of cultural criticism.
Learning how to put a positive spin on your setbacks by Denia Kazakou
Before opening the RedD Gallery in Crete, I was doing PR in the art industry from 2012. I had already collaborated with many established international artists, galleries, dealers, and journalists. I frequently visited studio and exhibition openings and met with talented young artists who were eager to work with me but rarely had a budget to do so. I wouldn’t take them on as clients as marketing can be expensive and emerging artists should spend their earnings on maintenance costs. However, I did keep in touch with the ones that stood out to me and promised them I would find a way to work with them in the future when given the opportunity.
I always toyed with the idea of opening a space of my own, and showing works by artists I admired based on instinct and personal taste. On occasion I rented pop up spaces around Europe and produced exhibitions showing both emerging and established artists that I called ‘VENTURES’. With a pretty solid understanding of how the art world worked, I decided to open the RedD Gallery in Chania in 2019. Launching a contemporary gallery in a city with no existing art market came with its own challenges but the affordable property market and the local quality of life made it worth. Of course, no one had predicted a global pandemic as a factor when going over their financial planning for the year ahead so that did make things a bit complicated.
Online viewing rooms popped up everywhere and notable virtual sales platforms raised their prices making it impossible for young galleries to keep up. Throughout the initial stages of lockdown I remained calm, I had predicted slow sales before opening the space as I was mainly showing emerging artists so my overhead costs were manageable even without being operational for several months. I knew I couldn’t keep up with my established counterparts as I couldn’t afford the gallery rent and elevated sales platform prices but I still had to figure out a way to survive. I reached out to some of my contacts from my years in PR and asked them if they would be interested in joining me live on Instagram from my gallery account to talk about their quarantine experience, market predictions, and the art world in general. The LIVEs went extremely well and were even featured in The Art Newspaper; an amazing achievement for a gallery that wasn’t even a year old.
Just when things had started looking up and lockdown was lifted, I lost one of my most promising emerging artists to a well established international gallery. Initially upset but far from shocked this sort of thing happened all the time in the art world. I knew there was no point in trying to compete, my new gallery didn’t have years of fair participation or drawers full of articles mentioning its name in them, I couldn’t offer the same things they were giving my artist. However, what I could do was accept the loss and use it to promote the other artists I had in my roster to the interested collectors that approached me from that point on, clearly I have a good eye. The point being that things will never be easy or predictable in the art world but you must learn to adapt, understand and use what you do have to your advantage.
Bio: Denia Kazakou was born in 1986 in New York. At the age of 10 her family relocated to Chania Greece, from where they originate. When she turned 17 she initially moved to London to study Molecular Biology & Genetics and before eventually switching to a career in the Arts. She registered her company RedD Public Relations in 2012 during her final year studying Fine Arts (BA) at the University of East London, after completing a photography project commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery for the 2012 Olympics.
Dealing with rejection by Alessia Camoirano Bruges
Writing, painting and filming have always been in my life. But so are anxiety and intense feelings, some caused by trauma. Art allowed me to grow and deal directly with my mind. It empowered me, giving me full control over my practice and life, fighting stigma and showing that it’s possible to thrive despite anxiety and intense feelings.
It was not easy at the beginning and honestly, it still is not. This is an industry where rejection, critics and financial instability are the norm. As a multidisciplinary artist whose work is mainly around identity and human experiences, I tend to express myself using my own experiences which makes my work very vulnerable and personal. Therefore I had to find ways to detach myself from negativity and just focus on the reason why I create and the benefits that it has on my mental health.
What really helped me to deal with rejection was radical acceptance, which is the practice of accepting reality as it is and let things go. When rejection comes I just proceed normally in my life, I don’t put any weight or thought into it. I don’t ask myself why, I don’t read over and over the email, I don’t go and check out the artists that they selected, I don’t get bitter about it. The temptation to do it is there, it’s absolutely ok, but you are in control of your life and you have all the strength to just accept life at life’s terms.
If you like me, suffered or suffer from a mental health problem you need to remind yourself that you have been through way worse things than being rejected from a gallery, competition, magazine or a comment that you don’t like. You are alive, now. Your mind could have taken your life away any time, but you are here, so celebrate that. Use rejection as a driving force, tune in with your resilience and keep showing your work.
Your work is not for everyone and that is how it should be. There are 7.8 billion people out there, the art market is broken and thanks to the internet, you can access multiple resources and create your own space. But people online too will always judge. Therefore the only thing left is to accept that rejection is just as natural as breathing, don’t compare yourself to others and create your own opportunities. It’s the hardest thing to do, but the healthiest if you want to showcase your artwork.
Bio: Alessia Camoirano Bruges is an Italian-Colombian artist based in London. She has lived in many places, each one inspiring her deeply. Her work explores identity and human experiences with the aid of colours, emotional responses and writing. She graduated from the University of the Arts London where she studied film and TV, and learned how colours impact on our emotions and moods.
The mythology of what an artist is by Emília Duarte
We have been taught to believe that negative equals realistic and positive equals unrealistic. In general, our culture views an artist as someone very utopic, flamboyant, promiscuous, disorganized, drunk and non-business savvy. Mark Bryan refers to this as the Edgar Allan Poe School of artistry: Get drunk, die broke in the gutter. This type of negative belief or assumption comes from parents, religion, culture, our society. Societal beliefs about the life of an artist influences everyday lives of artists. It’s important to defy these toxic societal assumptions about artist’ life.
Because negative beliefs are exactly that: beliefs, not facts. Some common assumptions about artists: drunk, crazy, broke, irresponsible, loners, promiscuous, doomed, unhappy, depressed, born not made, loners, dirty, drugged addicts. However, artists can also be: sober, sane, solvent, rich, successful, friendly, extroverts, faithful, stable, happy, hygienic, organized, entrepreneurs. It is possible to be an artist, successful and romantically fulfilled.
The stereotype of the unhappy and broke artist is also known as the tyranny of exceptionalism. Mark Manson uses the term of ‘tyranny of exceptionalism’ to describe that it is the extremes that get all of the publicity. The consequences of ‘tyranny of exceptionalism’ is that the general public forgets that the world consists out of everyday life and not extremes. This flood of extreme information has conditioned us to believe that exceptionalism, drama, irresponsibility, and suffering are the new normal.
These stereotypes limit us to express ourselves. That’s why it’s important to be strong and create a protective shield, especially as artists. I think that it’s important to counter negative stereotypes of artist by setting an example. Share your stories of courage, positivity, light, sanity, success. Sharing your life as an artist can give a new perspective and will encourage younger and older generations who are currently afraid to become artists because of negative stereotypes.
There’s no one way only of being an artist. It’s important to share the things that go wrong, that are not pretty but it is also important to share the beautiful parts, the process of learning and the victories. This way we can spread a more balanced narrative of artists.
Bio: Emília Duarte is a multidisciplinary artist. Duarte is based in Maputo, Mozambique. She was born in Moscow, Russia. Duarte spend her childhood in Rome, Italy. Rome is the place where Duarte grew her love for art and beauty. Duarte holds a degree in organizational psychology, a bachelor’s degree in clinical psychology, a degree in journalism and has a background in fashion design.
Giving women artists a voice by Marie Bagi
The most important thing to me is to honour women artists. Nowadays, it’s always about museums and art galleries. It’s important to put forward an innovative concept that allows contemporary art to a new rise and to contribute to women’s visibility in the art world. The art gallery is an obsolete concept. This is the reason why I’m putting forward a new ‘space’ concept for women artists and intimacy: ‘espace artistes femmes’.
Contemporary art is often not understandable for the public. The public is interested in the process and not only in the result. The process is really important for understanding the result of an art piece. That’s the reason why I’m working with women artists who are willing to explain their art practice to a bigger audience.
It’s key to understand the role of intimacy within the art practices of women artists. I’m convinced that the public is open to intimacy. Intimacy is a great mediator between the public and women artists. What I enjoy about female artists is the creative impulse that is born within them. It’s a deep call from inside the female artists. Intimacy plays an important role in the creating of art works.
‘Espace artistes femmes’ is my way to show the importance women artists within society. My aim with ‘Espace artistes femmes’ is to recognise the power of female artists. I want to offer both the public and the women artists a place where they can be free. A space to exhibit work and to express ourselves freely.
Bio: Marie Bagi is a contemporary art historian and philosopher. She wrote a PhD thesis called ‘L’ Art au féminin I et II’. Her focus is on the concept of ‘intimacy’ in art works and the recognition of women artists. Head to her instagram account #espaceartistesfemmes for her latest project.
The artist as a business model by Clara Bolle
Most artists are dependent on open calls from magazines, galleries and other platforms to showcase their art. Most of these open calls ask a submission fee for the costs that they make, for example to compensate the curator, administration and maybe the rent for a space. The costs for these submissions vary from ten to hundreds of euro. Personally, I draw the line at twenty-five euro, because in the end it should be about covering the costs of these calls, not about generating a big profit from them. If I myself as an artist start to pay more, I, me submitting to their call, will become these parties’s business model, instead of a serious contender in their open call.
Nonetheless, these days I see more and more galleries and art fairs ask serious money from artists, not only to cover their own expenses but also to make a profit. Making a profit is what businesses do, right? Yes, of course. But a gallery or an art fair should make a profit from the sales of the art works, and not from the artists themselves. Why? Because they need us as much as we need them. In order to keep a balance within the art community, and to become more aware of and independent from abusive structures within the art world, artists should think of other ways to display their art work.
An oldie but a goodie is the co-operation. A couple of artists team up and they all put some money in online marketing and a pop-up gallery space. In the Netherlands, the country where yours truly lives, there are several of these artist co-ops that are more than a century old and are still going strong. However, there are some issues with this strategy, in the sense that they can become closed off to new blood and only have artists in their network, instead of (also) buyers. Another option to draw attention to your work is to venture out of the art world. I see a lot of artists co-operate with food, fashion and home goods brands, but you could also take some more risk, depending on the nature of your art practice, for example (psychiatric) hospitals (this is my personal favourite), political or not-for-profit-parties.
What are other ways, according to you, that artists could use to generate more attention for their art, without breaking the bank?
Bio: Clara Bolle is an philosopher, artist and writer. Her art practice (r)evolves around the question: what does it mean to be your body instead of having a body? She’s also the founder of Parrhesiastes. Fore more information about her and her work, please visit clarabolle.com
Art Critics Should Know Their Role by Sophia Schmelz
I recently took an online course at Node Center Berlin in Art Criticism and Writing. I was surrounded by up to 30 other ambitious future art critics with diverse backgrounds in the arts. Many were artists themselves, some studied art history, and yet another was publishing articles about art already. I’m a newbie in writing and I’m not very experienced with art criticism (the reason I took this course). Thus, when it came to discussions during the courses, I often decided to step back and learn from my classmates that seemed to be more experienced than me.
In the last class the teacher brought up a discussion point:
“Art critics determine what art is valuable”
That’s an interesting question because we all know that the value of art has different layers and can be highly subjective. But as a cultural economist I immediately thought of the structure of the art world and thought: “yes, art critics determine the value largely”. Art critics are intermediaries between artists and audience/collectors, just like museums and galleries. They bring art to the people through their writing. So, whatever information reaches the audience was shaped by the art critic and their judgement. By that, it is already clear that art critics are part in determining the artistic value of art.
My classmates agreed on that; artistic value is clearly what art critics care about primarily.
But I was shocked when none of the art-critics-to-be considered market value as their business. The answers of the course participants all went in the same direction:
“art critics can bring the attention towards value”
“art critics can intentionally help people to see the value of art beyond prices”
“art criticism can point to new artists”
“art critics should/do not determine which art is valuable”
“art critics add context to the art that should make people think”
Clearly, not every artwork has economic value, but the moment an artist is trying to live off their art, it matters. And economic value is set on a market. And this. market. is. influenced. by. artistic. valuation. And by narratives around the artist and the artwork (keywords: quality signals, hype, herd behaviour).
Thus, the moment you as an art critic pick up an artwork/artist/exhibition in your writing, assign high or low artistic value to it (or don’t mention it at all), put your text on the internet where you hope it will be found and read by as many people as possible (including art market participants), you have the power to raise or reduce price tags. Consequently, you can’t consider it your job to talk about valuable art and leave out the market mechanisms you’re lubricating.
As laudable as it is for art critics to think of artistic value first, it is also problematic. Any art critic should be aware of their influence on the market and on the bargaining power of the artists they review.
Bio: Sophia Schmelz is a cultural economist interested in many art disciplines. She recently finished her master’s in Rotterdam and is now located in the lively city of Leipzig from where she works on several projects that include writing, research, and (digital) production of culture. Sophia believes that economic thinking can help culture to strive and sustain a strong position in society.
You can’t sit still on a moving train by Gala Knörr
It is undeniable that the Venice Biennale last year titled ‘may you live in interesting times’ could have actually been a pun, or even an ominous threat. I must confess even myself back in March I was imagining celluloid-like scenarios of catastrophes, calling it quits, embracing my inner nihilistic Don Draper while simultaneously fiercely loving my family and friends, envisioning a ’28 days later’ type situation, maybe just until I discovered Tiger King, and the weird and extraordinary stories I got to read and focused on how to be still on this crazy train of a pandemic that we all have to suffer in our corresponding quarantines, lockdowns and isolated personal freak outs while incessantly watching the borderline dystopic news reports, the inadequacy of our unprepared western privilege realized this was gonna change everything, and we were gonna have to endure it together. And as artists it is probably no better time to exercise a radical structure of support to carry each other.
As I sat at my family’s home in southern Spain, I was hyperconnected to my friends and peers, and was able to witness a never-ending online series of try outs, matches and strikes from the art world to keep the ball rolling when museums, galleries, art fairs and other cultural institutions closed because of Covid19. The truth is I sat home, paralyzed, unable to figure out my place in this global mess of epic proportions that corona virus has been, I even questioned the value of my own labour, my art practice, my artworks, what would the future of art be if it was not able to be a physical experience?
Others possibly preoccupied with holding their galleries and studios open searching for that impossible sale, seemed to be doing productive initiatives that inundated my inbox with PDFs, invitations to ‘viewing rooms’, online art fairs, zoom lectures, gazillion instagram lives… and there I was flagellating myself for choosing to be still. As an artist I had residencies pushed forward without a date, shows closed, exhibitions cancelled, workshops delayed and trapped in lockdown without access to my working space. We live in times in which we have been made to feel guilty when not being productive, I personally could not have fathomed the thought of making when everything seemed so grim and full of uncertainty. I chose to contemplate and meditate, to exercise a radical softness that I alone was the one to decide when it would end. A large part of our happiness and self esteem in this era depends on the things we achieve, how busy were are and how hard we work for things. The dependency to the culture of productivity was highlighted through this all.
Once the realization hit, I decided the right weapon to tackle what was happening, what the best coping mechanism or survival kit we could all have was humour. And if my art had to find a non-palpable space to be contained in full blown dystopia, I would ditch the PDFs and online viewing rooms and embrace the enormous infectious relational capability of fantasy and satire thrown into the endless black hole of social media, because at the end of the day you can’t sit still on a moving train.
Bio: Gala Knörr (1984) is an artist based in Vitoria-Gasteiz (Spain). She holds an MA Fine Art from Central Saint Martins (UK), and a BFA in Fine Arts from Parsons Paris The New School (France). Her work widely explores the intersection of identities and technology, evidencing the importance of images generated from it, working primarily with themes related to media and popular culture. Visit galaknorr.com.
You should know the sea you are swimming in by María Gracia de Pedro
The contemporary art world was blooming again until the pandemic arrived at our houses in early March 2020. By the end of March, Spain based artists stopped to go to their studios as the country regulations prohibited them to move around. The live videos on Instagram started to be a daily ritual. Viewers were spoilt for choice. With a large number of galleries closed in Europe, their artists, and artists without gallery representation started to question themselves how to handle this pandemic.
The impossibility of movement became the main problem for artists. Critics, curators, galleries, collectors, and art professionals try to find the next good investment, the upcoming curated solo to be on the news, and the rising artists that will position her/his in the art map.
The necessity of reaching collectors, institutions, foundations, and new audiences has become part of the everyday life of private businesses within the art world. In the last talk organized by Talking Galleries: Digital Solutions in the Face of Covid-19, three professionals that work for key players within the industry (Gagosian, Sotheby’s, and David Zwirner) gave their personal opinion related to their experience during those months related to online sales and presence. The message: there’s still a long way to persuade collectors to join digital channels. The physical experience of meeting the artists in their studios, visiting exhibitions in the gallery, and having a drink with the gallerist are still things art connoisseurs love.
Due to the current crisis, the monetization of artworks made by emerging artists is being slid by the secure assets. My advice: emerging artists should know the sea they are swimming in. The right connections will be crucial for their future in the art world. Every move counts and needs to be prepared in advance. The best strategy is to participate in calls, prizes, and residencies. Please avoid spam galleries with expensive printed portfolios as a self-presentation. A sound strategy leads to a sound future.
Bio: Maria Gracia de Pedro (1990) works and lives in Madrid, Spain. She’s a PhD researcher and art project coordinator. Maria specializes in the economic dynamics of emerging artists. For more info about Maria, please visit mariagraciadepedro.com
Performative activism within the art industry by Jiske Kosian
Ever since “woke culture” existed, many companies have been trying to show their solidarity with strategic marketing of people with a “diverse” appearance. The art industry is not an exception in this. How many times have you seen an open call looking for specifically queer, bipoc people to showcase their work? This could be read as a step forward, however, it is performative activism at it’s finest. Institutionalized racism is still very much seen at the core of the art world: the art academy.
Art school has always been a very elite form of education, mostly because of the strict admission requirements and the high cost of following such an education, without a high job guarantee. Furthermore, art schools are usually white. In an article from i-D magazine in 2017, it is stated that many principals agree that their schools are not diverse indeed, however, they shift the responsibility from the school to the students. Three years later, nothing has changed.
University of the Arts London and Glasgow School of Art were recently exposed on Instagram, by current students and alumni who described the racism they’ve experienced while attending these schools. This was after the official instagram of these academies posted a picture of George Floyd, victim of police brutality, to show their solidarity with the Black Lives Matter-movement. This was, again, a clear example of performative activism within the art industry.
As an alumni myself, I have also seen the micro-racism within my own art school. As a white cisgender female it was not directed towards me, but I did noticed that my class was not diverse at all, and the education itself was very western-orientated. Also, we did not have any teachers of color in the bachelor course, which takes four years.
Therefore, the question that remains is: Why not change it? If, as an industry, you want to show you’re an ally with the Black Lives Matter-movement, and claim to be a diverse inclusive space, why not take action and be one? As long as the core of this problem will not be fixed, every open call and exhibition for diversity will be a form of woke-washing, and will always be performative.
Bio: Jiske Kosian (1995) is an artist living in Rotterdam. She has completed her BA Fashion & Design at the Utrecht School of the Arts and is now doing a Pre-Master Arts, Culture & Society at Erasmus University in Rotterdam. Her interest is mainly in philosophy, art history and modern pop culture.
Art is Essential by Mia Risberg
Every morning I take a long walk with my dog, a 90 lb lovable, but somewhat medically challenging, rescue lab named Phillip. It’s Phil for short when he is a good boy, which is almost always. Walking is part of my daily routine and helps to ground me and start the day on a good note. Phil and I head out together in rain or sunshine, in the warmth or the cold. On most days I listen to an art podcast or audio book but sometimes I walk with a friend or catch up with someone over a phone call.
Last week I had the chance to do just that with my friend Francie. Even though we live close to each other I haven’t seen much of her lately. Francie is a mom and a pediatrician working in a busy medical practice. She is also, through her work, exposed to the Covid-19 virus and thus seeing less of neighborhood friends. I admire her and the work she does in normal times, but even more so during the pandemic. Because of this it came as somewhat of a surprise when she told me that she thinks of artists as essential workers.
In March of this year Covid-19 cast a strong hum of chaos and stress throughout the world. It forced the state I live in, into lockdown, and closed my children’s schools for the remainder of the academic year. I don’t think I’m alone if I confess to having felt unmotivated then. Early on it was difficult for me to make my way to the studio and I felt generally aimless. As an artist, who doesn’t generally work with social justice themes, I sometimes feel (and I suspect others may too) that my work is superficial or trivial and doesn’t have enough of an impact. This feeling was magnified during the early days of the pandemic, when so many were suffering and some people’s profession literally meant risking their lives for others. This feeling rose again during the unrest of the BLM protests. Therefore when my doctor friend told me she felt art is important, it struck a chord with me. She also told me that looking at art offered her a welcome break and distraction from everyday stressors.
Both comments really touched me. They affirmed something I have often been thinking about lately. Everyone is a different part of this wonderful (and messy) puzzle of our world. Not everyone can be a doctor, and not everyone can be an artist, but we can make the most of what we choose to do. I’m not sure I’ll ever be completely comfortable with describing my work as essential. However if we as artists can bring a bit of beauty, joy, or temporary escape to people looking at our work, then that is something that should make us proud… or at the very least a little bit happy.
Bio: Mia Risberg is a painter based in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Born in Sweden, she spent her childhood often moving and living in various countries before settling in the United States as a young adult. She has exhibited at various venues in the U.S and recently completed an arts residency at the Virginia Center for the Creative Art. For more information about her art practice visit miarisberg.com.
Abstract : Reality [Duchampian Chess] by Marcel Moonen
I believe the contemporary art-world is stuck in a loop; re-playing the final move of the Duchampian game, over and over again. It’s like watching a washing-machine-spin,day-after-day.
It’s rather pointless observing contemporary conceptual art pieces –stripped from any content–as isolated entities, as they only mirror back to past events and bring no new insights.
We should level-up a platform, to something more advanced; something above the sub-set of [Duchampian Chess]; what I call [Abstract : Reality], nested inside Imaginational Theory. Transform our observations and beliefs of history to create a new reality.
In the first part of this video Amy the Robot discusses the history of Duchampian Chess, in the second part I discuss what Abstract : Reality is about.
Bio: Marcel Moonen combines Art & Science. Moonen believes the dialogue between art and science could point the way to increased unity in all aspects of our fragmented culture. Moonen is in particular interested in the III-Fold-Image; Time, Space and Memory. For more info visit his website marcelmoonen.com
Parrhesiastes means those who speak truth to power in ancient Greek. This platform wants to provide a space for those who are not afraid to share their critique on the art world. Parrhesiastes wants to challenge assumptions, engage intellectually and to share ideas in relation to contemporary art.
About the founder
Clara Bolle (1985 Amsterdam) is a writer, philsopher and artist. For more information visit her website clarabolle.com or her social media #clarabolle.
Submissions are open all year. Anyone can submit an article. Here are some guidelines:
- The word count is 500
- Images are welcome but please give credit where credit is due
- Provide a short bio and profile picture
- You’re responsible for the quality of your style and content.
- This is not as safe space. Discussion is much needed All opinions are welcome but no hate speech.
- You can e-mail your text, bio and pictures to clarabolle (@) hotmail.com
Thank you for having the courage to speak up!
This platform is run by volunteers. Donations are more than welcome. You can use clarabolle (@) hotmail.com via PayPal. Thank you! You make it possible to let Parrhesiastes grow.
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