Nothing and no-thing, skeletons and cosplay, the entombment of art, networked power, white walls, and halls and many halls and balls

claz + lbod smell roses (and poses) outside. It’s so cold.

This google doc chat started in June 2018.

It is about art stuff, feelings, the real world, space, white things, abstraction etc etc blah blah.

Living, simmering, stewing, je pense aussi...  Stay tuned.
Watch it unfold...

To: lbod
subject:  pensing


hru? ... me ... I'm meditating on caffeine,  sitting on the 6 floor of the DHL building in mascot calling random people all over australia (mostly qld :/// ) ... but also thinking about how rigid and static curating contemporary art is these days.... haha I know deeeeeeep. It’s going to be scattered but stay with me ... srsly, opening nights in Sydney are so borring  ... it's so typical, like get free or cheap boooze and walk through a space, then look around, see who's hot, who's not , get a bit anxious coz your friends haven’t arrived yet, probably roll a cigarette coz you need to look like your doing something (I only smoke when I drink lol) and then ppl arrive and you get drunk and go home and like what about the art?

I went to this opening the other night and it’s got me riled up ...

I'm kinda confused by Sydney art scene, but also the art world in general ... especially conceptual art, mainly because I often find it to be intellectually elitist. But that's actually not my problem with it. It's more to do with the curating that never seems to recognise or acknowledge this. So I'm not saying artists should stop making artwork that's conceptual ... artists shouldn't be constrained intellectually at all! ... But also I’m often dissatisfied when I go art exhibitions or opening nights and there's like this wall text that's 100-400 words that esoterically attempts to give insight or something? ... I don't even know what it’s doing half the time … like I'm pretty comfortable with not understanding art works. It happens to me all the doesn't throw me off coz I just know that's how art feels sometimes. But so many of my friends who didn't go to art school or who aren't really involved in the art scene just get uncomfortable with not "getting it", and feel fed up and so just think it's stupid ... which actually maybe it IS ??!! 

.... so anyway this opening really did get me thinking, kind of crystallising thoughts that I've started by never finished. Like is this wall of 'intellectual elitism'  inherently linked to the role and place in society that art, art curators, and collectors have had in human history? Is art naturally and organically bougie bougie?


I’ve increasingly found even the spaces that say they are deconstructing/challenging these conventions aren’t really ... I mean what does an artist or curators career look like without a white walled institution backing them?

I can’t see it. What community do artists make art for?

The word community really does get thrown a lot atm ... it’s very ‘in’ ... idk ... 

This quote by Tracy Emin from 2011 really gets me though ,

“Tory people are massive collectors of the arts. For a lot of my friends, who think I’m crazy voting for Tories — I want to know who buys their work? Who are the biggest philanthropist? I promise you, it’s not labour voters”. It’s quoted in Marijke Steedman’s book “gallery as community: art, education politics” under this section called “Who’s your Daddy?” ...

Heh heh heh heh …
I mean it’s in a different context to Sydney and it’s quoted from 2011 ... but at the same time I can’t help but draw parallels with the turnbull-wonder white liberal politics that is defunding public art grants & institutions ... as we speak.  We are increasingly moving towards (and have been for long time), an art economy that relies entirely on private philanthropy. In that world, who’s your Daddy? It makes me think about people I know who are becoming professional artists and working in the “industry” or is it “scene”?

… and just in general who do ‘successful’ artists really make their art for ! Like really who?? For community? Which one??  

Cause in Sydney real estate is like $$$$$$$ $$$$$$$$$$$$ daddies investment property blah blah $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$ crash crash burn. Like when you make it, you make it! Everyone has to make a living right?  ... I mean I get it Tracy! I’ve got a macbook, iphone and I eat coconut yogurt and quinoa pizza bases :/ Neo-liberalism/ capitalism is woven into the fabric of my existence!

I guess I feel like politically this 'wall of intellectual elitism' contradicts a lot of the politics of the artists and curators ... but the way curators or artists exhibit work hasn't really changed, and is still so much catering and serving traditional structures and art market economies. But people like to think they are challengeing things, but follow the rules of exhibiting because maybe it helps legtimise the work as “Art”! This deflated balloon is ART because it has an ART Statement and a White Wall framing it.

Nice one ;)

Like why are wall texts still SUCH A THING??!

I hate reading at openings … cause like there are so many people around and i’m distracted and it’s usually academic and like the environment is too social and filled with the anxieties and other things/dynamics that come with that for me to be in a headspace to absorb it … I just glaze glazed glaze overrrrr

I’m not saying destroy wall texts, i think they can work,  but sometimes I question whether or not they’re the right thing for every single artwork/ display environment. I guess what I'm trying to say is I wish there would be more attempts at experimenting with the curating in relation to producing understanding, meaning or ‘getting it’ other than just a small box of text. Walking in and out of a gallery space, with nothing else to it, is just too real, and borrring. I know that some would passionately disagree,

but what does it mean when your work is conceptually vague but no one (except PhD academics) even gets that it’s meant to be Vague ... like is that not something the curator has to consider? Who is it made for then? The classist implication of not allowing  the general public access to these ideas is massive? idk haha for context I had to do an assignment on vagueness in first year @ COFA :SSS ... Anyway I’ve seen artists and curators say that they are experimental, they’re about ‘social practice’ and ‘community’ ... but what does that mean when your audience (bubble) are art school students, intellectuals, academics, the upper middle class and artists? And it’s displayed in a white cube shop front/ ARIs?

For community?

What community?

Anyway if you’re at the end of this rant ! Thanks for listening and also thoughts???

Lots of love,
Claz <3

To: claz
Subject: Hi it me lets shatter art wit memes

Hi Claz,
I’m doing okay at the moment. I have a chronic back injury that seems to be born from nerve damage in my lumbar spine. So I am in the midst of reconfiguring my relationship with my body. It is turning out to be quite important for me, I think. I just want to start with a small passage from an manifesto by MTL: “Art as we know it is corrupt, exhausted and weak...we strike art to liberate art from itself. Not to end art, but to unleash its powers of action, imagination, and beauty that have been held captive by the artworld. Art does not dissolve into so-called real life. Our surreal spirit is less that of breton’s European vanguardism than Suzanne Cesaire’s freedom dream, mindful as it is of the ongoing histories of slavery, imperialism, and debt. Art here opens directly into our ways of existing and working together. How do we create spaces that counteract the multiple forms of oppression that structure our relationships? These are inseparable from how we reproduce our lives in a material sense, whether we think of an occupied park, a collective house, a city-wide network or the planet itself. Art challenges us to respond to this question with direct action for which we ourselves are responsible rather than any preexisting institution. We strike art as a training in the practice of freedom.”

And a meme:


Insta: @socialpracticemafia

I really agree with your assessment on how a lot of art spaces feel. I don’t really know, but I feel like a lot of the art system is registering the present social, cultural and economic ruptures/fractures/reorganisations; and then its core nodes/institutions/platforms try to position and articulate themselves as self-conscious and critical, whilst remaining a self-inclosed universe of pompous, ivory-tower like-mindedness. I can see it - a swathe of bespeckled heads atop turtle neck skivvy-necks; oversized power suits; murmurings derridean; barrel-bellied angel investors; culture vultures; microbangs…..oh shit yep...and...I see me in the corner...damn fool.

Bougie wougie, bougie wougie.

This half-aware, money-guzzling monster speaks a strange language - a combination of left-wing cultural discourse, esoteric psychobabble, internet-speak and corporate lingo. It always avoids attacking the forces of capital because it is proximate to them. So it has to be elusive, slippery, hard to fix and lock down. It’s really important for those who wish to properly monopolise art culture (mostly blind actors playing predetermined roles on a predetermined stage), that they use syntax and language that cannot be understood by those who are deemed unworthy of ‘high culture’.  

Decentred centreness: a body bodying embodiment and concrete and sex

Wherein hides the form? What formation can be given/forgiven? What of the insideness of the inside? Can the naked renaked? Time is a vessel without walls, and so are we.

I wrote this silly example to highlight firstly that I have participated in and continued this language regimen, and secondly that it is insidious, especially when it is scrawled on a legitimating white wall. A word-salad vapid and resigned, but powerful still - powerful in its excluding.

I feel like the internet is a really important space here. In some digital user-interfaces and communication-channels voices can overlap, bounce back and forth and attain political inertia. Critical Art Ensemble (CAE) in their 1994 manifesto Electronic Civil Disobedience (, argued that power had been deterritorialised due to the digital network and critiques of power in electronic space, are just as important as those in physical space. I think we need to understand the networked nature of power, that governmental and corporate systems have codified/digitised their power and continue to tactically encase/trace us with media and algorithms.

My voice, my face, my body, my history is a living code-piece, an info-atom; and they have copied and pasted and rewritten it.

I love memes, because they can provide these ephemeral and situational attacks on this kind of networked power. I feel like the meme-world, even though it exists within the constraints of the internet, has become a new cultural commons (an online parliament, if you will), where we can critique, remake, revalue and reappropriate what creativity, art, beauty, performance, ‘the artist’ etc mean. I feel like we need to interrogate current art movements and build regular moments of political rupture and transformation. Memes, being easily-accessible, widely-disseminated and mutative, can really help to build digital ‘events’ that corrode capital realism and its iron grip on the cultural industry. 

You know, it just feels like this weird polyvocal conversation/criticism that can: build digital-community; create popular forms of communication; pique curiosities; reveal ironic contradictions etc 

Let's do a little meme reading….(one of many possible readings)

Superficially, it’s true right?

But like, you know when you go from the exhibition/gallery space to the bathroom and you stare at a palmolive pump soap leaning askance against the mirror, and think ‘Omg, is that piece for sale?’. Yeh well that. 

Abstract pieces can resemble experimental kitchen cabinets or statement curtains made from fly-screen or wrongly assembled ikea lamps. So that also.

But, if we peer deeper, we do find more to speak to. We see that much of post-conceptual, abstract art exists/acts/performs in gallery and museum spaces as interior decoration/accessory. Which is to say, that these pieces do not necessarily antagonise the white walls (and people) that surround them, but rather complement and collude with them.

The art system is a complex place that includes profiteering galleries, academic institutions/platforms, civic and educational engagement programs, radical activist spaces etc; it is a messy assemblage filled with jagged antagonisms and interactions. There are certainly elements in this system that dominate, and do so with the material and structural support of the industries of cultural-capitalism.

This meme focuses on how artists partner with the dominant/core elements of the system, producing vogue cultural artefacts that sit comfortably within the norms and protocols of the established/mainstream art infrastructure, both material and ideological.

I don’t mean to say that new political formations, which could powerfully tap and redirect art talent, cannot arise from these structures. But, I have noticed artists (myself included) navigate this space - the push-and-pull between radical art activism and ‘high culture’ art capitalism.

Some are beckoned by the taste-makers and gallerists of the 'high art’ luxury economy. Others enter the Byzantine maze of the art academy - track it's crooked path, regurgitate it's dull signage, flick open its rusty gates. Others construct peculiar art-personalities online, within the capitalist architecture of social media (guilty). I could keep going on and on and on and on. There are so many ways that art practice and activity is circumscribed by the prevailing logic of capitalism.

It’s scary, sometimes contemporary art feels like this monolith; all of its discourses and economies and institutions are so fully incorporated into the current capitalist order. 

London artist Kulendran Thomas, made the quite dramatic claim that: ‘Contemporary Art faces a potentially terminal crisis. Contemporary Art has sold itself as a non-specific, expanding, universal non-genre, much as neo-liberalism passed itself off as the natural state of things. The realisation that contemporary art is in fact a time-limited historical period, that can end, is a radical moment.’ (

Maybe the circle can be broken. Do I sound like Scar?

But, to come back to the meme, do you feel like an interior designer? Do you feel like a decorator - a commodified cog in a very beautiful machine? I do, more often than not.

Spin, spin, spin, win, win, win.

Anyway, I have talked a bunch, and not fully responded to all the things you said in your email. I would love to talk more about all of these things and also address some of the positive and direct ways that we can interrogate art and curation. But I will leave it here for the moment.

I love you lots and lots and send you all of my magic.

︎Eora Nation