Sunday, June 15, 2008

Art Fight, Saturday, June 14, 2008

Asked to be one of the judges for NextFest's Art Fight, as instigated by Adam Waldron Blain as part of the festival's evening cabarets, I half expected the evening to be part performance and part camp in its concept. The result was more disorganization than anything else, but I'm afraid there just wasn't much else.

Certainly not a phenomenon confined to here, "Art Fights" expose the entirely arbitrary assessment of a piece of work as usually judged by popular opinion. It's rarely about the work at hand, usually created on site and in a limited time frame and budget, but the idea of an "art fight" is more about the people looking into the spectacle.

That idea got lost.

One of five judges alongside Todd Janes of Latitude 53, Josee Aubin Ouellette, curator of NextFest visual arts, Chelsea Boida of the loosely connected Institute Parachute and somebody else whose name and role elude me now, the "fight" was a match between Adam Maitland and Craig Knox, two artists I was semi-familiar with, but quite disappointed with by the end of the evening. With a lack of parameters beyond a flimsy set of scoring guidelines hastily scrawled onto scraps of paper including playfulness, concept, and taste, the "secret" ingredient of the fight was styrofoam tubes, which neither of the artist seemed to understand was suppose to be the central theme of the work. All product and no process, the works resulted by Maitland and Knox were respectively a comment on the disassociation of heads to torsos to guts in Edmonton's big city fun district and a carnivalesque shoot 'em up construction/performance of artists as public targets. Or at least this is what I could only assume as neither artist could verbally qualify their work and Blain did not help his peers in any way by clarifying their working terms and conditions. I wasn't expecting excellent work, or even good work, but I was expecting some worthwhile verbal sparring, as anything can be made to sound good if you know how to sell it. As probably the most important trait any successful artist will have, verbosity, or having the capacity to communicate, was simply not at all apparent.

As the crowd got restless with questions and the judges started snapping amongst each other, a five minute deliberation extended into a most ill-informed adjudication process that lasted until two of the judges left/quit. Knox emerged the winner, and there was almost a moment of anticipation before declaring a decision, but the state of nonplus in the room aptly reflected the stale state of critical art dialogue and Edmonton's general aversion to taking ourselves seriously.

After a morning of studio visits in Banff with artists processing and taking their work and profession in an admirably serious and passionate manner, Art Fight was even more of a rude awakening.


Anonymous said...

FYI: Chelsea Boos, not Chelsea Boida was the other judge... along with Jasmine (last name???)

Anonymous said...


Thank Miss Fung. I attended and it was boring until Todd James verbally bitch- slapped that prissy chix with the glasses for asking a stupid question to her obviously friend. That was funny.

I thought that You and Tod made the only sensible comments - why were the others even there as they said little to nothing and added less to the discussion.

I think they should get better artists and invite you twos back.


1. Chelsea Boos (not boida) is not associated to Institute Parachute by more than acquaintance. Jasmine Sacharuk is an art historian, despite being referred to as a "prissy chix" by the above commenter. (I am tempted to make a connection between that sort of statement and the original complaint about the lack of quality discussion at the event proper.)

I feel that that error significantly affects the reading of the situation.

2. If "verbal sparring" was your criteria for success here Amy, I am surprised that you chose to reward Craig Knox instead of Adam Maitland. Adam was far more able to defend himself verbally. Yes, he played to the crowd with humour and turned a lot of questions around, but he answered them, which Craig was unwilling to do.

3. Maybe you missed it when you guys were in your huddle, but I don't think that "state of nonplus" was a good description of the crowd's attitude. I was talking with them. Some of them were dancing. Some of them were complaining about the "movement art" downstairs. Some of them, of course, were talking about the art.

I consider it a quite successful experiment because of that. There were people there who were willing to talk about art, even somewhat excitedly, in a critical way that I'm sure they never do otherwise.

There are, of course, certain things that might be done quite differently next time. Some more strict rule structure to push the artists towards the featured surprise ingredients might help. So might not having to spend the evening dealing with the constantly changing requirements of well-meaning nextfest folk and spend more time on the event proper.


It's a little bit of a different take. Maciej was DJing.

I wouldn't say that I agree with it (I had a pretty good idea what I was getting when I asked Todd to judge), but I do find it interesting.

Amy Fung said...

I forget how you introduced chelsea (boos) or jasmine, but you sound far more in control of the event now than you did then.

I'm surprised knox came out the winner too, as he wasn't very apt at answering questions, but he was more transparent than his candidate, who I couldn't decipher an answer from at all.

fyi: I have a disclaimer about anonymous comments. and until this thing allows me to block all anonymous users, we will just have to contend with this rude bullshit.

craig knox said...

all in all, after reading this over again i kind of agree with you amy, but you have a few things wrong.

i meant for my piece to comment more specifically on the structure of art fight. the 2 artists and the organizer mounted at the end of a gallery for the target practice of the shoot from the hip cowboys (you and your posse). im sorry the 12 hours got the better of my tongue, maybe it should have been ready, it was after all the only part of me that had a rest during the construction process.

maybe if i had done a painting of a gay, indian, female, with aids breaking through a glass ceiling, and then talked about the woes of being a straight, healthy, white, male artist i could have appeared to take this practice more seriously.
please excuse me for trying to have a little fun with an absurd premise, it wont happen again.

if people want works with more substance than this: we need more planning time, more astringent guidelines, or you need to find a pond with a little more splash - you big fat fish you.

i don't think a thriving art community is ever going to develop in this little puddle so long as everyone with a little schooling and the gumption to speak up tries to stamp everything out.
or is it....? maybe survival of the fittest needs to be reinstated here after all, because honestly what the fuck was happening downstairs?
the real judges had a point some of the time. warning would have been nice, i would have spent my free hour at the end prepping for that.
but honestly i doubt your real artists in banff would have done much better in that sort of a pinch

in closing: this would have been more fun if the artists got more than cuts, bruises, keys locked in cars, and a purple toenail. no prise is bullshit, hell id split it with him to help cover the towing cost.

ps. jasmine if you still "don't know what to do" with my installation, than maybe you should go ask some of your old art history teachers about what has been called art over the last 30 years. is thinking doing something?

i had some fun, i hope you guys did too. lighten up.

af said...

thank you, craig, for finally giving a full-length answer. I wish you had pulled the gay aids female out as a response on sat, that would have made it more fun.

don't take our ribbing too seriously, you fun-lovin' guy, we all have our roles to play.

but I doubt mindless handclapping over stamping down opinions will be more positive in the long run, but whatever keeps us talking.

I know you're heading forward in schooling elsewhere, so best to that and I do look forward to seeing your future works.

craig said...

thanks a lot amy.

and i defiantly prefer an argument over the fizzled out fate so many other edmonton events recieve. i think we are on the same side here, maybe ill act like it next time i have the floor.

maciej rocki said...

i think the "post-art fight" discussions turned out to be good; sparked some good questions about our scene and art in general.

My post on moonbabies was quite blunt , and for the most part, direct. Artists should never have to justify their art. You love it, or, you hate -you're more then welcome to your opinion and to explain your opinion if you feel the need to. it is unnecessary for an artist to explain a painting beyond it's inspiration... if that.

Jas said...

Haha, oh man. I certainly found THIS a little late. Even still, I must make my defense.

First of all, contrary to popular belief, I was not staunchly supporting my friend Adam Maitland. To be honest, I don't think Adam and I have ever actually met. I just thought the judging was a bit one-sided and wanted to direct some attention back toward Craig. There simply weren't a lot of questions about his piece and I felt like it should have been a bit more even in that regard.

Secondly, Craig, it's not that I don't understand the point of installation or am unaware that such a thing exists. I just wanted to make a point that a large amount of the people there weren't aware that your piece was interactive, and perhaps that point should have been made a bit clearer. This wasn't just a point of MINE, but something that had been expressed to me by very many of the attendees. I find that people just naturally distance themselves from art pieces unless it's blatantly obvious to proceed otherwise and was wondering if you had considered that. Maybe that's just me? That was the point I was trying to make at art fight, and I don't really think it was so much of a value judgement as it was an observation. But I get pretty inarticulate when speaking in front of people, so I probably did come off sounding like a bit of a dolt. Apologies.

Thirdly, I think it's a bit silly that I was accused of having comments that were "value judgements", when I certainly was not the only one. Example: the main arguments against Maitland's violence-in-Edmonton point were "Well, I live in this area of town and I don't think it's dangerous at all!". Statistics on either side would have helped that quite a bit. Of course, time constraints obviously restricted quite a bit in this show.

Lastly - "prissy chix"? How scathing!

In any case - my apologies to you, Craig, if it seemed like I was attacking you, and to the audience for my incoherence.

craig knox said...

Art fight 2009?