ARTIST ON FIRE
29 November 2012, Cervera de los Montes
He's just an artist, and he's on fire / Hotter than a fantasy, longer like a highway / He's living in the art world, and it's on fire / Feeling the catastrophe, but he knows he can fly away / Oh, he got both feet on the ground / And he's burning it down / Oh, he got her head in the clouds / And he's not backing down / Looks like an artist, but he's a flame / So bright, he can burn your eyes / Better look the other way / You can try but you'll never forget his name / He's on top of the world / Hottest of the hottest curators say / Everybody stands, as he goes by / Cause they can see the flame that's in his eyes / Watch him when he's lighting up the night / Nobody knows that he's a lonely artist / And it's a lonely art world / But he gon' let it burn, baby, burn, baby / This artist is on fire / This artist is on fire / He's walking on fire / This artist is on fire.
LIVING AND DYING IN DAMASCUS
25 November 2012, Cervera de los Montes
Next Friday, I'm going again to Helsinki. I've been invited to project at the Lens Politica Film and Media Art Festival two of my recent slide shows: Turbo Orientalism (Arab Street Hookers) which was premiered in June at All Art Now, Damascus, and Syrian Democracy that was made during the same trip to Syria.
Now I'm oiling my propaganda machine to tell the people, once again, that the Syrian government is defending the secular and multicultural society against an Islamist rebellion backed the Gulf dictatorships and the Western democracies.
Today I've been chatting with my Damascene friend Abdullah (name changed).
Abdullah: Have you heard that the military council of the Free Syrian Army in Aleppo has forbidden women to drive?
Riiko: How is the daily life now in Damascus?
Abdullah: We try to live a normal life, like the days when you were here few months ago.
Riiko: Is there a lack of any consumer goods?
Abdullah: Everything is available but the prices are rising which is a big problem. The inflation has been up to 250%. Only bread costs the same as before - a government decree sets the price in 15SYP for a kilo. But can you imagine that the rebels send their supporters to buy lots of bread and destroy it? They are also stealing yeast from the bakeries trying to force the government to increase the price of bread.
Riiko: Do the kids go to school normally?
Abdullah: Most of the schools in the safe areas are open.
Riiko: Are you working like before?
Abdullah: I've lost my job, like almost a half of the people in the city. The economic activity is scarce.
Riiko: Has the presence of the armed forces increased in the streets of the city center?
Abdullah: The army has blocked some roads in the middle of the city to protect people from the suicide attacks of the rebels.
Riiko: Do the people look preoccupied in the streets?
Abdullah: Yes, we are worried but we still go to coffee shops like before. We do our best to enjoy the life but we talk often about the possibility of being attacked in any place, being killed by a bomb. We are trying to guess if we are going to die today or tomorrow.
UNDER THE VOLCANO
23 November 2012, Cervera de los Montes
There was no mistaking, even in the uncertain light, the hand, half crabbed, half generous, and wholly drunken, of the
Consul Curator himself, the Greek e’s, the flying buttresses of d’s, the t’s like lonely wayside crosses save where they crucified an entire word.
Malcolm Lowry: Under the Volcano.
Tonight, a group show titled Under the Volcano opens at Andrómeda Contemporáneo in San José, Costa Rica. It includes my drawings and it's curated by Raúl Zamudio, which is not big news because it’s the 20th exhibition he organizes including my works since 2004. Raúl has showed my art in New York, Miami, Chicago, San Diego, Mexico City, Monterrey, Beijing, Shanghai, Yeosu, Madrid and Wroclaw.
Some may think that the gallerist is the essential factor for artist's visibility and career but I think that the relationship with a dedicated curator can be much more sincere, profound and, above all, durable. A curator doesn’t care if you sell or not, he is interested in the substance of the works. Working with Raúl is like living with my wife - we know each other so well that there is no need to speak a lot.
I wish I were in San José celebrating our 20 shows together and we could drink like the Consul: bottles of aguardiente, of anís, of jerez, of Highland Queen, the glasses, a babel of glasses (...), the glasses toppling and crashing, falling downhill from the Generalife Gardens, the bottles breaking, bottles of Oporto, tinto, blanco, bottles of Pernod, Oxygènée, absinthe, bottles smashing, bottles cast aside, falling with a thud on the ground in parks, under benches, beds, cinema seats, (...) glasses, glasses, glasses, of bitter, of Dubonnet, of Falstaff, Rye, Johnny Walker, Vieux Whiskey blanc Canadien, the apéritifs, the digestifs, the demis, the dobles, the noch ein Herr Obers, the et glas Araks, the tusen taks, the bottles, the bottles, the beautiful bottles of tequila, and the gourds, gourds, gourds, the millions of gourds of beautiful mescal...
OPEN LETTER TO MY GALLERISTS
20 November 2012, Cervera de los Montes
Dear gallerists (current, ex, future), we are never going to be friends because our collaboration is business and not romance. Anyways, we need each other and have common goals: to make good shows and sell works. Sometimes you might feel it’s an asymmetric relationship because an artist could show and sell without a dealer but a gallery can’t exist without artists. On the other hand, you have the power because there are millions of artists but only thousands of galleries – if you don’t like one of your artists, there are many other eager to occupy his place in your roster.
Dear gallerists, when we are selling, getting good critics and believe in the future, you take me to superb restaurants and fancy cocktail bars. You make me believe that I’m your favorite sweetheart and I don’t mind though I know that you whisper the same words to the ears of your other artists.
Dear gallerists, when our sales don’t meet the expectations, you become distant and forget me. I try to get your attention but you are absent. Finally, I have no other way than tell that if this continues like this, we are going to split up.
Dear gallerists, the only thing I ask you is to tell me clearly when you don’t want me anymore. Every story ends one day but a divorce can be handled with style. The art world is small and you don’t want your future sweethearts to hear nasty things about you. And please, don’t make excuses like “your art is not developing”. Tell me the things as they are – that you don’t know how to sell my works. I understand that selling (my works) is not easy. There’s nothing to be shamed about.
Last week I sent a message to my Berliner gallerist: I just visited your website and noticed that I'm still included in the list of the gallery artists. Last spring, I understood that you are not enthusiastic about the way my works have been developing lately – that they are too political and not visually interesting. Did I get something wrong? Are we going to continue working together?
I didn’t receive any reply to the mail but the answer was clear today when I visited again the gallery's website: my name had disappeared.
THE BEST FAN LETTER EVER
15 November 2012, Cervera de los Montes
Charlotte Gainsbourg sings something like these paintings that we paint, do they mean anything, to the people we're painting them to, tonight they do.
Yesterday, I received from England the best fan letter ever: (...) My 15-year-old autistic son has fallen in love with your art. He recently saw some of your work and was inspired by them (...). The package included a bunch of amazing drawings and a box of Terry's All Gold Dark chocolates.
That very same day, a dealer wired me thousands of euros, my share of a painting he had sold to a millionaire. That was gratifying too - but nothing compared to the fan letter.
THREE LESSONS LEARNED FROM SUN TZU
14 November 2012, Cervera de los Montes
Sun Tzu was a Chinese general and military strategist in the sixth century BCE. He is the author of the book Art of War.
Lesson 1 learned from Sun Tzu
Turbo Realist art is based on deception. Hence, when we are fighting against the enemy, we must seem defending it; when we are doing propaganda, we must appear neutral; when we are protesting, we must make the enemy believe we are inactive or preoccupied with aesthetics. Art is a beautiful undercover operation. This is the art of war and the war of art.
Lesson 2 learned from Sun Tzu
Sun Tzu wrote: Be extremely subtle, even to the point of formlessness. Be extremely mysterious, even to the point of soundlessness.
Protest in art is protest without protest. Political and critical art is a context totally domesticated by the authorities. Therefore the Turbo Realist strategy must be subtle and cryptic because the direct protest in art is like alcohol-free beer in Saudi Arabia.
Lesson 3 learned from Sun Tzu
Speed is the essence of Turbo Realism. Take advantage of the enemy's unpreparedness; travel by unexpected routes and strike it where it has taken no precautions.
MANUAL FOR THE TURBO REALIST CELLS, PART 1
13 November 2012, Cervera de los Montes
Turbo Realism was born to fight Turbo-capitalism (a concept launched by American military strategist Edward Luttwak, the author of the book Coup d'État: A Practical Handbook.) What can we learn from Dr. Luttwak? A coup of art consists of the infiltration of a small, but critical, segment of the art and cultural apparatus, which is then used to displace the government from its control of the remainder.
A lesson learned from chairman Mao. Remember that art is neither a dinner party nor a bed of roses. It is a struggle to the death between the future and the past, socialism and capitalism.
No politics but provocation.
No protest but making the enemy visible.
No propaganda but confusing messages.
No arguments but hyperboles.
Make sure that the art and the attitude are always conceptually and aesthetically on the highest level. Turbo Realist art must be irreverent, excessive, controversial, incorrect, irritating, ironic, bad behaving, playful - and beautiful or ugly.
Achieve fame and notoriety in the art world. Get famous and rich or die trying. The most powerful artist of the world at the moment, Ai Weiwei, who belongs to our bourgeois enemy troops, is also the richest and the most famous artist. Learn from your enemies and respect them before annihilating them.
OPERATIONAL OBJECTIVES OF TURBO REALISM
11 November 2012, Helsinki
On Friday, I gave a talk about Turbo Realism at a seminar of Baltic Circle International Theater Festival. I think that the theater people didn't know who I was and their reception wasn't very enthusiastic - though Eva, the director of the festival is my big fan. On Saturday, I had a long dinner with old and new friends and I decided to read my paper again. Now I was hailed by one of the most powerful Finnish literary critics.
One part of my talk was about strategy. The hierarchy of actions consists of Strategy→ Operational objective → Tactic → Task.
A strategy is a plan of action designed to achieve a specific goal. The goal of Turbo Realism is to support the revolutionary forces in the society to establish a global socialist dictatorship. The operational objective is to make audiences aware of the disasters of the capitalism and create revolutionary atmosphere. The tactic is to influence the audiences of art, above all, the intellectuals and the upper class. Turbo Realism attempts to gain a position of advantage over the adversaries exploiting the context of art and its institutions.
Turbo Realism is a powerful revolutionary weapon and the art is an important fighting front. Turbo Realism perturbs the ground ideologically before the revolution takes over.
There is in fact no such thing as art for art's sake, art that is detached from or independent of politics. All political leaders want to be photographed next to a flower painting, thus it is political art. Turbo Realism is not a flower painting. Nobody wants to be photographed next to Turbo Realism.
ARTISTIC STRATEGIES IN TURBO TIMES
07 November 2012, Cervera de los Montes
On Thursday, I’m once again off to Finland. Lately, it feels that I only live in Cervera de los Montes but work in Helsinki. This fall, I’ve been going once every month to the city where I was born.
Now I’ve been invited as the founder and the leader of Turbo Realism to speak at the seminar Artistic Strategies in Turbulent Times organized by the Baltic Circle International Theater Festival. Apropos, turbo and turbulent have the same etymology meaning movement, agitation, disturbance.
Other speakers are also turbo interesting: L. M. Bogad of the Clandestine Insurgent Rebel Clown Army and the Yes Men, Dana Yahalomi of the Public Movement and Jacob Wren, writer and maker of eccentric performances.
In the seminar four international (I hate this word) artists will perform and talk about their work from the strategic point of view. Is there a need for articulated long-term strategies? Is the concept of artistic mission relevant today? What is one’s life’s work? Do we need to plan ahead, even if we know that what we do today might not be relevant tomorrow?
I am going to read the Manifesto of Turbo Realism, its published appendix, unpublished and classified appendixes and the internal manuals including three lesson of strategy learned from general Sun Tzu who wrote in the sixth century BCE: Be extremely subtle, even to the point of formlessness. Be extremely mysterious, even to the point of soundlessness.
YOU WANT DRINKS LIKE KIPPENBERGER
03 November 2012, Cervera de los Montes
Melena Ryzik (New York Times): What do you do when you’re not performing?
PSY: I’m drinking. It’s my biggest hobby.
I suppose that if you are drunk you can’t do PSY’s onstage Gangnam Style dance but to move in the art world you can’t be sober. James Crumley, the American author of hardboiled crime novels, wrote in his book The Wrong Case: Son, never trust a man who doesn't drink because he's probably a self-righteous sort, a man who thinks he knows right from wrong all the time. I want the curators, the museum directors, the gallerists and the collectors to trust me.
I don’t do much networking nowadays but sometimes I get the feeling that I should meet art world people and that’s why I traveled yesterday 130 kilometers to the inauguration of Abdul’s new exhibition space 72 Truck in Madrid. You want moves like Kippenberger and that’s what I did: a brandy in a bar, four gintonics at the opening reception, a pisco sour before dinner, beer with the meal in Asiana Nextdoor (where two famous actresses got furios for my Kippi style drunkenness), a couple of vodka shots for dessert and to finish off a Cuba libre in José Alfredo (with my Cuban friend Alexis) before the illegal taxicab from my village arrived to pick me up from Gran Vía.
Now I have a terrible hangover which reminds me that I was a hard working artist last night.