15 December 2008


You may have noticed that I've been a bit slack on the old blog posting recently, and that what little I have done has been inconsequential. Well, the same could be said for painting. You need to do this every now and then (I do, anyway).

However, I've decided to stir things up next year. I will tell all once it's a done deal.

04 December 2008

The Fallen

I've just acquired a copy of The Fallen by Dave Simpson, in which he tries to track down all 40-odd ex-members of the Fall. It starts with a couple of quotes:
There is variety in genius as there is talent and beauty. Some geniuses are innovators, some are deep thinkers and some are people of extraordinary skill; most are a volatile mixture of intellectual gifts and character traits. The intellectual gifts are an ability to see things from highly unusual angles, to overlook what is not essential, and to understand the true significance of the obvious. The character traits are persistence, obduracy, capacity for taking great pains, and indifference to ridicule.

A C Grayling, Professor of Philosophy, University of London, 2007

That's my fucking aim in life, to keep it going as long as I can.

Mark E Smith, 1979

02 December 2008

Very funny

Someone just left a comment on an old post:

Just thougth you might like to see this One Sentence story that I just
approved about your friend:

What countries have medicare cards?

24 November 2008

If you want to start painting...

...you could do worse than follow the advice of Hilaire Hiler:
A few days ago a friend of mine who is a journalist, and who has for some months been amusing himself by drawing and working in gouache and water-colour, came to me and asked what he should do to begin working in oils. He was without schooling of any artistic sort and professed his entire ignorance of even the fundamentals. He did not know what sort of brushes he would need and had an idea that quite a complicated equipment would be necessary. It was not easy to advise him, as I had no idea what sort or style of painting he wished to do. Neither had he. The advice given then, was the same I should give to anyone in a similar position. That is, start with an absolute minimum of equipment: three or four brushes of the sort to which he felt naturally attracted; a small bottle of bleached linseed oil; a little rectified turpentine, or some pure gasoline; a piece of metal, wood or glass to use as a palette, and five tubes of paint – Black, White, Middle Madder or Deep Cadmium Red, Lemon Cadmium and Cobalt Blue.

He might continue to work the rest of his life with no more outfit, or he may develop a style of working which will necessitate a much more elaborate equipment in every way, but by starting with the minimum and buying only what he feels absolutely necessary, he will be more likely to gain an appreciation and knowledge of each element than if he left his selection to the colourman, who might suggest a catalogue which would make any beginner dizzy with discouragement.

I started with a slight variation on this arrangement, and have added a couple more colours and some spray varnish since then. There is a lot to be said for trying to make do with what you have, and buying what you really need only as a last resort.

Incidentally, a few pages later in the chapter on glazing, Hiler talks about another friend:
The modern painter who uses glazes to the extreme possibility is my friend, Francis Picabia. I have seen some late paintings of his where as many as three or four glazes were superimposed in certain parts. Sometimes where forms of six different colours meet at a common point, a glaze was applied covering portions of all of them and thus giving rise to a very interesting if somewhat complicated gamme of combinations.

To explain: suppose that in a wheel with five spokes giving rise to as many divisions, each division was filled with a different colour. Let's say – red, green, yellow, blue and white. The surface adjoining the hub is glazed with rose madder to a distance about halfway to the circumference. This transparent coating of red at once gives rise to five new colours: over the red, to a dark red; over the yellow, to an orange; over the blue, to a violet; over the green, to a dark warm green, over the white, to a pink, etc. The possibilities of glazing may be, therefore, recognised at once as endless.

21 November 2008

The beginning of Doctor Who

These are a couple of pages of concepts for a new show the BBC was developing in 1963. They're online at the BBC Archive.

18 November 2008

More electronic communications

So John Hurrell wrote a review of a Peter Madden show. Madden left some comments, and I couldn't resist adding my own (relatively innocuous) one. No biggie.

However, I was a little surprised to get, rather than a response on John's blog, this in my inbox less than an hour later:
now you are being pathetic ..as well as abusive .
.now theirs a surprise...read through the comments and check context..and you might be able to ..
get your head out from up your ass
yours Peter madden

I sent a response of course, but never got a reply.

11 November 2008


Bill Ayers has written about the US election campaign.


I am very lazy. When I was 18, my mother did an industrial psychology course. She gave me a test to measure, among other things, my ‘ambition’. I scored 0 out of 10.

My favourite part of the day is when I wake up and doze, put off getting up for as long as possible. In the afternoons, I sit in the studio, smoke cigarettes, watch the clouds, plants, and animals, look at pictures, and think about things.

Lazy thoughts are the best. You start anywhere, with anything, and then drift, see where it takes you. All the best ideas are arrived at idly. This is like that, you think, and, oh yeah, the other thing fits in here too. Then you mix it all together, and get rid of the extraneous stuff (cos you can’t be bothered), and you’re left with this thing.

Laziness means you don’t sit in front of a blank canvas and worry about fucking it up. You do whatever, your present whim. If it works, great. If it doesn’t, so what?

I am too lazy to want to be a ‘successful’ artist. Having to worry about keeping dealers and collectors and curators happy. Having to worry about what is written about you, or, worse yet, what is not written about you. Having to worry about whether such-and-such arsehole is getting more shows and residencies and prizes than you. And so on and so on. It’s all just too much effort.

Laziness is freedom.

06 November 2008

Yes no (Francis Picabia, 1939)







Painting music literature
hothouse flowers
yes no


One must distrust
picturesque beings
one must distrust
antique-dealer painters
one must distrust
even painting
painted without distrust


Serious people
have a faint odour
of carrion


the infinite
what a fashionable spectacle
but nature
has a little declaration
to make to you my dear sir
it doesn't borrow fire
from the conflagration


Perhaps I made
painting sick
but what a pastime
to be doctor

tomorrow I am counting on painting
to be my doctor


Right from the start of my life
the public cast
its sentence on me

he's making fun of us

what has always amused me
is this public
who knows me
but doesn't know itself


I'm only working against my interests
I don't know any other way
of dealing with myself


The profound mediocrity
of painters
depresses me


Old mediocrities
are in fashion
new ones too

knowing my strength
I am tolerant of myself
and nothing more is forbidden


I experienced painting
as an object of passion
my paintings are acts of love
that's my way of working


My painting is a contradiction
between life and sleep


Success is a liar
the liar loves success


People want others to talk about them
because they're only interested in the people
whom others talk about
others hide behind
a mask
which they think they've chosen
seducer like...


Gestures are silent
they rely on noise
and noise relies on gestures


Those who like the sun
have no need of noise
all these poor idiots who think
that noise
can make them shine


People always talk
about little things
they cannot talk about great ones
their hearts being too small


For many people
lies in imitating


To understand everything
makes life monotonous
to love everything
without understanding
lots of people
understand that


Is the sky beneath
or above us
one has to guess
if you could see me
my smile would tell you


I love the sea
the mountains hide the stars
if only the sun could make
the mountains melt
like snow


I hate clouds
their ridiculous forms
they don't even have
the beauty of tigers
on their prey
these idiotic clouds
which live only on the sun
and spend their time
hiding it


Cats that look at birds
have eyes that meditate
birds that look at cats
have eyes that doubt
my own close
to think of miracles


In the near future fables
and lovely fairy tales
will come back into fashion


Only the contemplators
of constellations
can still
move us


Now if you like
let's talk about my painting
for I am perhaps
my own disciple


05 November 2008

Stupid and boring, and the US election

So the Establishment has been handing out prizes to its pets again. The Stupidest Exhibition Award (otherwise known as the Walters) went to Peter Robinson for his polystyrene nonsense. What was notable about this award this time around was how the selecting panel outdid themselves in sheer idiocy, rendering the contest even more of a joke than usual.

The Most Boring Painter Award (otherwise known as the Laureate) went to Shane Cotton for his consistent mediocrity. I suppose it takes a certain knack to produce paintings that are so utterly devoid of interest. Of course, the idea of having a painter laureate is itself fairly stupid.

But enough of this inconsequential bollocks. The first results of the US election are coming in. I’ve been watching a lot of Fox News recently (it’s fascinating in a grotesque way), but for this arvo I recommend Oliver Burkeman's blog on the Guardian site.

04 November 2008


Nobody will represent your interests!

Nobody will keep their promises!

Nobody will rescue the economy!

Vote for NOBODY in this election.

(Nobody authorised this message.)

24 October 2008

Van Gogh goes off

The third one is almost better and is a sketch of the market he did last year, which seems, however, to have changed since then to represent a Spanish rather than a Dutch market, at least so far as anything can be made out in it at all. What sort of wares are being sold in the market, where it may be – I, for my part, doubt it is meant to be on this globe, and to the naive spectator it would seem to represent a scene on one of the planets that Jules Verne's miraculous travellers were in the habit of visiting (by projectile). It is impossible to be specific about the wares actually being sold, though seen from afar it could be enormous quantities of candied fruit or sweetmeats.

Now, you try to imagine something like that, but as absurd as can be and heavy-handed to boot, and you have the work of friend Breitner. From a distance it looks like patches of faded colour on bleached, mouldering, and mildewy wallpaper and in that respect it has some qualities, which to me are none the less positively objectionable.

I simply fail to comprehend how it is possible for anyone to produce such things.

22 October 2008

Sigismondo Malatesta

The dog and castle in the previous post’s pic belonged to Sigismondo Malatesta, the Wolf of Rimini. Sigismondo was pretty full on. His motto was something like ‘Whatever I do benefits the State’.

He is rumoured to have poisoned his first wife and to have strangled his second with a napkin at the dinner table, though both rumours might well be calumnies spread by his political enemies. He certainly neglected them in favour of the servant girl who became his third wife.

Pope Pius II enacted a special papal Bull enrolling him as a citizen in Hell and burnt him in effigy in Rome. Sigismondo didn’t have much time for religion. He said, ‘Even if God did exist, why would he pay any attention to us?’

The fresco I’ve ripped off is in the Tempio Malatestiano, which was a church that Sigismondo transformed into a kind of pagan temple. I have a theory that it’s actually one great big magic spell, but I won’t go into that here.

21 October 2008

Another crappy photo

The Even Greater Depression

Who could've predicted that free-market capitalism would eat itself?

Oh yeah, Marx did.

This financial crisis is a bit of a laugh, isn't it? People say the art world's full of nothing but hot air but, unlike the financial industry, at least we produce something tangible.

19 October 2008

Quote of the day

I told him about my rooms in the Ile Saint-Louis and the art school, and how good the old teachers were and how bad the students.

'They never go near the Louvre,' I said, 'or, if they do, it's only because one of their absurd reviews "discovered" a master who fits in with that month's aesthetic theory. Half of them are out make a popular splash like Picabia; the other half quite simply want to earn their living doing advertisements for Vogue and decorating night clubs. And the teachers still go on trying to make them paint like Delacroix.'

'Charles,' said Cordelia, 'Modern Art is all bosh, isn't it?'

'Great bosh.'

- Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited

17 October 2008

On underpainting

The colour in the previous post’s pics is the watercolour and gouache underpainting. Once I’ve done something similar to the Piero one, I’ll start on the oil glazes for all three.

The idea is to build up layers of transparent colour (except for the gouache). In the finished painting, the light passes through these transparent layers and reflects off the white ground, giving it an inner glow.

Traditionally, you’d use oil paint diluted with turps for the underpainting. The reason for using turps is Rubens’ principle of ‘fat over lean’, where you put layers with more oil content over layers with less (to prevent cracking). The problem is that different pigments have different amounts of oil added to them to make oil paint, which complicates this process considerably.

My solution is to avoid the problem and use watercolours instead. Needless to say, they have no oil content. I then only have to worry about the glazes. That’s bad enough. I’m quite capable of getting horribly confused.

The other aspect of underpainting where I depart from tradition is the choice of colour. Traditionally, you’d use monochrome, usually in grey (called grisaille), or complementary colours. So in the latter case you’d underpaint the sky orange and the grass red, etc. As you can see, I do neither.

16 October 2008

The copies of copies

I'm quite enjoying these crappy photos.

The original copies

These are the two Picabias I'm currently ripping off. Woman with idol is the one on the right of the top pic.

What I like is that I'm doing copies of copies. Woman with idol was based on a picture in a 40s porn magazine, with the doctor in the original replaced by the idol. Adoration of the calf is based on a photo in a surrealist magazine.

The Piero I'm ripping off could also be classed as a copy, given that the dotted lines from the pouncing are still visible. Pouncing is the method Renaissance artists used to transfer drawings from a cartoon on to a wall to be frescoed.

14 October 2008

Bollocks to that

Last week, I took down the few comic pages I’d drawn up from the studio wall and put them away. I’d found the first draft, read through it, and thought about it for a bit. I hadn’t been enjoying doing it anyway. It was boring and tedious, and I wasn’t that happy with the result. After reading through the whole thing for the first time in a while, I decided I needed to go back and start again from scratch, with a totally different approach, at some unspecified future date.

Instead, I thought I’d do some fun paintings, copies of things I want to have on the wall. So I’ve whipped up a quick black square (see previous post), and now I’m working on a couple of Picabias and a Piero. They’re straight copies. The differences are the size (25 x 29 cm), the treatment (the old watercolour and oil glazes bizzo), and the words in large letters on the top of each image. These are ‘society’ for Picabia’s Adoration of the calf, ‘cubism’ for his Woman with idol, and ‘surrealism’ for the dog and castle from Piero’s fresco in the Tempio Malatesta.

12 October 2008

Black square

06 October 2008

Exquisite corpses

30 September 2008

The immortals

24 September 2008

Heresy and sorcery

To think differently than is customary is much less the result of a better understanding than the result of strong inclinations, of separative, mocking, and perhaps perfidious inclinations. Heresy is the compensation for sorcery, and is not at all innocent or even venerable in itself. In short, I don't like Sunday, which is not a holiday but a day of totalitarian boredom.

23 September 2008

Dada school

I first discovered dada when I was 12 or 13. I was in my first year of boarding school and not enjoying it very much. I went to Nelson fucking College. An indication of their pathetic aspirations comes from the school colours: light blue and dark blue, just like Oxford and Cambridge. (It impresses the Blenheim farmers.) I came from a nice liberal middle class family, and that kind of hideously authoritarian environment was a bit of a shock.

Cos I came from a city, I was put into a dorm with all the other city kids. The others had pretty much all been sent to the school cos their parents couldn't handle them. We were the punk rock dorm. Peter and the Test Tube Babies were a particular favourite. At the end of the year, it turned out most of the dorm was involved in a cannabis ring. I didn't know anything about it of course.

We used to go to war with the other dorms. If you drop a light bulb vertically, it'll bounce. We'd start by drop-kicking a bulb into the opposing side, then charge swinging pillow cases with knots tied in the end. Some of the more unscrupulous of us would put coins in the knot.

Boarding school is a funny place. They have stupid rules for stupid rules' sake. You can't walk on the grass, just so it can be a privilege for seventh formers to do so. They'd pick suitable seventh formers to be prefects. Suitable in this context means being not too bright, with a conventional mindset, an uncritical attitude, and an emphasis on physical strength ... you get the idea.

One time, the prefect in charge of our dorm heard us talking after lights out. He barged in and demanded we tell him who it was. When nobody owned up, or would rat anyone else out, he got really angry. We all had to get out of bed and go out on to the front field in our pyjamas. This was in the middle of winter. Then we had to stand there with arms outstretched making small circles with our hands. Try it sometime. It fucking hurts after a while. And that was just the start of it. I'm pleased to say that no-one did rat anyone out no matter what was thrown at us.

I have a line: The only things boarding school taught me were a healthy disrespect for authority and the ability to lie glibly. I've lost the latter due to lack of use, but there's not much chance of that for the former!

I didn't have many books to read, so I would read the Encyclopedia Britannica they had. I'd find an interesting article and then follow the cross-references (analogue hyperlinks!). I can't remember what the original article was, but one led me to both anarchism and dada. Needless to say, at that time and in those circumstances, both appealed to me a lot, but especially dada.

22 September 2008

Can't Play Won't Play homage to Picabia

I've just added a homage to Picabia to Can't Play Won't Play's myspace page. That's Mr Stephen Rowe on vocals, reading from a selection of Mr Francis Picabia's Poems and drawings of the daughter born without a mother, written in 1918 and dedicated 'to all neurological doctors in general and especially to' the three doctors who'd recently helped him with his neurasthenia and opium addiction. Picabia wrote the book after one of his doctors wouldn't let him paint cos it was interfering with the treatment too much.

My favourite line is 'That business in the local train would darken', which is a reference to Duchamp's clandestine rendezvous in a railway station with Picabia's wife Gabrielle Buffet for a few hours in August 1912. (Duchamp and Buffet would live together for a while in 1920 after Buffet gave Picabia the flick.)

Quote of the day

I consider belief of every kind, from astrology to every elevated religion and all great ideologies, to be superfluous and mortally dangerous. We no longer need such things. We ought to work out different strategies against misery and injustice, war and catastrophes.


Now that there are no priests or philosophers left, artists are the most important people in the world. This is the only thing that interests me.

- Gerhard Richter

18 September 2008

Notes towards book of advice for my god(less)son Theo

The world is horrible and insane. It always has been, and it always will be.

You only have this life to live. Make the most of it. Don't be a latrine-filler.

Watch out for those with a little amount of power, the petty officials. They come in all shapes, sizes, and guises.

Watch out for those on the make. They are distressingly common.


In the Boardroom Gallery upstairs at Thermostat, I've included a short biography to go with each portrait:

Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche
(1844–1900). Philosopher. Most famous for proclaiming the death of God. His philosophical ideas have been widely misinterpreted, partly because of the provocative and aphoristic style he used to present them. He said: ‘I want to say in 100 words what other people require whole books to say.’ In 1889 he witnessed a horse being whipped and went insane.

Kasimir Severinovich Malevich (1878–1935). Painter and art theorist. Founder of the intertemporal avant-garde art movement Suprematism, which uses fundamental geometric forms to produce abstract art. Most famous for his painting Black square. He said: 'I felt only night within me and it was then that I conceived the new art, which I called Suprematism.' In the 20s and 30s, his Suprematist work was suppressed by the Soviet Union for being too ‘bourgeois’.

Piero della Francesca (c. 1412–1492). Painter and mathematician. Best artist of the 15th century. Originally trained as a heraldic painter before working with Domenico Veneziano. Known for the neoplatonic stillness and geometric construction of his paintings. Devised secret alternative perspective scheme to rival that of Leon Battista Alberti. Most famous for The Baptism of Christ, which is the best painting ever made.

David Charles Bartholomew Cauchi
(1970–). Painter. Founder of the intertemporal avant-garde art movement Common-sense nihilsm. Known for being an idiot.

Francis-Marie Martinez Picabia
(1879–1953). Painter, poet, and provocateur. Best artist of the 20th century. Invented abstract painting, dada, and space tourism. Known for his wide range of styles. Marcel Duchamp said: ‘One does something for six months, a year, and then one does something else. This is what Picabia did his entire life.’ Most famous for his mechanomorphic paintings.

Rosemary Jane Miller (1964–). Graphic designer. Long-suffering partner of David Cauchi. Known for being sensible.

Max Beckmann (1884–1950). Painter. Known for his allegorical self-portraits and triptychs. Did not fit into any of the conventional categories of art history. Heavily influenced by his experiences as a medic during World War I and by mysticism. Featured in the Degenerate art exhibition put on by the Nazis.

Philip Kindred Dick
(1928–1982). Science fiction writer. Known for the themes of his novels. He said: ‘In my writing I even question the universe; I wonder out loud if it is real, and I wonder out loud if all of us are real.’ Most famous for writing the novel that was filmed as Bladerunner. In 1974, an interstellar communications network known as VALIS started beaming information into his head and he went insane.

Arthur Mitchell Ransome (1884–1967). Author and illustrator. Most famous for his Swallows and Amazons series of books. Heavily influenced by the anarchist Prince Kropotkin. Had many adventures during the Russian Revolution. Developed a very concise writing style when sending reports by telegram.

12 September 2008

Notes from a meeting

09 September 2008

Weather redux

I've been posted a nice link about the validity of self-serving email writer Ken Ring's weather predictions. My favourite comment is:

Mr Ring's weather predictions fail. When and if he is forced to explain his failures he mischievously reinterprets forecasts, suppresses negative forecasts and simply invents forecasts that were never made, all in such a way as to make it appear that his apparent failure was actually a success.


07 September 2008


Stephen Rowe snuck the framed skull in. There is also an intertemporal avant-garde group portrait upstairs in the Boardroom Gallery. The statement stuck up on the wall is:

Portrait of the intertemporal avant-garde artist (after Nietzsche)
My paintings are not serious: I have no ulterior motives regarding speculation. To succeed in making mankind ‘better’ is the last of my intentions. Naturally, I find knocking down idols much more amusing.

How is it that I am so shrewd? I have never stopped to reflect on problems that were not real problems, never wasted my time on such things. My ambition is to be completely sterile for others. Anyone who creates a following disgusts me.


Artists are afraid. They whisper to each other about academics and curators who could prevent them from making their bits and pieces of rubbish. There is only one way to save yourselves, and that is to sacrifice your reputation.

The incredibly grotesque spectacle of enthusiasm for one’s nationality fills me with distaste, accompanied by nausea.

Needing nothing

Never work. Live for your pleasure. There is nothing to understand, nothing, nothing, nothing but the value that you yourself give to everything. The problem is that in this reject world all we have are specialists.

I do not remember ever having made an effort to obtain anything. I am the contrary of the heroic nature. ‘Wanting’ something, ‘aspiring’ to something, or having an ‘objective’ are all things totally outside of my experience. But that is how I have always lived. I have never had any ambitions. In fact, I can say that I have never been excessively preoccupied with men, women, or money.

Thus, the relations I maintain with people test my patience to the utmost. My ‘humanity’ does not consist in sympathising with my neighbours but in putting up with the fact of feeling them so close to me.

The anti-chameleon

Needless to say, I am not a chameleon. I have proved this by always choosing, instinctively, the atmosphere that would first change my skin. I do not take on the colour of my surroundings, however, but adopt one totally opposed to them. On the whole, I have always been the same; superficially, I have changed on many occasions, to become exactly the contrary of all that surrounded me.

I have always condemned myself to being different at every moment, to being beyond all conventions. The pressure I put on myself to avoid ever being assimilated by anybody or anything shows that I possess the instinctive, absolute certainty of what I need on any particular occasion. I enjoy all the good things – and even those little things that others are hardly capable of enjoying. And thus, out of my will to continual change, my will to live against the grain, I make my art.

When everything is meaningless, you might as well have some fun.

04 September 2008

The fucking Puddle!

For more Puddle and George D brilliance, go here and here.

Ha ha

Some anonymous twit left a comment on my Piero della Francesca timeline post:

'can you put any of his famous quotes about how he regards his work, next time, I need it for VA'

Who the hell do you think I am? And why the fuck should I care what you need? Do your own fucking homework (I assume that's what 'VA' refers to).

I quite often get people coming to that post after searching google. The funniest thing about it is that the timeline may look authoritative but isn't. It's a compilation of historical sources and my own theories. The dates for paintings are almost all speculation on my part, and some of them are quite unconventional.

03 September 2008

Michael Baxandall is dead

Michael Baxandall is dead. There are several obituaries around, but the best one is here.

I highly recommend both Painting and experience in 15th century Italy and Patterns of intention. They deserve close and careful reading (and re-reading). I'd like to read some of his later books as well.

02 September 2008

A reminder

29 August 2008

Response to yesterday's post

Dear David

Your comments re my work are indeed unkind.Please see attached, for
forecasts of 27 August. I claim the same recommendations of NZ Metservice, which
are for at least 24-hr error, bearing in mind my forecasts are set out 2 years
ago for my almanac books. A large geographical area such as Wellington, with
many hill microclimates, means when rain is about, some get heavy rain and some
don’t. The point is the potential, at perigee times, for wild weather over about
a week, and the region certainly received it. The attached documents are
corroborative evidence.

I commend Maddie’s exhibition in bringing awareness of a wider and older
weather science, and its potential for the pre-warning of severe events and the
subsequent saving of lives and of costs to our economy. To learn more about the
moon-method and its implications you can download my free 230-page book, link at
bottom of this post.

Kind regards

Ken Ring

I haven't included the attachments, but you can check them out on his website here.

28 August 2008


This is very unkind, but I can't resist. For the one-day sculpture event, academic artist Maddie Leach based her project on a long-range weather forecast (which are of course notoriously unreliable). From the one-day sculpture website, we have:
On 28th August 2008, a storm is predicted over the city of Wellington. Using a long-range weather forecasting system developed by mathematician Ken Ring, Maddie Leach has pinpointed a winter’s day in which downpours, hail, wind and rain are expected to descend upon the North Island’s most southerly city. A perigee is the moment at which the moon is at its closest to the earth each month and, according to Ring, it is around this time that significant changes in weather patterns occur.

Anticipation for the storm is built by the artist through a series of newspaper forecasts which appear prior to the notable day of the project. On the day itself we are encouraged to seek out a boatshed at Breaker Bay, set at the mouth of the harbour, Te Whanganui-a-Tara, from which to watch in anticipation over the Cook Strait over a period of 24 hours.

If you open up the front page of today's paper, you get this particularly nice juxtaposition:

The newspaper article next to Maddie Leach's ad reads in part:
In a rotten winter that has seen Wellington drenched in almost twice the average rainfall, sun-starved residents can look to Thursdays for a reprieve.

Niwa statistics confirm the outlook for Thursdays is fine - or at least better, as it has proved to be the least likely day for rain.

26 August 2008

23 August 2008

Can't Play Won't Play

To complete today's multimedia goodness, you can check out Can't Play Won't Play on myspace.

Satanic dada collective

You can see a couple of satanic dada collaborative works here.

Common-Sense Nihilist Party political broadcast

20 August 2008

Fucking academics

I'm reading this book right? It's written by an art historian, and it's a flagrant attempt to grab some glory of the artist for himself. Fucking George Baker on Francis Picabia. You will have noticed I'm a bit of a Picabia fan. Picabia was the best artist of the 20th century, but he doesn't deserve this bullshit. Baker is a parasitic cunt.

He picks up these so-called marginalised works and claims to've discovered their importance. He makes a long bow about what they're about and then links them to a theoretical structure that some dickhead came up with after Picabia was dead. Fucking Baker spends all his time going on about this, some stupid post-Freudian shit that didn't exist when the work was made, an elaborate scheme that's totally anachronistic, and that doesn't make any fucking sense when related to the work even if it did exist when the work was made. Fucking ridiculous.

I particularly dislike all this quoting Freud and Marx bollocks, taking them seriously. Do you see psychologists and economists doing so!?! No, you fucking don't. Only art theorists and art historians. Freud and Marx were early models of their fields. It's like taking Ptolemy seriously as a model of the solar system. You fucking idiots.

The footnotes in this book are a fucking disgrace as well, suck-up shit. Sucking up to Rosalind Krauss. These October cunts, trying to steal fucking dada for their academic agenda, fuck off.

Yeah, so I'm pissed again. Can you tell? I've just been to an Ava Seymour opening, yet someone else feeding off dada's corpse. Yeah, you say, the same could be said for you, David Cauchi. Well, bollocks. I rip off dada better than any other arsehole. I'm up front about it, and I fucking understand it.

19 August 2008

Francis Picabia invented space tourism

We all know that Francis Picabia invented abstract painting and dada, but did you know he also invented space tourism in 1921?
I would like to find an engineer who would be able to realise my latest invention; this invention consists in assembling circles around the Earth, circles that would remain fixed through centripetal attraction; palaces would be built on these circles which would spin round and round.

In this way, we could go round the world without having to leave our rooms, or rather we could see it go round in 24 hours! There's Cairo with its visions of the pilgrims of Mecca, Upper Egypt, then New York, Brooklyn, and Riverside Drive, there's Paris, the Seine, etc, and throughout this incredible procession young girls would play Reynaldo Hahn's melodies on the piano!

There would be no more voyages, no more missed trains, no more night, and thus much less danger of catching chills; anyway, putting my discovery into practice could offer serious advantages. If an American engineer ever gets an idea reading these pages, I would be very obliged to him if he were to write to me so we could discuss the possibilities of fleshing it out.

Of course it's understood that the inhabitants of these circles would benefit from 'anationality'.

11 August 2008

Nihilism for beginners

Okay, so Kant pointed out that space, time, and causality are not properties of the world, of things-in-themselves, but rather properties of the mind that allow us to understand the world. All objects that we can apprehend exist in space and time, and have causes and effects. We can only apprehend objects in those terms; any object not in space, in time, and subject to causality would be unknowable. This means that space, time, and causality are conditions that must be met for us to apprehend an object. But things-in-themselves are not dependent on the conditions we have for apprehending things. Those conditions are properties of our minds, not of the things. Space, time, and causality are subjective framing devices with which we structure our sensations and combine them into the coherent world we observe. The world we experience, the world of appearances, is dependent on the properties of our minds.

Some people go on from this to posit an ultimate reality beyond the world of appearances. But such an underlying reality, if it existed, would be completely unknowable. It would be completely separate from us. In what way then can it underly the world of appearances?

If apparent things are constructed by the classifications and arrangements of sensation by our mind, they are obviously not real. There is no thing-in-itself, and each person constructs the world, not according to any truth or reality, but according to their own needs and values.

Kant also points out that, since the world of appearances is constructed by the mind, whatever unity it has is provided by the unity of the subject perceiving/constructing it, and that this is a reciprocal arrangement. The unity of the object is brought about by the subject grasping the different elements of the object and combining them into a whole, and the unity of the subject is possible only by doing this. It is like what the art theorists call 'intertextual space', where the meaning of a work of art is generated by the interaction between the work and a viewer. Or, as we should say, a work of art is created by the interaction of a subject with an object. That object could be a painting on a wall or it could be the world as a whole.

However, neither the object nor the subject are a unity. The self is seething mass of contradictory impulses, desires, and needs, and the world it constructs is similarly contradictory. But there's more. If the world of appearances is unreal and illusory, and it has a reciprocal relationship with the self, then the self too is unreal and illusory. They are both fictions. Nothing is real.

07 August 2008

Quotes of the day

Fundamentally, I had a mania for change, like Picabia. One does something for six months, a year, and one goes on to something else. That was what Picabia did his whole life.

- Marcel Duchamp

DUCHAMP: ... I don't believe in positions.
CABANNE: But what do you believe in?
DUCHAMP: Nothing, of course! The word 'belief' is another error. It's like the word 'judgement', they're both horrible words, on which the world is based. [...]
CABANNE: Nevertheless, you believe in yourself?
DUCHAMP: No ... I don't believe in the word 'being'. The idea of being is a human invention ... It's an essential concept, which doesn't exist at all in reality, and which I don't believe in.

For me, happiness is to command no-one and to not be commanded.

- Francis Picabia


I've been procrastinating like buggery over the final version of my comic. I'm slow at the best of times, but this has got ridiculous. A large part of it is that it's going to be time-consuming and finicky. No doubt I'll fuck up a page at the last minute and have to start from scratch on a drearily regular basis. The drawing up is okay. It's the watercolouring that'll be tricky:

Before I get stuck into the watercolouring, though, I need to do a little tidying:

The funny thing is, now that I've finally made a start, I've got sick. The gods do so like their little jokes. Of course, it's my fault for crowing that I hadn't yet this winter.

04 August 2008

The end

For Encounters at the end of the world, Werner Herzog and a cameraman were sent to Antarctica by the National Science Foundation to make a documentary. He tells us he told them he wouldn’t be making yet another documentary about penguins. Instead, he has different questions of nature: why do men wear masks and feathers, and feel compelled to always chase the bad guy; why do ants keep slaves; and why don’t chaimpanzess ride gazelles off into the sunset?

The resulting film was obviously made with tight time pressures. A lot of the interviewees seem very unrehearsed. Herzog seems to have filmed them straight away, just after meeting them. You can see his direction: ‘say such and such, and then slowly look over there’. If they go on for too long, he cuts them off and summarises what they’re saying (or meant to say) in a voiceover. A travel story bore gets interrupted with ‘Her story goes on forever.’

The usual artist in Antarctica thing is to play up its pristine beauty, but Herzog doesn’t. Anyone who’s read a lot of science fiction will recognise McMurdo Base. It is what bases on the Moon and Mars will look like: drab prefabs, large earthmoving equipment, piles of stuff just dumped somewhere convenient, the occasional figure heavily wrapped in protective clothing, and dirt everywhere. It’s not pretty.

The science fiction theme runs throughout. One researcher describes the neutrinos he’s looking for as ‘belonging to a different universe’. One scientist describes underwater life in terms of science fiction monsters. Herzog asks in response if mammals colonised the land to escape the horror. The same scientist shows 50s science fiction doomsday films to the researchers, and when he gets suited up to go diving its very much like an astronaut putting on the many layers of a space suit. Herzog’s narration of a great sequence in tunnels under the South Pole turns it into a tale of alien archaeologists from the future discovering the last relics of humanity – a frozen sturgeon and some plastic flowers.

There are lots of other treats as well.

I was meant to go to the Patti Smith doco on Sunday as well, but it clashed with Doctor Who. Still, Herzog was the perfect finish. It was easily the best film I saw.

28 July 2008

An open letter to the good artists

People often complain about the ‘gatekeepers’ of the art world – major dealers, collectors, curators who supposedly decide who gets picked up and who doesn’t. Many artists structure their work and their career around getting into the right galleries, the right collections, and the right institutions. Some people worry about the amount of art school graduates there are nowadays, seeing them as competition.

This is completely wrong-headed. It is important to remember that we are the primary sources. Curators, collectors, dealers, and the like are parasites. It’s not a symbiotic relationship at all. They need us, but we don’t need them. We were around long before they existed, and we’ll still be around long after they’re gone.

What matters is the body of work you leave behind after you’re gone. With a bit of historical distance, it will be obvious who the good artists were. If history is anything to go by, it is the people who follow their own path, who stay true to themselves, and damn the short-term consequences. It is the people who have something to say. Now you may answer, ‘Ah, but David those future people need to have heard of you first, and for that you need to be in major museum collections.’ Bear with me, and I’ll get to that.

When was the last time you went to a show at a public institution that made you sit up and take notice? There is a reason that they only show mediocre work. Public institutions are accountable for the public funding they receive. They usually try to do this by using viewer figures. This means that they are risk-averse. They play it safe and go for crowd-pleasers every time.

Go along to the City Gallery in Wellington and do the survey they have at the front desk. The first thing you’ll notice is that it is a marketing exercise. Try the ‘customer’ survey at Te Papa. At least that actually asks what you got out of the show, buried somewhere in amongst all the questions about advertising and product ranges. That’s all they care about – getting people through the door. Your interests and their interests don’t coincide. You don’t need them.

I'd be wary of the big collectors as well. They're perfectly capable of dumping your work at low prices when fashions change. Some have even been known to do so while you have a show on, completely screwing you. If they've done it before, they can do it again.

I wouldn't worry about the hordes of recent art graduates. People who think they can screw you over cos they are plenty more where you came from haven't thought things through.

You’re artists, people, artists. You’re meant to be creative. You don’t need to follow the conventional career structure. Create your own methods of getting your work out there. You don’t need to be dependent on gatekeepers. Nothing will change unless we change it. Don’t play their game. Create your own game. Make up your own rules. This is what it means to be avant-garde: it’s not (just) what you do but the way that you do it. We change the rules of the game. All the tools are there. All you have to do is use them.

The crucial thing you do need is something to say, something that informs what you do. It also helps to have a good knowledge of art history and a good general knowledge. Art works by associations, and the more things you have to associate the better. Read widely and well. Anything and everything can be source material. Good ideas can be found in the unlikeliest of places.

That's my two cents worth. Now I'm going to go teach my grandmother how to suck eggs.

Quote of the day

It was long known that nicotine acts on the same receptor as the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Changeux recognized that this could explain both nicotine's obvious benefits — greater concentration, relaxation, etc. — as well as the drug's more puzzling long-term effects. For instance, while cigarettes are dangerous to health, some studies show that smokers tend to suffer at significantly lower rates from Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease. Changeux found that nicotine, by attaching to the same receptors as acetylcholine, reproduces some of the benefits of acetylcholine by reinforcing neuronal connections throughout the brain. Nicotine is not exactly the same chemically as acetylcholine, but can mimic its effects.

- How the mind works: revelations

27 July 2008

House photos

Oh yeah, Rose has put up some photos of our house (and some more). We like it quite a lot.

More films

Klaus more than lived up to expectations. His delivery of the line 'Do unto others...' needs to be seen to be believed.

Yesterday, we went to Funny games, which was really good. Full on, but well worth it. The preppy game-playing psychos were perfectly cast. The opening credits said it all. You have the nice perfect middle-class couple playing a game trying to guess the nice classical music the other's put on, and then when the credits start full on metal Naked City erupt in over the top of it.

Today was We can not exist in this world alone [sic]. There were two directors, with five films each. I liked one of them, and very much disliked the other.

I'd forgotten about these two when listing the films I was going to earlier. Unfortunately, it puts me over ten in all. I'm really trying to cut down on the amount I go to. In previous years, I've gone to as many as 30, which is a ridiculous amount in two weeks. It means you can't properly appreciate them. There's no space around them in which to reflect. It's like going to a really good restaurant, ordering lots of really nice food, and then having a speed eating contest.

25 July 2008

A drawing of Klaus


In anticipation of the Klaus Kinski film tonight, here are some quotes (not all from the film):

I am not the Jesus of the official church tolerated by those in power. I am not your superstar.

Now I absolutely despise the murderer Herzog. I tell him to his face that I want to see him perish like the llama he executed. He should be thrown to the crocodiles alive! An anaconda should throttle him slowly! The sting of a deadly spider should paralyze him! His brain should burst from the bite of the most poisonous of all snakes! Panthers shouldn't slit his throat open with their claws, that would be too good for him! No. Big red ants should piss in his eyes, eat his balls, penetrate his asshole, and eat his guts! He should get the plague! Syphilis! Malaria! Yellow fever! Leprosy! In vain. The more I wish the most horrible of deaths on him and treat him like the scum of the earth that he is, the less I can get rid of him!

About 25 years ago, I was in an apartment, and next door, they put on the radio, so I struck the wall with my fist, but they did not put the radio down. I took a tool and banged until I made a hole through the wall. It was like a comedy movie.

What do you think, that a dollar in a savings account is freedom? Maybe you have understood nothing I have said.

Why do I continue making movies? Making movies is better than cleaning toilets.

I have to shoot without any breaks. I yell at Herzog and hit him. I have to fight for every sequence. I wish Herzog would catch the plague, more than ever.

I don't need anybody to tell me how to be alive.

Once, I took a taxi. I hate those limousines. They stink and their drivers have been driving dead people to the cemeteries.

People who do not see the terrible things therefore do not see the beautiful things, either.

This just in: Recently released medical records from 1950 have this to say about Klaus:

Preliminary diagnosis: Schizophrenia. Conclusion: Psychopathy.

One doctor at the clinic classified Kinski as 'a danger to the public' and another said he showed 'signs of severe mental illness'.

The first doctor wrote: 'His speech is violent. In this, his self-centred and incorrigible personality is evident as one that can't blend in civil circumstances. He remains consistent to his egocentric world view and declares all others prejudiced [...] The patient hasn't had a job in one year, but still speaks confidently of the new film in which he will star.'

24 July 2008

Film Fest

Yeah, so it’s Film Fest time again. I’m not going to much this year. So far I’ve seen two, and I have another five to go.

The gala opening night film was Man on wire, which is about a French tightrope walker who broke into the Twin Towers, spent all night stringing a wire between them (which sagged quite a lot), and then spent 45 minutes walking along it the next morning. He did eight crossings and would skip just out of reach of the cops trying to grab him.

The film was mostly interviews, some reconstructions of the break-in, archival footage of the preparations, and still photos of the main event. I really liked that there was no actual footage of it. You had to reconstruct it in your head, based on the photos and descriptions. The aftermath (in terms of destroyed personal relations) was subtly alluded to by a seemingly incongruous reconstructed sex scene.

The other, To each his own cinema, 36 three-minute films about going to the flicks, was a big disappointment, a parade of clichés. The only good ones were the jokes.

Coming up, I have docos about Patti Smith and the 50s LA art scene, the latest Herzog (a late confirmation), Klaus Kinski going off, and The Man from London.

23 July 2008

Valve porn

Steve's put some more valve porn on his blog. I have to admit that Motorhead sounded pretty fucking good.

Some family history

My funny last name comes from Malta. It is pronounced ‘cow-key’.

Malta is a small group of islands in the middle of the Mediterranean. The best description I’ve heard is the population of Wellington in the area of Stewart Island. Malta has the oldest freestanding buildings in the world and seems to have been an important prehistoric cult centre.

It was first settled in 5200BC and has been colonised many times over the last two and a half thousand years: by the Ancient Greeks, the Phoenicians, the Carthaginians, the Romans, the Arabs, the Normans, the Knights of St John, the French (briefly), and the English. The Turks tried a couple of times, most notably during the Great Siege of Malta in 1565. It gained its independence in 1964.

My grandfather Joseph Cauchi was born in Cospicua in 1897, when Cospicua had not yet been swallowed up by a spreading Valletta. He was the oldest of nine children. His father had been the CEO of the Bank of Malta. Most of my great-aunts and great-uncles who didn't emigrate lived in and around Sliema, which is a seaside suburb to the west of Valletta. One great-uncle, Johnny, went to live in Mdina and left his art collection to the nation: it's now open to the public. My dad remembers seeing some of his paintings when he was still alive. The walls of every room of his flat were full of pictures all the way up to the ceiling.

After the war in the late 1940s my grandfather served for a time as CGMO (Chief Government Medical Officer) in Malta. His name is engraved with those of other CGMOs on a marble plaque in the foyer of the Ministry of Health. My great-uncle Johnny qualified as a lawyer but for many years worked as curator of an art gallery – Dad thinks it might have been Malta's national gallery.

If you meet another Cauchi in New Zealand, they will be directly related to me.

21 July 2008

This one's for Victor

While I'm at it, what's with that shit email you sent me.

Okay, take me off your links list. But to send me an email telling me you'd taken me off your link list cos 'I'm too negative'? We'll ignore the psychological aspect of that.

Do your Stalinist revisionism in your own time mate.

Fucking ridiculous.

Fuck you all

I am drinking beer and listening to The Fall.

Fuck you anonymous commentator who didn't like the fly and didn't get it. Fuck you death threat.

Fuck you all.

'It's a business line not a chat line. It's Fall Sound!'

And I'm liking that Ransome painting quite a lot. I did that.

20 July 2008

And another

And another

18 July 2008

Some crappy studio pics

This one's mostly Paul Faris:

Some electronic communications

A text: 'u deserve to die for your angus review'

A link in an email: a wishlist for art 2008

15 July 2008


So there were a few things I couldn't find after moving: raincoat, pins, red oil paint, watercolour paper, and the original first draft of my comic. The missing comic is a little annoying, but at least I stashed scans of it on this blog. The red oil paint was in a box with the other oil paints, and that box was in another box. When I opened them up, everything else was there except the red (very strange). I went and bought some more pins to replace the missing pins, and now the replacements have gone missing as well. If I were paranoid, I'd think someone was deliberately messing with my head.

Oh yeah, I am paranoid, and someone is deliberately messing with my head.

12 July 2008

Telling it like it is

So I went along to check out the Rita Angus show yesterday arvo. I'd had high hopes for it but was bitterly disappointed. Part of it may be the way it was put together. There was far too much work in there, and far too much mediocre and bad work in particular. But that's not it – I can't just blame the curators. I was forced to come to an uncomfortable conclusion about Rita herself, and about New Zealand art in general.

What I like about Rita Angus is her non-compromising attitude to art. She took making art very seriously, and at the same time had some fun with it. She made work for herself. That's what we like to see. And if you never make unsuccessful work, you're obviously not pushing yourself – just mindlessly repeating a successful formula. But to have a survey of your life's work where there's barely a handful of good works? That's not good. You're a minor artist.

Let's face it. New Zealand art history is not very critical. It puts people up on pedestals and then genuflects towards them forevermore. Colin McCahon is a case in point. Most of his work is shit. Those cubist landscapes? How can you possibly take them seriously? Those stupid word paintings!?!

There are too many received ideas uncritically accepted in this country. Someone needs to put the boot in, tear down the idols. We have a very conservative, conformist culture. People don't like to rock the boat, especially in public and especially under their own name. Bollocks to that.

The art scene here is far too cosy – a nice comfy chair and cup of milky milo. Stop worrying about what other people think. Stand on your own two feet and drink strong black coffee instead, and maybe our art history will end up with more than a few good works scattered sporadically through it.

Some of us are trying to make good work, rather than make a career. What we need are critics and art historians to keep us on our toes.

06 July 2008

Painting at Vent

Pen, watercolour, gouache, and oil on canvas. No prizes for guessing what it's called.

03 July 2008

Time for a drawing

02 July 2008

I might have to steal this idea...

...for the loo in my studio:

28 June 2008

26 June 2008

Clubhouse sign

23 June 2008

Quote of the day

"Paintings sit there," Kitaj writes, "looking out at the world, which remains separate. I'm for an art into which the painter imports things from the world that he cares about"--imports them into the alternate world that is the work of art. "Painting," Kitaj explains, "is a great idea I carry from place to place. It is an idea full of ideas, like a refugee's suitcase, a portable Ark of the Covenant."

The artist's sense of place is the stranger's sense of place, the outsider's sense of place. Such a dispensation can feel expansive and inviting. It can also feel exclusionary, because its particularities push out other particularities. An art that pursues its own viewpoint, and does so unironically, can seem elitist, because it propounds a secret. "This is just for us," the work declares--but it is always the case that the "us" includes anybody who can imagine himself or herself into this particular place. Anybody can enter, but not without making an effort.
- Jed Perl, 'Postcards from nowhere'

22 June 2008


Here are the projects I've got on:
  1. painting – I've gessoed a panel we took off a door (to put a cat flap into), which will be my first painting in my new studio, and I've got several other things I want to do, including a couple of portraits and some collaborative abstract work
  2. finishing my comic – this is a lot of work
  3. a catalogue essay for a friend – this has quite a tight deadline, and I haven't even started thinking about it yet
  4. an essay on my own account – this will be a conversation between Piero, Picabia, and me called 'The immortality machine'
  5. the band – we're working towards a five-track cd-ep.
I haven't really had much time or inclination to get on the Internet recently, which is why I've been a bit slack on the blogging front. We'll see how that continues.

19 June 2008

No talent

In a fit of drunken enthusiasm in amongst the moving madness last week, I got on to Prime’s website and applied for an audition for New Zealand’s Got Talent for Can’t Play Won’t Play.

When asked to describe our act, I said ‘The name of the band describes the band.’ When asked why I thought we had the talent to win, I said ‘Our magic intertemporal avant-garde art powers.’ When asked who I most wanted to be proud of us, I said ‘Ourselves. As common-sense nihilists, we create our own meaning and purpose.’

Sure enough, the first letter for me at the new place was something from them saying we have been selected for an audition on Saturday. This occasioned a bit of debate within the band. While it may be an opportunity to get common-sense nihilism, as a local intertemporal avant-garde art movement, in front of a large prime-time tv audience, they expect quite a lot.

Not only do they want copyright in the performance, but they want you to waive your moral rights – in particular, the right of integrity, which is the right of an author or performer to object to treatment of a work, film, or performance that demeans their reputation.

So, what they’re asking for is us to show up early on Saturday morning, stand around in queues outside for hours on end whatever the weather (without smoking!), bring and set everything up, and give up all rights to our work – all so low rent tv entertainers can make fun of us for five seconds.

The sad thing is that people will happily do all this, just because they want to be on the telly.

16 June 2008


08 June 2008

End in sight

The last few weeks have been completely nuts. At the moment, my books and materials are packed in boxes and stacked with the rest of my worldly belongings in the garage. However, the end is in sight. We move in on Friday the 13th.

01 June 2008

Pipe Liberation Front

29 May 2008

An email from a colleague (adapted from an Onion article)

Why Can't Anyone Tell I'm Wearing This Business Suit Ironically

By David Cauchi

Is it my fault none of you stupid conformists can understand how hilarious and ironic my cutting-edge fashion sense is? In 1982, I was the first kid in the suburb to wear a Mr. Bubble iron-on T-shirt from the '70s. I was only 10, but I was soaring over people's heads. In high school, I was the only guy to wear Adam And The Ants war paint to the seventh form ball—even though it was 1990. Those fools looked at me like I was 10 or 12 years behind! At varsity, the trucker-hat concept was my masterstroke. Within a few years, everybody was doing it, but by that time, I had so moved on.

Well, now I'm 36, and I'm still leaving all you idiots in mysteriously tongue-in-cheek fashion dust.

About five years ago, I was growing bored with the whole neo-'80s electroclash look that I had mastered years earlier, and the bohemian-intellectual look that followed. I figured, why not go all out and take the concept of ironic fashion to the extreme? Just do something so risky and completely out there that it would blow people's minds. So I dreamed up the suit idea. It was like, just create the squarest possible look and run with it. And I was hardcore about it, too. A lesser man might have just snagged a cheap suit at Hallensteins, but I went all out, choosing a conservative, high-buttoned, dark brown three-piece suit and having it fitted by the best tailor in Wellington. I even had my normally wild curly hair cut in a short, straight, non-descript style. I mean, who the hell does that? I looked like a [expletive deleted] city councillor!

Fresh from the tailors in my new suit, I hit all the hippest spots in Cuba Street, just waiting for the scenesters' jaws to drop at my sheer audacity. To make sure the irony was pitch-perfect, I got the matching shoes, the cuff links, the fob, the tie pin, everything—I even matched my silk socks to my eye colour and the accents in my tie! I could barely keep a straight face! But in every single bar, cafe, and after-hours house party I went to, I got the same reaction—everybody just treated me like some kind of lame-o. They looked at me like I wasn't supposed to be there.

I initially thought maybe they were jealous, but then it dawned on me—they literally thought I was dressed like that for real! Ha! Couldn't these morons get a simple joke? It's like, "Hel-lo... If you have to explain it..."

I resolved then and there to stick it to the mainstream and adopt this bullshit suit as my signature look. If I knuckled under and went back to my drainpipe trousers and Chucks, or my Guevara T-shirt and board short era, or even my black skivvies and cords, I'd just be selling out. Nope. If anything, I was gonna take it further. I perfected the look until it was as hilarious as it could possibly be. No expense was spared—if I cut corners, I wouldn't be doing the joke justice. So I got a leather Hermes attaché case, and I filled it with— you guessed it—actual corporate accountability reports! And my watch? Lame-ass TAG Heuer. Most expensive one I could find. Is that the avant-garde of hipness, or what?

But people still didn't get it. Nobody cracked up when they saw me at Yeah Yeah Yeahs shows or edgy art exhibition openings at the Mary Newton Gallery. If anything, they seemed to avoid me. One of my now ex-friends even called me a sellout. WTF? He worked as a [expletive deleted] secondary school teacher. I was standing right there in my [expletive deleted] suit, for Christ's sake. It's not my fault if some jerks can't handle the extreme and total "[expletive deleted] you" of my next-level fashion statement.

I took it further. I moved out of my Thorndon loft (so 10 years ago anyway) and put a down-payment on a three-bedroom Mt Cook villa. Tidy green lawn, fruit trees, and everything. Hilarious! Then, on a lark, I applied for a job at this hysterical government auditing firm, and—this is the kicker—I actually got the job!

I figured I'd fake the auditing gag long enough to get my first pay, then totally blow off these cheese-asses and frame my uncashed cheque as an irony trophy. Well, I did that... But then, when people still failed to pick up the joke and more and more weeks went by without me getting fired, the wages started to pile up and I figured, "What the hell? Might as well use these extra ones." I had to, really, to pay for all this expensive ironic [expletive deleted].

But what good is all this hilarity if there's no one else hip enough to appreciate it? On the 8:12 a.m. Number 11 bus, everybody just assumes I'm one of them. So does my manager, my team administrator, and every single one of my colleagues at the audit office, where I'm now a supervisor running in-house training programmes. I even got properly paired off with my long-term girlfriend and we now have two ironic kids. I swear, they look like something out of a creepy 1950s Jack and Jill reader—I even have these hilarious silver-framed pictures of them in my cheesy corner cubicle. But still, the humour is lost on everybody but me. I'm probably the most fashionable guy on the planet at this point, but no one understands. God! Do you have any idea how difficult it is being so far ahead of your time? Some days, it's enough to make me want to embrace conformity like all the other sheep.

But who am I kidding? Living on the cutting edge of irony is in my blood, man! I couldn't go straight if I tried!

28 May 2008

Oh yeah

One of my blog posts has ended up in a catalogue by Andrew McLeod. Go here and click on Artistic conscience.

26 May 2008

Ye gods

What is with these people who want to ban things they don't like? Smokers seem to be the one segment of the population that it's socially acceptable to discriminate against. First smoking in pubs and cafes was banned. Then the warnings on the packets got bigger and bigger and more strident, until they got replaced by graphic images of bits of dead people.

Quite apart from the smell of desperation about putting these images on cigarette packets ('oh no, the warnings aren't working, let's make them really repulsive'), there's a real question of balance here. The decision has been made (note use of passive tense) that the interests of everyone who may see what are deliberately disgusting images (who are not just smokers of course, but could be anyone – including children) are outweighed by the so-called benefits of possibly scaring some people into giving up smoking. Is it just me, or is there something very wrong here?

Of course, once the images came in, people simply and quite rightly covered them up or put their tobacco into a different container. I've seen it seriously suggested that selling covers for cigarette packets should be banned. This is the behaviour of monomaniacs and zealots, the kind of people for whom the ends justify any means. It is a very dangerous mindset.

And so now this Poneke person (who of course is anonymous) wants to ban smoking in busy public places. Why? Because the smokers have all the best spots! It's really laughable. Boo hoo! There's nothing stopping non-smokers from sitting outside in smoking areas. My non-smoking friends do it all the time.

To do this, though, you need to tolerate people who are different from you, not try to legislate them out of existence. But not these anti-smoking bigots. They seem to think their intolerant prejudice should be backed up by law.

I don't like the sight or smell of cooked flesh, but do you see me advocating for a ban on eating meat in public? Of course not. If I choose to go out to a restaurant or bar, I know I'll be exposed to it. I accept that. It's part of living in a civil society.

25 May 2008

Song for Piero

Che Tibby's posted the video of a great song about geometry. I love it.

The reading from The Psychic Soviet is pretty bloody good as well.

22 May 2008

Why I have a day job

I recently came across an old business plan I did way back. It had a nifty formula for working out how to price your goods and services.

Ha ha, thought I, let’s look at the numbers for being a full-time artist. Let’s have modest ambitions and work out how much you’d need to sell to get the minimum wage ($25,000 before tax, about $480 a week in the hand).

You need to add two-thirds of the cost of materials (you get one-third back through tax) and then the dealer’s cut. Let’s say (a completely arbitrary) $2000 for materials and assume a dealer’s commission of 40%. If you were doing this for real, you'd work out the cost of materials properly.

Dividing $27,000 (wage plus costs) by 0.6 (to add the dealer’s cut) tells us that, to get the minimum wage, you need to sell $45,000 of paintings each (and every) year.

What if you have larger ambitions than the minimum wage? What if you'd like to live on the average wage ($45,000 before tax)?

You’ll have to assume that, if you’re producing work with a higher total value, your material costs will consequently rise. Let’s say to $3000, because some materials won’t rise much more than a basic minimum you’ve already factored in.

Dividing $48,000 by 0.6 gives you total sales each year of $80,000.

These totals allow us to work out how many paintings of a certain price you need to sell to meet your target. If the average price of a painting is $2500, you need to sell 18 paintings a year to get the minimum wage, or 32 paintings a year for the average wage. That’s a lot (and I don't sell at that price anyway).

If the average price is $5000, you need to sell nine paintings a year for the minimum, and 16 for the average, wage. At $10,000, you need five for the minimum, and eight for the average, wage. At $25,000, you need two and three respectively.

This seems a lot better, but the problem is that, as your prices rise, so the pool of potential buyers shrinks, especially in such a small market as New Zealand’s. Remember that you need to sell this amount of paintings at these prices every year at least until you’re 65 (assuming that the super’s still around then). For me, that’s 27 years.

So, even if my prices were at the giddy heights of $25,000, I wouldn't think I had it made. I'd be worried about selling all the time.

If, on the other hand, you get a job at more than the average hourly rate, you can work part time for the average wage and be able to paint and show what you like, with no regard to whether they'll sell.

Increased prices limit the pool of potential buyers in a highly unsatisfactory way. They select for ability to pay rather than appreciation of the work. For this reason, I'm strongly considering having an application form for people to fill out before they can buy a painting. I'm thinking that they'd need to disclose their religious and political views as well as explain why they want to buy the picture.

17 May 2008

Skeleton Guys

I've finally added some Skeleton Guy pics. I've dated the post so that, if you click on the painting pics label and scroll through the older posts, they fit in chronologically.

There are, of course, also sketchbook pics and exhibition pics for your amusement.

15 May 2008

Documentation of black magic curse on makers of bad hotel paintings

Quote of the day

For Schopenhauer, the object of art is a form which has a universal quality, which rises above the confines of space and time, and can only be seen by one who detaches himself from what is local and personal. This view leads us to a difficulty in the case of lyric poetry.

Lyric poetry is essentially personal and the singer fills it with his own moods, his loves and his sorrows. But lovers are fickle, and sorrows do not last for ever. How is it possible to reconcile this personal, individual, fleeting aspect with the claim that the object of art must be universal and above change?

Schopenhauer is half-hearted, and solves the difficulty by a compromise, according to which the poet, or the singer, alternates between two attitudes, sometimes taking up that of the individual and sometimes that of the universal.

Nietzsche will have none of this; boldly and in accordance with Schopenhauer's own fundamental principles he unites the two principles directly. And surely he is right!

Lyric poetry is personal and the life of the song is a mood. But who is the person? The poet? Yes, but more than the poet. The singer? Yes, but which singer? Surely every singer; and every hearer too.

Everyman is the hero of the song, and therein lies its universality. Again, it expresses a mood, and moods are fleeting. But in the song the mood is lifted out of its context, raised above mutability, and enshrined for ever in a timeless, passionless calm. The individual and the universal, passion and the passionless, time and the timeless come together in the lyric and are at one. In the song the mortal puts on immortality, and the singer becomes the vehicle of something infinitely greater and more universal than himself.

- HA Reyburn, Nietzsche

14 May 2008

Robert Rauschenberg's dead

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