Anakana Schofield – Award Winning Author of Bina, Martin John and Malarky

Gath’rin und flitt’rin

Saw two docs, which were in perfect opposition, the first “Herb and Dorothy” gathering up what they could within the means they had and creating an incredible art collection which they then gave back to people without commodifying it into single items. The second “The Art of Failure Chuck Connelly not for sale” documents a man, an artist, a drunk basically confounded by how he’s managed to fillet his opportunities (if that’s what in fact they were…).  In both films art dealers are featured and the contempt for them is also felt. One art dealer complained about The Vogels (Herb and Dorothy) buying pre-exhibition from his clients at lower prices, in the Chuck Connelly doc the sentiment was dealers hate artists and the art world would be much simpler if dealers didn’t have to deal with artists.

I was perplexed by Connelly, trying to fathom what exactly was the difference between him and any drunk, except obviously he’s gifted with a paintbrush, but I’m not given to romance about drunks, nor drinking. It’s a pain in the arse for one and all including the drinker. It doesn’t lessen the work produced, if you can actually get near the work and not encounter flailing arms, flying bottle, and monstrous behaviour.

I was even more perplexed by how Connelly managed to get himself in such furore over what sounded like the most basic freedom of expression. He didn’t like Scorsese’s film New York Stories: he said so and then whamble everything fell apart, it was over for him. Really?! Seems extraordinary that an artist cannot comment on a work that attempts to depict his life without this kind of ludicrous reprisal or response. Connelly also was used at one time to having his paintings sold for large enough sums and obviously found it difficult to adjust to the concept of “no sums” for his paintings. Which brings us back to The Vogels who sought out emerging artists went directly and religiously to their studios and sometimes paid for the art in instalments. (of course there was mutterings by some artists that they exploited them …I find that a bit daft, they always assured the work would not be resold for profit and true to their word… )

And the most obvious thing that was rattling across the screen in between all this was the moon sized egos in the art world. Jaysus, they’d exhaust you in heartbeat. They send you flying to the teapot, down on your hands and knees in the garden to pull up weeds and make you stuff soil in your ears.

But the concept of a collection struck me strongly. How determined the Vogels were to keep it intact and allow all the pieces to be about, of and beside each other. We’re so focused on the single piece of work these days whether it’s in art or literature and am rather a-grooved on this reminder of the whole. (which it is not the complete whole obviously but it’s the whole of these two peoples eyes and efforts and importantly labour for they laboured hard and long in their jobs and purchased within the limited financial means they had. And ditto people were not willing to deal with the whole of who or what Chuck Connelly is. Even Chuck himself seemed up and down on it. Even overlooking the matter that he too needed to deal with people in their entirety and in their limitations. But thinking on it all I thought of how elegant an idea it is to make a commitment to a writer’s whole work and read out from it, read what’s beside it perhaps and if necessary be surprised, be disappointed, be expectant for what is to come from that writer. Because it’s a life work people do.

It’s time again for viewers, and readers to do as The Vogels did and draw their own circles, inform themselves, decide their conclusions, establish their own relationships with artists/writers work, to move away from the peddle of the medja, the paddle of “the art or publishing world” because peddling and paddling will only ever offer limited views of those selected by the (often self appointed) few who decide for the many.

The interesting stuff is often what cannot get inside the door, past the doormat or onto the table and bookshelf.  But it is never out of reach. Especially today with new technology. Curiosity giveth great boon! Stretch! Tilt!

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