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help out annie wharton

Post #559 • June 16, 2005, 3:38 PM • 49 Comments

Okay, here's the deal. Annie Wharton is moving leftwards to start her new career as a fabulous Los Angeles artist. To make a long story short, she has a TV set and a DVD player that she's looking to sell. The TV is a 14" whippersnapper and the DVD player is like new. She's asking $160 for both of them, and the DVD player alone is worth more than that, so this is a great deal and you'd be helping out a good artist if only you would e-mail her at anniewharton[AT]hotmail.com and tell her you'll buy it. And then actually go and buy it. Do it soon, because time is of the essence.

I was going to do it myself but someone made me a counter-offer I couldn't refuse. So Annie, I'm sorry, and I hope this helps.

Comment

1.

oldpro

June 16, 2005, 11:16 PM

Franklin I have truckloads of stuff to sell. Can I send a list?

2.

Franklin

June 16, 2005, 11:41 PM

Coming soon - Go Sell Stuff! The resource for artists looking to unload. Stuff. Not, like, emotionally or anything.

3.

oldpro

June 17, 2005, 12:46 AM

No, that's what the blog is for

4.

Franklin

June 17, 2005, 12:49 AM

(cracks up)

5.

Sideways

June 17, 2005, 1:21 AM

Holy shit! A TV and a DVD player!

www.pawnshopartblog.net

6.

Harlan Erskine

June 17, 2005, 2:14 AM

I think this is interesting as a picture but I think its insulting as a artistic reaction to 9-11. I mean he could have left it without the 9-11 bs and then people could have made the connection on their own. Evoking 911 in your art its a big risk for an artist and my hunch is this guy is trying to be tactful. what does everyone else think?

7.

oldpro

June 17, 2005, 2:46 AM

Harlan:

"I was so distraught, I needed some way to find an artistic response" says artist Kerry Skarbakka.

Poor baby. An "artistic response" is what we all need in these times of crisis.

Do it without the safety harness, Kerry. That would take care of those distraught feelings real fast.

The CNN "fabulous" vs "sick" reader's vote tallied that 28% voted "fabulous" for Kerry's performance. A relative of a 9/11 victim - a typical Philistine, obviously - disagreed.

What was it Catfish was saying on the last page? That the whole culture is sick?

8.

Hovig

June 17, 2005, 3:57 AM

"He's an artist? Go paint a bowl of fruit or something." Too funny.

9.

George

June 17, 2005, 4:38 AM

I was there, I live in NYC.
Skies sparkling, crystal clear, September 11 was the most beautiful day of the year and it was drizzling stainless glitter, what went wrong?

I saw the towers collapse in front of my eyes through the glass of my loft window. Just about everyone here knows someone who perished in the collapse. If you lived below Fourteenth Street, it smelled funny for days, like a combination of burning plastic and water on hot steel. Just about every artist here has made a work in response. Hell, average people made works in response, the fence surrounding Trinity Church became a shrine of detritus for the lost, every fire station and every callbox became a shrine. If you lived here, it wasn't a TV event. It was a visceral fear, a sobering loss, gray DNA dust and it smelled funny.

So, screw the cheap reality TV setup, someone should tell him to do it from higher up and do it without a net.

10.

Hovig

June 17, 2005, 4:45 AM

George - Did you ever see Fischl's "Tumbling Woman"?

11.

George

June 17, 2005, 4:59 AM

Hovig, No but I googled it. Like I said, a lot of people made works in response to 911, I don't have a problem with that. While I find Fischl's piece disturbing, Kerry Skarbakka's attempt felt like a poorly calculated attempt to exploit controversial content for the press coverage

Over 2000 people were reduced to gray dust, people wandered up First Avenue, dazed and gray. Literally gray, if you were close you were gray. Zombies.

In my neighborhood he'd get punched out.

12.

George

June 17, 2005, 5:22 AM

OK, that set me off.

At the time, that evening in September, I sat with others getting drunk in my neighborhood bistro. We all knew that everything had changed but not quite how. In the days that followed I tried to make the argument that 911 had to effect a major change in the creative fields. In particular, I felt that the neointellectual, conceptual arrangements were finished. There was no way to make an installation (also known as "an arrangement" if your female and under 10) with the veracity of the thousands of laser copy photos of "my husband Raoul" or "my sister Kate", literally thousands. All of a sudden, the pedantic intellectual "art" exercises seemed tawdry and cheap. They paled in comparison to a shared sense of loss felt by so many in this country. My stepdaughter, about the age of some of you here, told me, "they stole my innocence" and three of her classmates.

So, when we have our nice little disagreements about "content" or "critical thought" I always have, in the back of my head, the memory of stainless glitter on that September day. I'm just not interested in a contrived intellectual response to this event. The fact is that I'm not interested in contrived intellectual responses at all. At the same time I can't bare to watch the videos. Smoke, dust and jumpers, it's pornography.

13.

cohen

June 17, 2005, 5:30 AM

even i think the 911 stunt is really stupid

14.

denise

June 17, 2005, 5:51 AM

weighing in on skarbakka's project - i think it sucks. it's neither compelling as a work of art nor as a symbolic gesture. i have seen a couple of other artists tackle 9/11 using the image of falling/jumping figures. it doesn't work. i just explained to my husband what i was posting about and the piece in question, and he said, "that's disgusting."

at the time, i also wondered about art after 9/11, and things not seeming relevant or important, and whether anything would change. a lot of things did change, but like most things in our weird culture, things seemed to get back to normal (i.e., stupid normal) pretty quickly.

15.

George

June 17, 2005, 6:25 AM

The other day (Monday 13 June 2005 9:39 am) I called up a remark made in reference to Damian Hirst's attempt to photograph a crime scene of a prominent British citizen who was murdered.

The Northern Constabulary issued this statement: "While we understand that artists need to be controversial, the subject matteris highly insensitive and distressing not only to the family but the officers searching to find Alistair`s killer."

What was wrong with this picture. A close reading reveals that Mr. Hirst was going to restage the "crime scene investigation", so he could have his photographer make a photograph, so he could "make" a painting.
a) This got into the tabloid press, just as he wanted.
b) He staged the photograph, so he can disclaim responsibility.
c) He knows, people will remember a. not b.

This begs the question, "does an artist have a social responsibility?" or does anything go, in the world of de rigueur self promotion? What do the critical thinkers make of all this tabloid sensationalism? this intellectual kitsch? At what point do these pompous pimps pass on pumping pointless pap? (hey, it doesn't really mean anything but it was fun to write)

T R U T H

William Wiley said "the artist reveals the world through mystic truths" (well, from memory, it's something close to that) What about the truth? What is the truth? Is it sensational? Or just calming?

Do we really want life to be a chase scene from a B movie? Excitement pornography, we want to watch, but we don't really want to gasp for breath, choke or taste the dust. We don't really want to make the decision to burn or jump.

I live in a neighborhood with an Arab contingency, well I think they're Arab's, they read a newspaper in funny writing that looks Arabic. Whatever, I've eaten in the pizza place for 10 years, the Arab is my friend. But, he doesn't know my name and I don't know his. Still we know each other. Yet, he was away in September 2001 and I regret wondering whether he knew or not. What is the truth? What was stripped from me? Surely not the horror of a jumper, for I didn't jump nor did I think about jumping. It seemed clearly desparate but a correct choice for an ending.

No, I have to continue my somewhat mundane routine and wonder about the man who serves me pizza.

Where is the pain of the truth? Is it the sensationalism of a bungie cord bounce in front of a shiney building? A choice of death, less painfull than burning at the stake? Or is it the personal realization, that the person next to you, that brown person in the subway, might have tried to kill your family?

What is the truth? This asshole, Kerry, should ask the photographer Bill Biggart when he gets a chance.

16.

oldpro

June 17, 2005, 6:46 AM

Hey, George, hittin' the sauce again?

17.

George

June 17, 2005, 6:51 AM

Oldpro, I nearly busted a gut on that one... not really.
I was here when it happened, it was very up front and personal. I don't want to go into the details.

18.

Kerry Skarbakka

June 18, 2005, 6:00 PM

I have read all you webblogs and e-mails and not one of you has asked me to tell my side of the story. I have only received directed comments. If you want to go on talking out there using misinformation as your guide, then you are all being used by this media attack.

I will tell you and anyone else who asks. I was taken completely out of context in Chicago, by a tabloid newspaper. It is simply what happened. I went to Chicago to the Museum of Contemporary Art, to stage photographs for the public. It was my first public perfomance shoot. It was about making photographs. The event was never intended to reference anything to do with 9-11 and I said so and then I tried to say so again and again and again, but people won't listen when they are angry.

I have been working on this body of work for three years and nobody has batted an eyelash, I am supported by two major institutions in New York City that will stand by me and my work. Why would they care less than you? I just got caught between a camera's lense and a few choice words picked up by someone looking to make a story. Many people have been affected by this yellow journalism and I never in my wildest dreams thought this would happen.

I was showing the Chicago public, how I make my work and that my work over the years has been dedicated to investigating the meaning of falling. It was a response to the our world that had changed so dramatically that day and many days later. It is about the futility of war and our inablility to do much about it. It is about being late on your bills and feeling so frusturated at the all the other things that are out of control. Let that be your guide to what I was trying to say. I never once said the work was to represent or imitate 9-11, not once and will never. The newspapers made that up.

I stand by my work and whatever I did in Chicago. I do not agree with the press and its manipulation of what alot of people enjoyed. I am sure I could get them to e-mail you if you are not convinced. However, I am not trying to convince you. I am only trying to get you to think more about the world around you and how easy it is to slip between the cracks, or get shoved into the eye of an oncoming public. It is so easy and I feel terrible for the families that had their wounds re-opened because of a sensationalist newspaper. The images the news showed were not my images. They are responsible for this, not me. I am sorry you are so angry but if you would try not listening to what the news tells you all the time, you might actually learn about the world you live in. You can't believe everything you read in the newspapers. I have been wronged, the city of New York has been wronged and more importantly, the victims of 9-11 have been wronged. (you have been wronged)

I have respected what you have said to me, please try to see it from my side.

Thank you for your responses

19.

Kerry Skarbakka

June 18, 2005, 6:00 PM

I have read all you webblogs and e-mails and not one of you has asked me to tell my side of the story. I have only received directed comments. If you want to go on talking out there using misinformation as your guide, then you are all being used by this media attack.

I will tell you and anyone else who asks. I was taken completely out of context in Chicago, by a tabloid newspaper. It is simply what happened. I went to Chicago to the Museum of Contemporary Art, to stage photographs for the public. It was my first public perfomance shoot. It was about making photographs. The event was never intended to reference anything to do with 9-11 and I said so and then I tried to say so again and again and again, but people won't listen when they are angry.

I have been working on this body of work for three years and nobody has batted an eyelash, I am supported by two major institutions in New York City that will stand by me and my work. Why would they care less than you? I just got caught between a camera's lense and a few choice words picked up by someone looking to make a story. Many people have been affected by this yellow journalism and I never in my wildest dreams thought this would happen.

I was showing the Chicago public, how I make my work and that my work over the years has been dedicated to investigating the meaning of falling. It was a response to the our world that had changed so dramatically that day and many days later. It is about the futility of war and our inablility to do much about it. It is about being late on your bills and feeling so frusturated at the all the other things that are out of control. Let that be your guide to what I was trying to say. I never once said the work was to represent or imitate 9-11, not once and will never. The newspapers made that up.

I stand by my work and whatever I did in Chicago. I do not agree with the press and its manipulation of what alot of people enjoyed. I am sure I could get them to e-mail you if you are not convinced. However, I am not trying to convince you. I am only trying to get you to think more about the world around you and how easy it is to slip between the cracks, or get shoved into the eye of an oncoming public. It is so easy and I feel terrible for the families that had their wounds re-opened because of a sensationalist newspaper. The images the news showed were not my images. They are responsible for this, not me. I am sorry you are so angry but if you would try not listening to what the news tells you all the time, you might actually learn about the world you live in. You can't believe everything you read in the newspapers. I have been wronged, the city of New York has been wronged and more importantly, the victims of 9-11 have been wronged. (you have been wronged)

I have respected what you have said to me, please try to see it from my side.

Thank you for your responses

20.

Franklin

June 18, 2005, 6:32 PM

I'll tell you what, Kerry - buy Annie's TV and DVD player and we'll call it even.

21.

oldpro

June 19, 2005, 1:03 AM

Kerry, if you "reference" 9/11, as you indicate you did, and then jump off buildings, something like this will happen, and it will happen no matter what you say your activity is "about". Chalk it up to experience.

22.

Franklin

June 19, 2005, 1:38 AM

I don't know what's wierder about this, a photographer who misspells "lens" or a photographer who starts working with images of falling figures shortly after 9-11 and feels surprised when people start associating them with 9-11.

I would be very careful about blaming the media for your plight, Mr. Skarbakka. In your comment above you say:

The event was never intended to reference anything to do with 9-11 and I said so and then I tried to say so again and again and again, but people won't listen when they are angry.

You later say:

It was a response to the [sic] our world that had changed so dramatically that day and many days later.

You yourself seem to be confused about this, so perhaps the media's interpretation is a fair one. I would suck it up and be more mindful in the future.

23.

George

June 19, 2005, 4:06 AM

With all due respect to Mr Skarbakka's claims that he "was taken completely out of context" by the press, I find Franklins response [22] thoughtful.

If any of this blogs regular readers were put off by my tirade, sorry.

24.

oldpro

June 19, 2005, 5:22 AM

Blogs are made for tirades, George.

25.

Gregory

June 19, 2005, 9:34 AM

I have to say that I find the responses to Kerry Skarbakka's jumping/falling photography very interesting and disappointing.
Being familiar with Kerry's work and Kerry himself for several years, giving him a show, helping to promote his work and purchasing several pieces, I, needless to say, find the work compelling and Kerry a very thoughtful and serious artist.
The staging of the work in Chicago was the next step in the logical evolution of his previous exploration of the UNIVERSAL feelings of falling whether in reality or metaphorically and finding ourselves in situations of helpless inevitabiltiy. His photographs beg the question, "pushed or self-induced?" We can identify with his work precisely because we have fallen, fear a fall coming to us at some point or remember when we may have been in a similar situation, whether down the stairs, off a ladder, from a bridge, off the roof or perhaps from a high point of success and popularity or even in our dreams. And how many of us have thought about jumping at some point?
This work produced in Chicago became a "9/11 performance stunt" only because Neil Steinberg of the NY Daily News (now there's a serious paper) made it such. Skarbakka's intent was not to re-enact or mimic the tragedy and heart-wrenching sadness of those people who made an unbelievable decision that fateful morning. If this were the case, the MCA in Chicago would never have allowed it. Too much thought by some very bright, INFORMED people went into the decision. All the other coverage by the major media was positive and informative. Only the Daily News put the negative 9/11 spin on it which was then picked up by other outlets. (Note the CNN piece was 4 days after the fact and even the AP then ran with the slant of the Daily News)
As Skarbakka pointed out, who among you thought to investigate his work and thought process further than the tabloid reporting and the negative, sensational spin the Daily News put on the story to sell papers? You people seem to be no better than the NYC Mayor who labeled the work "nauseatingly disgusting" without any familiarlity with the artist, the body of work or checking to see that what he was told was even correct. I would've expected a more savvy response from the Mayor and especially other artists. You would suffer mightily should your work come under such gross, twisted, misunderstood contempt, and that assumes your work is worthy of anything more than a first glance.
Getting back to the 9/11 aspect for the sake of argument, in these posts I also detect an indignation bordering on the self-righteous which smells as bad as the tragedy itself. Because you were blocks from the scene or perhaps knew someone who perished does not make you the sole possessor of abhorence of the event. We all feel it. Are you so weak as to be unable to look it in the face and, as artists, comes to grips with it and thereby help others to deal with it?
It is precisely the universal experience of fear, falling, helplessness, crushing inevitability, that gives Skarbakka's work its profound power worthy of the prestigious recognition he has been given to this point in his career.

And as another wise post said, chalk it up to experience in working with the press -- maybe that's the scariest part.

26.

catfish

June 19, 2005, 2:56 PM

Gregory said: It is precisely the universal experience of fear, falling, helplessness, crushing inevitability, that gives Skarbakka's work its profound power worthy of the prestigious recognition he has been given to this point in his career.

This boils down to saying subject matter is what gives art its power. In which case any picture that references "fear, falling, helplessness, crushing inevitability" is on equal footing with Skarbakka's. How many artists would you guess use this subject matter? Why have most of them failed to garner "prestigious recognition"?

On the other hand, taken as trick photography, Skarbakka's pix are interesting because they are done dramatically with sufficient technique to be convincing in the way trick photographs can generate ersatz credibility. A nice little jolt that reminds me of what can be done with "facts". That plays right into trends that say art is to provoke and teach, trends that, if true, would justify calling the whole educational system "art", not to mention all the other outlets that provoke and teach.

But art is not nearly so generic. As art, Skarbakka's picutres want to leverage subject matter further than subject matter, per se, can take them. It doesn't matter if the subject is falling in general or falling on September 11, 2001. So they remain mere curiosities, emphasis "mere".

In any case, this alleged "media misunderstanding" will not hurt Skarbakka's career. Not one bit.

27.

George

June 19, 2005, 5:12 PM

Ho ho ho. I am not to believe that KS and his buddies weern't all high fiving each other and saying "it got picked up by AP"? ..."and CNN" (more high fives)

What is this?Some kind of damage control?

Gee, tell me this isn't just what you wanted, a little PR and a dose of outrage, good for the career no doubt?

Unfortunately it's going to take more than a bit of glib critical theory to pull this one from the fire. Hmm, maybe plane crashes?

Meditate on unintended consequences a bit and less on your navel.

28.

Franklin

June 19, 2005, 11:30 PM

Gregory, launching a doodoostorm of apologetics at Artblog.net readers is not going to cow them. We have some pretty tough cookies around here. Here we go:

...exploration of the UNIVERSAL feelings of falling...

Indeed, some of them seem to achieve this, particularly the ones of him throwing himself around the domestic interiors. (I had a look at his site.) They try to squeeze more artistic juice out of the famed Yves Klein jumping photo than lies in the fruit, but many of them are cool-looking if little else.

His photographs beg the question, "pushed or self-induced?"

Prompt us to ask the question, maybe, but not "beg the question." Look it up.

This work produced in Chicago became a "9/11 performance stunt" only because Neil Steinberg of the NY Daily News (now there's a serious paper) made it such.

I found Mr. Steinberg's article. He writes:

"I asked him what he had to say to those family members who might not appreciate his art as much as he does. Skarbakka quickly deflected the subject. 'I have to be prepared for that,' he said, and then talked about himself some more. 'I had to express what I was feeling. I saw the people leaping from the building, felt so much admiration and a desire to understand how and what it would take to do that at that last moment ....' He went on, mentioning existentialism and Bush and the war, but you get the idea."

So apparently Mr. Skarbakka is referencing 9-11, at least in part. He's free to do so, and the rest of the world is free to hurl invective at him. Contrition goes a long way with me; if Skarbakka said, "well, this one might have been too close for comfort for a lot of people and I'll be more careful with my implications in the future," I could accept that. But he's backpedalling, saying that the work never referenced 9-11 in the first place when in fact I've found two statements to the contrary without even trying all that hard, one above, and one in the Steinberg piece. Whatever his intentions, he's coming off as chickenshit.

Skarbakka's intent was not to re-enact or mimic the tragedy and heart-wrenching sadness of those people who made an unbelievable decision that fateful morning.

No, he was trying to make it into art and it blew up on him. Skarbakka, by his own admission, had it on his mind, and I don't blame Steinberg for not distinguishing between his referencing it and his mimicking it. Steinberg:

"I can't do what I do and condemn a guy for offending the public, no matter how cavalierly. What really astounds me is the falseness of what he claims to be doing. 'The work is about control and lack of control,' he said. Which is where we find the sickening lie. Because Skarbakka never loses control of the situation the way the 9/11 victims did. Just the opposite, he is creating a charade and passing it off as something genuine. It is like putting on pale makeup and a hospital gown and pretending that you've touched upon the essence of being gravely ill. Not only does it not approach the reality of being sick, it misses by so much it ends up mocking those who are."

Note that Skarbakka didn't tell Steinberg that the work had nothing to do with 9-11, and he had the opportunity. This must have occured before he went into Backpedal Mode. By the way, you insult the Daily News's seriousness but Steinberg's sounds like a reasonable response: he doesn't feel offended because the work references 9-11 - he doesn't like it because it references 9-11 in a manner he deems bogus. He has a defensible point.

Too much thought by some very bright, INFORMED people went into the decision.

Allegedly bright, informed people put bad art in front of me all the time.

Only the Daily News put the negative 9/11 spin on it which was then picked up by other outlets.

News outlets also contain bright, informed people that might not have picked up Steinberg's angle if they didn't see any validity in it. This is starting sound remarkably like the repeated claims by Balthus that his open-legged adolescents were not Lolitas on any level, which even I, as one of the biggest Balthus fans around, don't believe.

You people seem to be no better than the NYC Mayor who labeled the work "nauseatingly disgusting" without any familiarlity with the artist, the body of work or checking to see that what he was told was even correct. I would've expected a more savvy response from the Mayor and especially other artists. You would suffer mightily should your work come under such gross, twisted, misunderstood contempt, and that assumes your work is worthy of anything more than a first glance.

(Everybody: you know how I encourage people to follow the Address the Writing, Not the Writer guideline, even if it means forgoing self-defense? I just want you to know that I'm doing my best not to use my verbal acumen to take this jerk's head off. Thank you.)

Okay, I checked to see if what I was told was correct, I don't calibrate my aesthetic responses to the Mayor's of New York City, I don't give a rat's ass about what people think of my work, excepting a select few folks, and whether you would look at it twice has no bearing on my existence. And I have come to the conclusion that Skarbakka has little sense about the implications of his work, and furthermore seems to be speaking dishonestly about them.

Getting back to the 9/11 aspect for the sake of argument...

Because, remember, everyone - this work has (cough) nothing to do (cough) with 9/11 (cough cough cough)...

...in these posts I also detect an indignation bordering on the self-righteous which smells as bad as the tragedy itself.

Well, why don't we ask George about that? He inhaled the dust of the WTC dead for a couple of months. George, which smells worse, the tragedy, or your indignation? Gregory, that statement was totally disgusting.

Are you so weak as to be unable to look it in the face and, as artists, comes to grips with it and thereby help others to deal with it?

On the contrary, I have the strength of character not to exploit a national tragedy for the sake of my art career. Is Skarbakka doing this? I don't feel convinced that he isn't. Not by a longshot.

29.

Gregory

June 20, 2005, 3:47 AM

I suppose it's still early in the game, but I would think that some reasonable defense ("apologetics" as you call it and which carries no negative connotation, by the way) would help clarify the intent and work of the photographer Skarbakka.

"We have some pretty tough cookies around here"

I have yet to witness the claim.

"They (Skarbakka's photos) try to squeeze more artistic juice out of the famed Yves Klein jumping photo than lies in the fruit,...."

If there is truly little juice left in the fruit you would all lay down your palette and chisel and pronounce that there is nothing left to create or be inspired by. Very interestingly I draw your attention to the current quote by Cezanne, presumably placed by you, at the bottom of the page: "The day is coming when a single carrot, freshly observed, will set off a revolution." Perhaps that day has arrived. This carrot seems to have lots of juice.

".....but many of them are cool-looking if little else."

Oh that every single piece an artist produced achieved the sublime truth and perfect expression sought for. The dismissal comes too easily. It's so much easier to be in the chorus than the soloist. I looked up "begs the question." You look up "smug."

"Allegedly bright, informed people put bad art in front of me all the time."

Here you and I are in perfect agreement, but I at least try to see and understand what these bright, informed people see that I don't.

"(Everybody: you know how I encourage people to follow the Address the Writing, Not the Writer guideline, even if it means forgoing self-defense? I just want you to know that I'm doing my best not to use my verbal acumen to take this jerk's head off. Thank you.)"

Hey Everybody, it's ok to call the artist an asshole, chickenshit and jerk (or perhaps that was directed at me). So much for your "guidelines" and "community." And feel free to let loose with your self-proclaimed verbal acumen. I can join the "tough cookies" and do not fear your onslaught.

Without quoting the Steinberg piece line by line and posing a defensive argument, I will maintain that he, Steinberg, saw an opportunity to write an inflammatory article for the sole purpose of selling papers which many seem to have bought into. Steinberg wrote an opinion piece which the tabloid Daily News ran as cover-story journalism. I don't see Steinberg's bottom-line opinion as defensible because he says Skarbakka doesn't in the process make the ultimate sacrifice the people of 9/11 did in the production of his work. This is an absurd demand. Do you have to have all the people who get shot up in the movies actually be shot and die in order for the movie to have impact? Come on. This does not negate the power and impact of the resulting image. And this brings the overlooked fact that it is the final image that is the work, not the process which Skarbakka chose to let the public in on. Was that his mistake? Maybe. Was he ill-prepared for the numerous media interviews that took place the day of the shoot? Probably.

Years ago I had a window office on a lower floor of the 96 story Hancock Building in Chicago. In the middle of one afternoon, there was a thump outside the window. Going down to the plaza to inspect, sure enough someone had atomized themselves on the pavement from the top of the building. Across the street is one of those new vertical urban malls, 10 stories with an open central core. Within the span of about 2 years, three people took the quick way from the top to the bottom. And not too long ago I saw a fascinating documentary on the Golden Gate Bridge in SF focused soley on the unbelievable number of suicide jumpers each year. These jumps are kept from the news, or by agreement not published, because of the attraction of the site for jumpers. The authorities feel that publicizing the jumps would only increase their already alarming numbers.

I guess we could keep arguing all the references, whether real or not, to 9/11, and admittedly Skarbakka says this is the event that started the thought process about jumping. But I believe what he is trying to accomplish and what he says he is trying to accomplish goes so far beyond 9/11 and, again, is more universal. Whether it takes years of depression, failure, outside forces of oppression, unhappiness, fatal illness, whatever the motivating force or whether the jump/burn choice is presented in a matter of moments, the fact of falling is a worthy topic for artistic expression, and Skarbakka's images will be powerful. Some will always have their NOT ART labels ready to apply.

30.

George

June 20, 2005, 4:46 AM

Spin and theoretical obfuscation aside, I find it hard to believe Mr. Skarbakka was not thinking "this will be great PR"

An artist has the right to be controversial and the responsibility for his actions. It appears that Mr. Skarbakka did not consider the emotional fragility of the 911 victims when discussing his stunt with the press. I find this to be a glaring error of judgement.

31.

flatboy

June 20, 2005, 5:11 AM

You gotta admit, this jumping guy has gone from being a nobody to a somebody in a week or less.

What's wrong with that? Dali used the crucifixion of Christ as one of his levers, Picasso used the bombing of a town, Michaelangelo used the deepest sorrow a mother ever feels, and so on and so forth. Using things, places, and people is at part of what artists do. Why waste feeling on being "offended" by that?

On the other hand, Skarbakka's photos are not that technically proficient, all due respect to Catfish. I do not assume Skarbakka does the composites himself. It is tedious work, but otherwise not at all challenging. Any dolt with sufficient patience can do it. Nor are they particularly moving to look at - you need to know the 9-11 interpretation before any feeling whatsoever stirs. And since he now denies the 9-11 connection, what is left? A Photoshop collage.

32.

George

June 20, 2005, 9:10 AM

It doesn't matter what thay say as long as they spell your name right.

If KS was misquoted by the liberal media, he should ask for a retraction, they do that all the time when they make a mistake, let's see.

33.

oldpro

June 20, 2005, 5:00 PM

And all this huffing and puffing is about someone who is using "falling as a topic for artistic expression" by, well, jumping.

Yeah, I got my "Not Art" label right here, ready and waiting.

34.

Franklin

June 20, 2005, 6:10 PM

Gregory, I agree with you that I should get better about following my own guidelines. That bit about the smell of the tragedy honked me off. Good Lord.

Look, Gregory, your friend here is putting up an extremely disengenous argument that his work was not meant to mimic the defenestrations from the WTC. From Skarbakka's site: "In the past few years I have fallen from trees, porches, bridges, train trestles, stairways, ladders, roofs, mountains, volcanoes, water towers, fences, and billboards—without anyone ever mistaking my work for a representation of our national tragedy." Right, because until now, he hadn't put on a suit and thrown himself off of an institutional-looking building. Neither he nor you seem willing to take responsibility for his creating a different set of implications that land closer to the WTC deaths, and instead blame the media for misinterpreting the work. From what I can tell, they may have misinterpretated it factually (and I don't think they did), but thematically the association holds up. And why shouldn't it? Skarbakka, in spite of himself, mentions 9/11 as a concern in his work. To Steinberg, of all people, who proceeds to cut him a new one. Steinberg has every bit as much right to his response as Skarbakka has to his own, and you mischaracterized it gravely as demanding his death. (That was George.) On the contrary, he felt galled precisely because Skarbakka was mimicking the defenestrations. It hadn't gone through an artistic transformation that might have rendered it less imitative, and to him it came off as disrespectful. I can see his point. Blame anyone you want; Skarbakka inflicted this bad experience with the media upon himself.

Not even collage, Flatboy - Photoshop has a healing brush that makes this kind of retouching a snap.

35.

oldpro

June 20, 2005, 6:20 PM

Insofar as i understand the guidelines, Franklin, your statement did not violate them at all. I though it was entirely appropriate and needed saying.

36.

Gregory

June 21, 2005, 2:48 AM

I guess we're all honked off. And this is probably the point that needs examining.
Despite what may be apparent, I have spent a lot of time thinking about all these issues being discussed and asked myself some hard questions. If nothing else I guess we'll all (hopefully) take something from this.

"Insofar as i understand the guidelines, Franklin, your statement did not violate them at all. I though it was entirely appropriate and needed saying"

While not directly stated, I believe the spirit of the Guidelines to imply no name calling. It didn't bother me that I was called a jerk. What bothers me more than anything is calling the artist (and yes, he is one) blatant, offensive names. These were hurled at the artist in other posts without a whiff of protest. And this is the second part of my beef: there has been a TOTAL lack of ANY defense of what Skarbakka is doing by this "community." I see/hear very little in this thread that makes any attempt at seeing another point of view. Where is the "community?" If you see yourselves as part of an artistic community, supposedly supportive, then you owe it to him to come to his defense. You don't have to agree with him or like his art, but you should be willing to step up and offer some support to his vision and right to do it. Reviewing the posts, I guess one or two have -- but this is a very weak showing as far as I'm concerned. I only sense a chorus of victims only too happy to remain such. Steinberg of the Daily News attempted to destroy Skarbakka and there has been no closing of ranks. "Phony" was one term used. What if someone called you phony, and how many of you are susceptible to the term? (This is intended as stricly rhetorical.) Can all of you say with absolute confidence you do not live in a glass house? I'm hearing "we're artists, he is not." This is the domain of the exclusive fundamentalist christian thinking: "we're saved, you are not." And I don't sense what should be a very liberal attitude in this blog.

The next point I find laughable:
".......Skarbakka's photos are not that technically proficient.........It is tedious work, but otherwise not at all challenging. Any dolt with sufficient patience can do it." And, "........Photoshop has a healing brush that makes this kind of retouching a snap."

Since when are these the criteria for art? This is the equivalent of over-hearing the comment at the opening of your exhibit, "My two year old could do that." Think about this for just a moment. I also call your attention to some very significant works of art by masters consisting of nothing more than a few simple strokes of a pen or brush. The examples should come readily to mind. I can't even believe the above comments have been made by "artists." Stop this nonsense. And if you think manipulation of the photograph eliminates it from being art, you have just dismissed the history of the medium, especially as it stands today. Dan Flavin puts a flourescent tube on the wall and he is lauded as a great artist. Does this have to go further?

"From Skarbakka's site: "In the past few years I have fallen from trees, porches, bridges, train trestles, stairways, ladders, roofs, mountains, volcanoes, water towers, fences, and billboards—without anyone ever mistaking my work for a representation of our national tragedy." Right, because until now, he hadn't put on a suit and thrown himself off of an institutional-looking building. Neither he nor you seem willing to take responsibility for his creating a different set of implications that land closer to the WTC deaths, and instead blame the media for misinterpreting the work."

First, congratulations on going to KS's website and reading. Second, you are correct that all the other structures come nowhere near to implicating a 9/11 situation. I will even admit to the closeness to and ease of comparison with 9/11 in the use of a building. What wasn't done in the Steinberg piece is what you did above: point out that this is what this guy does and has done for a several years and that's it's conceivable that a building could be the next logical structure. This aspect is what I am defending (next logical step), and what I am criticizing the press for -- hugely biased, one-sided, incomplete, inflammatory opinion put forth as legit front page journalism. It was designed to sell papers, not report.

"he felt galled precisely because Skarbakka was mimicking the defenestrations."

I am going to put forth that it is a victim mentality to say this. First, "mimicking" contains an element of mockery (look it up) which would be insulting. Second, to use THE defenestrations implies the people of 9/11 are the only people who have ever jumped because of circumstances, whether imposed from the outside or not. It is these two taken together that has caused all the problems. And I think Steinberg was out to take the inflammatory slant regardless of what Skarbakka said.

"Steinberg has every bit as much right to his response as Skarbakka has to his own, and you mischaracterized it gravely as demanding his death."

Of course he has the right. But let's see what Steinberg says about demanding his death:
""The work is about control and lack of control," he said. Which is where we find the sickening lie. Because Skarbakka never loses control of the situation the way the 9/11 victims did. Just the opposite, he is creating a charade and passing it off as something genuine."

and then more damning,

"Were he sincere, he'd go off the roof without a harness."

Sickening lie.....never loses control.....creating a charade.....not sincere because of the harness.......he didn't die for his work. None of this has any merit whatsoever as commentary on art, and is beyond ridiculous. We should all fear the Steinbergs of the world.

37.

oldpro

June 21, 2005, 3:44 AM

I don't remember Franklin calling you a "jerk", Gregory, but I am too lazy to check it out. I was referring to Franklins rather strongly-worded reaction to your "smell" statement, which I thought was entirely appropriate. If someone did call anyone names directly that is indeed a violation of the guidlines.

i have been in this business for a long, long time and I have been called all kinds of bad names and been "victimized" often enough. It is part of the deal. You gotta let it roll off. It's a tempest in a teapot anyway, and, as has been amply observed here, it will probably make the guy famous. Have you heard about Ward Churchill?

Furthermore, I don't have any need to close ranks with some artist whose "vision" is jumping off things and calling it art. I don't want to be lumped in with that. I think its stupid.

38.

Franklin

June 21, 2005, 3:53 AM

Did somebody just suggest that this blog adopt a liberal attitude? You're new around here, aren't you, son? Have a look at, oh, just about anything, but maybe try this for starters.

Artblog.net is not an unbiased, objective forum. It's a forum where I put out my opinions, and aesthetically, I have high standards that correlate to humanist, shareable values. That makes me a conservative, although more by default than anything else. I neither seek nor shun that label. And so...

there has been a TOTAL lack of ANY defense of what Skarbakka is doing by this "community."

Yep. Too bad. I don't want to see anything bad happen to his person, but I don't think so much of his work that he's above getting mauled by the wolves in the press.

What if someone called you phony?

I'd laugh. Actually, it has happened already. I presume the person making the characterization is a goofball and leave it at that.

This is the equivalent of over-hearing the comment at the opening of your exhibit, "My two year old could do that."

I was waiting for that. Flavin's work has always looked lazy to me, but there are some facile things that I admire. The paintings of Sengai, for instance. The painful thing about art is that ease of execution is a virtue in good work and a vice in bad. Work in the middle, such as Skarbakka's... it can go either way.

I will even admit to the closeness to and ease of comparison with 9/11 in the use of a building.

Admit to the closeness, eh? Let's try: he said he was referencing it before, now he's saying he's not, so we have a choice between him lying or him failing to understand his own work.

It was designed to sell papers, not report.

There's about as much evidence for Steinberg's insincerity as there is for Skarbakka's. Maybe Skarbakka's actions were designed to sell photographs.

None of this has any merit whatsoever as commentary on art, and is beyond ridiculous.

I've seen worse. I pointed out once that no one has ever said to me, "I think your positive comments about so-and-so's work were unjustified."

We should all fear the Steinbergs of the world.

Naw, I want to have a cup of coffee with the guy. In any case, I'd be interested in hearing about anyone's negative criticism of the Chicago stunt that you thought was reasonable. Did you find any, or did you automatically catagorize everything that wasn't positive as "fundammentalist" or "nonsense" and disregard it?

39.

George

June 21, 2005, 5:28 AM

there has been a TOTAL lack of ANY defense of what Skarbakka is doing by this "community."

Curious. I don't see the need for a defense from me, I was offended. I do see how falling on your ass could be an art project. However the press infusion occurred, its relationship to 911 put KS on a difficult collision path with people like me who still harbor a bitter memory.

Actually, from a purely psychological point of view, the fall is 8 seconds of finality. The acceptance of death and the flashback on life, there is no turning back, no safety net, just death and peace.

The true psychological moment, the true moment of terror, was the instant before the leap. Forced, by the relentless pursuit of death by fire, to make the choice. Forced, to make the choice how to die, this is an heroic action, to choose one final moment of freedom. To seize control amidst utter chaos, a final heroic decision. Those who watched in horror missed this, it wasn't the jump, it was the choice, which set them free.

40.

George

June 21, 2005, 3:54 PM

Errata: Chris Ashly sent me an email correcting the text and attribution of the Bruce Nauman quote in comment 15 as: "the true artist helps the world by revealing mystic truths" (not W. Wiley)

41.

oldpro

June 21, 2005, 3:58 PM

Whoever said it should have thought it over. It's just empty profundity.

That is, unless someone can explain what a "mystic truth"is, and what it has to do with art.

42.

Gregory

June 21, 2005, 10:29 PM

He writes:

"Did somebody just suggest that this blog adopt a liberal attitude? You're new around here, aren't you, son? ..............I have high standards that correlate to humanist, shareable values. That makes me a conservative,...."

Son? Hmmm.....
I'll leave any physical age assumptions alone and address what seems like the implication that what I have written is youthful, naive, immature. That is a blow. I would hope that I would at least be accepted as a thoughtful contributor (or sparing opponent) whether successful or not at changing your opinion.
And that you, and presumably everyone else here, have standards correlating to humanist, shareable values defines Liberal to me. How are we so far apart on that one? I am now baffled. Maybe I am relying too much on the current political environment where Conservative to me represents all that is selfish and arrogant.

"Naw, I want to have a cup of coffee with the guy (Steinberg)."

Talking to people who have done just that, unrelated to art or the current controversy, the report is that the experience has not been a good one. FYI.

"The true psychological moment, the true moment of terror, was the instant before the leap. Forced, by the relentless pursuit of death by fire, to make the choice. Forced, to make the choice how to die, this is an heroic action, to choose one final moment of freedom. To seize control amidst utter chaos, a final heroic decision. Those who watched in horror missed this, it wasn't the jump, it was the choice, which set them free"

This is fantastic and extraordinarily well said. If Skarbakka's images come close to helping people think about these issues, they will be successful.

Beyond this, I would only begin repeating myself. I sense that I have only irritated the participants who have stuck with this exchange. More would repeat and irritate further. Such was not my goal but to participate in a thoughtful discussion. I have said all that I can. Further commentary only branches into the larger questions & discussions like, what is art? This seems best continued on other worthy threads. I hope that bringing to a close my commentary is recognized as a logical conclusion rather than a retreat from the battle. If the discussion continues here I may jump in again (with permission if Father Franklin) (please chuckle)

I guess only time will tell the outcome of all this furor. We'll see what happens. I truly thank everyone for the stimulating thoughts. Even though my opinion has also not been changed, the thinking on the topic has greatly expanded my appreciation of the many issues.

Poor Annie Wharton. Did she ever sell her stuff?

43.

Franklin

June 21, 2005, 11:34 PM

"Son" didn't mean anything - I think I was quoting an old Western, but now I'm not sure of that. I was just remarking that you were new around here. It has been a good spar.

How are we so far apart on that one? I am now baffled.

Well, even in the political environment there are conservatives who evince generosity and humility, but that's not the point of this blog. The key word above is shareable. I believe that certain values in art are sharable, and that they can be shared because they are perennial and carry across cultures. That is to say, they're absolute, or at least have an absolute component. It wouldn't be impossible to interface a liberal outlook with that, but recent art history and what I call capital-T Theory holds that these values are constructions based on the values of power-holding entities, are wholly relative, and ought to be discarded as they reflect distateful political underpinnings. The latter view is Marxist in origin, and nurtured by various identity theories over the last few decades. Last month John Derbyshire referenced a list of conservative qualities that includes:

- a deep suspicion of the power of the state.

- a preference for liberty over equality.

- patriotism.

- a belief in established institutions and hierarchies.

- skepticism about the idea of progress.

- elitism.

If I might be allowed to substitute "loyalty to art for art's sake" for "patriotism," this suits me pretty well as a list of artistic preferences. I'd have to fudge a few points to make it work but I could.

If Skarbakka's images come close to helping people think about these issues, they will be successful.

Sorry, but this is an old fallacy that comes up enough to warrant a term for it - that a given work of art succeeds if it prompts a discussion or the like. I insist that art succeed on the terms of art and that any other kind of success is auxiliary at best and irrelevant at worst.

I don't know if Annie got rid of her stuff or not. I hope she did.

Thanks for stopping by.

44.

oldpro

June 22, 2005, 1:20 AM

I find myself chiming in after Franklin these days, but that's fine with me.

Think into those labels a little deeper, Gregory. We have come to the point in our political/social lives where simple respect, a love of individual freedom and common sense have become "conservative". Franklin summed it up pretty well.

Let's face it, there's good stuff and there's bad stuff, and we are all obliged to judge it for what it is when it comes along, no matter who says it or does it or what label it carries. Someone said that the price of freedom is eternal vigilance. It's true.

I see no virtue to "helping people think about these issues". What issues? What is the "issue" anyway? What do "issues" have to do with art in the first place? Have you ever thought about this kind of thing, or do you just hear people intone "we must address issues" and take it at face value?

I don't want to think about those jumpers. I had to turn away from the TV when it showed them. It made me sick at the pit of my stomach. It was just horrible. Who needs to make a goddam "issue" out of it? Good Grief!

45.

Gregory

June 22, 2005, 6:18 PM

Ok, I'll jump back in.

"We have come to the point in our political/social lives where simple respect, a love of individual freedom and common sense have become "conservative".

These strike me as Liberal, or perhaps truer, beyond lables. And the list Franklin held out as conservative qualities actually crosses boundaries because I can see and subscribe to some of them as a liberal.

Does art have to deal with issues or ideas to be good or successful? Of course not. I did not mean to imply necessity. But is it within the domain of artists to portray/illustrate/grapple with issues? Of course.

For those who do not wish to be confronted with the heroic/terrifying decision of the jumpers, or falling in general, don't look. But because these are ideas you do not wish to be confronted with, don't dismiss as bad the work that does deal with them.

46.

Gregory

June 22, 2005, 6:46 PM

I meant to add this thought to the last post:

I think a huge problem with the current state of the liberal/conservative debate is the current administration. Most of what they are doing does not strike me as conservative at all and yet they carry the banner. Their actions are severely distorting what were general held definitions.

47.

oldpro

June 23, 2005, 1:54 AM

Gregory, the labels are entirely misleading. The worst kind of fascist behavior can be labelled "liberal" and the most enlightened "conservative" (as well as vice-versa, oif course) and what the labels mean varies 180 degrees from country to country. That's why we have to forget the labels and judge according to conscience & circumstances. Same goes for art.

It is not the "idea" I don't like, it is the horror of the reality, when it connects to 9/11, at least. When it is just jumping, well, then it is just jumping, and it's silly.

48.

Gregory

June 23, 2005, 4:15 PM

Oldpro, I'll go along with your comment on lables. They can be helpful or very dangerous.

"When it is just jumping, well, then it is just jumping, and it's silly."

.....a single carrot, freshly observed......

49.

flatboy

June 23, 2005, 4:35 PM

Gregory, you just showed how any statement can be turned on its head in the free floating world of human reason. Guess I should thank you for that, but I just can't.

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