Read a 2014 article about the effect of antidepressants on creativity. It’s about a study at the Max Planck Institute. Apparently, the flatness of mood, which is a great alternative to depression, can also be seen as “emotional blunting” which hurts creativity, especially for artists who work best in response to internal turmoil. Another article I read talks about an artist who found it difficult to write after a period of being on antidepressants. Now, I’m not sure if I’m experiencing a bit of this, but I’ve experienced a couple of periods of artist’s block and I don’t know whether to attribute it to medication, the lack of stimulus due to the pandemic, or just natural artist’s block. I seriously hope the antidepressants are affecting my creativity because given the choice of coping tools, I’d rather have art than medication.
One possible effect discovered by the study coining “emotional blunting” is that antidepressants negatively affected feelings of affection towards partners, especially among male participants in the study. Perhaps men are more prone to “emotional blunting” than women. Or to put it simply, women just care more than men, so much so, that their love emotions are more resistant to drugs. So yeah, antidepressants may cause less creativity and love… but hey, less depression and suicidal thoughts. If true, what a dilemma!
My sister proposed a writing project regarding Filipinos and the immigrant experience. It could be a book, a collection of essays, whatever. We’re just in the process of throwing ideas at the moment. I think it’s a good idea, especially with her being a mother of a couple of gen Z kids who might be disconnected from their heritage or would need some guidance regarding the culture of their parents. Admittedly, many of my entries regarding the Philippines, or perhaps even Korea, tend to be very critical. This is not coming from a negative spirit. This is coming from someone who wants things to improve. So yeah, perhaps in the coming months, I’ll be writing more about the immigrant experience instead of much else. Some ideas that come to mind include:
-“Kain na tayo.” The willingness of strangers to share their meals.
-Love the people, hate the politics. Why Filipinos will never vote themselves to prosperity.
-The long reach of Catholicism
-Filipinos and regionalism
-Spanish colonialism and its effects
-Filipino heroes and non-heroes; Juan Luna is a despicable scoundrel.
-The Out-of-Taiwan theory, and what the heck are we?
-The Overseas Filipino Worker
-No, Dave Chappelle, you are wrong about Filipino women overseas.
I started early applying for shows this year. Last year, I didn’t really do to many shows, but this year, I plan to be more aggressive. With most in-person galleries out of the question due to the omicron variant of the coronavirus, I’ve been more focused with publications and showing work online or either sending it to galleries overseas. What I do notice though is that North America and Europe to a greater extent is very open to international artists. There’s always opportunities for competitions, calls for submissions, and residencies. I’ve actually been accepted in a couple of residencies last year, but just before I’m about to commit, covid surges yet again and my plans have to be scrapped.
Two places I’m having the most trouble in trying to break into are Hong Kong and Japan. I’ve always loved Hong Kong. I used to go there quite frequently before China started cracking down on protesters. What I noticed in galleries is that they’re mostly interested in Chinese artists and not much else. I realize there’s a great trend for Chinese art, but what about locals looking for other artists? It’s very difficult to get my work in the city. The same goes for Japan. It seems that galleries, at least the ones looking for artists, are exclusively interested in those that make Japanese-style art or art about Japan. I don’t make either. I don’t make anime/manga, nor do I feel qualified to make any serious work related to Japanese culture. Heck, I don’t even think I make Canadian art! If anyone knows of any galleries in these two places interested in work that is more in my vein, please let me know.
It’s my mom’s birthday today. She was a wonderful woman. I’m not sure if my dad realizes how lucky he was. I know I didn’t truly appreciate her when she was still alive.
My book is almost done and am now ready for test printing and perhaps even selling them locally. With the postal services being devastated by the pandemic, it still won’t make sense for me to sell them overseas, but I still plan to meet my schedule of making another book this year. I’m thinking of printing next month once I’m less busy with my taxes and getting my car fixed. And no, I really don’t plan on making money out of these publishing projects. It’s just a way for me to mark my artistic progress.
Despite the new surge of covid cases around the world, it’s a great time for art lovers in Seoul, and thankfully, I’m not talking about NFTs.
First off, there’s a great exhibition of around 200 pieces by Matisse on display. I remember spending a month studying his works in art history and finally seeing them in Minneapolis and Chicago. ‘La Danse’ is a favorite and I’ve seen it influence many artists. I even tried to do a poor version of it myself. Despite being a giant in the arts, I always feel like he’s unjustly overshadowed by Picasso and other artists. Maybe it’s just my imagination, but I think everyone has seen a work by Matisse but only a few could name him as the artist.
Dali’s works are also being exhibited and I’ve seen his advertisements for his exhibitions everywhere. Maybe his famous looks are more famous than his works because they’ve been using his face with that ridiculous mustache to in the posters, which I guess is as he intended. He kinda became just as a famous as a celebrity as much as his art (a celebrity Picasso hated due to Dali’s support of Francisco Franco, the Spanish dictator). His ridiculous imagery has inspired me through the years, and as someone who makes Dada-esque imagery, I can’t help but admire him. However, I kinda resented his celebrity persona and being one of the early “zany” artists. I think ever since him, many artists try too hard to look, dress, and act funny. Can’t we all just be normal? Just as trying to fit in can be tiring, being unconventional can be stressful as well.
Speaking of celebrity artists, Andy Warhol’s works are also on display, but I feel like his works are always on display in the city. Him, Picasso, and Klimt.
Lichtenstein’s works can also be seen in the city and is probably the one I’m most exited about. I’ve seen his works before, but apparently they’re showing a significantly large collection of his works. Seeing the blown up comic book pages in person is so much more impactful than just seeing it on screen. Another artist with a large number of works being shown is Chagall, but honestly, I don’t know much about Chagall. I find it interesting that on of the impressionist’s works (‘Over the Town’) just happens to look like the poster for a movie I’ve been hunting down and wanting to see, Roy Andersson’s ‘About Endlessness.’
Oh and speaking of Dadaism, a bunch of Surrealist works are on display at the Seoul Art Museum for three more months. It features works by Duchamp, Man Ray, Magritte, and other artists.
Anyway, it’s a good time to look at art once the covid situation calms down and I get boosted. I’m already scheduled for a shot in a couple of weeks and it seems that the recent covid surge in Seoul is finally starting to get under control, especially since tighter protocols have been reinstated.
First off, covid has gone up, gone down, and gone up again in South Korea. I got my two jabs and will be ready for my booster next month. Despite the high numbers, I managed to not catch the virus. The tracing and tracking in the country as well as the treatment has been good, so the death rate has been quite low and the numbers are believable. The country also has a vaccine pass rule everywhere, and no, it’s not tyrannical. If anything, it’s liberating to know that everyone in the establishment I go to has been vaccinated and that I will be warned if anyone got covid anywhere I went to.
This year, I started regularly seeing a therapist and have been religious with my drugs. It’s helping and I do look forward to each of our sessions. I feel like I have too much control over our sessions sometimes, but I’m glad that he’s helped with my anxiety, depression, and addictive personality. I had a public nervous breakdown last summer while I was arguing with my wife, and I vowed not to revisit that bar again nor put myself in similar situations. It’s just too triggering.
I also started to study more Korean by myself. It’s difficult, but going to class has been impossible. I miss meeting people and making friends in class, but I guess that’s part of being older. Making friends is difficult.
I haven’t gone to the gym for two years now. I miss it. I try to work out more at home and climb stairs more, but it doesn’t compare going to the gym. But it doesn’t matter really. It’s not like I’m going to the beach anytime soon. I’ve eaten way too much Burger King this year. My favorite Subway Sandwich place has closed down, and now due to laziness and me often eating lunch at my dek, I just grab a burger from the Burger King next door. In other food news, my new favorite place for dining is this Japanese lamb place in Yeonnam-dong. Good food, good price, great Japanese ambiance, friendly staff, decent sake. One of the servers is a kickass tattoo artist as well.
I used to not be a driver, but this year I became a motorist. I can’t travel outside of the country so I might as well travel outside of the city. I got a car, it’s an Audi A4. It’s already in need of some body work, not my fault, but I’m going to ignore it for now. I think it adds some character, plus, I can sense that it won’t be the first scratch my car is going to get in the next few months. In a country filled with Hyundai Avantes, it’s a bit slicker than the average 4-door sedan. But in the words of Marv from Sin City, “Modern cars- they all look like electric shavers.”
I didn’t travel outside of the country but I did go outside of Seoul and had the worst sashimi ever. Never eat machine-sliced sashimi. Aside from a lack of TLC, it’s simply disgusting.
Artwise, I’ve been consistently producing works. It’s therapeutic and very calming. It’s been very difficult to get my work shown and I imagine it’s going to be the same next year. I didn’t apply to too many shows this year, which was disappointing, but it doesn’t make much financial sense to me to send my work overseas with the way covid has devastated postal services and made sending works exorbitantly expensive if not impossible. Sales have been dismal as well, but that’s the same throughout my art career. I don’t really care much about sales. I did publish a second book last February, a plan from 2020 which I actually followed through on. Now, I’m contemplating publishing another book next year. And no, I’m not making nor buying any NFTs. The only people who are saying NFTs are good are usually ones who are already invested and shilling NFTs. It’s rare to find NFTs actually uplifting artists. And even funnier, I found a post asking, “What is a good way to print or display NFTs on a wall?” Haha!
Unfortunately, I’ve stopped gardening. I moved to a new office and I no longer have the space to cultivate plants. I’m glad to have maintained it for a while and even given out several seedlings to people. I’m hoping at least half of them are still alive. Oh, and I also learned that cherry pits are not toxic. Not two cherry pits, not thirty, not sixty. They are simply not toxic.
Family’s been okay, but I haven’t been seeing eye to eye with my dad this year. I haven’t called that often and when I do, he often frustrates me. I really should try harder, but I keep thinking why? Why do his children have to try harder to get along better with him? Why is the effort seemingly always from our side? What about him? I don’t see him making things better for himself? This is the year I gave up caring too much.
It’s late but I think the ‘The French Dispatch’ is the best movie I’ve seen this year. Wes Anderson is a treasure. I’m still upset that my bestfriend back in the 90s couldn’t appreciate the genius of ‘Rushmore.’ Other movies I enjoyed; I was surprised with Nicolas Cage’s ‘Pig’ and delighted by “The White Tiger.” I couldn’t think of anything too remarkable on television. I’ve see quite a few Korean dramas but nothing stands out. Everyone was raving about ‘Squid Game,’ but frankly, I didn’t think it was that special. Videogame-wise, I enjoyed ‘Persona 5 Strikers’ and ‘Resident Evil: Village’ the most. Otherwise, I haven’t played too many video games this year. Also, I’ve yet to get a PS5. I wish I could read more books, but most of the books I’ve been reading are Korean learning books. No fiction this year. I’ve fallen behind on Chuck Palahniuk. Music, I’ve given up on anything new. I’ve been listening to a lot of Sparklehorse and Vic Chestnutt, which I realize is not really the best for my mental well-being.
There’s been a couple of close calls, but I almost died twice this year. Each day, I’m grateful that I’m still breathing air. Tired of living, but grateful that I am. Dying is scary. Here’s to 2022, which I suspect is going to be exactly like 2020. I’ll be moving houses, renewing my contract at work, trying to get into a Speedo before summer, get into more art shows, and hopefully improve my relationships. God help me.
I finally saw the latest James Bond film and the last of the Daniel Craig movies for the franchise. I normally don’t post movie reviews here, but there’s nothing much art-related stuff I could talk about at the moment and I have a three-hour lecture tonight which is making me nervous, so I thought I would do some writing to calm me down, just some random thoughts about the franchise and the latest film.
A few years ago, I decided to watch all of the Bond films in chronological order. I’ve seen it go from semi-serious, to campy, to more grounded, back to campy, and then back to the grounded semi-seriousness of the Craig films. I gotta say, Daniel Craig is my favorite Bond. Purists will always give the title to Sean Connery, but I can’t help but see him from millennial’s perspective, the casual misogyny and perhaps even downright rapiness is hard for me to get over with. Others enjoy Pierce Brosnan’s turn as Bond, but I never really enjoyed the franchise during that era. I found Brosnan a bit too cheesy and the writing of the movies too silly. Also, before he became 007, he didn’t realize that his wife’s ex-husband was disguised as their elderly nanny. You gotta be sharper than that, James!
The latest film was good. It didn’t really feel that long as things kept on moving. In fact, it kept moving so fast that the main villain’s motives barely registered. He was out for revenge? But once he got his revenge, why did he want to kill so many people? What’s going on? It’s sad to say, but the main villain is actually the weakest part of the movie for me. He just wasn’t that interesting. And for Spectre to be built up as this massive organization overshadowing so many evil plots across the movies… for it to be undone by a boring villain that seem to come out of nowhere, is really unsatisfying. Javier Bardem’s Raoul Silva was a great villain in the Craig films and wasn’t really matched by Christoph Waltz’s Blofeld. Then it was followed by Mr. Robot. I now appreciate Christoph Waltz’s performance (and ‘Spectre’s’ writing) much more.
Lea Seydoux was great as Madeleine Swann, but I actually found her quite forgetable in the film prior, so I was surprised to see her back in this film. If anything, what stole the movie was Ana De Armas’ performance and action sequence in Cuba. The first time I saw her was in a regretable Eli Roth film and I didn’t really get her appeal even after I saw her a couple more times in ‘Knives Out’ and ‘Blade Runner 2049.’ In ‘No Time to Die,’ I finally got it. Consider me a fan. I thought having a black female 007 was a smart little wink as well. It would be interesting to see more adventures of Lashana Lynch as a secret agent, but I think it was all just a cinematic coño to the obnoxious man-o-sphere who insists that 007 should never be black nor female.
It was not the best film among Craig’s Bond turn but it was a good enough ending. It had great sequences, the score was great as usual, and it left me wondering and excited at who the next 007 will be. It was a very utilitarian movie and it served its purpose, much like Craig’s Bond has been described as a “blunt instrument.” I think the best Craig film would either be ‘Casino Royale’ or ‘Skyfall.’ So for the uninitiated, go watch the first Craig film instead. But for those who enjoy the series, this movie should be fun.
For the longest time, I never really cared for the James Bond franchise and thought it was a relic of a power fantasy meant to be enjoyed by dads and uncles. Maybe that’s still true since I didn’t really truly enjoy it until I was in my mid twenties. These days, I see it more as my “Fast and the Furious”… my Marvel Cinematic Universe film, my super hero film on steroids. As much as I enjoy spy thrillers, like 2019’s ‘The Spy’ starring Sacha Baron Cohen (surprisingly!), it’s always good to see a fantastical secret agent do his mission with so much finesse and with a catchy blaring orchestral melody.
Oh and as for best theme. I love the original ‘Dr. No’ theme and it’s many reincarnations. I also think “Goldfinger” is great. But truly, the best and sexiest song ever written is “Nobody Does it Better.”
I’ve become a creature of Reddit. It’s awul but it’s nice. After being banned from Twitter, I devoted most of my SNS time on Instagram. But now I’m finding myself more on Reddit, sticking my nose on other people’s business and giving advice when asked. I find that Reddit is more concerned with developing communities and being helpful to whatever people’s interests are, as opposed to Twitter which is like a rage machine. Anyway, thank goodness for Reddit.
My father is a cadger. There’s no denying it. When I was growing up, I remember being upset that he would always find some way to quit his job and go on unemployment. It was extremely embarrassing. While everyone’s father was out being significantly more successful and more hardworking than my father, he was out socializing with people from his hometown and occasionally trying to to steal money from his kids. Yes, that’s true. After a year of working and going to university, I was due for a huge income tax refund. My own father intercepted it and told me that I wasn’t getting any refund that year. Luckily, the guy who was doing our family’s taxes wasn’t keen on playing my father’s game once I talked to him about it.
He’s probably one of the least adapted immigrant I’ve ever met. He distrusts anyone that doesn’t share his color. He looks down on white people, black people, and Native people. He even looks down on people from his own country if they’re not from the same region he was born in. He looks down on all of them. And yet, if he could get away with not working and just sit at home collecting government benefits, he would. He’s the horrible, faineant immigrant that racists use as a caricature to scare people against foreigners coming in.
My mother kept the family above water. She had to save him a couple of times from his debts. And the day she died at the young age of 53, my father decided he would no longer work. He’s the same age as my mother. I doubt if I could ever properly retire. And looking around at my in-laws and my sisters’ in-laws and my friends’ parents, most of them still work. My poor father-in-law is 72 and he still insists on working. My father collects money from his meager pension and my mother’s pension. Our old house in Canada, he sold and used the money mostly for himself. He bought some land and built a house in the boondoks in the Philippines. He bought land from my uncle who is also much like my dad. And lucky for that uncle, he gets to spend that money and not be stuck with land that no one else wants to buy. My mother’s childhood home was sold. Our share was mostly taken by my father as well. Despite all of this, he still occasionally gets handouts from my sisters. I stopped sending him handouts.
He spends his time between Canada, California, and the Philippines. He’s been flying between these three places for over ten years now, financed by my sisters. They justify paying for his tickets because he gets to babysit his grandkids. He really doesn’t. It sounds fun to spend the year flying around the world and just hanging out with family, but he always makes it sound like a horrible chore. Summers in Canada, winters in California… sounds like heaven. But before Christmas comes, he would ditch his family and go to the Philippines. He would rather spend his whole life there. Unfortunately, his pensions are tied to Canada and he can’t be in the Philippines for the whole year. Why he would rather be there, who knows? Maybe because the Canadian dollar can go farther there? Maybe he’s got a girlfriend? Who knows? I know it’s not family. My grandmother died last year, his close cousins have their own lives or have prematurely passed away, and my dad’s siblings can’t stand him.
And what does he do when he’s with my sisters in Canada and the US? He nags at them for the way they are parenting. I understand being helpful, but it’s also another to be giving unneeded advice especially when we were mostly raised by nannies. If anything, my most significant memory of him when I was a child was his habit of embarrassing us in front of relatives for his own amusement. These days, he tries to create drama and elicit sympathy from people, trying to make himself seem like a selfless martyr when it comes to his children. When in reality, most of what he’s done is take, take, and take.
After a long while, for my own health, I haven’t called him. Then I hear from one of my sisters that he’s complaining that I haven’t contacted him in a while, totally forgetting that phone lines go both ways. So I called him last Friday and what do I get? I get more of him trying to sound like he’s suffering. Oh, boohoo! I’m flying to California soon!
Then I get the dumb questions and dumb comments:
“So are you still living in the same place?” Huh, I moved almost four year ago! In fact, my lease is almost up and now I’m super stressed with the ridiculous housing inflation crisis in Seoul.
“That’s the same everywhere, son!” No, it isn’t! What’s happening in Korea is unprecedented! Seoul is effectively becoming similar to Hong Kong or New York when it comes to housing. But of course he wouldn’t know that since he doesn’t read much about anything except news in the Philippines. Also, most newly-married couples get some money from the man’s side of the family in order to buy a house. Now, I don’t really subscribe to this tradition, but my father didn’t really offer me much help in my wedding. Heck, he didn’t help much in my education either. As I just mentioned, he sold our old house in Canada and has gone through that money all to himself. My wife married a foreigner who is significantly hobbled financially from the start compared to other married couples here despite of how much money I make now.
“Well, why don’t you move back here?” This comment pissed me off the most. What the heck am I gonna do in Canada? What’s my wife gonna do there? This is a dumb question from someone who doesn’t really care about reality, someone who doesn’t really care about my situation. If I move to Canada, is he gonna help me? No, he won’t. If anything, I probably have to help him instead!
And what angered me most about that is the total lack of self-awareness. We’ve been trying to get him to settle down and get his own apartment in Winnipeg already. This way, he’s not wasting money travelling to the Philippines and risk losing his pension. And as for why he’s not staying in Canada, who knows? Now that my poor grandmother has passed away, he has no excuses to stay in the Philippines. He can’t say, “I have to take care of your grandmother” anymore. So why not stay in Canada forever? He’s definitely got more reasons to permanently move to Canada than I do. He’s got grandkids in North America. He can make new friends in Canada or the United States, too.
When he asks how I’m doing, I always tell him I’m busy with work, I’m always hustling for extra work, and that I’m both grateful to be working and fearful that I could lose my job at any point. He goes, “well, keep up the good work. You gotta do what you gotta do.” Yes, you gotta do what you gotta do, except when you retire at 53 and choose not to do anything at all. Because really, that was his style of parenting in a nutshell. “You should do this, inspite of me not doing it at all.” Work hard! Study hard! Don’t drink too much! Ugh! The hypocrisy is unbearable.
These days, he’s another elephant in a room occupied by a herd of elephants that I would rather not talk about with my wife. I’m sure it’s the same way with my siblings as well. How does he not see this? How does he not see that in this country, I am alone and I can’t even count on my father, my only parent alive, to be there for me?
This is rather ugly and it’s truly unbecoming to be airing out all of my dirty laundry on the Internet like this. Luckily, not many people visit this Website. No one else would probably hear about this other than my therapist. So yeah, if my therapist ever reads this, just tell me you read my site, and it would save us a few minutes.
I finally got my second vaccine shot. I haven’t experienced any side effects, so I guess I’m lucky. I got the shot in the middle of the day then went straight back to work. Later, I started feeling a mild numb pain in my arm, but it’s nothing too serious. I’m glad I got more protection and there’ll be less chance of me spreading covid to other people.
I posted about this on Instagram and just as I expected, it flushed out a number of anti-vaxxers who happen to be following me. “You are never fully vaxxed.” “You will keep needing boosters and it will never end.” “Complying with authoritarians will not end tyranny.” Later, they unfollow me. I kinda expected this kind of political craziness on Facebook or Twitter, not on Instagram. I post nothing but art. They also ignore that I’m a Canadian living in Korea. Both countries have extremely high vaccination rates. Koreans are very diligent regarding mask use. Neither countries have death rates that compare to the numbers that the US has. But oh well, I don’t need anti-vaxxer crazy people following me.
Koreans will adopt a “with Covid” strategy starting next month. The country will be dealing with Covid-19 as a fact of daily life and just live with caution instead of trying to eradicate it from the country. Bars and restaurants will open longer and seat more people. Masks will no longer be mandatory outdoors. Gyms and other businesses will be allowed to operate. All of these changes are due to the rapid vaccination of the population. Over 70% of the population are now vaccinated, with younger people being allowed to be vaccinated as well. I worry that Korea will have the same fate as England with its cases rising after adopting a “with Covid” strategy and easing restrictions, but I don’t think Koreans will be so quick to ditch mask-wearing in public. They were very eager to wear masks and practice strict safety measures well before they became mandatory. I suppose part of it is because of their Confucian community-oriented culture as opposed to the western individualist approach to things. No one is complaining about constrained freedom or tyrants around here.
Anyway, I’m quite excited. It’ll be nice to finally be able to go back to the gym. I think I’m amazingly lucky though not to have caught the virus at all. Here’s to continuing to be lucky.
I had to spend most of the day yesterday at the DMV. I don’t really drive in Korea. I think the last time I drove a vehicle was over ten years ago. The thing is, driving a vehicle isn’t really necessary if you live in Seoul. Transportation here is wildly convenient. There are buses everywhere, the subway is cheap and easy to navigate (compared to the confusing mess that is Japan’s), and taxis are cheaper than in Canada. Navigating through the city and figuring out schedules are also made more convenient by using apps.
To operate a vehicle in the city, not only will you have to worry about paying for your vehicle, gas, and insurance. You also have to deal with the notorious parking problem in the city. Koreans can also get their license rather quickly if they put their mind to it (And most Koreans DO put their minds to it when it comes to any test). Getting a license involves a written test, a car functions test, and a road test. With luck and skill, one can whiz through these. But with others, especially foreign drivers, they might get stuck dealing with the computer system in the car functions test. This is to say that some people might whiz through the test and get a license not really having enough experience driving, making the roads a bit more dangerous for other motorists.
So yeah, driving is expensive and dangerous. Add to that, Koreans are also very particular with their vehicles, not driving anything older than ten years old. If you’re not driving something that is fairly new, then you’re basically driving a hooptie in the eyes of locals.
But with the pandemic preventing me from traveling outside of the country, there’s been more pressure to get into a vehicle and drive around outside of the city, the only reason for me to own a vehicle. I’ll be getting a vehicle before the end of the year (an Audi A4), but I’m not really too excited about it. I’ve lived my life not caring about cars, and I feel like now I have no choice but be a car guy. Next, I’ll become a glamping guy. Glamping! Disgusting. The Canadian in me is dying in shame. The minute I load a $400 portable grill into the trunk of a car, I would have to surrender my flannel shirts.
Interestingly, today I learned that many famous people actually either don’t drive, never learned how, or just have a thing against driving. Norm MacDonald, Tina Fey, Javier Bardem, Elvis Costello, Kate Beckinsale, Charlie Watts, etc. Maybe owning a car and driving around isn’t really a key part of adulting.
Danish museum, Kunsten Museum of Modern Art, paid artist Jens Haaning 534,000 kroner to recreate two of his works from over a decade ago. Calculating the cost of material and labor, Jen Hanning says that it was criminally low and would’ve required him to pay money out of his own pockets to recreate the two works. Now, Haaning is a known conceptual artist and I really have no idea how much reproducing the works would cost, but he decided to just pocket the money and rename the series ‘Take the Money and Run,’ and sent the museum two blank canvases. The museum in return, hangs the two canvasses as part of an exhibition examining the relationship between art and labor, but ironically still plans to get the money back from Haaning, accusing him of breach of contract.
As conceptual art, bravo Jens Haaning! Excellent. Artists’ works are criminally undervalued. Artists are often seen as doing a hobby and are expected to finance their art with “real” jobs. It’s not uncommon to hear artists being asked to produce work for “exposure.” Heck, even making art and posting it on Instagram (which I do), technically gives Facebook millions of artistic work as content for free. So when Jens Haaning refused to honor the contract after being paid what he felt was too low, as an artist, I couldn’t help but root for him.
But as someone who has a basic understanding of contracts, Jens Haaning orchestrated the whole thing and played the Kunsten museum. He’s a bad actor, not a victim. For a contract to be valid, there must be a valid offer, acceptance, consideration, mutual obligation, and both parties must be competent in the time of their agreement. No one forced Haaning to agree to reproduce his works for the price he calls “criminally low.” He could very well have negotiated to a higher and more suitable compensation for his labor. But he didn’t. Instead, he agreed to a contract which I suspect he had no plans to fulfill in order to make viral news, appealing to the sympathies of artists worldwide. The museum in return gets to benefit a bit from the notoriety and will no doubt see more people through its doors hoping to see a blank canvas.
Let’s not get carried away here. The stunt is closer to a banana on a wall than an upturned urinal. It may be speaking of truths that artists suffer through, but I can’t help but feel that the artist is distastefully cynical in his approach. Whether the museum gets its money back or not will not change the value and the meaning of the two original canvasses. I doubt if it would hurt the artist much as well. Even if he does get sued, I’m sure it will be settled without hurting him financially. In fact, being sued might benefit him more and gain him more notoriety. But while ‘Take the Money and Run’ tries to address how artists are criminally undervalued, I believe in the long run, it will only contribute to the notion that art is excessive, ridiculous, and arbitrary, and thus perpetuate the harm Haaning claims he’s shining a light on among artists. After all, how could two canvasses be worth 534,000 kroner?