ORGAN THING: So what did happen with that Revolution show? What was wrong with the art? Has anyone actually answered the question?

So what did actually happen to that Revolution show?  it seems to have blown up a little since we first reported the early closure of the exhibition and the removal of the art on these pages last week? Is it just a load of hot air and another bunch of attention-seeking publicity-hungry artists trying to grab a bit of cheap publicity or is this something a little more worrying? A sign of the times? Participating artists have been voicing opinions, art websites have been carrying the story (stories), those involved have been posting on social media about “damaged art work thrown in a corner” and such – artists talking about the loss in terms of expense as well as everything else. Perhaps more importantly people have been talking about censorship and the nature of art in East London now, did someone at the venue really decide the art was “off-brand” and it needed to be removed the day after the very busy opening night?. The art show, at the Black and White Building over on Rivington Street, Shoreditch, East London, was a group exhbition called Revolution, a show self-curated by a group of pro-active artists, a loose collective called Art Society of Soho, a show hosted at the Black and White Building by an art organisation called Creative Debuts. The news stories have been appearing again and again in the last few days – the Gulf War veteran censored on Remembrance weekend? The Queen offended? The Russians up in arms over Michelle Mildenhall’s latex?  Thing is, no one actually seems able to pin-point what the actual problem with the art was.

Evening Standard

Evening Standard

The artists have been vocal, upset, angry, understandably so – on top of everything else, a lot of time and expense went in to making the art, getting it there, packaging it, frustrating to have a show end early and the art taken down without ant real explanation, or indeed consideration for the actual art – “the removed artworks were very poorly stored and some pieces had been damaged….”  And two weeks on from the initial opening night and with coverage about the early closing of the show now hitting the mainstream print press as well as the websites,  the situation and the reason for the art being removed still seems remains rather unclear and no one appears to have the guts to tell the artists why….

revolution_flyers

An invite was extended to Creative Debuts to talk to us about what appears to be censorship of an art show, they got back straight away via social media private messaging….

Why don’t you come and see us? Tomorrow late afternoon or Monday?”

“okay, thank you, tomorrow would be good, who am I speaking to? Any particular time?

There was no reply with regards to the question of a time or indeed who might be speaking for Creative Debuts – social media conversations can be such faceless conversations. The nameless spokesperson eventually came back with a question rather than a reply or a time to meet (having obviously checked out the previous Organ article on the show)

“What was the awfully off putting vibe you got from The Black and White Building by the way? Obviously that’s not the impression we want to give but obviously it’s important to understand it’s not a gallery” said the Creative Debuts person

“Yes it is obviously not a gallery, I have no problem with that, but if we’re going to talk tomorrow, why not save that question until then?”

“I’ll have a look at my diary and get back to you” replied the Creative Debuts person

“Okay, well we are going to run a bit more of a follow up to our first piece, try and find out was actually wrong with the art, so if you would like to put your side or point of view you are more than welcome”

“I see. Well I wouldn’t want to put you through it again tomorrow. So I thinks it’s probably best if we leave it. As you will know from your contact with Art Society of Soho we have hosted them three times (completely free of charge), had three amazing private views and have worked tirelessly to promote hundreds of emerging artists throughout London. We also had no control in the artwork that got taken down”

“So you don’t want to talk about why the art was removed? Really is no problem to come in, can I at least get a quote or a statement and a name from you?

“It’s also worth noting that Annie’s piece is still proudly hanging where it originally was and was never removed. As far as the space goes, it has exhibited hundreds of artists who have loved it. Totally understandable if it’s not for you. We have no involvement. We collaborate with artists/collectives to host their shows”  continued the Creative Debuts person who clearly didn’t want to explain why the art had been removed

“But your name, Creative Debuts, is there on the event publicity, your big sign was outside the venue on the opening night, you clearly do have some kind of involvement, and you say you tirelessly support artists, so why not speak to us and put your point over in terms of why the show was removed? Why not give the artists some support here, or at least an answer or two?”

“Because, as I have said, it’s nothing to do with us”

“So, to be clear, you are saying the art being removed was nothing to do with you even though it was your show? Are you still happy to work with the venue? It is your name on the sign outside so it surely is something to do with you? Am I speaking to Alex or Callum?”

“Over the last 23 months we have exhibited over 350 artists in this event space, over 1000 pieces of artwork by emerging artists. It’s where Creative Debuts first ever exhibited artwork. Sadly you won’t find our sign there as we only use the event space one night a month and as amazing as it would be we don’t own the building”

”“Excellent that you’ve worked with so many artists, but now a show has been removed with not real explanation and there’s a lot of unhappy artists, wouldn’t you like to put your side of the story? Your sign was there on the opening night, as it is on every First Thursday, and it was an event very much associated with you, are you saying you had nothing to do with the censorship of the art and that you are happy to carry on working with the space?”

“We have deliberately stayed out of this as it’s not our battle. Best of luck with your article. Thanks”

“But surely it is your battle, you are very much part of it and I will be quoting you…”

No response, I tried again…..

“I find it very strange that you were originally happy to have me come in and talk to you and now, thirty minutes later, you don’t want to, what changed?”

“if you believe so, ASS know what we do and Martin, the chairman, supports us as a platform for emerging artists. You’ve got some info, we’ll carry on doing our thing for artists”

“You’re being very defensive here, I’ve not judged you in any way, I’ve invited you take part in the piece and put forward some kind of explanation in terms of the removal of art from a show and the early end of that show – a show you were hosting and a show your name was all over.  It kind of looks like you don’t really care about the artists who got thrown out, you don’t care about the art that got damaged or an event you were very much involved in being censored and closed down early with no clear explanation offered to the artists or the public”

“This person isn’t receiving messages from you at the moment” came the Facebook automated message in reply, the Creative Debut person had blocked me….

it appears Creative Debuts, without really being accused of anything in that brief on-line exchange there, opted to take a very evasive defensive stance and apparently, after initially inviting us to come in, don’t want to talk.  According to the First Thursdays website that Creative Debuts seem keen to align themselves with “Creative Debuts was created by Goldsmiths Alumni Callum Hall and Westminster graduate Alex Rollings as an answer to the trials and tribulations faced by emerging artists. Creative Debuts tackles the issues of exposure, gallery fees, storage space, exhibition experience as well as acting as a free global marketplace for artists to sell and promote their practice”

Revolution at the Black and White Building

Revolution at the Black and White Building

Well the Creative Debuts people certainly have a slick-looking website and they talk the talk with their statements on their website, but do they walk the walk? Personally, as a working London-based artist and curator who deals with the issues they talk of on an almost daily basis (and indeed someone who addresses those issues regularly over on the Cultivate blog page and via the shows and events we put on as Cultivate), I welcome their talk.  I’m going to reserve judgement in terms of the way Creative Debuts walk the walk for now. We did approach them expecting they’d be a little more concerned about the art and the artists they are working with – one of the requirements of artists talking part in their events, including this particular show, is that artists sign up to their website and make art available and for sale with a reasonable enough 30% commission going to Creative Debuts – seems fair enough, but they are very clearly part of this shut-down show and well, you decide, is it anything to do with Creative Debuts or not? They say it isn’t. Are they ducking out here? Letting down the artists they claim to care about? Should they be offering some kind of explanation? Should they be looking after the artists they work with a little more than they are? Showing some concern for the actual art? Interesting to learn that when the artists wentto pick up the work it was the duo from Creative Debuts there dealing with it, nothing to do with them?

Jokers!!! What rubbish! The poster says they are hosting it!!! Fine to take the credit when all is hunky dory of course” said one of the artists involved in the show (I’m not going to name the artists we’re quoting here, I know well from personal experience, any artist who dares to speak out or ask questions inevitably ends up banned from the galleries or events)
Revolution at the Black and White Building

Revolution at the Black and White Building

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There is a bigger issue here though, yes there are a number of organisations who claim to be about supporting art and “emerging” artists (emerging is one of their favourite words), organisations who don’t actually walk it like they talk it, organisations who claim to be about the artists and who are simply about how much money they can make out of the “emerging” artists they claim to care so much about. Artists are treated very badly in London, you might say exploited – but this isn’t quite the issue today.
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The bigger issue today is a show being removed and artists being censored, would have been nice to get a bit more of a constructive response from Creative Debuts, rather disappointing. The issue today is that yet another art space hosting an invited group of artists seems to have decided that the art was “not on-brand“.  Is it really all about brands and corporate websites now? Art sold like the latest cup of coffee? Sanitized, Galleries plating it very very safe, are we walking in to a situation when the venues and the galleries (and the walls outside) are run by organisations who claim to support art yet talk of “product” on their slick websites and only want “on-brand” easily marketed safe “nice” commercial art?  Is art on all levels finding itself more and more wrapped up in a cynical corporate stranglehold of galleries and art fairs and business people who talk of brands and product and what’s “on-trend” this week (pineapples apparently), are artists being pushed out unless they conform and get with the marketing plan? 
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The opening night of Revolution was plagued by people demanding you go over to a computer to sign up to a mailing list just to get a free drink, plagued with product placement, it felt awfully corporate in there, I know from speaking to one or two that the artists weren’t that comfortable. Maybe artists need to be thinking about where they’re placing their art a bit more? Maybe the really revolutionary thing to do would be for a few more artists to wise up and say no to these things?
Revolution at the Black and White Building

Revolution at the Black and White Building

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We did ask The Office Group, owners and managers of the Black and White Building, for a comment, so far they have declined to respond to our e.mails or phone messages
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Martin Vintner-Jackson is one of the driving forces behind the Art Society of  Soho collective of artists and the Revolution show that fell victim to whoever it was at the Black and White Building, Martin is annoyed, he’s doing his best to hold back and stay calm,  early today he said  “There has been no official statement from The Office Group who are as a business big arts supporters. Unofficially as in off record, I understand a senior manager instigated the removal of the pieces without board approval saying they were not on brand, a jobsworth type person. Faceless middle management is ultimately at fault. Which is why I have not made this a witch hunt about The office Group or Creative Debuts. However it is deeply frustrating for all involved and more reason why individuals like you and I must continue to promote art at grass-roots and up and provide platforms for art to inform and educate people about its relevance”
Revolution at the Black and White Building

Revolution at the Black and White Building

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So what was so wrong with the art on the walls for the Revolution group show? Really struggling to recall anything that offensive or indeed that dangerously revolutionary, if there was an objection to a piece involving the royal family well then it was hardly a radical slice of art, the piece looked more like the kind of humorous illustration you might find in a mainstream daily newspaper on any given day of the week – and as someone who regularly curates exhibitions in London I can tell you it is indeed a rare show when someone doesn’t complain about something.  Surely a gallery or an art space, a curator or a host should be supporting the artists and art hung on the walls? Supporting and standing up for the he artists they invited the first place? Surely an art space should have the conviction to support the art or why did they allow it to go up in the first place?
Is it really all about art that’s “on-brand” and “product” that can be “marketed”? Does everything have to revolve around shallow commercialism and what’s “on-trend” this week (she really did say Pineapples!). Is this the way people like recent “Goldsmiths Alumni and Westminster graduate supporters of art” are thinking now? Is this the way art is going? Is it just going to be about what’s going to sell to the current coffee drinking generation – the consumers of “on-brand stuff”? Is it all just about “stuff”? is it all about inoffensive art to match the current “on-trend” curtains and decor and anyone not toeing the line banned from the art spaces of London? Is is all going to be about being safely sanitized and not offending anyone? Polite shows, compromised corporate art fairs? Profit margins? Are we seeing the art venues that are surviving being controlled by the on-brand marketing men and women with thier corporate logos, the on-trend stuff pushers? This isn’t the first time we’ve heard about artists being “off-brand” this year (she really did ask me if I could paint a pineapple for her gallery instead, “pineapples are on-trend at the moment”).  What was so wrong about the art in the Revolution show? Will anyone answer the question? Hey Creative Debuts, hey Black and White Building, what was so wrong with the art that it had to be taken off the walls and the show closed early?   .(sw)
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STOP PRESS: Monday November 21st:
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“Further to your enquiry to The Office Group (TOG) regarding the exhibition at the Black and White building on Rivington Street, see below for a statement.  Please also note that the Black and White building is an office building and not a gallery.  A spokesperson from TOG said: “TOG provides engaging work environments for entrepreneurs, businesses and their visitors alike and, as such, we’ve been supporting new artists by showcasing artworks every month for last two years. On this occasion, it was felt that some of the artworks hung by a third party curator could cause offence outside of the exhibition and were therefore removed after a successful and popular private viewing”. Thanks, Charlotte”  – Charlotte Gold  Associate Director

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Well thank you Charlotte, but that really doesn’t explain what could possibly have cause offense, we saw nothing and frankly we’re mystified.  While we appreciate the venue is not an art gallery and artists should respect that, when artists are invited to take part in an event, surely the artists and the art should be treated with a little more respect?  What was so offensive?

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“TOG is not commenting beyond the statement provided.  Kind regards”, Charlotte Gold

 

revolution-surpressed

Revolution at the Black and White Building

Revolution at the Black and White Building

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2 thoughts on “ORGAN THING: So what did happen with that Revolution show? What was wrong with the art? Has anyone actually answered the question?

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