Uncovering The Shadowy Art Agenda

31st January, 2011. 

"Please Walk All Over The Art"
Photograph by Andrew Stark

Now there’s this question that has gnawed away at my comprehension like a famished gnome at the Short Stool Steakhouse – it’s hovered just out and above my psyche like a menacing shadow projecting down upon my hapless aura - Specifically, and to be precise,

“Who the hell decides what photographic style is hot and what style is rot at any given point in history?”

I mean who imparts the yeah or the nay on this, our creative, camera pointing caper? 

Louvre, Paris 1975
Photograph by John F Williams
Down here in the ochre dirt and fly colony, a land known in early19th century atlases as Terra Australis, the Nowhere Man grew up in total awe of local street photographers: Roger Scott, John F Williams, Phil Quirk and Ingeborg Tyssen. Throughout the 1970s these traditional HCB style streeties were the darlings of the gallery set; they sat at the cutting edge of art photography, their work purchased voraciously by all the public collections. And then in the blinking of a conjunctive pupil, it was as if a grand piano had slid catastrophically from the rear of a speeding removalists van.  Inexplicably and without reason it would seem that ‘The Shadowy Figure Who Decides’ (TSFWD) grew restless and smashed street style cred into jagged fragments of splintered firewood, mid intersection carnage interspersed by twisted wire and a forlorn past tense tune. During the early hours of August 17th, 1983 the decree was executed and Aussies awoke to the hushed, sub textual whisper that, “the conceptual feminists were now ‘it’”. The street photographers of course hadn’t seen any of this coming and reacted initially as one would imagine, with a chuckle and that cocky elevated eyebrow of bushy disbelief that all sidewalk loiterers so ably employ whenever the big bad world places them under any semblance of threat. Sadly however, despite the ‘she’ll be right’ bravado unfurled by our D76 splashers, the Jatz and Cheddar cubed bubble of altered reality had been universally briefed and the streeties quickly found that all the locks had been changed and their head office files had been crudely branded with a dismissive “So Yesterday”, scrawled in the fluoro highlighter ink of a most mockingly verdant hue.

"If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs ... you'll be a Man, my son"
Photograph by Andrew Stark

Art & left wing politics had suddenly morphed into one, coupling like a bio degradable Allen-key thrust into a chiaroscuro style hexagonal hole on the head float of the famous Dulwich Hill May Day March. And before the revisionists could settle the choppy swell, buffeting pale and spindly limbs atop their King sized, burgundy tinted watery beds, this IKEA like ideal had very much claimed the decade and extraordinarily, much of the next. Australian history had been hit by two ‘ckkkkk’ sounding days of explosive alliteration and high drama, all inside eight curiously long haired and exceedingly humourless years…
Kerr’s Cur – the sacking of the Whitlam Government, an outrage to democracy on the 11th November, 1975 was joined in the annals of incredulity by, The Contemporary Coup – the dismissal of street photography on the 17th August, 1983.

And to fully appreciate the stark ramifications of this overstepped popping crease of change, we need look no further than the public gallery that oversees this countries largest city, Sydney. For the Art Gallery of NSW has not found the need to collect a single street photograph since “The Change”, claiming dismissively that the genre has already been well represented in its vast and diverse collection. A clearly gentrified way of saying that the bloodied and cold body of street photography was found curled up at the end of a no through road on the morning of August 17th, 1983. (Perhaps someone needs let the AGNSW crew know that Elvis: Nat King Cole, Louis Armstrong and Michael Jackson all released chart topping hits - post death). 

Cahill Expressway
Painting by Jeffrey Smart

Heading into the new millennia it didn’t get a whole lot better. We found a further shift as politics became passé and it suddenly fell to sterility and the pristine, almost people-less city scape. Imperfection was eliminated in a Boys from Brazil type pimple purge, and this, the latest TSFWD anointed style mimicked a kind of digitally enhanced Jeffrey Smart retrospective. Size overpowered substance and the photographic experience aped a banal Hollywood flick – awash with monosyllabic scripts and a cursory non-story; all propped up by the endless stream of special effects and blitzkrieg marketing.       

Where we head next is clearly not up to the Nowhere Man, however I do feel a certain ‘Woodward and that other bloke’ kind of vibe taking hold and will strive to saunter wildside to suss the shimmering late night cobblestoned word of my snitches and fences and bootlegging beauties, out there on the extreme edge of those dark avenues, deep in the bowels of East Killara, Pymble Heights, Turrramurra Mews and beyond … and I guess if they don’t know anything, I’ll Google some stuff and get back to you.  

So just who is The Shadowy Figure Who Decides (TSFWD)?  Is he or she an all encompassing autocrat or conversely perhaps nothing more than a figure-headed lackey masking a backroom of megalo-mincers and fattish financiers? But then if he is a mere mannequin, who is he and from whence does this curious entities counsel derive? (i.e. who’s feeding the bugger?). Is it all fostered by the reviewers & critics, or perhaps the art colleges, the academics, or is it driven solely by the auction houses and their exclusive chateau of clinking clientele?

Rest assured good readers - The Nowhere Man will dig. For we, the royal we are hell bent on uncovering this silhouetted puppet master – TSFWD, as our cryptically clever code has labelled him; he on whose flippant whim we all fulminate and furrow like obedient little moped perchers pottering along the hideously expensive tollway to Gore Hill. He, must be exposed.  And if by some stroke of very impressive investigative journalism we actually do manage to uncover him or her … I fully expect a Pulitzer or two, a complimentary case of full strength beer, and the rebel yell kind of notoriety Julian Assange is now being afforded internationally – well, OK, maybe not that last thing!

Stay tuned fellow snappers …

and by way of an early list of possible suspects, here is a quintet of individuals the Nowhere Man feels may be able to help with our most immediate inquiries.  

Parties of Interest 

Charles Saatchi -
he may know a thing or two.

Oprah Winfrey -
 word on the street is that "Girlfriend runs the World".

Stephen Fry -
probably not involved, but he is both highly cultured and nauseatingly connected.

Andy Warhol -
Mortality goes POP! Is Andy really dead???

Arthur Daley -
overheard during the winter of 87, describing art as
"a nice little earner"

Any information regarding this matter should be sent to Nowhere Man at n.man@gmx.com
Rest assured all corespondence will be treated with the utmost confidentiality (unless of course it's funny and/or pertinent, in which case it'll probably end up in a future post with your name plastered all over it) 


Anonymous said...

Based on current hot trends, my "Self portrait in the bathroom mirror with deadpan expression" taken with the Hipstamatic app on my iPod Touch(4gen) will be a killer bee hit at The Moran this year.

I just need to get to work on growing my hipster beard and inking my hipster tattoo...

Anonymous said...

That anonymous above was me NM

Phill Hunt said...

PhilL Hunt NM. Issues with comments

James M said...

If you find this person, tell them they can pry the D76 from my cold, dead hands.

Keeping the faith on the mean streets of Willoughby...