The Secret on the Reverse

Recent news in the art world involves the coming to auction of Picasso’s La Gommeuse created during the artist’s blue period.

Of course there is huge interest in this work and not simply because it is associated with a well-known period in the artist’s life, but because the reverse of the canvas features a secret painting which has never been publicly seen before.

I laughed at this. Not because I can never afford to buy the work, nor because of the articles in global media outlets about the secret work on the other side, but because it was another confirmation of the problem in trying to create an original work of art.

A Discussion about Money

A Discussion about Money

Found object

2012

Permanent collection – Norwich University of the Arts.

Whilst an undergraduate at Norwich University of the Arts, I became so frustrated at the seemingly never-ending futility of the task that my desperation resulted in the willful vandalism of works I purchased by other artists living or dead, known or unknown. These paintings are hung so the original work faces the wall like a naughty child. The reverse sometimes provides insights into the artist’s dedication and thoughts as well as the framer’s notes. The secret to my work, until purchased, involves no-one knows who painted the original (the signature often being on the front, which is now the reverse) and no-one can now ascertain the original works’ value.

The only thing visible to the audience is the sale price; clear, transparent and surgically removed via scalpel on the reverse of the original painting.

Gathering the Harvest

Gathering the Harvest

Found object

2012

Unknown.

A handful of people know what is on the other side of these works (that also include figurative styles), and maybe I have accidentally struck gold through irreversibly destroying a well-known piece of art. Of course some things appear, and are easily mistaken as, gold but only fools bother to seek their fortune through actively searching for it in the face of overwhelming odds.

To Love

To Love

Found object, oil on canvas

2014

Private collection.

I am one of those fools, but my search for gold continues and does so through the shameless self-promotion of attaching my work to important articles and artworks reported in the world’s press. It’s no good to me or my wife being successful when I’m dead. Cheers!

Self-portrait 1977 - 2012

Self-portrait 1977 – 2012

Found object

2012

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Uncategorised Problem

09:04

Come on, sit down, you’re late. Right, this morning we’re…….

09:06

“Hello. May I speak to Mr. Deckard?”

“Mr. Deckard died three years ago. Why do you keep phoning?”

“I’m ever so sorry. We have an automatic dialler and occasionally the details are incorrect.”

“Well it’s about bloody time you got the right details!”

09:07

“Hello. May I speak to Ms. Thomson?”

“Mrs. Thomson.”

“Oh, I’m sorry. May I please speak to…”

“Yes this is me. What do you want?”

“I’d like to ask if you’ve heard of Age Help. It’s a national…”

“I know who they are, I give to them all the time. What do you want?”

“Oh, I see. Well…that’s good…it’s great you’re helping them…”

“I suppose you want some money?”

“Erm, yes, but we have a lottery….”

“I don’t believe in gambling. Sorry. Goodbye.”

09:08

“Hello, may I please…”

“Fuck off.”

09:08

“Good morning can I speak to Mr. Wilson?”

“I’m Mr. Wilson. How may I help you?”

“My name is Andy and I’m calling on behalf of Age Help. We’re a national charity trying to reduce the hardship experienced by many elderly people across the country. Were you aware that eleven thousand elderly people died last winter because they couldn’t afford to heat their homes?”

“Yes, it’s bloody awful.”

“Yes it is….I’m glad you agree……Well, what we’re trying to do is raise funds for the charity through a lottery.”

“I’m not giving my bank details over the phone.”

“I see…erm…many elderly people don’t have any companionship and Age Help provide people to make home visits. They can help with shopping, household chores, that sort of thing.”

“Well, yes, I understand you do very valuable work.”

“Well, I don’t personally work for the charity, but I am employed on their behalf to raise funds.”

“I understand it’s necessary, but as I said before I don’t play lotteries.”

“Oh, I thought it was just the bank details that put you off.”

“It doesn’t matter which it is. I’m not doing it.”

“It is safe and secure, sir.”

“That may well be, but the answer is still no. Good-day.”

“Thank you.”

And so on until 11:00. Break. Recommence at 11:15. Continue until 13:00. Break. Recommence at 14:00. Continue until 16:00. Break. Recommence at 16:15. Continue until 18:00. End.

Repeat the above an additional 4 times = 1 week.

Repeat the above 47 weeks.

“Andrew can I see you in my office please?…”Hi Andy, how’s it going?”

“Erm, if I’m honest, I’m not sure I can do this anymore. I keep trying to make a sale and I just can’t. I can’t ask people for the money. I know it’s for a good cause, but I simply cannot do it.”

“Okay. We did notice and that’s alright. But you do know we can’t continue to employ you because if you’re not hitting your targets, then we’re paying for you to be here.”

“Yeah, I know.”

“You’re at college now, doing art aren’t you?”

“Yes.”

“How’s that going?”

“Really good actually. It’s difficult at times, but really enjoyable. I like finding things out. The theory can be challenging…especially on a Monday morning…but you know it’s fun.”

“Well that’s good. What are your plans?”

“Well, I’m doing it to get into art school. That’s the immediate plan, but outside of that, I’m not sure.”

“Oh okay. I used to do art, paint and things, but I’m really crap at it.”

“I dunno. I certainly couldn’t say without seeing anything.”

“No, trust me. My portraits are worse than stick-figures.”

“Oh, okay.”

“Well, Andrew, I’m sorry to say that we do have to let you go. I hope you understand.”

“Yes, no that’s fine. Whilst I’m here I’m wasting your time and my own I suppose.”

“Well good luck for the future and one day we’ll come and see you when you’re a famous artist.”

“Oh god, I don’t know about that.”

Anyone with an inquisitive mind may find themselves in a situation that can best be described as dehumanizing. Repetitive tasks in return for financial reward are quite often advertised by employers as ‘creative’, ‘dynamic’, ‘energetic’, etc. This, for anyone familiar with the problem of using the word is, appears quite the opposite in reality. In order for the employee to reach the target set by their employers – as is often the case in sales jobs – they must overcome reasons for not doing so by the person to whom they are speaking whether it be face to face or via telephone. Many companies employ a set of “proven” tactics, which are nothing more than ways to instil a sense of guilt in the mind of the prospective customer. There are a number of responses one may be required to use and each may come with increasingly disturbing facts that the salesperson may use to wear down the customer. If it is not enough that ten thousand people are either alive or dying it must be reinforced that failure to support whatever it is that a company demands will result in either you’re failure or many more people being affected by whatever it happens to be the company is selling.

The problem for companies that use these tactics is their staff are viewed as no more than numbers and without the capability to examine the tactics used. As a member of staff you adhere to their view that a person can be broken down through the repetition of facts. Identified only by a badge and, possibly, an employee number, you are nothing more. The company will continue regardless of you being there.

“As long as you adhere to the script, you’ll be fine. The sales will follow.”

This, to my mind, is deeply disturbing as it suggests that the majority of human beings will respond favourably to what has been said without consideration of why it has been said. I will assume that many people in sales will mockingly describe my thoughts as paranoia. On the contrary it is paranoia which leads one to believe in what someone else demands one says because one is too afraid to think otherwise.

During one interview a manager reminded a group of us of the importance in listening and following what he said as he had a proven track record. That may be true but proving his record was altogether quite alarming. By doing more press-ups than a young man this, somehow, proved his position. Not only was this embarrassing, but for each additional “fact” certain body language was used to reinforce it; slowly bringing his hands together similar to how, say, a priest might, and smiling the most insincere smile I’ve ever seen as soon as he finished a sentence.

Rather than encourage my reasons for needing this job, I felt I was joining a cult. This was exasperated by the mention of a breakfast club, where one could go two to three hours before paid employment commenced and “hang out”. Why on earth anyone would want to do this is beyond me unless one happened to be working on location or doing something one thoroughly enjoyed. Being in a cult is not enjoyable unless you wholeheartedly cannot think for yourself. If you do you are no longer human, but merely a conduit for someone else to accumulate wealth by reducing you to a simple organism who then in turn reduces other people to a simple organism through the repetition of dehumanizing facts.

When one chooses to engage their own thoughts and pursue a course allowing freedom of expression it may be even more alarming to discover similar methods are used to encourage blind faith in being successful. There are, sadly, many people who proclaim that if one follows their “proven experience” then one may no longer be destitute, but financially rewarded or, worse, famous. What is even worse than this is the idea that one pays for such an empty promise.