Dude, huh?

Hey Daniel Michael Satele,

I’ve read your piece on Billy Apple few times now and I’m confused. On one hand, the title ‘Can I live?’ in reference to the Billy Apple piece “The Artist has to Live like Everybody Else” seems to be about the way Pacific/ PoC artists/ writers are marginalised within sites of institutionalised whiteness, like art galleries. But there’s a few links in your argument that I’m not following:

Name-dropping, personal branding, exposing the commodification of the artwork within the work itself … OK … so what? This is old hat today. Rihanna is on the radio singing “turn up to Rihanna” in a song called “Bitch Better Have My Money.”

The point for me isn’t the self-referentiality of self as commodity. What’s more interesting is that Rihanna is referring to herself as a commodity and it has absolutely no impact on our consumption of her. There is very explicit depiction of wealth in that video and a lots of pornified/ strip club imagery, and  it doesn’t repulse us, even though the depictions of Black women’s bodies in that clip evoke slavery. How is it that we are so lulled into capitalism-apathy by that music videos like that? Isn’t it that we accept it as part of the bargain we have with the music industry? Commodification is okay – as long as it’s slick – because we are expecting to be entertained.

So Billy Apple’s work doesn’t work like that. It refers to itself and as art as a commodity, but we are uneasy. We don’t accept the argument that it operates on the same-as-usual basis. Having it in a gallery or named as art disrupts the historicity and the familiarity of the object.

So I watched Christina Barton’s video on Youtube about the Billy Apple Retrospective, and I liked it. I liked that she addressed the self-portraiture running through the works. I liked that she reached out to engage with you about your words. Calling her out didn’t sit well with me. What was that about?



The Opposite of Selfies

Last night I went to the opening of Jack Trolove’s evocative exhibition ‘The Body Remembers’ at Whitespace, which will be showing until the 17th of May.

Trolove’s portraits have an expressionistic quality; visceral brushstrokes of warm oranges and aqua blues across skin brought Toss Woollaston’s Southern landscapes to my mind. The potency of the portraits is in their ambiguity; the way their expressions hint at stories but the paintings leave enough space for an interpretive viewer. Trolove’s bio explains he is interested in ‘in-betweenness’.

What struck me about the paintings was their intimacy, and what they reveal about the self. Close-up, sometimes sleeping, sometimes uncomfortable or pensive, these are expressions and moments we don’t often see except for on the faces of lovers or spouses. These strangers have an intensified proximity to us, without the scaffolding we are used to in public spaces.

Think of the ‘selfie’ and what it conjures about subjectivity in this neoliberal capitalist moment. We are used to constant iterations of the ‘self’ as a facade of your best, most promotable qualities alongside commodities that act as furniture. Designer clothing, ironic and non-ironic branding, gold snake chains, black-rimmed glasses, retro sneakers and dark red lipstick. We are used to the idea that commodities tell us things about our unique selves, and about our worth.

Trolove’s paintings are the opposite of ‘selfies’. Without any adornment, they reveal bodies we don’t show to the world; bodies in pain, in idle moments, or bodies that resist easy recognisability. There is a richness in this.