Contemporary Art Doesn’t Have to Be Pretentious and Confusing
Ossian Ward is one of Britain’s leading art critics. His new book, Ways of Looking, sounded a little patronizing from the title, given that anyone with eyes should probably have that down already. But reading through, it does provide a very helpful guide to the understanding of contemporary art, which—to me, at least—often seems as aimless as someone standing in a gallery repeatedly turning the lights on and off.
Ossian advises against pretentious art jargon, suggesting the only way to approach contemporary art is with a clear, open mind. Since he seemed so nice and obliging, I decided to ask him some of the embarrassing questions that pop into my mind when I’m in a contemporary art gallery (other than, ‘Where’s the café?’ and, ‘I wonder how much Marina Abramović is going to make from sitting in that chair.’)
VICE: Hi Ossian. So is contemporary art just having the balls to do something either so outrageous that it’s shocking or so banal that it’s shocking?
Contemporary art is not yet a verb, nor does it have balls per se—though I’m sure Tracey Emin would take exception to that—but it does occasionally shout at you from across the room and it can be provocative, challenging and even scary. I have found myself in rooms kitted out to look like murder scenes, brothels, or a terrorist’s stronghold.
I have also tiptoed past various spring-loaded man-traps, risked severe burns at a gallery where I was greeted by a flame from the opposite wall, told not to drink from a fountain supposedly laced with LSD, warned that the tiny globe before me contained a bomb that would explode a hundred years from now… I could go on. Confrontational art is certainly one of the ways that artists aim to grab our attentions nowadays.
A Tracy Emin work. (Photo via)
Do you ever think that Tate and MoMA are a bit like the Westfields of art galleries, as in there’s just too much stuff?
If only the works were on sale at knock-down prices, with special bargain bins for obscure works of Surrealism. I would like that. But yes, our large art institutions can be bewildering places full of mysterious and exotic objects, which is essentially why I wrote my book.
We shouldn’t fear the complexity, abstraction, or randomness of contemporary art, but embrace them as reflections of our culture. I often invoke Hollywood blockbuster films, theme-park rides and other forms of entertainment as reference points, rather than art historical movements or philosophical theories, as frankly not everyone has that level of interest or experience.
A Brief Anthology of ‘Quotations’ – An Homage to the Final Chapter of Susan Sontag’s On Photography
Susan Sontag closes her seminal book On Photography with a “brief anthology of quotations”—compiling remarks from various brilliant people on the topic. Sontag writes:
The final reason for the need to photograph everything lies in the very logic of consumption itself. To consume means to burn, to use up—and, therefore, to need to be replenished.
There’s always a new thing to look at, the same way there’s always a new way to say that. The following statements are a variation on Sontag’s original collection of quotes—misheard, translated, or reimagined for the year 2014 and for replenishment’s sake. This isn’t what they said, but it’s what they meant.
Beauty, you’re under arrest. I have a camera, and I’m not afraid to use it.
—Julia Margaret Cameron
I love looking at famous people. Because of the way they look. Because of the way photography makes them look famous.
I can only see beautiful things when I’m fucked up.
If you can take photographs with language, I’m taking one right now.
The 21 Sexiest Things About Sex
Sex! What’s it all about? “Fanny farts” and creeping to the bathroom with cum dribbling down your leg, if this article in the Metro is anything to go by. Hannah Gale, who wrote the “The 21 Unsexiest Things About Sex,” says she’s “just being honest” and challenging “unrealistic” sex scenes in rom-coms. But honestly, if you’re that fucking basic that your view of sex is in any way influenced by rom-coms, then I’m sorry, you actually deserve shit sex. She doesn’t even preface her list with any real acknowledgment that sex can be great fun, or that women’s pleasure is important. It comes across like “women don’t really enjoy sex, it’s all just so dirty and embarrassing.” Way to go, Hannah.
The article’s been shared over 112,000 times on social media. No doubt by the sort of women who spend their weekends listening to Kylie and drinking white wine spritzers. The kind of people who bought Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus in the 90s and rabbit dildos in the noughties—but only “for a laugh,” because Samantha from Sex and the City had one. I refuse to believe any men who aren’t called Percy or Harold shared this story because given the chance most guys would shag a watermelon so long as they a) didn’t have to wear a condom and b) could cum inside it. Like they give a shit about awkwardness. Just kidding, fellas. I think?
There’s probably a serious point to be made about carnal politics and how, in our over-sanitized, digitized world, the squelchy business of sex can be such a source of embarrassment. I could keep certain political debate sites ticking over all week with my thoughts on the pressure for women to look a certain way and why, with the pornification of our culture and lack of useful education around modern sexuality. Or I could get into the fact that these days many women feel like sex is something to be performed rather than enjoyed with wanton inhibition—but I’d rather just talk about sex.
So here are my 21 sexiest things about sex. I did a callout for suggestions on Facebook and answers ranged from “Sacred sex where you commit an act of bonding” to “Rimming until your partner is begging you to fuck them.” Pigs. “Making love” is all well and good, but it always fucks you in the end. This list is about the delights of a fully-fledged passion. I’m not including the sexiest part of sex, which, of course, is our imagination and the mystery of what’s to come. You may not agree with my points and, despite my best efforts to fuck as many people as possible, I cannot reflect every single person’s experience of desire, so if you have better suggestions about what makes sex sexy, do let me know in the comments. Shit like that turns me on.
Photo author’s own
PARIS LEES’ 21 SEXIEST THINGS ABOUT SEX
1 – The smell. If you don’t like the smell of sex, I don’t know, maybe you’re not human? Sex smells… sexy?
2 – Socks. When your trusted fuck-buddy stuffs socks inside your mouth and ties your hands behind your back while ramming you like a champ. You people all do that, right?
3 – When a guy cums inside you and leaves himself inside and then you feel it getting hard again and he fucks you and cums again without ever taking it out. Not only is that sexy, you don’t have to worry about fanny farts that way, Hannah.
4 – Squeezing a guy while he’s inside you. It’s kind of like your pussy/butt saying, “I got you, homie.”
5 – Speaking of which, when he puts it in. And it feels like you’re sitting on an air freshener canister. Oh. My. Lord. What do you mean it’s “not all in yet”? Go, go gadget dick!
The Top Ten Softest Net Artists in the Game
Everybody knows and loves the fake Ghostface Killah
blog where the author annually lists the “Top Ten Softest Rappers in the Game.” While the rap game is certainly tough, it pales in comparison to the dark underbelly of the internet art community. When net artists leave the safety of the web, they get drunk, take copious amounts of drugs, get into fights, and fuck each others’ girlfriends and boyfriends like it’s a Bret Easton Ellis novel. So, to pay tribute to whoever writes that brilliant Ghostface blog, and to illuminate some of the politics of the net art world to the general public (who likes paintings and/or ceramics), I present to you:
Top Ten Softest Net Artists in the Game
The Jogging’s Tumblr is like some indoor kid’s delusional projection fantasy about what sports probably feel like. Besides that, it’s filled with images of zebras wearing pizzas, Crocs, houseplants, and mirrors. Even its name is like the softest exercise that somebody can do besides a 3K Fun Run/Walk. The people who run it have names that look like the guest list for a screening of The Graduate on Tommy Fucking Hilfiger’s yacht: Artie and Brad and Haley and Jesse and Joshua and Lauren and Norm and Rachel and Spencer.
Murphy’s also in this batshit crazy noise project called MSHR
with Birch Cooper
, and that shit isn’t soft at all, which is why she’s only at #9. Her weird three-dimensional digital collages and shit are totally psychedelic, but they still feel like a book of my aunt’s wallpaper samples fed through a seapunk filter that I’m checking out while trying to get laid in Second Life. I do like to look at her work because it makes me feel like I’m on drugs, but it’s like I’m on drugs that make me soft (weed, psychedelics) not drugs that make me hard (coke, Beezin’
Image via Andrew Birk’s Facebook account
I don’t even think these two motherfuckers count as net artists because Birk paints and Delmar is a corporation, but it’s like I look at Facebook for about two seconds and suddenly I’m the third in their relationship. Do they live in Mexico City? Paris? Brussels? Nobody fucking knows because it’s just an unending slideshow of travel pics which are 100% the softest kind of pics that exist. The hardest pics are obviously selfies, doge, and that stoner alpaca
If there’s anything softer than Anime, it’s art history. In Hayes’ work, these two ostensibly disparate worlds collide and it’s even less brutal than that Powerman 5000 song (I’m saying that they’re not a very tough heavy metal band). Don’t get me wrong, I like Jeanette Hayes personally. But if I were in a burning building on the tenth floor and had to leap out of the window, I’d pray to the heavens that there was a pile of her paintings to land on in the street below (I’m saying that her paintings are soft and I’d be safer if I landed on them).
Watch Michael Shannon Fuck a Corpse in James Franco’s Short Film ‘Herbert White’
Because my film adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s book, Child of God, will be released this August, I thought I would share one of my previous attempts at transforming literature into film. When I was at NYU, I made a short based on Frank Bidart’s poem ”Herbert White,” which you can watch here.
James Franco’s Summer Movie Club
For me, summer means time to watch movies and read books. Since we talked about books last week, here are some movies to watch between the blockbusters full of explosions, men in tights, and aliens on the big screens. It’s hard to choose, so I just put down the ones I’ve watched lately. Much love.
See the list
James Franco’s Summer Book Club
Summer is here, so I thought I would offer a few books that have been on my list. All of these books have left their stamps on my memory. There was the summer I read Moby-Dick, and the summer I read Moby-Dick again… I hope to pass on some books that might make a few marks on your own souls.
See the reading list
In honor of VICE’s Profiles Issue, we decided to review people instead of music, like who has the best face and who is the worst person.
Read all of our People Reviews
Bungalow 89 – A Short Story by James Franco About Not Sleeping with Lindsay Lohan
I was in Bungalow 89 of the Chateau Marmont, the old hotel where the stars stay. The hotel is tucked behind a wall, off Sunset Boulevard, just west of Laurel Canyon, right in the heart of Hollywood. Bungalow 89 is in the cottage area, apart from the main building, where the pool is. It was dusk.
Bungalow 89 is not famous like Bungalow 3 (Belushi) or Bungalow 2 (Rebel Without a Cause). It is only famous in my own mind, because it’s where I first met Gus Van Sant, and because I have been living in it for the past nine months while they do repairs on my house. When I met Gus here, he sat in the comfy chair in the living room and played a little red guitar and talked to me. It was back when he was casting the supporting roles for his film about Kurt Cobain’s last days alive. The role he liked me for eventually went to Lukas Haas, the kid from Witness, with Harrison Ford. Haas was one of the original members of the Pussy Posse, the group centered on the young Leo DiCaprio, back in the 90s, post-Titanic and pre-Scorsese.
Lukas Haas had a gay sex scene in Gus’s film. It was with Scott Green, the guy who talks about having to fuck a guy with a big cock in the Chinese-café scene in My Own Private Idaho. His monologue was probably based on at least some reality; he had helped River Phoenix do research for his young-hustler role in the same film. Which reminds me of a story Gus later told me about River in Portland, during preproduction. River was pulled over by the cops for wearing jeans with a hole in the front so big that his dick hung out.
There was a Hollywood girl staying at Chateau Marmont. She had gotten a key to my room from the manager. I heard her put the key into my front door and turn it, but I had slid the dead bolt and that thing—I don’t know what you call it; it’s like a chain but made of two bars—that kept the door from opening.
She said, “James, open the door.”
Across the room was a picture of a boy dressed as a sailor with a red sailor cap, and except for his blondish hair (closer to my brother’s color) he looked like me.
She said, “Open the door, you bookworm punk blogger faggot.”
What the Fuck Is Going on in ‘X-Men: Days of Future Past’?
X-Men: Days of Future Past came out last week. It’s been super well received and has become Bryan Singer’s biggest box-office debut to date (even bigger than Jack the Giant Slayer). But like most big blockbuster-y type films, a lot in the movie didn’t seem to make much sense. Here’s some of that stuff:
WARNING: THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS