Meet the New Clothes, Same as the No Clothes.


David Ryan

David Ryan is a boat builder and USCG licensed master captain. He is the owner of Sailing Montauk and skipper of Montauk''s charter sailing catamaran MON TIKI You can follow him on Twitter @CaptDavidRyan

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130 Responses

  1. Avatar Kimmi says:

    In japan, it’s not uncommon to employ pornographic artists to create works of commercial art.
    The invisible is not pornographic, I think…
    (It’s also rather a different experience watching an anime when you know what the artist’s fetishes are, and how they guide the artwork and presentation.)Report

  2. Avatar Glyph says:

    *Is this image NSFW or not?

    To your point (and Koons’ I guess?) I have seen the original images, and what strikes me now in the photo up top is that by moving back, framing the works against white walls, lit by carefully-placed recessed spotlights for optimally-flattering illumination, my eye mostly notices the color composition – I am not enough of an artist to judge the artist’s ability or intention, but the colors used, and their percentages/gradations/placement within each picture, is at least interesting to the eye at this “distance”.

    Again, context.

    Which carried to extremes of course raises troubling thoughts – if we (or an artist) can pull our moral “lens” out far enough, we won’t be disturbed by anything (from a godlike perspective that sees all suffering or wrongdoing as simply part of a larger beautifully-rich human tapestry).

    Or maybe last night’s Hannibal finale is still fresh in my brain.Report

    • Avatar Fnord says:

      Which carried to extremes of course raises troubling thoughts – if we (or an artist) can pull our moral “lens” out far enough, we won’t be disturbed by anything (from a godlike perspective that sees all suffering or wrongdoing as simply part of a larger beautifully-rich human tapestry).

      A million is a statistic, right?Report

    • Avatar David Ryan says:

      “Which carried to extremes of course raises troubling thoughts – if we (or an artist) can pull our moral “lens” out far enough, we won’t be disturbed by anything”

      This is extremely well-observed.Report

    • Avatar Glyph says:

      Put another way, this is maybe a way in which artists (I am reminded of Hirst’s and Stockhausen’s infamous 9/11 comments) and scientists/intellectuals, often otherwise so different in temperament or basic worldviews, sometimes fall into the same traps.

      There’s maybe such a thing as being *too* objective/rational, and using only a single lens to view reality/morality.

      I’m not really sure what I am getting at. Carry on.Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        To be clear, I am not accusing Koons of doing anything wrong here. I assume all his models were consenting adults.

        But cases like Henson or Larry Clark? Different story.Report

        • Avatar Burt Likko says:

          In the picture photographed on the right, the female model is likely Koons’ former wife Ilona Staller, who has worked both as an adult film performer and a member of the Italian Parliament, and who was a frequent subject of a series of explicit or strongly suggestive images created by Koons immediately preceding and then during their marriage. The male model is likely Koons himself.Report

          • Avatar Burt Likko says:

            (Learned way more than I ever really wanted to about Koons and his oeuvre while serving as an articles editor in law school.)Report

            • Avatar NewDealer says:

              A lot of articles on the Fair Use Doctrine?Report

              • Avatar Burt Likko says:

                An extensive article about Rogers v. Koons, 960 F.2d 301 (2d Cir. 1992), the String of Puppies lawsuit.Report

              • Avatar NewDealer says:

                I read that in law school. Koons seems to have a 50/50 record of winning or losing his fair use lawsuits.Report

              • Avatar dhex says:

                iirc he didn’t try real hard with that one. though the sculpture is scary as hell – i kinda feel he shoulda done better. there’s no terror humping of your brain from the original image, right?Report

              • Avatar zic says:

                Fair use lawsuits?

                Does he sue people for copyright violation in excess of fair use or does he sue for to push the bounds of fair use of other copyrighted works, or both?

                And is there an entire oeuvre, litigation art?Report

              • Avatar NewDealer says:

                The Fair Use Doctrine is part of copyright law and it basically holds that the First Amendment trumps copyright if the infringement is done for research, commentary, parody (this was a famous Supreme Court case involving Roy Orbinson and 2 Live Crew), educational, purposes.

                Jeff Koons is usually the defendant in these cases. Sometimes he wins, sometimes he does not. The puppy case is an example of him losing.

                Art law is a field but often practiced by a small number of people. I think it is interesting but very hard to break into.Report

  3. Avatar NewDealer says:

    Well I work from home so NSFW is kind of a moot point 🙂

    I can tell that the images are of sexual acts from the front page and I sort of guessed they were by Jeff Koons. But yeah if I had this open in a traditional office, I would probably close the window very quickly and wait to respond from home.

    There have been US artists who have gotten in trouble for things similar to Le Affair Henson. Jock Sturges was put on trial but acquitted. Sally Mann is also controversial for her work. I don’t think she has ever been threatened with criminal liability but I know she has had her work removed from exhibitions because of protest. IIRC Sally Mann’s husband is a prosecutor and some people think that is how she escapes criminal trials.

    Signalling is a good term. In the end, humans just always seem to signal their tribes/affiliations by what they are for or against. “High Art” seems to be the perennial controversial signal. I think a lot of people like at the art world like you look at the person who tells you they went to Stuy and Harvard. They automatically think long conversations about this kind of stuff are for charlatans and that the followers of art are either elitist co-charlatans (another barrier for entry into the elite besides money is that once you move up, you need to like certain things because of their difficulty and controversy) or it is merely that having a lot of money does not make one have “common sense”.

    Since I am an art fan and do support the idea of provocative art, I find those discussions off-putting and possibly see them as being against my tribe. Or in more internet-esque terms “Hates gonna hate”

    What is and what is not art will always be a hot button topic and a lot of people seem to have their artistic tastes stuck around 1850. There are still people who consider Picasso to be jarring and edgy even though the Armory show happened in 1913.Report

    • Avatar Kimmi says:

      “I am an art fan”
      … care for a discussion of “Last Exile”?Report

      • Avatar NewDealer says:

        Googled it, never saw it.

        I can discuss the French New Wave though with particular focus on Truffaut.

        For something Japanese, I can discuss the works of Kurosawa, Ozu, and Koreda Hirokazu.Report

    • Avatar LWA says:

      “There are still people who consider Picasso to be jarring and edgy even though the Armory show happened in 1913.”

      I’m one of them. Its not a coincidence that Modern Art in all its forms coincided with WWI and the falling away of the old regimes. The avante garde explicitly set itself in opposition to the past.

      In all history, art was agit-prop, advancing the cultural narrative of whatever culture it was in; the avante garde rejected that role, and instead took on the modern consumerist attitude of personal meaning. The purpose of art was no longer to advance a cultural norm, but to signify meaning only to the author and the reader.

      Yet the art world still wanted- still wants- to cling to the privileged role of the interpretors of Universal Meaning and Truth, even if they simultaneously insist no such thing exists.

      Duchamps question has never been answered- why is art important? Why is the role of the artist one of respect and privilege?

      If there is no universal meaning to it all, is it nothing more than a consumer item to be enjoyed, like a car or handbag?

      This is what was at the heart of the Jesse Helms/ Mapplethorpe controversy, even if neither of them knew it; artists claim privileged status worthy of public support, yet reject the narrative that the public wants them to advance.Report

      • Avatar zic says:

        And there are still people who clap on one and three, too.Report

      • Avatar NewDealer says:

        “In all history, art was agit-prop, advancing the cultural narrative of whatever culture it was in; the avante garde rejected that role, and instead took on the modern consumerist attitude of personal meaning. The purpose of art was no longer to advance a cultural norm, but to signify meaning only to the author and the reader.”

        On a Surface level, maybe but you don’t have to scratch the surface that deeply to see where artists use allegory, metaphor, smile, subtle visual cues to level critiques at the regimes and patrons they work under whether noble or church. Goya had his works seized by the Inquisition for being too obscene. The Nude Maja was considered revolutionary for the explicit showing of pubic hair.

        I am also not sure whether this patronage system was as true in the States as in Europe.

        The world needs artists to be provocative because that is how society advances and traditionalist barriers of oppression are broken down. An artist is merely depicting what exists but society deems too taboo to talk about. Howl led the way for gay liberation by outright mentions of homosexual sex and showing that this was good and normal. Howl also brought the junkie out from the shadow and said that there was more to life than Eisenhower conservatism of a suit and tie Monday-Friday and golf on the weekends. Art creates more options for modes of living.

        Robert Mapplethorpe was probably way too wild for me but I would rather live in a world where Mapplethorpe is free to do as he pleases than whatever that old Segragationist wanted.Report

  4. Avatar dhex says:

    related: i think the signalling thing is far less of a deal than it was. there will always be taste tribes with their own ins and outs, but everything is so utterly accessible and so completely open at this point that the (mythical?) snotty record store clerk of yore only barely creaks on. the world reads harry potter while waiting for some dragon shit to finish downloading on hbo. who’s left to judge them, outside of some dickhead in the new yorker who can’t even enjoy orgasm unless it’s locally grown and ethically sourced.

    even most pop music is a harsh and distorted thread that would have seemed absolutely brutal on an ant-zen compilation in ’98.

    so that tasmania joint sounds perfectly perfect for our age. i’d go but it’s far away so i’ll just have to wait until the future gets here.

    and sure, opera and the high end theatre/dance stuff still has a patina of “educated” e.g. npr white people with money to it, but they’re all welfare queen arts at this point anyway.

    “There’s maybe such a thing as being *too* objective/rational, and using only a single lens to view reality/morality.”

    welllllll…vision has its limits. zoom out enough and you can’t make out much, as with the image above. it’s a limitation of the eye, literally. i’m pretty sure the astronauts who first saw earth from space didnt’ say “shit, man, there’s an awful lot of dead babies we can’t see from up here”. or if they did nasa squashed that pronto because that is hells of depressing and not a good sell on the space age.

    unrelated: ugh, amanda palmer.Report

    • Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

      some dickhead in the new yorker who can’t even enjoy orgasm unless it’s locally grown and ethically sourced.

      And organic. Never forget organic.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP says:

        How did Steely Dan put it?

        Double helix in the sky tonight
        Throw out the hardware
        Let’s do it right

      • Avatar dhex says:

        how organic can such pained machinations be? and hardly free of toxins, i tells ya.

        considering the origin of steely dan’s name, that’s kind of amusing.Report

    • Avatar NewDealer says:

      I think some signalling still matters and stings towards a lot of people.

      Remember our discussion on a Linky Friday about housing and how I said I prefer the ones in major cities like NY or Seattle to the really huge mansion in Kentucky? Part of the reason is because of access to Lincoln Center, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, MOMA, the Met, Film Forum, countless other theatres, etc.

      People still seem to get rather offended at the fact that a lot of people are willing to trade space and live in super-expensive San Francisco or New York to have access to culture over being happy in an area with more land and cheaper real estate.

      Game of Thrones and HP are not my things but if someone likes them, I don’t care. However, I have met people who seemed sincerely baffled and a bit upset that I would rather spend my money on going to BAM than the latest video game or be happy with just playing video games at home (also not my thing).Report

      • Avatar dhex says:

        well yeah but that’s the whole HOW DARE YOU PUT ON AIRS v. LOOK HOW SMART I AM YOU REDNECK thing. people believe it to be so, and so it is, even if it probably doesn’t exist at that point. it’s not even about art, but some kinda weird proxy for violence. the whole “real america doesn’t include people who enjoy a nice cold brewed iced coffee from fair trade sources, penises” v. ” enjoy your trip to upstate new york but watch out for the rednecks with portable transvaginal ultrasounds in the back of their pickups”.

        plus the stereotypes for these positions tend to have very punchable strawmen/whatever passes for punchable amongst the npr set. twitpic’d and wryly retweeted?Report

        • Avatar NewDealer says:

          I will concur that it is probably a weird proxy for other things at this point.Report

          • Avatar dhex says:

            largely because people cannot love what they love without being jerks about it. and sometimes being a jerk about it is great, and provocative, and even evangelical, but most of the time it’s just being an insecure jerk, which is the worst kind of jerk.Report

      • Avatar Rufus F. says:

        I’ve been living in a very working class city and working in a very upscale restaurant in a much wealthier city to pay off some debts and one thing I feel comfortable saying is that cultural signalling is still incredibly important.Report

    • Avatar zic says:

      and sure, opera and the high end theatre/dance stuff still has a patina of “educated” e.g. npr white people with money to it, but they’re all welfare queen arts at this point anyway.

      +1. Nothing against classical art forms; but it really maddens me (as in makes me crazy) at how much money pours into well-established froms while starving artist syndrome abounds.Report

      • Avatar dhex says:

        well, people like what they like, and sometimes those people have hella dosh. and eventually it comes around – mainstream jazz is pretty welfare’d up at this point, and it was basically the grindcore of the 40s-50s in a lot of cases.

        sometimes art is a dude in a suit with a trumpet taking 30 minutes to get to the point. would i rather they pay the guy in a really shitty t shirt with a bunch of effects pedals and a megaphone who takes 30 minutes to get to the point? well sure, but that’s why i’ve been asked to leave every single board of directorship for 501(c) arts groups i’ve ever been involved with.Report

        • Avatar zic says:

          well, people like what they like,

          I am not convinced of this, actually. They often like what their tribe likes; they like what’s been sanctioned by some form of gatekeeper. Actually evaluating your taste requires some education in art we seem to miss.


          • Avatar NewDealer says:

            I’m going to dissent because I think this kind of belief makes it easier to dismiss that people can legitmately like what often gets termed “high culture”.

            I sincerely do get more enjoyment from books like A Dance to the Music of Time by Anthony Powell, Tender is the Night by Fitzgerald, Haruki Murakami, The Garden of the Finzi-Continis by Giorgio Basani over Harry Potter and Game of Thrones. Same with Joseph Cornell, David Hockney, and other modern artists over stuff with a more traditional aesthetic. Truffaut over a special effects wonderland, etc.

            I kind of resent the idea that people think there is no way someone can sincerely like high brow stuff and that the world will be a better place when such stuff is no more and it is all Potterland.Report

            • Avatar zic says:

              You’re arguing a straw man here.

              I said I often found people liked what their tribe liked, that they had not actually evaluated for themselves; not that people who did evaluate might not prefer traditional forms.

              I think my tribalism analogy actually cuts both ways; for instance, low-brow new country listeners who would never listen to an opera.Report

              • Avatar dhex says:

                while i think people do tend to weigh the social aspects of what they like a little too heavily, especially when we’re young, i also believe it’s so much less than it used to be. vastly so. i don’t think anyone sits through something repeatedly because “everyone else is doing it” at the level of the met opera or whatever. a few people might believe that they “should be” into jazz or james joyce or what have you, but it’s a faint echo rather than a driving force. and it runs in reverse – people are far less isolated from cultural forms. i may joke about my household rule of “no anime, no juggalos” but those are two examples of forms that have exploded in america because those social barriers have weakened due to instantaneous communication platforms that fit in our pockets. the melting pot as mashup.Report

              • Avatar zic says:

                Oh, I agree; but tribe can be very small; anything greater then one.Report

              • Avatar NewDealer says:

                Another interesting point is that since America has a huge population, something can be really big and not known at once.

                There might be a lot of people really into anime. But there are still a lot of people with only the faint idea of what anime is.

                The same might be even more true in music. Selling 500,000 albums is a lot but also maybe not super hard in a nation of 300 million people.Report

              • Avatar zic says:

                I would also point out that much of the world’s music never get’s heard in the US. My son, a fan of much of the music coming out of Iceland and Northern Europe, constantly complains that there’s frequently no way for him to purchase the music legally; he would need a European iTunes account linked to a European bank.

                I presume this is due to the Berne Convention and US Copyright law.Report

              • Avatar NewDealer says:

                Sigur Rios is pretty big….Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Sigur Rios: Icelandic samba.Report

              • Avatar dhex says:

                man, samba in iceland is glacially paced!

                ha ha get it? glacial?Report

              • Avatar George Turner says:

                I thought Icelandic music somehow got banned after Bjork’s swan dress episode.

                I have been learning some Icelandic from Natalia’s Youtube language videos, one of which has more views than the number of native Icelandic speakers. I need to review, but so far I’ve learned “hae” and “hallo.”Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                So this book isn’t on your shelf?

                (Link is SFW, but remainder of site is not, so don’t go a-wandering until you get home, at which point do go a-wandering, ‘cos it’s HILARIOUS).Report

              • Avatar NewDealer says:

                Good point. But tribes are a curious thing. There are the tribes we are born in through no choice of our own and the tribes we find for ourselves.

                Sometimes to often these tribes can be in complete opposition to each other. These are the kids who are not content to stay in their small town and want to find what the big city has to offer. Or people who make their social life through SF conventions and the like instead of church or sports leagues.

                I once asked a question on another community about “What is the music of your people?” Some like me went with long-term ancestry and picked stuff like Klezmer, traditional Irish folk music, etc. Others went by nationality, others by modern regional tribe music (largely the CW people), and other went with filk because that is a tribe by choice rather than any accident of birth. How people define their tribes is very interesting and very tricky.
                We all have multiple tribes and stack them by priority and this causes a lot of tension.Report

              • Avatar Pinky says:

                But does the word “tribe” have any meaning in that context? If I have 15 tribes that don’t interact with each other (family, church, music, art, sports, et cetera), then tribes are no longer limiting or defining.Report

              • Avatar NewDealer says:

                I’m not sure. Suppose Tribe #1 strongly believed in X while tribe #3 strongly opposed X. Say Bob and Al are in Tribe #1 and #3. Bob ranks Tribe #1 as being the central part of his identity and believes in X. Al ranks tribe # 3 as being the central part of his identity and is therefore opposed to X.

                In theory Bob and Al should be able to get along great but there is also a good chance that X is going to cause them a lot of friction because of their choices of priority.Report

              • Avatar Pinky says:

                I don’t see it. Your tribes can’t be so strongly pro- or anti-X if people feel comfortable being members of both. If Romeo and Juliet get married and their in-laws complain about who gets to see them over Christmas, well, the tension’s gone.

                We’re heading in that direction as a world culture, but we’re not there yet, and I’m not sure we’ll ever get there. I don’t think it’s necessarily a good thing if we do: modern isolation has its downside. But I think that the value of using a tribe-type analysis is diminished when we’re talking about the conflict between, say, artsy jocks and jocky artists.Report

              • Avatar dhex says:

                it mostly grows out of this essay:


                it’s not a particularly anthropologically sound use of the term “tribe”, but it is what it is.Report

    • Avatar Glyph says:

      dhex – vision has its limits

      Right, and by my tortured analogy, so would “reason” as used to judge “morality/action”. And that bothers me, since if it IS limited, that opens us up to both moral reasoning by “ick” factor (not good), and conversely, rationalizing away evil acts in the service of some greater (or other) good (also problematic).

      For someone who prizes reason/logic pretty highly as the best tool we’ve got, that’s discomfiting (if the analogy holds at all.)

      ugh, amanda palmer. Preach it, brother.

      Missed you on my dhex tribute post on Wed.

      Also, that new BoC is damn good, glad I listened to you. Much better (IMO) than the first two, or maybe I am just in a headspace to better appreciate them now.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        You know, one of the principles of science is extremely limited in the individual, but in the aggregate, it is significantly less limited. I suspect this is the way it often works over time with morality.

        Taste, I’m not so sure. The way taste vacillates, sometimes rapidly, sometimes slowly, and more relevantly, the way taste has been… influenced by late/post-Enlightenment culture and its guiding forces, suggest to me that taste is, if not the mirror image of reason in this regard (that is, in the individual vs the aggregate), aggregation is at least no guarantee of salvation.Report

      • Avatar dhex says:

        yeah sorry wednesday was a hectic tire fire. i think it’s a good blog tradition, though, what with album art being an exploding/dying form and all that.

        and yes the new boc is all hells yeah. that’s cover art that tells you exactly what you’re gonna get with pinpoint accuracy.Report

    • Avatar NoPublic says:

      ugh, amanda palmer.

      Speaking of signalling.Report

    • Avatar zic says:

      So I’m curious: what do folks find so annoying about Amanda Palmer?

      I’m not that familiar with her work; I’ve only listened to a few of her songs and seen her TED talk, I know her more through what her husband writes about her on his blog; and he seems quite fond of her and her spirit of adventure.Report

      • Avatar NewDealer says:

        I think she is part of the wealthy people using kickstarter backlash.

        She raised a million dollars on kickstarter for an album. Then she announced tour dates and asked musicians to play for free. A lot of people with knowledge like Steve Albini pointed out that her production costs for the album should be low enough and she is already rich enough that she should be able to pay her backup musicians.

      • Avatar NewDealer says:

        There was also this during the Boston Bombing week:

        In other words, people think she is rather self-centered and for her it is “ME ME ME. ALL ABOUT ME”Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        OK, I can only speak for meself here; and I don’t know a ton of her music, my opinion of her has mostly been formed through the filter of internetland, where she pops up regularly (her latest art or kickstarter project, or opinions/poetry) and she just comes across as the biggest “LOOK AT ME, LOOK AT ME” needy kind of artist.

        Which, to be fair, all artists are to some degree. But she just seems particularly…desperate for attention, somehow?

        I mean, look at that video. I support her general point – I am pro-fur in its natural habitats (within reasonable grooming limitations), which makes me a bit of an outlier in 2013.

        But if Weird Al made an MIA parody about pubes, I think it would be funnier.Report

        • Avatar dhex says:

          yeah, i’m not into theater, so theatrical music is, like, double not my thing.

          if you’re interested you could give “yes virgina” a try. there are a few songs that are pretty good.

          i have less of an issue with rich people on kickstarter than most, probably, but i view it more as a preordering/patronage system than some kinda moral adventure. not paying your musicians is, however, more of an issue. and hella lame. this may be the internet distortion field at work but isn’t gaiman somewhat popular and somewhat wealthy himself?Report

          • Avatar Glyph says:

            Yeah my issue was not so much the kickstarter thing (we’re pretty much on the same page there) as the thing right after her hugely successful kickstarter, where she asked for musicians to pay for free for her at her concert.

            I’m not saying it was wrong for her to do that (in fact I can imagine that it might not have even occurred to her that she’s a rich artist, now) but I can see it as coming across as pretty clueless/thoughtless. Not a moral/ethical question so much as an etiquette/courtesy question. If you can pay them, you should, even if they are happy to do it for free (basically, I thought Albini’s clarified statement on the matter was right on, but then I would).Report

            • Avatar NewDealer says:

              I don’t think anyone criticized her for using kickstarter to fund the album. The criticism came after she raised a million dollars and still asked for volunteer musicians. That seems to be the living definition of chutzpah.Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                Right, we are on the same page. But there ARE people who have a beef with kickstarter for rich people in general (didn’t you have a problem with Noah Baumbach?) and she & her husband ain’t poor, so I assumed there was some backlash from that too.Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                Dangit, not Noah Baumbach, Zach Braff. I have no idea how I mixed those two names up.Report

              • Avatar NewDealer says:

                I did and WB/Veronica Mars. I think there is a very fine line for when an artist is indie enough or not to use crowdsourcing to fund projects. And as with all fine lines, there is going to be a lot of disagreement about who is on what side or not.

                Warner Brothers is very few from the line though.Report

      • Avatar zic says:

        Thanks, ND & Glyph.

        I haven’t much opinion one way or the other; and as Glyph says, the “me, me, me” is the calling card of a lot of artists (I’m not big on selling more me, it’s spiritual prostitution; I actually sell a product that I created that’s got nothing to do with me when it’s finished.)

        I asked because I wondered about her overt sexuality; a lot of women get written off as ‘annoying’ if they display that in a subjectively distasteful way. The trick here is the meaning of ‘subjectively distasteful,’ for it often seems that suggests female sexuality is about the female; it’s acceptable when it’s being a sex object for men.

        My favorite illustration of this might be FaceBook, where sexy images of display for men might get thousands of likes, but an image of a woman with her breast exposed as she nurses her baby gets pulled down pretty fast.

        The woman on display for the male gaze is acceptable and liked; I wondered if the woman displaying her own sexuality was annoying. Forgive me the test.Report

        • Avatar NewDealer says:

          I have never seen anyone hate on Amanda Palmer for her sexuality. Just not wanting to pay musicians despite being quite wealthy.Report

          • Avatar zic says:

            Well, I’m totally on board the pay musicians; but I’m married to one who get’s asked to play (for free) several times a week. And who also pays musicians who play his gigs, even if it means he looses money on them.

            I loved this piece:

            The notion that giving it away for free translates into exposure and will result in some unknown future earnings strikes me as dubious at best. Yet I constantly see artists doing things for free for the ‘exposure.’Report

            • Avatar NewDealer says:

              It strikes me as dubious as well and is part of the reason I switched from theatre to law. But hope springs eternal and I know a lot of artists who seem to sincerely believe in the unknown future earnings/karma thing. They get really upset when I suggest otherwise. Lots of artists rebelled against Amanda Palmer for wanting volunteer musicians. But I also saw a lot of people defend her choice including people who claimed they were volunteer musicians for her at shows and it was a totally awesome and worthwhile experience.

              Though art and commerce always interact at tricky intersections including when and how much should artists make from their art.Report

              • Avatar zic says:

                people who claimed they were volunteer musicians for her at shows and it was a totally awesome and worthwhile experience.

                That in itself is payment for a lot of musicians; the chance to play in certain situations or with certain people can be rewarding in its own right; and I would never discredit it.

                But there’s a subtle difference between an opportunity to experience something, I’d consider that a part of the effort into being professional, and giving something away in the hopes of cultivating future profession. I’m pretty sure that if Wayne Shorter called and asked my husband to come jam, he’d jump at the chance, even if it was a show in front of thousands who paid to see it. If Shorter asked him to play on his next album for free, for the ‘exposure?’ Ich. There’s a difference, and where the dividing line falls obviously varies.Report

            • “The notion that giving it away for free translates into exposure and will result in some unknown future earnings strikes me as dubious at best. Yet I constantly see artists doing things for free for the ‘exposure.’”

              Change ‘artists’ to ‘writers’ and haven’t you just described The League? Dear lord, if Kain raised a million to launch this site and still keeps the rest of us shackled in the basement of his shack in the desert…Report

      • Avatar NoPublic says:

        So I’m curious: what do folks find so annoying about Amanda Palmer?

        You’ve already gotten a lot of answers. Most of them typify the internet responses to her. A great deal of it comes from the fact that her fans (and they are legion) are a particular sort of folk. And they are folk that most “normal” people just don’t get. The arguments go, in short:

        She’s rich. She’s not. She makes a decent living, and she’s married to a relatively well-off (arguably rich) writer.
        Her Kickstarter was somehow a scam Despite her fairly open accounting, lots of people are for some reason offended that people voluntarily gave her money, you know, for stuff.
        She wanted people to open for her for free She didn’t budget for opening acts, and she told local artists that if they liked they could open for her but she couldn’t pay them except maybe in beer and hugs. Eventually she was “shamed” into reallocating money from other parts of the planned tour to pay these folks. Many of whom subsequently refused the payment.
        She’s a fame whore Which is sort of the definition of performance artist

        We’re talking about someone who started on the street. Literally. Worked her way up in the art/music world, largely as a fan-centered performer with a lot of attitude. Regularly does free gigs, hangs with musicians and fans, promotes their art and their causes using her not-insubstantial megaphone. Is generally “not a celebrity”, but more your crazy loud friend who has made it kinda big and still occasionally couch-surfs when she’s in town. That’s her schtick, except lots of folks think it’s a fake out and she’s really just a cynical money-grubbing gold-digger. It’s probably obvious what I think, but then I’ve actually met her and spent time with her, so I’m probably both prejudiced and a bit better informed than most.Report

        • Avatar Kimmi says:

          can’t be all that bad, if she’s married to Neil Gaiman.Report

        • Avatar Glyph says:

          Thanks for the more knowledgeable view from the other side.

          I fully admit I may be annoyed in part because I feel like I spend way more time discussing her than I ever have spent listening to her music, which seems odd (she generates internet debate all out of proportion to her actual musical impact on my life; kind of like Kanye).

          That’s obviously debatably on me, not her, but it does raise a question for me. You say she is a “performance artist” (and dhex above refers to her as “theater”); are these distinctions part of the confusion and annoyance (I thought she was a “musician”)?

          The Flaming Lips pull a lot of weird stunts, but I still think of them as a “band”, not “performance art”.Report

        • Avatar zic says:

          Thank you, NoPublic. That’s very nice to hear.

          I asked fishing for what gender differences there might be; and I think you shed some light on it, particularly with That’s her schtick, except lots of folks think it’s a fake out and she’s really just a cynical money-grubbing gold-digger.

          From what little I know of Palmer, she takes risks that most women wouldn’t dare take; couch surfing, for instance. Women seem to face a high bar of being judged as people (annoying) instead of for their work and work ethic (failed to pay bands).

          I didn’t notice anyone calling Russell Brand annoying the other day; yet he was essentially doing the same thing Palmer does — the ‘me, me, me’ of performance art; on the stage of The Morning Show to sell seats for his tour. Isn’t that money grubbing, even if it’s to open our eyes to the foibles of our age? Maybe I’m wrong, but it seems like the big difference here is that he needed the Morning Show to sell those seats, Palmer doesn’t. His performance was a character, carefully honed. Palmer’s is herself, warts and all. But he’s gifted. She’s annoying.

          (She should always pay the musicians. We should all always pay the musicians. Always.)Report

          • Avatar Glyph says:

            I stayed out of that piece, because Brand is WAY annoying too. I couldn’t even watch the linked video. He drives me crazy.Report

            • Avatar zic says:

              My personal thought was that he had mastered the skills of a pick-up artist. But I’m all for anyone making fun of religiosity, so I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.

              In all honest, what I’m probing here is the difference, and I don’t mean to single you out here as bad, but as an example of what I’m probing: you thought Brand annoying, so you stayed out of the thread. You think Palmer annoying, so you spoke up.

              (And I don’t think I’d have had the courage to make that point with most of the men here, Glyph, so thank you for being you that I have the courage. I am very grateful.)Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                Well, Brand was the subject of the OP…me contributing “ugh, he is annoying, like coke-fueled Robin Williams at his worst” wouldn’t have been much of a contribution. So I stayed out.

                “Amanda Palmer is annoying”, “Yep, I think so too” doesn’t seem like a derailment of the OP. Just an aside.

                Similar to “Brand is annoying”, “Yep, I think so too.”Report

              • Avatar zic says:

                Agreed. I’ll stop nagging now.Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                I watched about 30 seconds before I realized that Brand interacting with cable news morning show anchors was akin to an insufferable force meeting an infuriating object.Report

              • Avatar dhex says:

                yeah in the steel cage match of my heart of brand v. palmer i’m rooting for inattention and alternative uses of the nation’s time.Report

          • Avatar Kimmi says:

            I think people get upset over performance art because it ain’t fucking classy enough.

            People done forgot that artists were buskers since time began. And that for theater, it was often about being a whore (or a bard, if you wanna talk men).

            Me? I like the idea of art for people — pay what you like.

            Then again, I have words to say about what the rich do with their whores (voluntary or not!)Report

            • Avatar zic says:

              Way too much connecting being a creative and being a whore here for me, Kim.

              A lot of US artists have to market their work (which takes a great deal of time away from producing work, too) because of where we live. We could go to Denmark tomorrow, book a series of gigs, and my husband would get paid to play those gigs by the government, as long as he was playing original material. One of his favorite bass players is Swedish, and gets paid by his government to tour there each summer.

              Not paying for art, not paying artists, is a choice. And given that choice, it should be no surprise that the artists that thrive in the US are often the most skilled at the sale, not necessarily most skilled in their art.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi says:

                Indeed. I meant being a prostitute in a very literal sense, and I thank god that relatively few performers are literally bought and sold. if nothing else, there are not that many rich people out there.Report

            • Avatar NewDealer says:

              Just because something is “high brow” does not make it for the rich or expensive.

              Just because something is expensive, does not make for the rich or bullshit.

              There is plenty of art for the people that people are willing to shell out hundreds or thousands of dollars for like Tom Petty tickets or big Broadway musicals (The Producers).

              There is plenty of highbrow and avant-garde art being done for much lower ticket prices that struggles to get an audience or sales.Report

        • Avatar dhex says:

          “And they are folk that most “normal” people just don’t get.”

          art school cabaret goth is just that shocking to a world where furries have their own conventions?

          “She’s rich. She’s not. She makes a decent living, and she’s married to a relatively well-off (arguably rich) writer.”

          i never thought this “she’s rich” thing was much of an argument against kickstarter being anything other than bespoke daydreams or palmer in general*, but what you just wrote was “she’s not rich. she’s just married to a rich guy. totes different.”

          *albini’s jerkass point about her inefficient allocation of funding, on the other hand, was quite cromulent (and ultimately effective).Report

          • Avatar zic says:


            What a wonderful word. Thank you.Report

          • Avatar NewDealer says:

            Albini was my main influence on The Palmer Affair.Report

            • Avatar BlaiseP says:

              Steve Albini has his own weirdities, about which I know rather more than I’m willing to let on around here. Suffice to say Electrical Audio has its own bizarre set of billing rates. He’s a great guy at the desk but he’s way out of line to say anything about who plays for free.Report

              • Avatar zic says:

                Those are rates from 2001, Glyph.

                Why would a studio/engineer get anything more then a flat rate? Why would they get royalties? A producer, maybe. But if he’s just renting out his studio & engineering; that’s a by-the-hour sort of billing.Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                Take a look at the post that comment is from. Albini is a respected rock producer, though he himself prefers not to use that term. He’s helped make some hugely popular records, and if he took royalties as a producer would, he could be much richer than a working musician (though I am sure he’s comfortable).

                Basically, the man has been doing it himself for a long time, and he knows about the business. If he says Palmer’s wasting money, I tend to believe him. Here’s a famous piece he wrote way back when:


                He’s a curmudgeon, but he’s no dummy, and he’s a fierce proponent of a particular vision of artistic integrity, whether you agree with him or not.Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                Here he is again:


              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Listen, Glyph. Steve Albini is a fine sound engineer. He’s never toured or managed a band on the road. They’re very different problem domains and I know a fair bit about both ends of that problem. Steve does things his own way in his own studio, that’s great. He’s as good as they come but he’s got a very particular way of doing things.

                Who the hell is Albini to say someone doesn’t need a money manager? Of course you need a money manager on the road. Someone’s got to do the accounting. Do you expect the performers to do it? Maybe a roadie? Or the bus driver? On the road, people get a per diem plus expenses. Managing the burn rate is a full time job.Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                He has toured extensively with his own bands Big Black and Shellac.

                Look, you don’t have to agree with him on everything but he’s been in the business a long time and has managed to make a living at it. He’s not stupid.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Steve Albini couldn’t manage both buttocks in a touring band without a steering wheel and a road map. Here’s how he managesReport

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                ooookaaaay….that was him in 1987. A 25-year-old touring rocker, as his first band (of 3) was winding down. I’m not sure what the relevance is? We were all dumbasses at 25. We hopefully used that dumbassery to learn, so as to help younger dumbasses.

                He presumably learned a lot in the intervening years, being, you know, a working musician and producer/engineer all that time, living through the “alternative nation” feeding frenzy and collapse, and he keeps on plugging away.

                But hey – I’m not a musician, why should I care if they get paid?

                (I care. My brothers and many of my friends are musicians).Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Steve Albini runs his own little tree house and nobody complains about who he lets climb up there. Why the fuck does the Great Albini of a Thousand Bands think his opinion matters any farther than his own front door on Belmont Street?Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                I think his comments (once he clarified) on the Palmer affair were quite reasonable (if brusque, as is his wont). He’s not against kickstarter, he’s not against Amanda Palmer, he IS against fans handing you over a million dollars and you so carelessly account for that money that you can’t manage to find any dosh for a few musicians and instead ask them to play for beer and hugs.

                I agree, that’s unseemly.

                I think that Palmer has hustled to get where she’s gotten as quickly as she has, but I think it probably didn’t occur to her that she’s operating at a different level now.

                I don’t think what she did was wrong, but I do think it was a bit thoughtless and not courteous. Like I said, a question of etiquette/courtesy. If you can afford to pay the musicians, you should, and she could WELL afford it.

                His first comment on the matter:


              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Listen. I used to have this old guy who liked to follow us around Chicagoland. He was a pretty good harp player. It became kind of a tradition with us, at the beginning of the second set, he’d get up on stage and we’d cover Stormy Monday and Sweet Home Chicago with the guy.

                We didn’t buy him drinks or ply him with dosh for his trouble. We weren’t even a blues band.

                Do you think I should have told the old dude to get a musicians’ union card or don’t come back?Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                I can’t believe that I am arguing with a musician, and a musicians’ (wife? girlfriend? not sure if zic is married to her man) about whether someone who just received over a million dollars to use for a tour, should ideally try to pay the musicians that she is using on that same tour.

                It’s a little surreal. Where was that million dollars supposed to go?


              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                We’re talking about a strange little performance artist who had a pretty good run of it with Dresden Dolls. Now she’s bringing some fans on stage to make some noises. Oh the horror of it all!

                The music business can kiss my withered old ass. From the poseurs who can’t read a score to the Coke-encrusted Record Execs to the weasel lawyers and the producers and A&R reptiles, fuck ’em all. Fuck the musicians’ union, those non-instrument-playing jackasses who got in Frank Zappa’s way and everyone else who was writing for ensemble or chamber orchestra.

                Only a few musicians managed to escape the bear trap. Robert Fripp was one. Now he makes a fair living teaching music. Madonna managed to escape to a limited extent. And Zappa. Maybe a few I’m not thinking of right now. But very, very few of them made it out alive. For every success story, I can show you a thousand dessicated corpses along the way. Albums trapped in legal limbo. Artists forced to record under pseudonyms to get around contractual obligations. It’s absolutely the worst business in the world, the music business. It’s the only business where you can bet on being told a lie every single time you pick up the telephone.Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                Blaise, with your curmudgeonly music business rant, you could PASS for Albini. This is EXACTLY his point. He has watched the biz chew people up and spit people out, and has therefore long been a proponent of making your own way – doing things at a level where you can retain control, of the work, of your autonomy, of the inexorable economics of the job – hey, kind of like a peripatetic software contractor.

                Palmer made it her own way, all very well and good so far. He’s got no problem with her.

                But to get a windfall of over a million dollars (and not record company money, with all of the shady accounting and skeevy strings that go along with that; as long as the IRS gets their cut, this is free money) and then turn around and essentially pull the same stunt, on other musicians, that the industry has been pulling on them for time out of mind – IMO, he was right to call her out on it. She can do better (and she did).Report

              • Avatar zic says:

                Glyph, I’m wife. 33 years today, too.

                I am not arguing; I don’t give to figs one way or the other about his producer credentials. If he’s not producing albums; if they’re simply recording them in his studio and he’s engineering, it’s typically a flat hourly rate. The comment linked to expressed surprise at this arrangement; I’m just saying from what I see, that’s how music works. The quote on his rates is from a 2001 article (so rates have likely changed). Since you seemed to offer that comment to BlaiseP after he expressed some an undefined concern about his rates, I thought those two points were relavant.

                As to Palmer and her band, I think I’ve clearly stated (several times) that hell, yes, Pay The Musicians. It does seem like this was poor management on Palmers part; but I’d wonder if she was still thinking of tours pre-kickstart, not post; working the world that way, when the rules had changed. That she did that once? Bad. It’s if she repeats it that matters, however.Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                Happy anniversary, zic.

                I linked that bit, since Blaise said his rates were weird. They ARE weird, if you don’t do it the way he prefers it done…in his studio, flat daily rate, supposedly very affordable for the quality of the studio/equipment and his work.

                If you try to make him go along with record company BS, or your own, he starts to charge whatever he feels the aggravation is worth to him. It’s not really all that complicated.

                Unlike any other engineer/record producer with his experience and prominence, Albini does not receive royalties for anything he records or mixes

                AFAIK that is still a true statement.

                I think Palmer just wasn’t used to operating at that level. She went from a busker to a millionaire (multi-millionaire, if you count her marriage) pretty quick. I don’t think she realized what she was doing. It got pointed out, she corrected it. That’s really all there is to it.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Who’s being hurt by some fans on stage, honking away on instruments they brought from home? They’re not on the buses. The roadies, they’re on the buses, they get paid. The fans on stage, they get to go home and sleep in their own beds and eat out of their own refrigerators. Them and the union riggers and the Ticketmaster schmucks, they get to go home, too. But they get paid more than the roadies and the sound guy and the lights guy and half the time the musicians, who get to double up at some horrible motel where the concept of a Continental Breakfast is a horribly foreshortened english muffin and mysterious fluid labelled orange juice that will have you shitting like a fire hose for the next fifteen hours. Been there, done that.

                Steve Albini is giving horrible advice, telling anyone not to have a Money Spender on staff. One person should manage the money. That’s the whole point of touring, to make money.Report

              • Avatar zic says:

                Glyph, this:
                He has watched the biz chew people up and spit people out, and has therefore long been a proponent of making your own way – doing things at a level where you can retain control, of the work, of your autonomy, of the inexorable economics of the job


                I don’t pay much attention to rock music, I’m too busy keeping track of knitters and jazz musicians. I’ll have to study up on Albini.Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                He’s not saying don’t manage the money. He’s saying if you are managing it properly, there should BE money to pay people.

                a million dollars is a shitload of money. How can you possibly not have a bunch laying around after people just gave you a million dollars? I saw a breakdown about where the money went a while ago, and most everything in it was absurdly inefficient, including paying people to take care of spending the money itself, which seems like a crazy moebius strip of waste.

                He saw the breakdown, and he’s in the business. His opinion about whether there was money lying on the table was apparently enough to, you know, convince Palmer to somehow find the money to pay the musicians. Which would imply there was waste in there somewhere, no?

                Let me see if I can sum up:

                You – a musician, and self-employed person – think that it’s not even a teeny bit rude for a newly-minted millionaire to ask her fans – who gave her that million dollars – to then further work for free.

                When a company asks you to work for free, you say…? I’m not new around here. You’ve explained that you know how to get real paid, and they can take a hike if they think they are getting Blaise’s milk for free.

                You say Steve Albini knows nothing about touring – when I point out that he has been a touring musician for over 30 years, you pull up a diary he wrote as he was wrapping up an apparently-problematic final tour on his first go-round as a touring musician – this actually cuts against your argument even further, as this is EXACTLY the sort of experience that teaches someone hard truths about the economics of touring.

                Honestly Blaise, I love you man, but it seems like you are arguing just to argue here.Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                @ zic I’ll have to study up on Albini.

                Can I suggest this lovely piece:


                But the writer’s kind of a doofus.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Have it your way, Glyph. I’m telling you paying people to take care of spending the money itself is not a crazy moebius strip of waste. You want to see what happens when you don’t manage the burn rate? Look at what happened to Emerson Lake and Palmer, trying to tour with an entire orchestra in 1977. By the time they’d gotten a few dates into the tour, they were broke. No money management skills at all. Keith Emerson got it into his head he could tour with a 70 piece orchestra.

                Steve Albini might have smartened up in the mean time, between when I remember him from the Wax Trax years with Jim Nash kinda the go-to guy for anything happening in town. Lounge Ax, Metro, Quiet Knight, all those joints. I have a strong dislike for Albini’s opinions and I don’t like his engineering either. I had a working relationship with the old Streeterville Studios. Everything they were, Albini wasn’t, by choice. The Grunge Years were disgusting and Albini is directly responsible for a lot of it.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                If Albini learned anything from touring, it should have been this: Get Paid. Want to get paid for a gig? You get half up front and half when the house lights come back up.

                Any band worth a shit has a money guy who takes care of this Ultra Essential Detail and he counts wristbands and goes back to the management office with a couple of roadies and he doesn’t take any excuses and he counts the money and he does not take a check in payment. And nobody else in the band touches that cabbage. He pays for everything. He keeps a record of the take and the record of expenditures and he manages the disbursals at the end of the tour.

                Thirty years of touring should have taught Albini that much.Report

              • Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

                I agree with most of what Albini wrote, but Blaise is right about having a money manager. If nobody is regularly tracking incme and outflow–with authority to control that outflow–it’s far too easy to fritter away all the earnings. A part of that is that the expected earnings often get expressed in large lump sums, while the expenses often are thought if individually, so they don’t seem significant in comparison. There may be some individuals who can manage that while also being in the band, but they’re probably pretty rare–nothing about being an artist automatically leads to being a competent money handler.Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                I suppose I should just take the olive branch, but I have to say that blaming Albini, of all people, for the grunge years is…odd. Did he record some of those records? Yeah, at the request of either the bands (fans of his work) or their labels (hoping for cred), on the terms he laid out. He’ll record anybody – anybody – who can pay his fee. He survived the grunge debacle with his career and integrity intact by stubbornly sticking to his own principles.

                If that one line in Albini’s comment is definitively taken as him saying that there should be no money manager, then I agree, that is bad advice on his part.

                However, it seems uncontroversial to say that money wasn’t being properly managed, if there was supposedly no money to pay the musicians and then, after this strange accounting anomaly was pointed out, –poof – there was. This isn’t Schrodinger’s Kickstarter. The money was either there, or it wasn’t. If Albini was right, then the musicians should get paid.

                The musicians got paid.Report

          • Avatar NoPublic says:

            i never thought this “she’s rich” thing was much of an argument against kickstarter being anything other than bespoke daydreams or palmer in general*, but what you just wrote was “she’s not rich. she’s just married to a rich guy. totes different.”

            Well. Sort of. What I *meant* was “She’s well off, but not well-enough-off to finance a world tour out of her couch cushions. And in today’s world (particularly given the dynamics of her personal life) the notion that she should just rifle her husband’s bank account to do it is borderline insulting. But my shorthand is a little rusty.

            However, it seems uncontroversial to say that money wasn’t being properly managed, if there was supposedly no money to pay the musicians and then, after this strange accounting anomaly was pointed out, -poof – there was. This isn’t Schrodinger’s Kickstarter. The money was either there, or it wasn’t. If Albini was right, then the musicians should get paid.

            The musicians got paid.

            First, the million dollars was for pre-production work, the production of the album, the media (digital and vinyl), original artwork, coffee table books, costumes, retainers, insurance, etc. etc. etc. By the time the tour started, they were nearly flat on liquid cash. Touring itself makes some money, which is where any expected profit for Ms. Palmer herself might have come from. Second, as I said earlier, they reallocated money from other planned touring events (which they had to shrink or cut) and from that profit part to pay the openers. Third, I’m tired of explaining these things to people who won’t even do a little research beyond listening to the ramblings of a man who frankly has never managed an end-to-end project anything like on the scale of what AFP attempted for all his many talents (and he’s a talented and accomplished guy) so I’m pretty much done with this. Suffice to say haters gonna hate.Report

            • Avatar Glyph says:

              and he’s a talented and accomplished guy

              Aw, thanks! [Blushes]

              Oh…you meant Albini. 😉

              they reallocated money from other planned touring events (which they had to shrink or cut) and from that profit part to pay the openers

              That is just good money management. I also have had to shrink or cut or reallocate money from certain planned events in my life, because I needed to pay the people that were helping to make those (or other) events possible. I think she did the right thing.

              I appreciate the info from the other side, it’s helpful, and I don’t hate Palmer. Thanks for the convo, NoPublic.Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

        Never heard of her before, but from watching a few of her videos, she strikes me as a real wanker.

        Is it progressive to call a woman a wanker? I’m going to say it is.

        Uninterested, unemotional voice: Check. Look-at-me-I’m-offending-your-bourgeois-sensibilities music videos: Check. Changed her middle name to “Fucking”: Check. Shaved the middle of her eyebrows: Wait…what?

        I gather that I’m supposed to be shocked, but mostly I’m just bored.Report

  5. Avatar Pinky says:

    I don’t see any discussion of art works’ quality here. I think that’s an important part of contextualization. Maybe that recognition of quality even comes before contextualization. I don’t see anything in those Koons pictures that makes me explore questions of meaning and boundries, because they’re bad art. There’s nothing less stimulating than bad art. Or am I missing the point here?Report

  6. Avatar George Turner says:

    Sadly, TMZ just yanked their video of Kate Upton SUPER TOPLESS on a horse (their caps), along with a one minute video of their staffers reaction the first time they saw it. It was art.Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

      I have an mpg of George W. Bush explaining Minkowski space-time in his real (New England-accented) voice, but I’m not allowed to post it.Report

  7. Avatar Jaybird says:

    It’s like they’re trying to answer the question “What if Duchamp was more porny?”Report