[Rejected essay. Free Parking (Toronto) and Transmission (Glasgow) organized an exhibition exchange. I was commissioned to write about the Scottish artists in Toronto. The people at Transmission were apparently appalled by this and I was replaced by some pop music journalist.]




Out of the basic roster of Disney's cartoon characters only one is not American — Scrooge McDuck.



I've never been to Scotland or met any Scots[1] so my knowledge of the culture comes mostly from Scrooge McDuck — though to be honest, I was always more Huey-Dewy-Louie focused. I'm also familiar with Ivor Cutler records and Trainspotting (movie and book), as well as this exhibition.

I feel less qualified than usual to write this essay, but at least I'm not the curator, so don't expect any curatorial rationale put forth here. I figure if I can just write a few sentences about most of the works my contract will have been fulfilled and I'll be able to leave with a little cheque.



Sue Tompkins

Breathless gear has a remoteness beyond hermeticism — attempts at interpretation seem futile, its resistance calm, matter-of-fact. Messy, eclectic and fun on the surface, the work became for me rather sad — perhaps partly due to the party balloons that deflated over the course of the exhibition. Entropy may be exhilarating in its initial moments, but as a system's energy dissipates, the situation becomes dire: pathetic. Breathless gear is dejected with the impossibility of art functioning within a perfectly closed system of meaning in which every interpretation is a perfect one and all intent is perfectly met.

            Breathless gear mushi mushi is more optimistic. A tangle of typewriter ribbon reveals legible words. If only we could unravel the mess, we could read the missive. In the tangle lies the promise of art which Breathless gear casually denies: if we invest energy in interpreting a work we will be rewarded with meaning, with understanding.



James Thornhill

Is Sticks and Stones, 1976 one of those postmodern pastiches without the guts or point of view to actually be a parody? Or does it have the dryness that can be mistaken for conceptualism? Neither. It's actually a parody — not of Weiner's work of (almost) the same name, but of the discursive claims and assumptions surrounding the work. Today it seems to us amazingly presumptious and naive that Weiner could have meant it when he said:


...the new series of my works are traces of what an artist does. Somehow the shit residue of art history made me make paintings and sculptures. But now I feel no contact with or relevance or need of a place in art history.


Is the avant-garde really so freshly dead that only a few decades ago Weiner could make such a dumb-ass comment? Luckily we now have assimilated Foucault and containment theory and know that the art market can swallow anything more-or-less whole. So let the shit pile up. Sticks and stones . . .



Alan Currall

Everyone who watches an Alan Currall video falls in love with him. We are all doomed to become fans. We succumb to his charm, his efforts to please and entertain us. All the best artists know that video should be just a little different from real tv. Tv has taught us how we must behave to be worthy of love. I've read somewhere that Currall has said his videos were about trust, or systems of belief, or something like that. But they are really just an opportunity for the artist to ask for our love, an apparatus to suck up our attention and devotion. We will listen enraptured as his adenoidal voice tells us anything.



Martin Boyce

Nostalgia looks good and you will be admired, even respected, but not loved. You remember everything in great detail, but never divulge your actual memories. Instead you speculate on the future and interpolate backwards to create false memories. It is these false memories that form the basis of your social being. Early in the new year you will find yourself unable to use the colour orange. This will pass. You will travel frequently. As the weather warms up you will come into a modest fortune and immediately squander it. A sharp blow to the head will cause a temporary aphasic response, but no one will notice.



Tanya Leighton

Big science scrawls out its ideas on napkins, because even scientists must eat, and between courses reduce large relationships to little sketches of cause and effect. Everything can be made simple, and now here comes dessert. Leighton tranfers these tiny explanations into a comforting nursery mural. What is the relationship between art and science? Creativity and drawing? What does it matter. After such a big meal I am ready for a nap. Let the big ideas swirl around my brain. I can be sure everything will be known sooner or later. The correct explanation is the most elegant. The truth is out there.



1.  Once I had phone sex with a Scottish guy and found his voice, his accent, very arousing. But when I met him he was pale and scrawny. He was entirely hairless but for a sparse reddish patch about the pubis, and had a cough.