We have been looking for signs of intelligent life in the world of blogs ever since launched The Art Life itself into the virtual world. We’ve scanned links and sent out probes and although we’ve found a few interesting specimens (listed on the right of this page) we hadn’t found any artblogs worth a mention. That was until last week and the discovery of Bilateral. But, as Dr. McCoy used to say, it’s life Jim, but not as we know it.
Bilateral is the work of Lucas Ihlein and is unapologetically eclectic, chronicling his ‘thoughts in process’, posting press releases from the Sydney Art Seen Society and providing links to a swag of web sites. We were so excited that there was another art blog out there that we linked to it last week before we had a chance to send in an expedition. We have had a look and now we can reveal to you that Ihlein has a bee in his bonnet and that sucker is buzzing. Posted in June, 2003, he had a big idea:
“People might wish to get involved with a fictional project I have thrown out into the ether. its a response to that ghastly magazine called the “australian art collector” and their “50 most collectable artists”…
“A dynamic network of artists from around the country will soon be launching their new DIY magazine The Australian Art Eclector. Each issue of The Eclector will incorporate an exciting feature on “Australia’s 50 Most Un-Collectable Artists”.
“Phil T. Luca, magazine editor and spokesperson for the Network of Un-Collectable Artists (or N.U.C.A.) explains: “The compendium of “Australia’s 50 Most Un-Collectable Artists” will be an important resource, especially for those wishing to look beyond the pseudo-official canon of Australian artists who have been vetted and rubberstamped by our short-sighted and commodity-oriented art institutions.”
Ilhein’s idea was to get together all the artists who defy the economic forces of the art world and make art that cannot be sold or collected by avaricious capitalists who want to decorate their office foyers with trophy art works.
“The group obsessively documents the occurrence of ephemeral artworks, such as Weed-Killer/Pest Controller by Diego Bonetto and Emma Jay, where the artists created an informative audio tour of the various weeds on a run-down Drive-In Theatre site in western Sydney. Another project to make it into the top 50 was SquatSpace’s SquatFest, an anti-TropFest screening of film and video by independent artists and activists. The screenings were held in an abandoned brickworks in inner Sydney.”
And so on. Building on his idea, Ilhein ruminated on the fact that artist run initiatives like the NUCA tend to replicate the very organisations that they seek to replace, what with all the networking, press release writing and web site building you have to do to get the thing started. But eventually, he admitted in May this year, these kinds of things take on a life of their own:
“NUCA’s first big, silly idea was to publish a magazine featuring Australia’s 50 Most Un-Collectable Artists. As a concept it was immediately oppositional – we wanted to lampoon the Australian Art Collector magazine, which publishes annual lists of artists to “look out for” on the market. This kind of art market “speculation” has always been a complete anathema to our desire for a do-it-yourself utopia. We envisioned a roughly photocopied zine secretly inserted into each copy of the Australian Art Collector in every magazine shop around the country.”
What a brilliant idea! If the NUCA put a copy of their ‘roughly photocopied zine’ into every other copy of Australian Art Collector Magazine it would make 50% of the issue’s print run instantly collectable. Unfortunately, printing that many zines would have meant a hell of a lot of money at Kinko’s so the NUCA moved on to an even more devious proposition:
“[…] as NUCA’s growing core began to think more about the idea, and began to email it around, and as the enthusiasm poured in, we realised that there was a wealth of artists who identified with the term “uncollectable” for all sorts of different reasons – and that our publication could serve a purpose beyond satire – it could become a kind of document of their activities. Six months later, the Network of UnCollectable Artists hardly even remembers its oppositional roots. NUCA has become a self-legitimised network in its own right. The magazine idea has evolved into a set of (un)collectable bubblegum cards (it will be nigh-on-impossible to collect a full set). These cards were first sold by our itinerant vendors in Melbourne during the 2004 Next Wave Festival.”
Ah, the irony… We really want to get our hands on a set of those cards! The NUCA web site is now up but sadly, except for a recent event documented through a poem, major NUCA events sees to have stalled. We’re assuming that, on the verge of success, the organisation have done the only sensible thing and disbanded. If not, they’re in danger of getting on Australian Art Collector’s list of 50 Most Collectable artists next year.