Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Revenge of the Decorated aRT School: Part Eight

Kevin, unaware of the ferocious sexual action taking place within his museums walls today continued to work steadily, but slowly in his office. Indeed if it had been as silent as it were this morning he may well have heard the cries and moans traveling through the echoing old corridors. Kevin had absolutely no motivation for all of this bullshit he was faced with, stuck inside these four walls dealing with the mundane that nobody realizes comes hand and hand with a curators work.

He was still debating in his head over Merton’s invitation, should he go? Kevin pictured the likely scene at the party, the hordes of fawning acolytes and hypocritical well-wishers. “Can’t do it.” he thought and wrote, “Regrets,” across the front of Merton’s invitation. Next on the mail pile were about a dozen applications from artists hoping to be included in the upcoming Biennial. Each envelope contained a cover letter, a c.v, an “artists statement,” a sheet of slides, and an accompanying checklist. The format was predictable and most of these applicants, Kevin could easily discern, had attended one of the many popular online courses for artists that promised to give them the tools to attract the attention of the curator of their dreams. Kevin held the slides up to the window where the light had turned a sickly orange colour, choked with dust. Early in his career, he’d felt badly that he didn’t take the time to load every slide into a carousel and project them on a screen in a darkened room. But, compared to other curators at the museum, who let unsolicited submissions pile up for years until they changed jobs and the stacks of unopened envelopes were carted away for disposal, Kevin’s approach gave each hopeful applicant at least a fleeting chance. Nothing in this group caught his eye and he wrote “Basic No,” across the top of each envelope then set them aside for his assistant to return.

A “Basic No” was the standard museum rejection letter. Just three lines long, it thanked the applicant for their submission, praised the quality of their efforts, and regretted that there were no more opportunities to exhibit every deserving art work. When Kevin arrived at the museum he had developed a number of his own variations on this orthodox form: the “Basic No With Friendship,” which acknowledged that Kevin knew the applicant; the “Basic No With Encouragement,” which included an extra line suggesting the artist re-submit at another time; the “Basic No Crapola,” which omitted the line about the quality of the work; and the “Super Basic No,” a one sentence note which was sent to those who had previously received a “Basic No Craploa,” and had the temerity to try again.

In fact, just before Reena had started working at the museum, she had received the standard “Basic No” from Kevin’s hand. Kevin, unknowingly, passed so many of his “Basic No’s” a day that he probably would not leave his office from guilt if he realised. Reena was equally na├»ve that the man she launched herself into at the park was the one who had dashed her artistic dreams.

Opening an envelope that was addressed in a slanting, old-fashioned hand, Kevin discovered a neatly folded letter accompanied by a Polaroid photograph of a peculiar little sculpture. The letter read:

            Dear Dr. Forester,
Upon the death of my mother (She was an artist in her own right and exhibited at the Morristown Library several times) I came into the possession of this delightful ceramic. It is signed by Wilfred Beagle, who was on the faculty of Pembroke Community College from 1934 until 1996 when he died of head injuries. It is my pleasure to offer it to your museum as a gift. (I am moving to a hospice next week and cannot bring with me anything but the essentials.)
            Cavndish Bunting III

Kevin scrutinized the Polaroid. The ceramic was in the form of a peculiar, and rather repulsive creature. It looked like a boar except that its bottom half faced the opposite way from its front and the colouring was strange, appearing to have been sloped on by a child in splashes of red, yellow, blue, and green. The photographer had placed a saltshaker next to the work, to indicate size. From this, Kevin estimated that the sculpture was no more than three or four inches high. This defiantly goes in The File, he thought. The File was a slowly growing collection of absurd proposals and correspondence Kevin had been accumulating since his days at The Lightbox. When he had a sufficient quantity, he imagined he might eventually publish them as a book.
                        He turned to his computer and drafted a letter:

                        Dear Mr. Bunting,
Thank you for sending the photo of Mr. Beagle’s lovely ceramic. I’m sorry to hear that you must part with it, and I truly wish I could respond positively to your generous offer. However, our policy forbids us from accepting any work that is unlikely ever to be shown. Best of luck finding another, suitable home for this little gem.
Kevin Forester
Curator of Contemporary Art

He attached the letter to an email addressed to Donna, who formatted and signed all of his correspondence. Within seconds a message shot back. “Liar,” was all it said.

Donna McQuorqdale was not like the other put-together young ladies in the curatorial sector of the museum. Looking for someone to help with the Biennial and assist with other administrative tasks, Kevin had passed over scores of candidates technically more qualified than she, candidates fresh from prestigious graduate schools and curatorial studies programs. Donna had no advanced degree and no previous museum experience. She did, however, play on a street hockey team in Bracknel and was in a fantasy folk band that had once opened for the Icelandic rock group Sigure Ros. She made her own clothes – favouring plaids, spangles, and synthetic fur – shaved her head (or sometimes half of it) and wore a silver ring through her left eyebrow. While it was her alternative lifestyle that appealed to Kevin, Donna actually possessed some relevant experience. She had majored in art history at Reed where she wrote a thesis on the theme of ecstasy in Solange Boucher’s early work, and, after graduating, worked for a year at Jeffery Deitch’s downtown gallery where she coordinated his ultra-hip openings. Her offbeat appearance and no-bullshit attitude hadn’t endeared her to the conservative museum staff but for Kevin she was the perfect fir. Not only was she capable of doing anything to protect him, she was also plugged into a world of youth culture that Kevin knew would be essential to the success of the show.

Although Donna’s desk was directly outside his office, Kevin communicated with her almost exclusively by email.

            -Didn’t you like that little critter? – Kevin wrote back to her. – I thought he was cute.
            - Why can’t you just be honest with people? “Your sculpture is a piece of shit.     Sincerely, Kevin Forester.” –
            -  Why don’t you bring me some decent mail, then? –
            - I did bring you something decent! –
            - what’s that? –
            - It’s in your pile, moron. Look at it. -        

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