Want to be an artist? Put off by the tedious prospect of learning drawing or painting skills? If you’re reasonably young, attractive and privileged, and you’ve got nothing to work with except a desperate need for attention, you may be intrigued by the possibility of turning your very own life into art.
You are a unique snowflake, full of fascinating depths. Wouldn’t it be great if all the other people in the world could escape from their empty boring lives and live vicariously through you as they shuffle through exhibits of your used personal possessions? This guide is for you.
First, some scientific truths about the art of disclosure:
- Confessions are only interesting if they’re by interesting people.
- Everybody else is full of solipsistic bollocks.
The problem with so many confessional artists is that they think they’re in the first group when they’re actually in the second. Hint: most of us fall into the second group no matter how we long to be in the first.
We all think of ourselves as deep, whether we actually are or not. And we’re the worst judges in the world on the subject of whether we are interesting to others.
Confessional art seems to be largely about women who think showing naked images of their suffering selves and rabbiting on and on about sex achieves anything in a male-dominated world except prurient enjoyment for the male gaze.
The skills required for a “confessional art” career are very few, it seems, as long as you can make a somewhat recognizable naked image of yourself or hire someone to take a picture of you naked.
If you think confessional art will help you heal from your emotional wounds, consider the artists who have spent entire careers bleeding (or pissing) all over a canvas. Do they seem to get happier over time?
Patriarchy enjoys female suffering and is willing to compensate women artists for depicting it. It even persuades them to believe that serving up female bodies on a stick is actually feminist.
Get this through your head, women artists: the world is male-dominated and that includes the art world. Those who will see you, judge you and categorize you will be men. The majority of men will not empathize with your suffering. Women might, but they’re not in power and their empathy will have little effect.
What’s even worse is that not only will the majority not empathize with female suffering, they will vicariously enjoy it. Just as they do with all other imagery of naked women.
Once those images go out into the world, you will have no control over what happens to them, and they will be consumed by a dominant culture that doesn’t consider women to be human beings. That can never end well.
(If you’re a male artist who is getting the idea this guide is really written for women, and is annoyed thereby: How’s it feel to be the non-default gender for once? The entire art world already revolves around you, so suck it. )
Getting attention and fame for exhibiting emotional wounds usually results in the artist endlessly revisiting and re-mining her own trauma to get more attention, which is healthy neither for the artist or the art world itself, running as it does on a steady diet of fevered egos.
One of the saddest things about trauma is the malignant self-absorption it breeds; when something is wrong with us we can’t help but focus on it. A lifetime of navel-gazing and harrowing one’s old wounds for money and fame will end up making you, at best, a tedious wanker, and at worst, an emotional wreck.
The rest of us, traumatized by too much collective trauma, develop compassion fatigue and start snarking our way through exhibitions. Some of us even end up writing heartless blog posts that totally make fun of your naive and innocent art-career aspirations. Sorry about that, but I’m stuck in this system too, you see.
Pull your head out, learn some basic drawing or painting skills, and focus on something outside of your damn self. Anything! Vowing to subvert the system of injustice that traumatized you in the first place would be a nice invigorating start.
This won’t help you win the Turner Prize for your collection of used cotton swabs, but it will help to reduce ego emissions in the art world that are directly responsible for hot air circulating around prestigious exhibitions, thus helping to combat global warming.