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Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Mmmm Crow tastes delicious!

Howdy!

Last night and this morning I had a very interesting discussion with Murray Whyte, of the Toronto Star about a post I made in January. This is it in its entirety. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

-----Original Message-----
From: Murray Whyte
Sent: Tuesday, February 08, 2005 14.33
To: info@zeke.com
Subject: your blog

Hi there. I'm Murray Whyte. You said this about me:

"Murray Whyte at the Toronto Star writes 1,297 words about Istvan Kantor's upcoming show at the Art Gallery of York University. Ummm, maybe I should take it back, what I said about articles of more than 1,000 words. First Whyte screws up who the artist was in the most recent blodd throwing incident, and then, second, he just doesn't get it. Cinque Hicks, over at Bare and Bitter Sleep, put it best, "when you've built your whole identity on being against something, only to have that something turn around and suddenly admire you without transforming itself in any way, it means that you've failed..." "

First of all, how did I 'screw up,' and then 'not get it?' It's one thing to offer criticism with context, and another to simply spew baseless, undefended vitriol. Shall we discuss?

-----Original Message-----
From: Chris from Zeke's Gallery [mailto:zeke@zeke.com]
Sent: Tuesday, February 08, 2005 19.52
To: Murray Whyte
Subject: RE: your blog

Howdy!

Yes, please. I like discussion.

My blog is dedicated to writing about Contemporary Canadian Art. As I would imagine that you're just jumping into it, I have in the past professed an unabashed love of articles about contemporary art in daily newspapers that are over 1,000 words. Yours was over 1,000 words but it made me cringe. The reason I stated that you got it wrong is that the piece that Mr. Kantor threw blood on was by Jeff Koons not Paul McCarthy. In any other part of the newspaper this would have been picked up and corrected by a number of people, having it get all the way into print just makes you and the Star look very shoddy. It is the same as if you had written that Trudeau's middle name was Emerson. Just flat out wrong on such a basic level, that it then forces a questioning of absolutely everything else in the article.

And then, as I was quite impressed by Mr. Hick's assessment of Mr. Kantor which is in direct contradiction with yours, I figured I lay it on think and heavy. From my perspective, Mr. Kantor has been co-opted by the art establishment here in Canada, he has not transformed it in any way. Apologies if you took it personally, it was not intended as such, despite the use of your name.

If there is anything you'd like me to change, correct, delete or anything else, please let me know.

Baseball Sucks
Chris

Zeke's Gallery

-----Original Message-----
From: Murray Whyte
Sent: Wednesday, February 09, 2005 07.58
To: zeke@zeke.com
Subject: RE: your blog

Hiya --

Discussion's fine. But firstly, the piece was NOT Koons' Jackson/Bubbles piece, but rather an exaggerated, caricaturized homage to that very piece by Paul McCarthy. You can find the study for the piece here:

this is the link

The finished piece, cast in gold, was the one in Berlin. So, I'm afraid you're wrong, which really should be your motivation for correcting your statements, not to appease me. It is a little disturbing, however, to be berated for an error that is, in fact, not an error at all; your tone of outrage at something that is in fact correct is sort of embarrassing. Also, Kantor did not 'throw blood on' the piece, as he made clear in the story; he never has, in any of his actions. The blood, and the spectacle it creates, IS the piece. What was Trudeau's middle name, anyway?

I don't take any of this personally; however, I would like to draw a distinction between a profile and a critical review. Quite against expectation -- or maybe not? -- Kantor has become a figure in the Canadian art establishment. That being the case, I decided not to add to the tiresome debate of his worthiness, but speak to the man himself, and try to draw out some of the motivations and ideas that inform what has been his life's work. He is, there can be no question, a controversial figure; he is not, however, one that has been given a great deal of opportunity to speak for himself in a mass public medium. There are those that will criticize the very choice to even acknowledge his existence in the mainstream press, but I am not one of them; the fact that he has achieved notoreity -- of any sort -- in the public realm makes him newsworthy, and a justifiable realm of inquiry for a mass medium's cultural discourse.

Let me reiterate: I told a story. I did not offer an interpretation, critical or otherwise, of the man's artistic merit. That in mind, I am perplexed at what you might mean by me 'not getting it,' when in fact what I did was give voice to a narrative, not offer my own idea of what it might mean. If you disagree with what was said in the story, then you disagree with Kantor, not with me.

In any case, please do correct the 'screwed up' accusation; the error was yours, not mine. I'd appreciate that. And believe me, absolutely every error in the Star is corrected, whether it's about Chretien, or Valentine's pastries. It is a strict and immutable policy that we adhere to without exception. And if you'd like to discuss this further, I'm available.

Thanks, MW

-----Original Message-----
From: Chris from Zeke's Gallery [mailto:zeke@zeke.com]
Sent: Wednesday, February 09, 2005 14.56
To: Murray Whyte
Subject: RE: your blog

Howdy!

Thanks for your reply. I apologize, and will be making a correction. Also would you mind if I posted your email and/or our email conversation on my blog?

Then, I do understand the difference between a profile and a critical review, and don't like it when the line gets blurred when it is in a daily. Too often reporters for dailies (or weeklies) try to do a critical and academic analysis of a visual art exhibit in under 700 words. Because of my blinders (due to my mistake) I only gave your article a quick scan. Then knocked off something that I thought would be pithy. Which is not excuse me, merely explain.

Within the context of my entire post and the blog itself, what you hear as "the tone of my outrage" is intended (and for the most part understood) as one offs that are meant to entertain and draw focus on Canadian visual arts. All the other visual art stories in that post, including yours, got a "grade." I thought that would be sufficient to make readers realize I wasn't being terribly serious.

And finally, your choice of quotes in your article, specifically ""Never, ever would I have thought myself as being within the establishment," he said..." without any countering comment from you or him, does lead me to think that both you and he recognize that as of now he is part of the establishment, which within the context of this discussion puts us on opposite sides, both you and me, as well as me and Mr. Kantor. If I misread that line, then once again I'm guilty as charged :-)

I hope all is well with you
Chris

Zeke's Gallery

-----Original Message-----
From: Chris from Zeke's Gallery [mailto:zeke@zeke.com]
Sent: Wednesday, February 09, 2005 15.14
To: Murray Whyte
Subject: My corrections

Howdy!

The offending posts with the corrections.

Link number 1
Link number 2

I still hope all is well with you
Chris

Zeke's Gallery

-----Original Message-----
From: Murray Whyte
Sent: Wednesday, February 09, 2005 10.11
To: zeke@zeke.com
Subject: RE: your blog

I don't mind that email being printed in the blog, if you like. Does my grade change? I think it's important to understand that Kantor's quote that you mention, "Never, ever would I have thought myself as being within the establishment," is exactly that: his quote. Am I somehow complicit in believing the same thing simply for presenting it? I think that's a matter for debate -- by which I mean that I would neither feign complete innocence or suggest myself as an absolver or apologist.

However, I do think that part of Kantor's shtick -- indeed, an essential part of his artistic practice -- is, in fact, to inspire outrage, condemnation, and criticism in the mass media sphere. By taking a step back and NOT responding in that way -- but, rather, offering what I thought was a fairly detached report, full og background and facts from the man himself -- I was not only opting out of his game, but giving readers the opportunity to respond to Kantor, and his work, themselves.

Critics perform a vital role in the public's interactions with cultural product, but it's important we remember that there is no absolute, no correct, no right, no wrong. An artist has intent that he or she executes formally; the response to it, however, is personal and individual. A critic can help to evaluate the execution, but at the last, we are all human beings with thought, feelings and reactions. I wanted to give readers an opportunity to judge this oeuvre for themselves, and build their own reaction based on the information presented -- somethign that hasn't been done with Kantor, by and large, which, in fact, has played into the intent of his project. It's curiously reflexive, and intentional. I wonder what a critic might say about that.

Cheers, MW

-----Original Message-----
From: Murray Whyte
Sent: Wednesday, February 09, 2005 10.20
To: zeke@zeke.com
Subject: Re: My corrections

Thanks.

In future, I would only ask that you actually read pieces in their entirety before offering judgments of them -- scathing, praising or otherwise. If you don't, it's sort of like reviewing an art show you haven't seen, isn't it? And that's not fair to anyone -- neither the author, the readers for whom you are trying to provide a service, or, ultimately, yourself.

Cheers, MW

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