Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Nowhere To Hide

Hey! Said my name is called disturbance.
I'll shout and scream, I'll kill the king, I'll rail at all his servants.
– Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, Street Fighting Man
Let me restate a basic policy for this blog. I am open to critical remarks about my work or me. I've published many here over the past three years and I will continue to do so. But if you're not willing to identify yourself, if you do it anonymously, I'll just trash what you have to say.
I used to to publish everything, including anonymous insults and slander. I figured my readers would notice that the vilest comments come from three distinct groups:the first are mostly fellow artists or art dealers who are envious or resentful of the public 'me' or who just hate my art – interestingly, this angry, misogynistic group is made up almost entirely of middle-aged, white Australian males; the second are spiteful former acquaintances (or jilted lovers) who have an axe to grind; finally, there are those geekish, dull-witted trolls who get a kick out of spilling vitriol over anyone with any 'surface' in the blogosphere.
It's easy enough to identify posters, even when they use different aliases. If they're really nasty or threatening, I run their IP address and keep a note of where they route to. Mostly, I know who they are from their own words. For example, there's the guy about whom I wrote recently here: he was pissed off that I addressed his sexism in public – after all, he is, as he kept reminding me, one of my 'collectors'. Before I wrote the blog, I emailed him privately and he didn't respond. He continues to make snarky, ill-informed, anonymous critiques of me on others' blogs.
If someone says something stupid or insulting to me, they're not entitled to my silence. Ditto if they try to take advantage of me.
A number of late middle-aged, white male art dealers are livid that I unwrap the exploitative and often (again) misogynistic business practices I've experienced with them. In their eyes, I am only an artist – and a female one at that.
Unfortunately for them, I am also a successful woman who won't abide by the accepted, "be-seen-but-not-heard-and-be-bloody-grateful-you've-got-it" conventions of female success. The art world is traditionally dominated by men but I'm not grateful to them or eager-to-please. I'm not meek, modest, obsequiously deferent either. I don't give in or dumb myself down. I haven't slept with anyone to advance my career and I've never been supported by a man, other than my father.
Instead, every day, I live and work in the open. I expose my art, my self, my work practice and the worst of me online, where everyone can see. And I don't give a toss whom it pisses off.
The over-emotional, often obsessive, confused and enraged responses of those who attack me anonymously acknowledges a radical shift in power. The privilege they once took for granted suddenly doesn't apply any more. Race, gender, social standing and age are of no relevance to the new, web-based world, which empowers and equalises in ways early feminists could never have imagined. At last, women – and everyone else who has been disadvantaged by patriarchal systems – can play on the same, level playing field.
The anonymous posting of a spiteful, slanderous, vitriolic attack is just a desperate, ill-fated attempt to regain some of that lost power. The anonymous ranter can criticise (and slander) without exposing their motives to close examination or their ideas to detailed counter-argument or criticism. They also think they don't have to take responsibility for their own words, assuming (wrongly) that their legal identities and liabilities are obscured. Their's is a last, desperate attempt to influence, to exert a power they don't have anymore (if they ever had it), without responsibility.
Enough is enough. From now on, I won't publish any more unpleasant crap from anonymous posters. I will continue to publish reasoned, critical comments by those who display their real identity. I'm not bothered by those who disagree with me or who find my art disasteful or even just plain bad. I relish conflicting ideas about art and everything else (well, almost everything else).
As those who've followed this blog for a few years know, I don't run from a fight. Actually, I like to fight.
But I've got too little time to indulge those impotent dullards and wankers who are too cowardly to 'own' their own words. They can just fuck off.


RMStringer said...

I too am a blogger and have been for nearly 6 years. My blog has evolved with me during that time and i have had to put up with bullshit comments from mindless whelps with nothing better to do than just that.

I found you on twitter and i too am an aspiring photographer try to turn a passionate hobby into something more. Please keep up the good work and i will follow your stuff on here as well.

Have a good evening or day depending on where you are!

Peace Out,

Samantha said...

Well said!

Kate said...

Why do I have a burning desire to know what specifically instigated this post?

Anonymous said...

Me too Kate!

I bet Donny or Davey
was spoutin' off again!


julochka said...

well said. and sadly, those misogynist dinosaurs are not just in the art world, they're everywhere. i had a run-in with one a few months ago and i foolishly DIDN'T say anything at the moment it happened (i think i couldn't believe what i'd just heard). i've regretted it every since. and i vowed that i'd not ever let it happen again.

i wish i'd read this post before it happened, then i might have been courageous enough to call the old geezer on it at the moment it happened.

Fogbound said...

Hazel, I haven't been reading your blog for very long but I think it's great. You are open and honest, on the cutting edge with your art. I think alot are just jealous of your success, doing it in your own way. Keep at it- you're on the right track. And by the way, I'm a white middle age Canadian who appreciates good art and people without pretense.

Aaron B. Brown said...

Wow, I wrote a comment the other day and it would've been off-topic until this post. But the questions I posed pertain to real criticism, thoughtful criticism, not abuse. Which is what I saw over at Lateral Action

ART IS WAR: An Interview with Hazel Dooney, Renegade Artist

Myself, when I started posting comments on blogs in 2004, I decided to use my real name, because even when I talk shit, which I often have in the past on political blogs, it seems only fair that I stand behind my words, and take responsibility for them. And the simple fact is there is no such thing as anonymity on the Internet, if someone wants to find you and find out who you are, rest assured they can.

I've often harshly criticized people, and even engaged in personal attacks when I thought it was warranted, but in those instances, my rhetoric was always directed at what I consider fair game, like politics, politicians, war, the press, ill-conceived rhetorical approaches, a whole plethora of subjects and people but...

But art is something different, art is about creation, and I believe that to create something of value, something that really reaches other people, a person must dig down into themselves and take what they find there and put it out on display for the world to see. There is often a deal of pain and damage done, even violence to oneself in the act of creation. It's not easy, anyone who's ever tried it knows that. From a man who builds a bridge, to a woman giving birth to a child, creation costs. So the last thing you want to do is inflict hurtful damage that would discourage a person from continuing to try this most difficult of acts.

Even if they fail with their final product, even if it falls into the sea, or their child dies before it is born, in my book such people who take these risks with their bodies and brave the icy waters of failure, they should always always be rewarded for their efforts and pains. That's not to say that genuine criticism should be discouraged, criticism is useful even indispensable, but it is most useful when it is helpful and presented in a thoughtful manner that tactfully points out flaws but also promotes and encourages future attempts at creation, as opposed to disparaging and disheartening the will and resolve of the artists.

There's something diabolical and just plain wrong about setting out to intentionally damage a person that is attempting the act of creation. If you don't like this individual, you have a problem with them, attack them personally, trash their trashy ways, blast their morals, rub their face in their hypocrisy. But for God sake don't go after their art, because maybe you're right about them, they may be an awful person, they may be a real shit, they may be the worst of the worst and you know it.

But even a low down dirty scoundrel, a brigand, a thief, a liar and a monster of human being, even that person can create something beautiful, even that person can reach down into themselves and find a special place, a part of themselves that is unsoiled and untainted, and unbroken, and they can grab on to that light, mold it and shape it and work it, and fashion it into something that is truly majestic and wonderful and beautiful, a masterwork that can touch the hearts of people everywhere, an object or work that can reach people now and for generations to come. What they create can save people, even from themselves, when nothing else can.

That is the power of art, and it is mighty, it can bring down empires and it can raise the lowest person to the stars. So if you're a civilized human being, and you want to advance the cause of humanity and improve the human condition, trash the artist if you must, but leave their art untouched for the rest of us, because even if you can't see its value, rest assured there is someone out there who will...

andrea said...

The fact that they feel the need to respond at all is a sort of vindication, and the surest sign that they haven't got the power they once had -- and know it.

Aaron B. Brown said...

...But if you do enough damage to an artist, you could stop them, prevent them from creating anything else ever again, and if you do that, you do harm to us all, you bring us all down including yourself, down to the level of the Neanderthal, effectively reversing the evolution of humankind, what you're engaging in is a kind of devolution a degeneration into a brutish past where I promise you no one wants to go.

Thankfully the living spirit of creation has always been more powerful than the dead wraiths of spiteful criticism. So to all those who attack art of any kind, all those who impugn the force of creative energy, take heed and be warned. For we will defeat you and the malignant tyranny you would bring down upon us, history has proven that you and your kind will be defeated and overthrown, every damn time.

So with that said, now that I've got that off my chest.

Ms. Dooney, if I may ask a question, if that is permitted on your blog, I was wondering how does criticism, genuine criticism, how does it affect you on an emotional level?

Debra said...

I have just started blogging and I am learning so much from you, Hazel. I hope to build a thicker skin, so when these situations happen, I can keep your wisdom at the forefront of my mind. Thanks for your strength.

Patti Trostle Fine Art said...

Couldn't have said it better! Love it!

Christy said...

I have been following along on your blog and twitter for a little while now and find it very inspirational.

I can't really put into words how fantastic I think you are and your management of your career and your art.

You have given me hope that I should keep trying, keep painting, and keep talking about my art. Especially when I could not find that vision elsewhere.

I am also a follower of Lateral Action so I was really happy for you, to see your interview on that great site.

I think 98% of people who leave an anonymous comment have an agenda.

This is your blog so if you don't want to post anonymous posts then I say you have every right not to. I for one decide what the heck to post on my blog.

I also wanted to say that I think your writing is excellent and you should write a book about your art and or about how artists can manage their careers in today's world.

Thanks for letting us follow along and share our thoughts here. It is a privilege to do so.

Patti Trostle Fine Art said...

By the way, for anyone criticizing Hazel,know there are many of us new to her work and blog that consider her our new found hero!!!

Mark McGuinness said...

@ Hazel - Good call, it was annoying enough for us to have to police the trolls at Lateral Action, I can easily see you have better things to do with your time than entertain their spite.

@ Aaron - I agree some of the comments at Lateral Action were unacceptable. We don't tolerate personal abuse and have deleted the comments in question.

mondotrasho said...

Then set one rule Hazel. Do you really want a policy that critical remarks can't be anonymous, but that obsequious and sycophantic comments can be publish anonymously?
p.s. You always reserve the right to publish what ever you want, and by all means kill comments that are off topic, but let subscribers know where they stand in this regard to their participation.

Hazel Dooney said...

Mondotrasho, re-read what I've written. I am not banning critical comments. Just the ones written by those who don't have the guts to reveal who/what they are. Positive comments are neither abusive nor potentially hurtful and destructive. My rules stand. I don't care if you think they're balanced. This isn't a fucking democracy. Nor is it a debate.

Fi said...

Hear hear. My blog policy is 'it's my blog and I'll delete if I want to'. Blogs (in my opinion) are not a free-for-all for vitriol and spite. Just as in offline life, reasoned (and preferably constructive) criticism welcome. Difference of opinion welcome. Outright hostility will be shut down pronto.

abby said...

Inspiring post, and you're right about not trashing people's art - too many judgemental people out there -who do only that - judge and never create anything but bad feeling.