When it comes to loopholes in laws and regulations, life-hacks, and domestic inventiveness in general, many nations would claim they are world record holders in each of these sport disciplines. Russians are not the best or the worst in this competition, they are different. If you’ve spent some time with this blog, you know that the best Russian art is always loaded with well-intended messages (which don’t necessarily work as intended though). Likewise, when Russians invent something, or use a loophole to bypass a law, or bribe a traffic police officer, they would find a noble cause to justify it. In this, Russians are unrivalled.
And here is the latest example of this ingenuity.
Today’s news about unveiling of a squatting machine in the Moscow Metro (aka Underground or Tube) don’t come up as a top hashtag on Twitter. Here it is, shown in the picture:
You can get a free ticket to the Metro if you do 30 squats. It is meant to promote the Olympic spirit and healthy lifestyle among the public.
Starting tomorrow, I can imagine the machines to be permanently occupied by squatters who would be able to earn about $40 to 50 an hour squatting for other people (and giving them discounts on tickets, of course). On a second thought, having someone doing 30 squats for you may provide entertainment that can be charged extra. I am sure helping the poor (at a discount) and entertaining the rich (at a premium) is a very noble cause to justify public squatting that thwarts the good intentions of government idiots behind this initiative.
Today’s Daily Prompt wanted bloggers to take an insignificant news article and link it to their blog in some way. Watch me.
This blog is celebrating its one-year anniversary today. It has clocked up 185 posts, 21.5K views, and 3,700 followers. If all the followers read everything I’ve written, the number of views would be 30 times higher. This difference in statistics shows how difficult it is to make people read about art in today’s information-intensive world.
People mostly want to see art (not even watch it), get an eyeful of it, and be off and away to something more exiting. Because of this, art is gravitating towards shocking and easy-to-understand gestures, which are rarely clever.
Just like in the management triangle of “speed, cost, and quality”, a work of art must seek a balance between grabbing attention (this factor is responsible, I guess, for two-thirds of emotional impact as well), being easy-to-understand, and sending across a clever and relevant message.
I am not saying the message must necessarily be realistic or rational. It can be a totally emotional signal. No problem, as long as it is a real emotive bullet and not an imaginary whiff of air shaped as one.
People, who’ve been in business for some time, know that whenever you’re faced with the triangle of “speed-quality-cost”, you can choose two apices only. You can go for “fast and inexpensive”, but be content with low quality at the end. Or, you may want high quality, but in this case, it would be either expensive and fast, or cheap and very slow. And of course some people may charge you a lot, take a lot of time to deliver, and then say the item you ordered broke down after a week of use because you’d been using it too intensively. But in this case those people are either going out of business or working for a government agency to which, obviously, no management theory applies.
Think of restaurants. If you know one that is fast, cheap, and serves high quality food, you are probably not aware of everything that’s going on in its kitchen.
Just like in management, art involves trade-offs. Attention-grabbing and clever? It won’t be easy-to-understand then. Easy-to-get and highly involving? Well, perhaps that justifies why its message is relevant to teenagers only.
Very often a contemporary artist would make his or her work difficult to understand to hide the absence of a clever or relevant meaning. And, as one of the more common attitudes about art (especially its contemporary version) was frankly summed up in one of the blogs I’ve visited recently, “I have nothing against [contemporary art], but I don’t really like it. Mostly, because I don’t really get it.”
While this thinking may seem similar to that of “Grandma who didn’t use electricity because she never believed in it”, this attitude to art is perfectly valid. If we see something which meaning does not become immediately obvious, we decide we don’t have the time to dig for it. We must live in the fast lane, because if we don’t, we end up on the sidewalk, dirt-doused by the more successful cars speeding by.
A year ago I decided to start writing about art and showing it in a way that would be attention grabbing, easy-to-read and sending across a clever and relevant message. The idea was simple. If readers say, “I dig it” each time they read a post in this blog, then, after some time, they will be happily “digging it” each time they see good art, without reading about it first, i.e. without a prompt.
I tried to achieve something that goes contrary to the management theory of two apices, and I am pretty sure I’ve managed to pull the trick off on at least one occasion, when a reader commented, “I haven’t had as much time looking at an artwork since my class in Humanities in college”.
Quite often, I would begin a post with something seemingly irrelevant to art to secure attention of audiences who otherwise would never read an art blog. I am not sure I succeeded in this, but I know each time I did it, my spam filter was working overtime. I am not sure the squat machines would be bringing in any new audiences, but I thought it was worth trying out. I’d love to have fans of squatting among the readers. I also hope that my loyal readers don’t get offended by me writing about the squat machines: after all, what cause can be nobler than setting squatting enthusiasts on the path of art appreciation?
Now, I want you to be so kind as to help me understand the gap between my ideals and the harsh reality. Please, tell me, on a scale of 1 (poor) to 5 (excellent), how this blog scores on:
- Scale A: Attention grabbing writing
- Scale B: Easiness to read
- Scale C: Sending across a clever and relevant message
Please be honest, critical, and responsive. I am not asking this out of idle curiosity, like a waiter dutifully inquiring if the rack of lamb was good and not giving a damn about the answer. I plan to improve. I still want all of them the three apices.
And, by the way, would you do 30 squats surrounded by a crowd of Russians dressed in dark winter coats for a ticket that costs 80 cents? Remember, it is a crowd of people who don’t smile, normally. That is, if they start smiling, you should learn why they do it before you smile back. And, remember, the squat machine issues tickets only, so you should bring your own deodorant.
Is it your first time here? To sample stuff in this blog, click on ABOUT at the top. You’ll find links to some of my best or typical posts there. There’s an Art & Fun shelf there if you are in want of a laugh. And don’t forget you can sign up for my new posts: there’s a “Follow this blog” form on the right.
5,4,5 and thank you. You usually have a creative lede that encourages one to read further than to switch the channel. Sometimes, I have to re-read sentences and that has to do with peculiar Englishisms, but it makes me think deeper into what you are saying. The most enjoyable part of the blog, which I guess is it’s purpose, is helping the reader be much more observant and thoughtful as they approach art, looking at it not as a display of training and technique but how the artist has tried to use subtleties to communicate their views on the human condition.
Doug, thank you so much for saying this. This is exactly what I am trying to achieve!
Congratulations on your first year of blogging on art. I hope to come back and read more often. Your point about satiating an immediate need is certainly true for art, but the more you can educate people about art, the more time they will take to look and think – so keep it up – you’re doing a great job!
Thank you! Thank you so much! )
Would you REALLY write for me?
My turn to say Спасибище огромное! I am working on a new body of work which I will not publicise until it is ready. It is quite different from anything I’ve done so far and I hope it is deserving for your pen. If you want to have a glimpse in the kitchen, please let me know but do not feel obligated.
Sorry Andrew (Graham-Dixon), the job goes to Artmoscow 😉
I am happy to win it from Andrew whose Art of Russia I love but disagree with on many counts. Yes, I’d love to see it! I trust you have my-email?
Andrew doesn’t stand a chance in hell :). I believe there is an email in your Gravatar. Will need a few days to photograph some of the stuff etc. Thanks, I really appreciate this.
5-5-5 from me. And 5++ for wickedness! Unlike Anna, I don’t find a patronizing tendency with you – and as someone who tends to be patronizing (according to daughter), I am quite intolerant to other patronizing types.
90% of all my reading these days is on art related subjects and your blog is by far the best. It is the blog that does help people understand art.
Thank you. If you ever need a wicked introduction to, say, a catalogue or exhibition of your work – I would be happy to write it ) I am really happy this blog is doing what I wanted it to do – thank you for saying that.
Don’t watch yourself too closely. It is refreshing to read opinionated content – I can always disagree as long as I have something to disagree with. That is why I give a 5,5,5 score and believe me I am being critical. Everytime I read your postings I always wonder why I’ve not done more of an effort to keep in more regular contact. Using techniques to attract interest is fully justified when the content is even more rewarding than the promise in the title or opening paragraph. I am now going to send your blog address to all my friends who have not yet made the discovery for themselves ~ a legitimate and much deserved way to boost the statistics
Thank you! I am trying to dance around today’s major deficit product: time ) It is a very flattering comment, but it also raises the stakes for me. The contens inside a post should always be more interesting than the promise at the start. It is a great principle that I know I have not always followed. Thank you, indeed!
Both artists and mentors need their last best work to be the bench mark for future creations. We do need a healthy dose of self-criticism but we also need to have moments of self-satisfaction otherwise we become irritable individuals who are unable to accept praise even when it is justly deserved. We are all limited by the time we can spend reading or viewing other peoples work. Most of my time is spent on the creative side but it would be missing the point of blogging if I didn’t also delve into the amazing variety of perspectives offered by visitors and fellow bloggers. Blogs with written content demand a dedication both to write and to read but I think we all owe it to ourselves and our viewers to expand the Universe with our own brand of uniqueness to the best of our ability. The more ability the greater the positive challenge!
Hmm, your whole posts are readable in the email update – I dont actually NEED to go to your site to seem them in full (though I always do). Thus I dont think your traffic corresponds w actual readership. Might want to look into that – have the email only include the lede. Very easy to adjust on WP.
My rankings for you: 4, 5, 5. My only, occasional gripe (which, hopefully, you’ll take as constructive crit, bc hey, you asked for feedback 😉 ) is that sometimes the tone veers into slightly patronizing territory. It’s probably the most ‘Russian’ thing about your writing style, too, this absolutism of judgement 🙂 But while I’m still giving those bits a little peer-review side-eye treatment, overall your writing is engaging and, I think, accessible (I was raised around art and studied it, though ages back, but I think even someone with the most limited fine arts exposure can easily follow along). I especially love the way you dissect specific works – the critical thinker in me gets all aroused by that. So, keep up the good work!
PS – congrats! You’re a toddler now!
“Thank you so much” won’t be enough. The Russian language is much more versitile. “Spasibische ogromnoye!” is more adequate but even this phrase doesn’t adequately reflect my appreciation of your comment. I know that you’ve covered a lot of this blog, and I am very grateful for the insight you shared. I hate it when people are patronising me with their attitudes or beliefs. I must be very careful not to become one of those know-it-all-better-than-you guys. I will watch myself ) Thank you!
Any time! And do look into that email option 😉