10 years pricking the art voodoo doll 2005-2015

Month: June 2008

Interview with The Pakspectator

I was asked to pen some thoughts on this blog for the Pakspectator

Would you please tell us something about you and your site?

I am an artist and my blog is an art criticism blog with my own cartoons illustrating my criticism. It is basically about the English art scene but sometimes touches on International themes.

Do you feel that you continue to grow in your writing the longer you write? Why is that important to you?

In some ways but also as I do not have much time I do think my writing style sometimes suffers because of the speed of ‘blogging’. I need to think before I type more often!

I’m wondering what some of your memorable experiences are with blogging?

Well being contacted by the Pakspectator is pretty unusual. I mostly get visited by, view and comments from, viagra people interested in the art scene rather than politics although I do cross over when it comes to government funding of the arts which we lucky enough in this country to have received ..well until recently that is. When the economy does badly so do artists. People have other priorities and we lucky to have such a thing in first place compared to other countries. Art is not about just money though it about spirit too.

What do you do in order to keep up your communication with other bloggers?

I simply try and keep the blog updated as much as possible which not easy.

What do you think is the most exciting or most innovative use of technology in politics right now?

Probably the use of ‘interactive’ technology via the internet. We have a lot of U.K. politicians using youtube which is amusing…they try to look ‘up to date’ for the voters.

Do you think that these new technologies are effective in making people more responsive?

I do. I know a lot of English people are sceptical but I work with young people and they have long since abandoned their pens for the computer screen.

Politicians should speak in a language people understand even if on internet.

What do you think sets Your site apart from others?

My cartoons and my art dog character ‘Moogee’

If you could choose one characteristic you have that brought you success in life, and what would it be?

Being inventive and seeking new solutions to problems.

What was the happiest and gloomiest moment of your life?

Meeting my partner and losing my father in the same year.

Do you think [the use of Twitter and other social networking tools by politicians] is bandwagon jumping or what?

As I said before politicians need to communicate in whatever way is suitable.

If you could pick a travel destination, anywhere in the world, with no worries about how it’s paid for – what would your top 3 choices be?

Nashville U.S.A.
New Zealand

What is your favorite book and why?

Raymond Carver – Fires – short stories and poems
because it made me a poet.

What’s the first thing you notice about a person (whether you know them or not)?


Is there anyone from your past that once told you you couldn’t write?

A lot of arts adminstrators, politicians and lecturers are uncomfortable when one says the truth.

How bloggers can benefit from blogs financially?

I wish I knew..I do not..and never set out to make money from my blog..


Is it true that who has a successful blog has an awful lot of time on their hands?

They need to be sat down in front of a screen and type a lot that is for sure. They also need to avoid R.S.I. and related diseases from too much typing…

What are your thoughts on corporate blogs and what do you think the biggest advantages and disadvantages are?

I not that familiar with ‘bigger’ blogs although something like Huffington Post does seem to have changed the rules about how news is provided.
I think the world has changed and blogging is helping to change it even more…for the better.

What role can bloggers of the world play to make this world more friendlier and less hostile?

Just help with communication..we all need to communicate and avoid misunderstanding each other.

Who are your top five favourite bloggers?

I do not have a top five..I like the Guardian Newspaper Uk Bloggers – five of those do?

Is there one observation or column or post that has gotten the most powerful reaction from people?

Yes but not written by me ironically! A noted New York artist chose to comment on my blog and he gets lots of ‘hits’. He also going to write some ‘artist in New York’ travelogues for my blog so looking forward to those.

What is your perception about Pakistan and its people?

I have a very nice Pakistani family living next door who offered us some party food last weekend because welcoming someone from Pakistan.

So my impression was very good as was the food!

Have you ever become stunned by the uniqueness of any blogger?

My cartoon dog is pretty unique I haven’t seen another.

What is the most striking difference between a developed country and a developing country?


I have never visited Pakistan but I would guess people the same the world over and health and happiness not related to wealth at all. We are wealthy in some ways but poor in others.

What is the future of blogging?


I think it will become more like television because of technology but I hope there will still be a place for good writing.

You have also got a blogging life, how has it directly affected both your personal and professional life?

It has affected my profile as an artist. I believe more people may have heard of me because of the cartoons.

What are your future plans?

Keep blogging and asking questions even when I get no answers!

Any Message you want to give to the readers of The Pakistani Spectator?

Many thanks for spending some time reading my little thoughts from a damp and raining England. May you enjoy health and happiness and good weather!

Shaun Belcher

Artist and Poet and Songwriter

Nottingham, England


The death of the artist?

Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to loose

Nothing, viagra I mean nothing honey if it ain’t free, sildenafil no no

Yeah feeling good was easy Lord when he sang the blues

You know feeling good was good enough for me

Good enough for me and my Bobby McGee.

Kris Kristofferson ‘Me and Bobby McGhee’ Lyrics

A money culture wants the figures, the bottom line, the sales, the response, it wants a return on its investment, it wants more money.

Art can offer no obvious return. Its rate of exchange is energy, for energy, intensity for intensity. The time you spend on art is the time it spends with you; there are no short cuts, no crash courses, no fast tracks. There is only the experience.

Jeanette Winterson – ‘What is art for?’ – Guardian 2002

Where are we now? – the bigger picture

Arts planning and funding in the U.K. has been thrown into turmoil by two or three concurrent factors. One a slowdown (pace – ‘recession’) globally which may well remove the Labour Party from power in the next two years.

Two a diversion of a significant amount of lottery funding to the Olympics (even if there were no Olympics to pay for the income from lottery is in a downward spiral).

Thirdly a cut-throat bottom-line cash-driven business model in arts education that is pumping out a hundred fine art graduates per institution into the muddy waters of U.K. Creative Industries PLC. Even the most hard-nosed ACE administrator realises that the gravy will be spread thinner and thinner soon on some very poor fare…

Where are all these new ‘geniuses’ going to go?

‘Free Enterprise’?

So here I am 50 years old and advocating ‘Freemium’ policies, freecycle marketing and not-for-profit artists organisation and pressure-groups. I must, therefore, be mad?

I honestly believe this is the only sensible way forward…the arts council’s golden goose has probably laid its last golden eggs for a while in terms of low-end funding..

For new models perhaps we should look to American free enterprise models that are not based on ‘state funding’. We need enterprise, imagination and communal enterprise to survive this recession.

Nottingham was the base for the East Midlands Group in the 1970’s that survived and prospered because all of those things..not just because it was state-funded. It high time that artists stopped ‘competing’ like so many little businesses for government ‘largesse’ and actually started producing high quality work people actually might want to take an interest in.

This starts with reskilling our fine arts graduates instead of spilling them out with pretentious notions and badly conceived ideas of being the next Damien Hirst or Tracey Emin. Removing the skills base was one of the tragedies of the past two decades of art education.

GLOBAL/LOCAL?? Digital freedom?

The free market is dominant to a degree we have never seen before and it destroying not only local communities but the old ‘communal’ bonds between creative individuals. Grants and lip-service cannot change the digital wrecking ball creating havoc with creative copyright. Protecting one’s work digitally is impossible. All creative output can be copied and distributed freely…those who do not accept this are swimming against a very strong tide.

The only ‘saleable’ commodity left to the artist is his/her own ideas and experience and the ‘authenticity’ of their ‘personal appearances’..or substitute appearances in shows etc.
Bit like Barbara Windsor opening supermarkets…

Crafts practitioners are strong on the ‘authentic and personal’ properties that sell items but fine artists no longer are because of recent changes in fashion. To have abandoned traditional skills just at the point where they are most needed is madness. I call this kind of art and skills based production ‘slow art’ to differentiate from the internet’s dissemination of ‘fast food art’. This ‘fast art’ is eroding the market for all the arts…

A ‘near-perfect’ copy of a Francis Bacon can be painted in China in the time I have taken to write this evaluation ….so why bother being Francis Bacon any more the students argue..we have ideas…such wonderful ideas….Indeed all 100 have wonderful ideas..it is putting them into ‘practice’ literally that requires skills and understanding as well as ideas.

Some digital artists are already ‘outsourcing’ their creative output to others on a massive scale..just like companies.

It began with YBA’s (Hirst and co. had most ‘artifacts’ ‘made-up’ for them) now everyone’s doing it…especially those students coached early in their career in networking and the ‘wow factor’.

Students are no longer taught to make paints or stretch a canvas or cast bronze ..we have entered a period of ‘Warholian’ education.

True ‘authenticity’ is in short supply now and Fordism is a more relevant philosophy to artists now than the ‘Van Gogh’ suffer and paint model..ironically both he and Picasso engaged in bartering – swapping paintings for food and drink when poor….plus ca change….

Everything else in the arts has been up for grabs since the internet was invented.

To paraphrase Kris Kristofferson in ‘Me and Bobby McGhee’…..

Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to sell.

Nothing ain’t worth nothing less it’s free

We are all living in the freemium economy.