POST BY PADDY JOHNSON
I’m a bad blogger and spent the better part of the morning talking to my mother instead of working. As such, the only post for the day is a reminder to visit the Chicago based bloggers Bad at Sports’ first exhibition in New York tomorrow at apexart. The podcast and news collaborative has asked virtually anyone they’ve worked with over the years to submit an object or ephemera to the show. I don’t want to ruin any surprises, but AFC contributed tattoos.
To give a better idea of the show’s flavor, I’m posting the press release after the jump. Don’t worry — it’s an interview — and therefore not a totally awful read.
Richard: Just talk it through? Is that too postmodern?
Duncan: I don’t know. Well, what do you want to do with the apexart essay?
Richard: Are we recording? Is this ironic or is this not ironic?
Duncan: I don’t know if it’s ironic or not, but yes, we’re recording.
Richard: I think that we should talk about the philosophy of the program. Do a little bit about how it got started. Sort of do the compressed version of that talk we did the other day. And by “we,” I mean you, mostly. The royal “we.”
Duncan: [Laughs.] So you want to start with…?
Richard: Well, I think originally, we were just screwing around, having a conversation, being dumbasses, and I think it’s evolved into something more rich, with more depth and more seriousness. I mean, I think, at this point, we’re creating an audio archive of what’s going on in the art community, or at least the art community we have access to in this time and place. And the place has expanded into more cities than it was originally. Now it’s New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, London, Switzerland, Sweden.
So I think it’s an examination, like a time capsule of what’s going on now, and that we’ll look at this project twenty, thirty, fifty years from now—at least on a personal level—and see an interesting history of what was going on now.
Duncan: Do you think we already do that? Do you think, when you look back on the programming that we put together five years ago, it seems kind of strange? Like, what we thought was urgent at that moment versus what turned out to be kind of urgent?
Richard: Oh, it’s embarrassing. [Laughs.] I listen to those early shows and groan. We were very flip about it at first, only when people started to list us on their resumes and we started to get feedback, either…deliriously angry or deliriously happy about what we were doing…only then did we realize that we had any sort of an audience and that we might need to be conscientious about how we were doing things.
Duncan: Take it vaguely seriously?
Richard: Seriously? I don’t want to cast it that we’re too serious, but… I don’t remember exactly when the moment was, but I do remember all the sudden thinking, wow, this project is really a lot bigger than me. [Laughs.] It’s not any one person or two people or anything. It’s not you, Amanda and me; it’s not the blog; it’s not Meg and Claudine; it’s not any bureau.
There is such an array of ideas and opinions brought to the table. And I think it’s a good, functioning collective, in a way that few are. The whole is better than the sum of its parts.
Duncan: So what do you think binds us all together?
Richard: A Midwestern work ethic, maybe? [Laughs.] A slightly Marxist view of things? Boy, that’s tough to say. I think it’s earnestness, at the end of the day. If you contrast the people who've stuck with the project for any length of time…and the people who’ve left the project, the difference is earnestness. The people who worked with us with purely self serving motivation were a bad fit, and it was obvious. So I think, at the end of the day, it’s people who give a shit. The give-a-shit factor is not to be underestimated. Most people aren’t willing to give of themselves to their individual detriment in furtherance of a greater good. We have lots of people who can work toward a common goal, I think that’s really rare.
Duncan: Do you think you and I are even entitled to speak for the entirety of Bad at Sports anymore?
Richard: No, I don’t, actually. You and I (recently) had a conversation about this”¦ we talked about how the blog has grown to a size and level of complexity that it doesn't make sense to speak as an organization without them. The blog has become so much more than you or I ever imagined. We always had aspirations of having the blog really take off on its own, but it has transcended our greatest aspirations with its level of depth and complexity.
Neither one of us has ever been comfortable even pretending to be in charge. I don’t think that there’s a leader. You and I happened to be the first two involved and happened to be the people who were on-air the most. I think that we end up doing this stuff by default. Meg (chief blogger) puts in more work than you or me. She should be writing this!
Duncan: [Laughs.] Well, right now, you and I are literally phoning it in, so… [Laughs.]
Richard: As opposed to what—any other day? [Laughs.]
Duncan: So when you think about Bad at Sports’ history…
Richard: Isn’t it funny how you’re interviewing me?
Duncan: Well, I could chime in, but you’re doing just fine. So we started the show on a whim, right? We’re sitting in a bar thinking why there are no good art radio shows and what we could do with an art radio show, and why it would be fun to produce, and how we could do it. And we’d come up with this sort of really clichéd title, right, as we try and sort of plumb the depths of what being an artist was all about; what are the good clichés upon which we can hang our hat.
So now, as of this writing, we’ve been doing this for 235 weeks. And I wonder about what we think we're doing now versus what we thought we were doing then. At the time I thought we were trumpeting the virtues of the art world that we were seeing around us, which we felt was being underserved and under-documented. We thought that we could do it in a kind of funny, stupid way, and maybe that would have, if nothing else, a charm, anyway—a stupid kind of charm.
And now I wonder how much we’re still art-worlders talking about art, or how much we’re art fan boys throwing down with the art superstars.
Richard: Fan boy maybe, but throwing down with the superstars… One of the things that I think is really interesting is how rarely you or I feel compelled to go after the super-duper rock star big names. It’s not that we couldn’t possibly get access to them. In a lot of ways, those people aren’t the most interesting to us. We’re interested in the midcareer and emerging artists, gallerists and curators, where most of the real action is.
Duncan: That’s fair to say but it isn’t always true. Right? Like, I love Jeff Wall and pursued that to the end.
Richard: Oh, sure. But it’s not… like, starfucking is not our goal.
Duncan: [Laughs.] But why is that? The reason that we don’t go after more superstars is because nothing’s really at stake for them anymore. They’re already set up. They know what they do; everybody else knows what they do.
And outside of the rare person, like a Liam Gillick, who works in this very sort of confounding way, nothing’s revealed through that conversation, right? You get a series of interesting anecdotes and you get to enjoy the pleasure of being in that person’s company. But they’re not still playing, You Bet Your Life. They already won.
Richard: Yeah, I don’t know that the people… I mean, in terms of “at stake,” I don’t know, entirely, what you mean by that. I don’t know that we’re going to have any appreciable effect on anybody’s existence.
Duncan: Oh, yeah, and that’s not what I mean. I just mean that it’s not as interesting to go through what has already been polished.
Richard: Right, that’s where the project started and where it ends, providing things that the listeners might not be able to get otherwise. Like, Jeff Wall, who is a great interview and I really grew to appreciate his work through that interview—but Jeff Wall’s been interviewed 800 zillion other times before and we weren’t bringing anything terribly new to the table.
But Jim Lutes, on the other hand, maybe not as frequently interviewed and certainly very interesting, and I think a lot of those artists, you know, we are bringing something to the collective art dialog/table that might not be out there otherwise.
And I think that those people are important and should be talked about. And we’re sort of doing our little part. We have a tiny, little audience, we do our tiny, little show, and we talk to exciting people, and hopefully someone finds it interesting.
Duncan: The tiny, little art podcast that could?
Richard: Pretty much.
Duncan: That’s how you think of us? [Laughs.]
Richard: So to wrap it up, Duncan, what do you see as the future of the project? This exhibition is certainly a very new and exciting direction for us, also we’ve done a number of speaking engagements lately, and we are developing new media content to add to the blog. What do you see as the future of the show?
Duncan: That’s funny, because I feel like every few years, we’re given an opportunity to do something that forces us to sort of reconsider the context in which we work, and what we’re doing, and examine “who we think we are.” And I’m not sure who we’re going to emerge as post-apexart show. I think that if we look at it coming in, we say, well, we’re sort of self-styled journalists. We’re sort of like, but are not really, journalists, but sort of… We take it seriously. We don’t go out to quote gossip, and everything we say is true to the best of our knowledge.
And I think…I don’t know. I think there are so many ways it could sort of splinter or fracture, or so many possibilities that the apexart opportunity is making apparent to us, right? What is Bad at Sports about? How would the collective do an art show? So we came up with a few things…
One is a kind of “curio cabinet/archive” space. A kind of “these are the people in [our] neighborhood;” these are the people that we’ve connected with; these are the people who we feel are meaningful enough to throw part of our lives behind. Then there are some live interviewing events and a way to opening up the ethos of the show to everybody, to say, “we have questions and we find our answers publicly, and you have questions and we can find YOU answers for them.”
We’ll “keep on keepin’ on” in one form or another, but I think the blog will continue to be a bigger and bigger resource. I think that the show needs a way to better archive itself. I think the question for me is, what is this thing that we’ve made manifest? What do we mean by doing this? What are we enacting when we do Bad at Sports? And maybe it’s just that we’re jerks. Maybe we’ll continue to be jerks.
Richard: And I want to say one final thing as we wrap up: Bad at Sports really wants to be in the Whitney, we really want to be in the Venice Biennale.
Richard: And lets not rule out Documenta. So if any of you out there have the ability to make any of those dreams come true, yay.
-Richard Holland and Duncan MacKenzie © 2010
Founded in 2005 by Duncan MacKenzie and Richard Holland, Bad at Sports (B@S) is a weekly podcast and daily blog produced in Chicago that features artists and “art worlders” talking about art and the community that makes, reviews, and critiques it. In addition to MacKenzie and Holland, B@S consists of a collective of arts professionals with an interest in arts coverage. With its primary hub in Chicago, B@S exists as an international art podcast thanks to contributors stationed in San Francisco, New York City, London, and Zurich, and stands as the Midwest's most trafficked art blog.
B@S is…Amanda Browder, Meg Onli, Claudine Ise, Tom Sanford, Brian Andrews, Patricia Maloney, Christopher Hudgens, Lauren Vallone, Audrey Mast, Stephanie Burke, Mike Benedetto, Terri Griffith, Joanna Topor MacKenzie, Lori Waxman, Nate Lee, Lulu Saleh, Matthew Nash, Mark Staff Brandl, Christian Kuras, Steve Hamann, Joesph Trupia, Duncan MacKenzie, and Richard Holland.