September 17th, 2014 / 11:00 am
Haut or not

What’s so great about art?

Joseph Kosuth, "One and Three Chairs" (1965)

Joseph Kosuth, “One and Three Chairs” (1965)

[Update 4 October 2014: See the bottom of this post for a bit more.]

This is a response to this recent post, which is itself a response to Janey Smith’s “Fuck List,” originally published at this site. It’s also a response to the numerous comments on the original post. Because it seemed to me that, as of this writing, a lot of the debate over Smith’s post, and the book that’s apparently resulted from it (which I’ve not seen), has taken the form, “Is what Smith did art?” Mind you, I doubt this post will settle that debate, but I hope it provides

  1. some historical context I think relevant to Smith’s post;
  2. plus an argument why, at the end of the day, I don’t think that it really matters whether Smith was making art.

I guess I should also note, in passing, that my name was the first name on Smith’s “Fuck List” (thanks to the magic of alphabetization). Since I find myself (along with numerous others) the object of some obscure desire, perhaps I can offer a few thoughts on the subject.

Art is, at the end of the day, whatever people decide it is. Art isn’t some mineral or element that’s “out there,” a priori, in nature. Artists don’t run around with pickaxes, “unearthing” art. Instead, artists and the people around them (curators, publishers, institutions, critics, audiences, the public) socially determine what art is. One way of thinking of museums is that they collect whatever a society has decided is art. (The whole practice of “institutional critique” is in some sense founded on this understanding.)

The question of what counts as art, therefore, is always going to be with us, and will never be ultimately resolved. It can’t be, because no single person can point to anything and definitively say, “that’s art.” For one thing, determining “what is art” is a collective activity, not an individual one. (Individuals are free to consider anything art, but no one else is obliged to agree with them.) And as soon as we have a definition of art, dollars to donuts, someone is going to come along and present a case that troubles that distinction.

Consider here just such a person: Joseph Kosuth, whose seminal 1969 essay “Art after Philosophy,” is I think directly relevant to Janey Smith. I’d encourage you to read the full essay, but here’s the gist. Kosuth argues that Duchamp’s invention of “the unassisted Ready-made” changed the nature of art, in that it made obsolete traditional forms of art-making—painting, sculpture, drawing, etc. Duchamp shifted the kind of conversation that art was having, driving it to discover what new things it could be doing, instead of concerning itself with what it had already done. In Kosuth’s formulation:

The “value” of particular artists after Duchamp can be weighed according to how much they questioned the nature of art; which is another way of saying “what they added to the conception of art” or what wasn’t there before they started. Artists question the nature of art by presenting new propositions as to art’s nature. And to do this one cannot concern oneself with the handed-down “language” of traditional art, as this activity is based on the assumption that there is only one way of framing art propositions. But the very stuff of art is indeed greatly related to “creating” new propositions.

By this logic, a painting isn’t art (not real art, not anymore), because it doesn’t challenge our notion of what art is, because we already know that paintings can be art. People who continue painting and making sculptures after Duchamp are deluding themselves; Kosuth dismisses such stuff as “formalist art,” and calls it “the vanguard of decoration”: “Strictly speaking, one could reasonably assert that its art condition is so minimal that for all functional purposes it is not art at all, but pure exercises in aesthetics.” For Kosuth, the proper task for artists is to go out and find things that people don’t already think of as art, and make them art.

It seems to me that Janey Smith is an artist in the Joseph Kosuth mode. Smith wants to find things that others think not-art—usually creepy, stalker-type activities involving social media and sex—and make the case that they are art. And I get the impression that, like Kosuth, Smith thinks that this is the most valid way of making art—the proper task of the artist. Others paint landscapes, or make assemblages, or write poems, but they’re just making decorations. They aren’t adding new propositions to our understanding of what art is—they aren’t claiming new things as art. And those new things have to be, by definition, things that other people don’t already recognize as art. If other people already consider them art, then there’s no work for the artist of the Joseph Kosuth kind to do there. One always has to be finding and claiming new materials.

I, for one, am not persuaded by Kosuth, for a variety of reasons. For starters, I’m guilty of being one of those “formalists” concerned with “pure aesthetics.” I don’t concede the point that traditional forms, like painting and sculpture, are obsolete in the way Kosuth describes. Additionally, there would seem something paradoxical about Kosuth’s formulation. If art after Duchamp means rejecting traditional forms and instead finding new propositions to add to our understanding of art, then what happens when that activity itself becomes a tradition? Couldn’t it be argued that, in the fifty years since Kosuth’s essay, and the one hundred years since Duchamp’s Fountain, there’s now something very familiar about an artist who works by claiming non-art materials as art? How does a modern-day version of Duchamp or Kosuth (e.g., Janey Smith) enrich or further our understanding of what art is?

Finally (and at the risk of being a little glib), Kosuth’s argument transforms art into a hungry monster that’s slowly consuming all the non-art in the universe. At some point, it would seem, that project will necessarily come to an end, once everything has been recognized as art. And that point will come about immediately, once some clever artist declares, “Everything in existence is art!” Indeed, many clever artists have already made that declaration. “Everything is art” (or “reality is art”) was repeatedly claimed by John Cage, and by countless others since then. Of course, that argument raises problems, too. The most obvious one is that, if everything is art, then nothing is—indeed, everything that exists has to be, by nature of its existence, art. (If that were true, then art becomes unremarkable, and what would be more impressive is if something could be found that wasn’t art.) The logic of this argument is basically to collapse art into something like “matter.” You don’t go around wondering if the things you see are matter—that tree, and that tree, and that ice cream cone dropped on the sidewalk, and that little kid bawling his eyes out next to the cone, and the ants now greedily devouring the ice cream. They’re all matter. And, according to the “all is art” view, they’re all art, too.

Kosuth obviously doesn’t think that everything is already art. For him, the artist still has work to do: identifying non-art, and presenting it as art. And many (to put it mildly) agree with him, and are engaged in the activity of finding new materials (new propositions) for art. Visit any museum with a modern collection, and you won’t fail to observe that those galleries house quite a lot of stuff that isn’t traditional sculpture or painting. (It can of course be argued that any flat object is a painting, and any non-flat object is a sculpture—and many people have argued precisely that. Some problems associated with that maneuver are articulated by Michael Fried in “Art and Objecthood” [PDF]—which Kosuth’s own essay was responding to.)

Anyway. Janey Smith, whether anyone likes it or not, would appear to be operating in a certain well-established artistic tradition. (Two well-known conceptual performance art precedents that Smith could claim include Vito Acconci’s Following (3–25 October, 1969), wherein Acconci followed random passersby until they entered private spaces, and Francis Alÿs and Peter Kilchman’s Re-Enactments (4 November 2000), wherein Alÿs purchased a 9mm Beretta at a Mexico City gun shop, then carried it openly on the streets until the police arrested him.)

Where Smith differs from Kosuth, perhaps, is that Kosuth, despite his antipathy to traditional forms of art, still wanted to work within traditional artistic institutions. The adding of propositions—the transformation of non-art into art—depends on the existence of institutions that guarantee art as art: museums, galleries, magazines, criticism, retrospectives, and so on. (Kosuth wasn’t arguing that Artforum should stop being published, but that it stop paying so much attention to traditional painting and sculpture.)

Given that, the most confusing thing about Smith’s “Fuck List” is that it was a blog post at HTMLGIANT, and we might not be used to thinking about blog posts as artworks. HTMLGIANT isn’t, I don’t think, a site people visit to read art (unless one is inclined to think that all the posts are art, everything is art, etc.). Sure, there’s the Sunday Service post each week, which is a poem, and certain contributors—like Reynard Seifert—contribute posts that are more like poetry than, say, my posts are—but by and large, most people probably consider the posts here as writing about art, not art itself. (I could of course be wrong about this, but it’s how I tend to think of the site.) If so, Smith’s post maybe seemed more nonfictional than anything else, more non-art than anything else. Which is why retroactively claiming it as art might strike many as a cop-out, or an apology.

I do think Smith is working in the Kosuthian tradition. (I should note that I’m reading Smith’s list literally, not figuratively—meaning that I believe Smith when he says he wants to fuck and be fucked by the artists on that list, and that he isn’t using “fuck” as a metaphor for something else, like “I want to experience their groovy art.”) The waters may be muddier, but muddy waters will attract an artist of the Kosuth type. The more a blog post is unlike an artwork, the more tempting it will be to claim it as art. And many have argued that, in addition to finding new propositions for art, the artist should also make art in places where people don’t expect to encounter art. There are many tangential traditions here that Smith could lay claim to, such as FLUXUS and other forms of street theater, Happenings, performance art, and so on. And, like it or not, there is some precedent at HTMLGIANT for making provocative-yet-obscure posts that come across as offensive even though you’re not entirely sure how or why you’ve been offended. In any case, now that Smith’s “Fuck List” has been published as a book, the publisher is essentially making the curatorial claim that Smith’s list is art, and that it should be thought of by others as such.

Note that the Kosuth tradition will always be controversial or offensive, because it is by nature polemical. Such an artist must always find something that other people don’t think of as art, and make the case that those people are wrong, and that the thing in question is, in fact, art. You don’t have to think very long before you realize that the way to be a very successful artist of this kind is to find the most outrageous stuff that people won’t think of as art and claim it as such. (Damien Hirst is a master of this tradition.) The more people think it’s not art, the bigger the challenge, and the potential achievement. It’s no surprise Duchamp started this tradition with a factory-produced urinal and not, say, a pretty leaf he found lying on the sidewalk.

Marcel Duchamp, "Fountain" (1917)

Marcel Duchamp, “Fountain” (1917)

But here’s the real crux of the matter. Who cares whether Janey Smith’s “Fuck List” is art? What’s so special about art? Being art doesn’t protect Smith in any way, or sanctify his actions. Let’s illustrate this with an extreme example. Suppose my art consists of my sneaking into your house and stealing your underpants. I’m sure most people wouldn’t consider that art. They’d consider it breaking and entering, and burglary. You could call the police on me, and I could argue to the police all day that what I was doing was art, but that wouldn’t stop the police from arresting me, or my trial from occurring.

One month later, while I sit in prison, maybe some people would find out about me, and consider what I did art, and write a book about it. They could argue how my actions challenge popular notions of private property, and the gender norms enforced by underpants. They could claim I was making a poetic allusion to the way the NSA has, since 9-11, invaded our bedrooms, and eradicated privacy. (They could link it to hacked cell phones and stolen nudes! Because aren’t nudes art?) And many people might buy that book and find it provocative, and discuss it on blogs and over coffee. But none of that would mean that the police now owe me an apology, or should release me, or that I can sue them for wrongful arrest. Because my whole claim in the first place was that a particular crime was art. Others eventually agreed. But it’s still a crime.

(Granted, also, that crimes are themselves socially constructed. But even if my stealing your underpants comes to be considered art, it will probably still be considered a crime. Meanwhile, lots of art-making involves “crimes” that aren’t considered crimes. You like making films or photographs? Where do you think the silver in the film comes from? Happy pleasant working conditions in South America? But the people slaving away in mines there have no legal ability to prosecute you for your purchasing film, and funding their oppression, since capitalist imperialism remains the law of the land. Or are you a writer who likes using paper? The vast ecosystems destroyed by the paper industry have no legal recourse for obtaining compensation for their destruction; they have no rights, and what’s more, they’ve been destroyed.)

I’m not accusing Smith of stealing underpants. And if I’m wrong in my assessment of his work, apologies. I’ve hardly looked at everything he’s done. But from my own encounters with him, here and elsewhere, it seems to me that the man’s art revolves around his being a creepy jerk. Maybe others agree with him that such behavior is art, and should be recognized as art. But be that as it may, Janey Smith remains a creepy jerk—the kind of guy who comments on a post that he needs you to email him ASAP, because he has something to tell you, then responds when you do email him that he just wanted to say that he likes your writing (one of the few odd interactions I’ve had with him—and foolish me for emailing him in the first place). You come away feeling as though he’s taken advantage of you, and slightly concerned that he now has your email address (not that mine is all that difficult to find). No doubt he considers disturbing you the point, and a victory for the ages. Because his art depends on him being a creepy jerk. Being a creepy jerk is what Janey Smith has identified with being an artist. It’s exactly the kind of person he’s trying to be.


The comments below, and some emails I’ve exchanged, has made me want to clarify this post.

This post wasn’t intended as an attack. One thing I was trying to say is that I don’t think one needs to disprove that Janey Smith’s work is art in order to demonstrate it causes harm. To put it another way, I think the argument over whether Smith’s work is/isn’t art irrelevant to whether it causes harm. And to put it another way, I don’t think something being art doesn’t excuse it or justify in any way if it causes harm. Harm cannot be justified or excused by claiming it as art. Claiming something cruel and perverse as art in no way sheds it of its cruelty and perversion. What’s more, I don’t think artists who claim harm as art want us to do that. If the harm is what made something art, then how could claiming it as art eliminate the harm? As I see it, “art” and “harmful” are in no way opposites, and they don’t preclude one another.

So I think the whole “art/not-art” debate is a total distraction from the points Dianna was trying to make, and from an important conversation—many important conversations. Part of my hope for my post was that it might help clear the way for those conversations. Although of course at the end of the day I’m just one voice among many, and while I certainly use writing to try and clarify issues for myself—and hopefully other people—it’s obviously not my business to try and control conversations, or tell people what to discuss.

The reason I went into so much art history is because I didn’t want to look at Janey Smith’s work in a vacuum. (And, no, I haven’t seen We’re Fucked. I’m not writing about that book, but rather other things that Janey Smith has made, such as “Fuck List,” and his posts here and at Big Other.) I’m genuinely interested in that part of the art world that apparently believes that the best way to make art is to cause harm—the idea that art (or at least “avant-garde” art) must somehow hurt someone: the audience, a bystander, or artists themselves—self-destructiveness is another part of this tradition. There’s a strong tradition in the visual arts since at least 1960 that has embraced “causing harm” as a working procedure, and as a sign that art is occurring. I’m thinking of artists like the Viennese Actionists, Chris Burden, Vito Acconci, Francis Alÿs, and Damien Hirst, among many others. And I don’t think this tradition or mentality is an exclusively white cis male thing—VALIE EXPORT, Yoko Ono, Marina Abramović, and many others artists of various backgrounds have made art that’s rooted in actually harming persons.

(Pauses to relisten to “Joe the Lion“: “Tell you who you are / if you nail me to my car.”)

(Pauses also to rewatch the music video for Xiu Xiu’s “Dear God, I Hate Myself.” And Low’s “Breaker.”)

I of course might be wrong (I might always be wrong), but I suspect that Janey Smith genuinely believes himself part of that tradition. By looking backward, I meant to put both his work, and that tradition, under more scrutiny. But at the same time, I’m also not trying to condemn that larger tradition as a whole. If anything, I’m trying to find a way to think about it: where it came from, how it operates, why it might be problematic to conceive of “good art” as “that which hurts someone.” (Art is what we want it to be. What do we want art to be?)

This debate isn’t limited to Janey Smith; I think we’re all of us seeped in certain traditions and assumptions, and ways of conceptualizing art, and we should always be critically aware of that. (I know I internalized a lot of these attitudes I’m describing here. And I like and admire a lot of art made in this tradition that I’m describing.) For instance, in the wake of E.R. Kennedy’s recent accusations against Tao Lin, I’ve seen some people debating whether Richard Yates is good or bad writing. Another way of expressing my point would be to ask, “Why is the quality of Richard Yates as writing at all relevant to Kennedy’s accusations?” (That’s a genuine question, and I imagine there are many who would argue that the harm and the quality can’t be separated—as I’ve said, a great many artists obviously think harm is an essential component of making art.)

In my opinion, making art, whether it’s good or bad—and I consider Richard Yates an excellent novel—doesn’t in any way excuse or justify hurting people. And beyond that, I think it’s probably not desirable to equate being an artist with being someone who has to hurt people.

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  1. deadgod

      Nice elucidation of the argument that ‘an act might be “art”, but if it’s a “crime”, the latter takes precedence’. ‘Being a creepy jerk’ isn’t criminal, though; the claim is that Smith hurt people by way of sexual harassment.

      On a related note: I can’t believe this misogynistic shit gets published on the internet. Down with AD Jameson!

  2. Rauan Klassnik

      yeah, down with Jameson!! reminds me of that commercial with the Hawk. something very devious at play here. and you call this ART ????

      you call this ART ??? (and how dare you hide the creepy jerk down in the bottom of the post…. the Hawk. the Hawk. the Hawk.)

  3. @J_Y_Hopkins

      Not sure that all “crimes” would be given precedent over all works of “art”. (EG: Blasphemy, indecency/vulgarity/obscenity, copyright infringement.) Obviously some would be. (EG: Murder, threat [whether spurious or bona fide].)

  4. @J_Y_Hopkins

      {or is that ‘precedence’?}

  5. Kalliopi Mathios

      Odd to me that Peter BD, the author of We’re Fucked, wasn’t mentioned once in this article. This is problematic for obvious reasons. I highly recommend reading or acquiring the book before writing a review related to it.

      I feel that this response completely misses the mark. The author decides to drag us through an awfully long and dull explanation of art before telling us it doesn’t matter anyway. If we want to discuss crime, it seems important to note that the book was published with real names, for profit, without prior consent and this could be a legal issue.

      Furthermore, the author doesn’t address rape culture, masculine entitlement, or the author’s own way of navigating his own identity in the mist of these concerns.

      I consider Dianna, Janey and Peter BD talented friends, and still find major issues unaddressed with this work that need to be hashed out on a more serious manner.

  6. mimi

      yes, this thought crossed my mind as i was driving home from work today (having very quickly read this post this morning) – what comprises a ‘crime’? – – – and who gets to say so?

      are there some acts that are always criminal (murder, assault, theft… )?

      for example, is adultery a crime? (and should some women be stoned to death for committing it?) etc etc etc

  7. @J_Y_Hopkins

      What makes that which was missed the mark rather than that which was hit?

  8. @J_Y_Hopkins

      Indeed, several of ADJ’s statements and wonderings on “art” could be read and understood with the word “crime” substituted. Lots of people have decided, decide, and will decide what “crime” is.
      The ramifications of toying with crime might be more immediately severe than those of toying with art, but the general toying with (or mere reevaluation of) socio-cultural concepts is quite common and has been for some time.

  9. deadgod

      the word “crime” substituted

      Adam anticipated this qualification: “Granted, also, that crimes are themselves socially constructed.”

      The qualification could be an objection carried to a Pyrrhonistic extent: since there’s no objective ‘crime’ or at least no knowledge of such an objective thing, then no thing can reasonably be held to be a crime, even provisionally and contestedly. I doubt this skepticism both epistemologically and practically.

      True, there are crimes like copyright infringement and sins like blasphemy (which in religious governments are called ‘crimes’), the enforcement (and even recognition) of which invite an argument for the counter-primacy of art.

      But the point, then, would be that it’s not really a “crime” to copy at some particular level or to assert that there’s no god. You wouldn’t be saying that art precedes crime; you’d be saying that this act isn’t a violation of the human or the social or whatever ‘we’ found the limit of crime on.

      Sure, argue for “art”! –but that wouldn’t be an argument for a “crime”; it’s an argument that this thing or process isn’t criminal.

  10. Dip Noodle

      I find your post deeply insulting to me, I am extremely offended, I feel you have abused me, what do you have to say for yourself? You have nooo idea how bad reading your post made me feel, I am very hurt, seriously, I am in severe pain right now, you have physically harmed me severely, what say you about this violence you have caused unto me?

  11. Dip Noodle

      Do you not care if AD is hurt by you calling his well thought out, expressed and written work misogynistic and shit? How is a woman finding out a guy would want to fuck them a crime? A large percentage of guys would fuck a large percentage of women, she should just assume that it is possible a guy may find her attractive, and it is possible for an association with a guy that may find her attractive, to have the thought enter his mind, of the idk ‘beauty’, ‘joy’? privilege, splendor that would be achieved? Let her know most boys in her life have been thinking about these sorts of things since the age of 13. Its a part of being animal. Yea, many men control these fantasy thoughts, some men dont. Many men fantasize. They dont have to let people know about their fantasies, but should it be illegal for them to express something they have thought about, if they have no intentions of acting out on such a thing and then prove through their life they did not act out on such a thing?

  12. Mike Crossley

      It has been shown in studies that emotional pain registers in the brain the way physical pain does. Many people prefer to downgrade emotional pain on the scales, likely because it is difficult to register in a visual way, and also it is mistakenly believed that, because serious physical pain/damage is harder to stop but easier to register and connect with whereas, comparatively, emotional pain is more difficult to register and somehow must be easier to fix.

      Which isn’t true at all.

  13. Mike Crossley

      And by the way, if you ever get PTSD, I think you’re opinion on the matter will flip.

  14. Dip Noodle

      I was merely attempting to ask the question; where does the consensus come from that determines exactly what words in exactly what willed order is illegal or not? When does someone calling someone elses words offensive and misogynistic and emotional rape and violent and claiming their words physically and/or emotionally and mentally and spiritually harmed them, and this person (who is claiming that the words are hurting them) being wrong.

      If I truly believed that what I said was true, and truly felt physical and emotional pain, as I suggested in the above reply you replied too, where does it turn from me having a just case, to you deeming my sentiments wrong?

  15. Adam

      Dip’s comment definitely strikes me as wrong, but not sure completely how. I like that it points out maybe what offends us is the reminder of an animal nature. I’m thinking the problem is positing there’s inherent difference in the “animal natures” of men and women — our formation of those concepts is also socially constructed like art. Even if you believe differences in kind between the sexes are biological and not arbitrary (and to you I would say the penis grows from a clitoris in the womb), isn’t it still arbitrary in that we can choose to adopt them or to not?

      Maybe in JS’s piece, same problem — where it might challenge a social construction of art (and I agree that “who cares”), its social conception of sex is maybe shallow/conservative/regressive/ or otherwise fucked up (by “sex” I mean gender and “copulation”… hehe, “copulation”)


  16. Greg B

      Why aren’t more people trolling this post?

  17. Dip Noodle

      I agree it would be bad if there was a real threat or annoyance, like if someone is stalking someone or sending them messages saying they want to fuck them every day, or if the person who was offended by the original list, feels like that list is just that, a daily reminder that someone, they may not necessarily want to fuck, wants to fuck them. Should every attractive hollywood actress be doing nothing but convulsing on the floor in a never ending state of shock and fear for the fact of how many millions of boys and men around the world want to fuck them?

      I would say if anything, look at how successful that one piece of work was by him, because look at how many people have been talking about it and what has come of it. In that sense it was an important piece, of something, which started an interesting discussion regarding the nature of such things.

  18. @J_Y_Hopkins

      I’m something of a skeptic, but I prefer not to take things to hypothetical extremes.

      One can argue something isn’t criminal without resorting to any claims whatsoever about art itself or its history. Indeed, to only be able to justify something because it is art (instead of something more sturdy, such as a constitutional right) is pretty weak sauce. Of course art is speech, but to argue without that protected freedom in mind is to elevate art perhaps too high (legally speaking, that is; and the criminality concern makes this a legal matter). In other words: art piggybacks on the Bill of Rights, doesn’t it? But freedom of speech is not freedom to commit crimes. And so on, and so on. Everybody already knows everything.

  19. @J_Y_Hopkins

      I guess they’re all too busy wondering the same thing.

  20. Mike Crossley

      Ok. No sarcasm.

  21. Matthew Dinaro

      This whole “is it art?” debate is interesting, but where is Janey Smith? Has he made any public acknowledgement of the real life, not-just-in-art abuse he’s being accused of? Has he affirmed it? Denied it? Because I feel like that’s way more important than whether or not he’s an artist.

  22. mimi

      If it is art, it will offend before it is revered. There are calls for its destruction and then the bidding begins.
      – Langley

      from Homer and Langley
      by E. L. Doctorow

  23. A D Jameson

      I, too, was hoping for more trolling. HTML Giant, you have disappointed me.

  24. A D Jameson

      I intended the crime example more as an extreme example—a limit case—not as any claim as to what Janey Smith has done / hasn’t done. My point was more along the lines of, “even if we were talking about a crime (which I don’t believe we are), then …” Sorry that it was confusing.

      Basically, I was responding to the debate I saw in the comments to Dianna Dragonetti’s post, where it seemed to me the two sides being formed were 1. “what Janey did was art” and 2. “what Janey did wasn’t art, but a hurtful action.” I don’t see why those positions need be mutually exclusive, especially if Smith is operating with the concept of art that I suspect he is (i.e., Kosuth’s, or a sympathetic position). So my point was that, IMO, that conversation to be on the wrong track, and based on a faulty premise.

      I always find it problematic when terms like “art” go undefined. I guess I should state that I hardly think there’s a single definition. (And I think that’s something people generally misunderstand about my writing here, no doubt due to my own failures as a would-be critic, and as a writer. To attempt to define a term isn’t necessarily an attempt to define it for all time, or for everyone. But I do think it’s useful to try and figure out what we mean when we use the words we use, and what we’re trying to mean.) … Anyway, it seems to me that if someone—Janey Smith, a publisher, a commenter at HG—wants to claim the Fuck List as a work of art (an argument I’m certainly open to, even if I think there are problems with conceiving of art in that way), then they’re under some obligation to explain what they actually mean by art, and to explain what values attend something being art. In other words, what does it mean to claim that the Fuck List is art? (And that’s a genuine, open question that I don’t pretend to have the answer to.) … In other words, the title of this post is a serious question, not a rhetorical one.

      deadgod, when you manage to get your “Down with A D Jameson!” campaign up and running, you may put me down for a significant donation.

  25. mimi

      i’m selling “Down with A D Jameson!” tee-shirts in my Etsy shop

      also, “mimi” nail decals and “deadgod” beer cozies

  26. A D Jameson

      Oh, god, that would be so awesome! You better not be teasing me, mimi!

      I propose a “Down with A D Jameson!” bear suit. Now that’s an obscure reference…

  27. mimi

      OBSCURE to those who have not been paying attention!

      i have not forgotten your unfortunate dry-cleaning fiasco, A D J

  28. A D Jameson

      As Morrissey might have sung:

      “Those who live with their heads in behinds—
      Well, I never did like their kind!”

  29. mimi

      hang A DJ! hang A DJ! hang A DJ!

  30. postitbreakup

      htmlgiant talks to itself and half of it’s on facebook, which i don’t have, so, let me see if i have this straight:

      janey smith published a long list of writers he wanted to fuck….. (which seemed not serious to me, but i guess i don’t know janey and i’m just a vain gay guy who’d be flattered to be on a list and not a vulnerable girl and etc or whatever….. also was this not the same website that brought us jordan castro’s dick and then “the writers whose dicks I’d rather see instead of jordan castro’s”, ANOTHER list which you were on, but didn’t seem to mind so much?)

      janey smith and peter bd (are these the same person?) wrote an erotic chapter about janey having sex with each person on the list ?? and some publisher didn’t mind publishing this without changing the names??

      do i have the story right?

  31. A D Jameson

      Oh, man, don’t look at me. I have no idea.

      What I understand is that some number of people were offended by what Janey published here, in response to which others defended the Fuck List post as art. I’m replying to that debate, because I found it interesting how the conversation shifted to a disagreement over whether what Janey did was or wasn’t art.

      I think also that people were mainly upset by Janey’s posts where he’d take photos of folks from Facebook and post them here. Which is, IMO, a totally creepy thing to do.

      As for the earlier (non-Janey-related) dick list, I wasn’t offended in
      the slightest by being on that, because it struck me as obviously humorous, and
      flattering. Janey’s stuff, by contrast, is much more ambiguous in its intent, and his behavior has always struck me as much
      creepier / pervier / more invasive—and I get the impression that’s
      entirely his goal. I don’t think the two are really all that comparable.

  32. theTsaritsa

      You can’t call this a ‘response’ to Dianna Dragonetti’s piece because you are not responding to any points he made.

      This is just a long, wanky, art history lesson that no one really asked for. It’s just what was happening in the comment section of that post, expanded.

      Dianna’s question was not about whether or not he was making art. He stated that ‘art’ was a flimsy justification for what he did.

      You are free to disagree, but this post is ridiculous and unnecessary.

  33. @J_Y_Hopkins


      People are like, ‘Well, there’s no absolutes, so all this stuff is something other than what I thought it was, but I don’t know what it is, but it is something, or it’s really just perception, there might not even be matter or energy in this universe, because after all matter and energy are just concepts and who is to say where one begins and the other ends, it’s all just stuff and things. And while everything is a thing, things have turned out to where some things are able to conceptualize things and understand things insofar as anything can understand anything else, insofar as things are actual things operating in a universe of things with or without perceptive ability coupled with the faculty of language insofar as language can refer to things which is contingent upon there being things in the first place or in any place there being no reason to refer to anything as being first given there being no absolutes.’

  34. A D Jameson

      As I sat at the top, it’s a response to both the post and the comments there, including comments like:

      Steven frames himself as an artist to indulge his male entitlement, that’s a central point’


      Sure. But if it’s hurting people, and if its only purpose is self-serving, should it still be consumed as ‘art?’

      I’m simply trying to show that the binary you and others are constructing—hurtful and self-serving vs. art or even ‘art’—is unnecessary.

      Anyway, sorry you think my post is wanky. Me, I think my reading of Kosuth is pretty good, honestly. I also think there’s a lot of reasons to be interested in where our ideas come from. We aren’t the first generation to invent these debates, or these concepts about art.

  35. mimi

      A D J, dude, proof/edit your 3rd word

      : )

  36. Bobby Dixon
  37. deadgod

      Wait… I think the Tsaritsa is rejecting that dichotomy – dissolving it in the (contestedly unambiguous) fact of misogynistic violence.

      I (and others) think it’s relevant: if, for example, Janey Smith’s thingy didn’t hurt anyone (directly or systemically), or offended less than it was worth in some other way (like ‘artistically’), then so what if those offended want revenge.

      If I burn a flag, and you’re offended or feel that I’ve injured your (and our shared) citizenship, take me to the law! I think you’re practicing cultish obedience to a flag, and aren’t serious about what it represents, and so on.

      What denouncers of Fuck List say is that IT INJURED THEM – beyond any value it might have (say, as a piece of literary provocation).

      —so far beyond that talking about ‘art’ feels like completely missing the point.

      I disagree with the Tsaritsa (and with you?): talking about art AND misogynistic violence is the point. It’s the point they’re actually making.

  38. deadgod

      I also doubt that the explosively worded accusation that you’re just ‘masturbating’ has much substance at all. It’s a rhetorical way of winning a conversation without arguing, like saying that a salient quotation has been ‘cherry-picked’, and it’s only going to have that effect with people who’ve also already reached the conclusion.

      As far as ‘boring’ goes, it’s going to be hard to make a particular case convincingly categorical to someone who’s not already bored by it, but as far as ‘long’ goes, yours here is NOT a long discussion of “art etc.”.

  39. @J_Y_Hopkins

      The Ends of Art:

      Thankfully, it won’t mean anything when I claim that flushing a ‘number 1’ ten-or-so times in a row is a performance art piece.

      And, perhaps regrettably, I will continue to flush around ten times every time I go ‘number 1’.

  40. mimi

      obvs you are not in cali, where we are in a serious drought, and it is acceptable, in one’s private abode, to only flush after a ‘number 2’
      (or maybe after many many many ‘number 1’s, but i wouldn’t know…)