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October 5, 2005

Prattle of the Network's ARTSTAR

ARTSTAR, that little up-and-coming would-be TV phenomenon, is now in post-production and is slated to premier this coming March 30 on Gallery HD.

As mentioned previously, Duncan MacKenzie and Richard Holland of Chicago's own Bad at Sports recently had a chat with one of the show's producers, artist Chris Sperandio, recording the procedings for their podcast.

So let's all gather 'round and give it a listen, to see what we might glean...

Too fine for prime-time?

In which we find that someone might actually get to watch this thing...

Perhaps my skepticism regarding the size of ARTSTAR's potential audience was unwarranted. As Sperandio points out (23:32), Gallery HD can now be seen on DISH Network, which (as Sperandio is wont to repeat) is piped into somewhere around 11 million homes. Hardly chump change to be sure.

Of course Gallery HD is still only available to DISH Network's HDTV subscribers, and only those who pony up for the supplemental VOOM package at that.

And, in any event, I can't exactly picture today's TV audience thirsting for a documentary series on contemporary art. As Sperandio himself offers,

to call it a reality show is complicated because reality shows actually have a lot of money spent on them and are interesting to watch, where our show is much more documentarian and therefore slightly more dull to the average viewer. (6:14)

Sperandio talks big game about distribution and the like, but is there really any chance this show will prove anything more than marginal itself?

Later on:

So "reality show" is really just a marketing tool to get some network executive to buy the show, because that's what people want right now is reality television. But, actually, what we ended up producing is a fairly serious documentary about the New York art world. (9:04)

On the plus side, all this talk of documentary seriousness ought to ease the minds of those who initially found the notion of an art world reality show so viscerally offensive. (Ah, but about that...)

Bloggers: Mouthpieces of the entrenched elite or just mindless dicks?

In which Sperandio lets us know how he really feels...

Asked about the negative reaction that met the show's initial announcement, he seems to take ubrage at all that blog flak:

I think the main objection is that a lot of people in New York spend their time sort of queuing [cuing?] up. Right? They spend a lot of time developing their special relationships with people so that they might have an opportunity to do something. And here this comes along and basically democratizes what was otherwise a sort of secret brotherhood. And so, yeah, there is a lot of— there was a lot of resentment. I mean, you can Google "Artstar" and "Deitch" [give it a try], and what you get basically are blog screeds against the idea of a reality show somehow sullying the art world. And, if anyone really knew anything about the art world, they would realize that it's far more sullied than television could ever be and that, uh... yeah, that essentially they're being mindless dicks about things. (25:52)

In all seriousness, I think he misses the point here. That is, I doubt most critics really feared that this show would corrupt a lily-white NYC art world, but rather that it might perfectly dramatize or exploit that world's worst face—and that it'd be the artists at the short end of the stick yet again.

And, for what it's worth, the bulk of the online reaction was actually pretty damned ambivalent overall.

Si non oscillas, noli tintinnare

In which we are offered a view on what might have been...

Jeffrey Deitch's original vision for a Deitch Projects television venture was for an art world version of Playboy After Dark featuring the gallerist himself in the role of Hef's swanker-than-thou, pajama-clad party host.

No, seriously:

The original idea that they wanted to do was a kind of Hugh Hefner type show where Jeffrey is the Hugh Hefner type and it's a party that's going on and they just interview people. (10:24)

I've got no pithy comment in response to this; but, really, how awful would that have been? I guess we can thank our lucky STARS again that they went a little bit "higher concept."

No apologist for material culture, he

In which we're given an express catechism in a fresh brand of lefty techno-utopian fetishism and iconophobia...

After Sperandio offers forth a rather nuanced take on object fetishism and the material conditions of informational exchange ("property equals theft, man"—17:01), Richard Holland presses him a bit further:

Holland: Would you be happier if the information could be just downloaded into our brains?
Sperandio: I think I'd be happier that way. Don't make me quote the Internationale. 'Cause I will—I'll break it out. (18:25)

The international ideal, via neural interface? Servile masses, arise—and claim thy super technonanopony.

Sperandio's vanguard distaste for material culture suitably established, his feelings toward vulgar comic book fanboys should come as no surprise:

The problem I have with comic book fandom is their obsession with beauty and seduction and the lack of attention to things like distribution systems. You know— I don't respect the average comic book fan because they're somebody who's completely suborned [?] themselves to seduction of the image—who don't recognize the fact that they're being manipulated by big companies. (33:08)


Uh, who wants to field this one? Kriston?

"Prattle of the Network's ARTSTAR"
Posted by Dan at 12:06 PM


I'll take it.

First of all, thanks for the audio, but I think I would rather stab myself in the head with one of my floating ribs.

Secondly, comic book fans are painfully aware of distribution systems, because they sometimes cause great lapses to occur between production and availability. (They don't care about it from a Marxist angle, but hardly anyone does except for pretentious gits.) Additionally, even sixteen year old fanboys can tell you about how Marvel tried to screw Jack Kirby.

Thirdly, bloggers expressed ambivalence about Artstar mostly to the tune of: they're not doing anything that much more crass than they already are. I went a touch further.

Fourthly, anyone who seeks to profit off of a highly commodified form of art and art celebrity, and goes on to cite Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, has his head severely posteriorly inserted.

Did I miss anything? Yeah: Fifthly, Dietch as Hef? I'm glad I'm not having dinner. Sixthly: The initial idea was wack from the get-go. Somebody might become a star of this thing? Lie down with dogs, get up with fleas.

Posted by: Franklin on October 5, 2005 at 07:39 PM

Institutional criticism is practically a genre in comic books. Frankly, it's probably one of the earliest introductions to corporate politics that young people receive. 'Nuff said.

Posted by: Kriston on October 6, 2005 at 02:33 PM

And there I had this mental picture of a sloppy basement-dweller carefully burnishing a golden likeness of Peter Parker with his mom's terry cloth towels.

By the way, I gather from Franklin's comment above that, even given the opportunity, he probably wouldn't care to watch this show. I want to clarify that I think I would still be genuinely interested in seeing what develops, myself—especially if we can take Sperandio at his word that it will be "a fairly serious documentary."

Or, rather, that I'd be genuinely interested if there were any chance I'd ever see it.

Posted by: Dan on October 6, 2005 at 03:21 PM

I've watched America's Next Top Model; it would be difficult to conceive the show that plumbs lower depths.

Posted by: Kriston on October 6, 2005 at 05:31 PM

Try Breaking Bonaduce. Watched it only once (this episode) and I had to take a shower afterwards.

Posted by: Dan on October 7, 2005 at 09:58 AM

I've watched America's Next Top Model; it would be difficult to conceive the show that plumbs lower depths.

A friend of mine - Half Brother Clovis - is a devotee of that show. I watched a couple of episodes. I can't really get into reality tv, but the show had its moments.

Try Breaking Bonaduce

There was also The Littlest Groom. When I saw the ads for that, I thought, well, that's it for us. I tend to overuse the word "freakshow" to describe unpleasant situations or spectacles; here, it was literally applicable.

Posted by: JL on October 7, 2005 at 01:21 PM

Is there any show with a title that's a bigger lie than America's Next Top Model?

I have watched it a couple times (and felt incredibly creepy doing so), but I'll never be a regular viewer. I do have friends who swear by it, though. They'd also be quick to suggest My Super Sweet 16 and Laguna Beach, both on MTV and both full-up in the excruciating teenaged drama department.

As for The Littlest Groom, I only ever watched the first couple minutes of the premier. Yet, while I didn't see it, I feel safe presuming that it never aired an episode featuring its C-list celebrity protagonist (apparently a sober alcoholic at the start of the series) riding his mountain board to the liquor store, pounding a 60 oz Ocean Spray with vodka on the curb, returning home to jam a syringe of steroids into his ass cheek and then heading out for a night of drinking with the boys.

So, I'm still claiming trump with little Danny Partridge. (The show also seems to have a corner on the manly crying market.)

Posted by: Dan on October 7, 2005 at 02:31 PM

Holy shit. Yeah, that wins.

Posted by: JL on October 7, 2005 at 04:51 PM

Here's a synopsis of this Sunday's episode:

When we left Danny on the streets of Hollywood, he was ringing Gretchen's cell phone off the hook trying to warn her against having male strippers at her 40th Birthday. When he finally gets her on the phone, she refuses to allow him to dictate what she can and can't do at her own party. In a huff, Gretchen practically hangs up on him. Moments later Danny has a violent outburst of volcanic proportions. In a rage, he begins menacing the crew of the production, threatening to go to the party and assault people if the strippers are allowed to perform. After several hours of erratic and violent behavior, Danny eventually breaks down in tears, confessing that he's completely lost control of his mind and his life. Later that evening, in a cry for help, Danny slashes his wrists. The next day, in a final act of madness, Danny accuses Dr. Garry of conspiring with Gretchen against him.

Bonaduce, broken.

And that's all I have to say about that.

Posted by: Dan on October 7, 2005 at 05:45 PM

Well our idea for a reality show about artists is gone - :( but the talk show ala Playboy After Dark is not. That show is just classic! As far as bad reality tv - wife swap is the most ignorant and sad.

Posted by: FlowFeel on October 8, 2005 at 03:33 AM

> As far as bad reality tv - wife swap is the most ignorant and sad.

Of course, never to be outdone in the realm of moral depravity, Fox parried with Trading Spouses. That may in fact be the show you're thinking of, because I have to believe that the Fox version had to be the more debased of the two.

Posted by: Dan on October 10, 2005 at 10:24 PM

Just to set the trivia correct. Trading Spouses was the title of a Dave Chapelle skit that spoofed TLC or Discovery's Trading Spaces. It is essentially what FOX did, except funny and full of social commentary (race jokes and sex jokes.)

FOX made it "serious" and emotional. I saw it a bunch of times. yeah, I watched a reality show. And noticed that it usually featured afluent African Americans from the Atlanta area swapping spouses with poor White families from the North.


I would watch Art Star. not religiously. But I would watch it. If I had the two or three boxes and satellites you need to receive it on certain times the planets are alligned during the vernal equinox. So maybe that would mean buying the DVD. If they are smart and sell it at Borders and Best Buy instead of in a limited artist's edition. THINK DISTRIBUTION!

I am glad they didn't have Artstar when I was younger. I think young artists need to live in a bubble of romantic belief in the power of art for as long as possible. Just think of what Dan Clowes' "Art School Confidential" will do: mainly cause pretentious hipster highschool students to act even more like they are sophisticated and savy when they get to college. And it will glorify the ragging on art schools from the perspective of the self exiled indy comic dork who makes a 4year college career of hating the place instead of just dropping out.

That movie will have better DISTRIBUTION though, so I will be able to see it more easily. It will probably be very good, looking at what else Zwigoff has done. And yeah, I like Bad Santa.


Posted by: Erik W. on October 13, 2005 at 10:45 AM

Referenced in this post:

Bad at Sports Podcast: Chris Sperandio and Richard Cheese
Bad at Sports Podcast: Chris Sperandio and Richard Cheese—MP3
Crooked Timber: Any sufficiently advanced punditry is indistinguishable from bollocks—Daniel Davies
DISH Network
DISH Network: About Us: Corporate Profile
DISH Network: Programming: HDTV: Channels—VOOM Pak
Deitch Projects
Forward Retreat: More ARTSTAR
Google Search: 'Artstar Deitch'
IMDb: Playboy After Dark
Iconoduel: Artists on the Teevee—It's only mostly dead
Insurgent.muse: Has the art world gone crazy?
Kartoon Kings
MTAA-RR: More artstar.tv
Stunned.org: Art Star
Test: Grennan & Sperandio - looking for 'reality' in the world of art
VOOM: Gallery HD