Dear Shia, I Went to Art School With You

Dear Shia,

I get the feeling credentials mean a lot to you, at the rate you’ve been namechecking postmodern artists as collaborators for your bizarre publicity stunts lately. Let me give you mine:  I went to an art school that I will not name, because it is overall a lovely place that gave me some excellent training that I chose to totally discard, but I will give you these facts about the place:

1) It is in New York City.

2) It is considered to be one of the best in the world.

3) Many famous people send their children there.

 I mention these three factors because they often mixed together into what I liked to call a perfect storm of assholery: a wealthy, privileged kid (like you) with no concept of a non-Manhattan reality (maybe Los Angeles, in your case), who would suddenly embark on a confusing, navelgazing art project that they were so sure was brilliant. The rest of us just had to sit there, attempting to speak reason to this person as they delved into some ridiculous “edgy” project about the nature of art. MS Paint scrawl across famous photographs. iPhone photos of Dutch masters. You know, that kind of thing.

I see that you are currently in your own perfect storm of assholery. Your behavior is confusing to pretty much everyone. What are your motivations? Why the sudden onset of avant-gardeism? All these questions aside, I can definitively construe one fact from your actions: you did not go to art school.

'Nymphomaniac Volume I (long version)' Premiere - 64th Berlinale International Film Festival

How do I know this? Because the stunts you’re pulling are some freshman-year level “art.” Paper bag over the face? Seen it. The barcode was a nice touch, I assume you’re trying to make some statement about how being a famous rich person makes you a “product” (my deepest sympathies on your excessive wealth, since you are no longer famous, would you care to help me make my rent this month?) But I’ve got to tell you, kid, if we were in Sophomore Core Concepts together, and you presented this piece, the professor would likely tell you that it had been done a million times before by people more talented than you.

Fear not, though! There’s still the chance to educate yourself. Might I recommend the chapter on appropriation in Charlotte Cotton’s excellent The Photograph as Contemporary Art? This discussion of ownership that you so desperately want to participate in — have you examined the work of Sherrie Levine? Richard Prince? Both are a little mainstream and dated, I know, but they really started this conversation. While you’re at it, please give a look to the documents collected by David Evans in Appropriation (published 5 years ago). If you find those interesting, I say go all the way and check out some Baudrillard — but that’s usually saved for senior year.

I know, I know, this is your whole point: nothing is NEW anymore! We’re all just recycling ideas! That might be true, but isn’t that a depressing way to think? I don’t believe all ideas are already taken, but hey, I’m not the one on a red carpet wearing a bag on my head as a very serious artiste. I really recommend that you check out the work of David Hickey, he takes a great alternate perspective on this whole issue and it’s very uplifting.

You may have exchanged classroom critique for a press conference, but I know your type, Shia. You’re just a kid, terrified of fading into obscurity, not really smart enough to angle the big picture, but goshdarnit, you’re trying. I get it. I’ve known like, twenty of you. But I have to say, and this might be tough to hear, you might want to call it quits. Art school isn’t for everyone.

Ivy Noelle Weir

Ivy Noelle Weir

Ivy Noelle Weir is a Librarian, Writer, Photographer, and feminist geek out to ruin everything you love. She tweets excessively at @ivynoelle.