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CAA Conference 2007: Its own kind of misery

Post #957 • February 19, 2007, 9:08 AM • 62 Comments

Signage, College Art Association, 2007

So how did it go, I hear you ask. In reply, let me give some shouts out. To Prairie Dog Technical College, thank you for thanking me as I picked my package back up. You showed class. To Dastardly Beaver University, who seemed pained to take it in the first place, I have noted your snotty avoidance of eye contact for future reference. To my man at Remote State College: I had a great conversation with you, but you described your school's position as three hours outside Kansas City. Supergirl has condemned the very idea of moving there. I don't blame her. To the University of Wankonopee at Stagnant Water, an interview takes place when you show the slightest interest in my work, not when you arrange a time to sit me down, regale me with tales of the greatness of your program, and invite me to apply for a position there by mail. To the College Art Association staffer who made me hunt down a paper clip to attach a numbered scrap of paper to my application materials before he would allow me to set them down upon his sacred table: I'm a highly trained professional, you're a poorly trained monkey, and with that straightened out, bite me.

In summary, it was the usual clustersuck. The title of this post is quoted verbatim from the comments of a Massachusetts art historian whom I sat near on the train ride home. Who knows? I have outstanding applications that may yet return with groveling invitations to further interviews. Too, an interesting distance teaching opportunity came out of a conversation I had with one of the schools. Verily, throw me into the dungheap, and I will find opportunities for composting. But otherwise, the CAA clearly prioritizes the status quo. If it has any intention of making the hiring portion of the fair less painful for its members who are seeking work, it is doing so halfheartedly at most.

For those of you just joining the fun, I have long criticised the CAA for its lack of ethical ownership of the hiring portion. People call it the Meat Market; I heard attendees toss the epithet around this year just as I did the last time I participated ten years ago. In fact, this tradition of belittling job seekers goes back decades. You would think that an organization that describes itself as committed to the highest professional and ethical standards of scholarship, creativity, connoisseurship, criticism, and teaching would strive to protect its most financially vulnerable and youngest members, but alas, no.

Last year, they decided to put up a blog about the conference. I said to myself, now you're on my territory, suckers. I abused them mightily. Conversations that ensued revealed a somewhat more attentive leadership. Last September, I approached them with the following e-mail:

Dear Colleagues,

Earlier this year I was in communication with a number of CAA officers, university educators, and art professionals in an e-mail exchange regarding reforms to the organization. Summer came, and this conversation trailed off, amidst what appeared to be some change of governance at the CAA. ... Prof. Mark Gottsegen at UNC Greensboro has decided to focus on introducing materials-oriented presentations at CAA. I am following his fine example by concentrating on my primary concern: reform of the Career Fair of the annual conference.

Even the CAA cites, in one of the documents below, "horror stories" regarding the hiring process. I think we can all agree that given the CAA's commitment to the highest professional and ethical standards in our field, it has a clear moral imperative to address the lapses that bring these horrors about. I have been warned, though, by the CAA itself, that the nature of the organization is to change slowly if at all. Therefore, I am asking that the following simple steps be taken in time for the upcoming conference.

1. Every interviewer and every candidate should receive, as part of their registration packets (or by whatever means assures that they all get them), the following documents:

a. the 1977/1992 CAA Standards for Professional Placement

b. the 2000 Etiquette for CAA Interviewers

c. an artist-readable, one-page summary of interviewee rights as guaranteed by federal equal opportunity laws, including an outline of inappropriate interview questions

2. The CAA should create a grievance procedure that assures the protection of the whistleblowers so that violations of the above can be addressed. I recommend that an officer be appointed for this position, and that this person's existence, authority, and contact information be made known via the materials described above. This person should have access to the organization's legal counsel, and guidelines on how to implement enforcement described in the Standards for Professional Placement. This person should be available on-site at the conference to meet with interviewers, posthaste, in the event that they breach the above standards or laws. Such meetings would offer to clarify the standards, explain the laws, and remind interviewers about the consequences for violating them. I also think that this person should be empowered to shut down an institution's interview process within the conference in the event of multiple or egregious violations.

I believe that these two steps address the most serious faults in a hiring process that is widely regarded as broken, but are simple enough to be implemented by the CAA in time for New York.

Please note that this is a good-faith effort on the part of a constituent who feels personally wronged by this organization, and who, for better or worse, possesses weapons-grade critical acumen and rather stunted conciliatory skills. While I think the above steps should be taken for their own sake, I'm watching their implementation for evidence that the CAA is serious about reform and responding to the needs of its members. For my part, I have requested my user ID and password for the purpose of re-joining the organization. I hope that it will decide to take long-needed action to apply its mission to the hiring process.

A productive-sounding conversation followed. One CAA staffer wrote:

I would like to add to [the director's] reply that we did bring up the issue of rude and unethical treatment of artist job-seekers at the last Board meeting. My understanding is that interviewers already receive some of the materials Franklin mentions, and the staff is working hard to make sure that applicants know their rights and that interviewers know their responsibilities.

Another added:

We are well aware of the difficulties with the Interview Hall and are addressing many of his concerns at the New York Conference Career Fair. The guidelines and standards have always been offered at the Mentoring Sessions at the conference. We have also offer guidelines and standards at the Orientation Meeting, the Interview Hall, and are in the CAA Newsletter Career Fair Guide.

I have the Career Fair Guide in front of me right now, and this last assertion, that it contains the guidelines and standards, is false. The orientation took place on Tuesday, and thus previously to the arrival of most of the attendees. The mentoring sessions required advance appointment, which is reasonable from a logistical standpoint, but does not make these guidelines widely available. And of course, the CAA ignored both of my recommendations.

It went like so: the CAA rented tables to the schools, where faculty would accept dropped-off applications, interview candidates on the fly, interview candidates by appointment only, promote their programs, or some combination thereof. In a new development, it also rented semi-private booths - tables enclosed by makeshift walls on three sides. (We encourage you to conduct professional interviews at a booth or table in the Interview Hall, says the Career Fair Guide. We do not recommend conducting interviews in a hotel room for professional, legal, and safety concerns. These remarks bear closer scrutiny. The booths are indeed an improvement over the hotel room interviews, which, in this litigious age, strike me as insane. But notice that they don't say to the interviewees, Because of professional, legal, and safety concerns, we recommend that you decline interviews that take place in hotel rooms, which is really the point, just like you should probably decline an invitation into any stranger's hotel room. Such is the reluctance of the CAA to take a stand on behalf of the interviewees, to whom the implied message is, We've asked faculty not to bring you into their hotel rooms for interviews, but if it happens anyway, we know you're too disadvantaged to refuse, so lie back and think of England. Bottom line, the CAA knows who's buttering its bread.) The booths were in an area blocked off by the Paper Clip Guy. While schools renting booths, for the most part, only wanted to interview candidates by previous appointment, some of them were accepting application packages. But how to get one to them? See the remark above.

Outside the hall and variously around the applicant area two floors below, the CAA posted charts listing the schools with tables or booths at the conference, in no discernable order. For some of them, it listed the position that they were seeking. For some of them, it listed whether they were accepting dropped off applications. They put up a separate list of schools in attendance at the conference, with and without rented space. They expected applicants to go online, get a list of potential positions, compare it with the available lists to see whether the school was in the Meat Market or floating around the hotel, discern from incomplete information whether they wanted dropped packages, and somehow get one to them. I tried, but couldn't figure out how to manage it. Instead, I went in, looked around, asked people what they were looking for if they hadn't posted it at the table themselves, and dropped off about fifteen packages. By Friday, I got two of them back. The rest of them are either en route to a search committee somewhere, or lying in a dumpster on 56th Street.

Supergirl accompanied me on Wednesday, when I arrived. I'm an artist, so when I see a mess like this, I grumble. But she's a former meeting planner. She possesses a gene that screams with rage in the presence of malformed logistics. She asked, rightly, how they can get away with it year after year. I had only the simplest answer: because they can, and they don't care to do otherwise.

I was too worn out from the Meat Market to attend the sessions. Some of them sounded interesting, insofar as they offered alternatives to the usual blather of postmodernists partying like it was 1995. But by Thursday, I could bear it all no more, and I hit the Spanish painting show at the Gugg. Saturday, I purposely missed a panel discussion with Jeffrey Deitch, the Rubells, Jerry Saltz, and Peter Plagens. The topic was A Faustian Bargain? Emerging Artists, Critics, and the Market. Instead, I accompanied my cousin and her family to the Asia Society to take in a lovely show of Sassanian art. As I said to Supergirl, I might as well spend my hours on this earth in the presence of good people, looking at beautiful things, given a choice. Faust sold his soul. I'll hang on to mine, thanks.

So even in the statistically unlikely event that long-term work comes out of my attendance at the 2007 conference, I see that you, dear CAA, remain as committed as ever to rearranging the furniture in your little chamber of horrors. You've had 96 years to figure out how to do this right. What are you waiting for? Someone serving you with a subpoena over a conference inteview that violates federal law? Angry candidates disrupting the conference sessions? The Paper Clip Guy going home with his jaw wired shut? I leave it to you - just make a note that someone already tried reasoning with you. The idea that it is impossible to implement an efficient, respectful hiring event just baffles me. That this idea is fact in your world tells me that your ethical compass is demagnetized. As I said, I was looking for evidence as to whether the CAA is serious about reform. I now have my answer.

If anyone out there is looking for teaching work, and if for that reason alone you're thinking about going to a CAA conference without an interview lined up beforehand, I'd recommend against it. The conference is not likely to expose you to any full-time opportunity not already available through the listings on the CAA website, and you could spend those many hundreds of dollars on your art career, or even just stay busy in your studio, to better effect. Don't squander your resources, your time, or your humor, as the CAA will gladly do for you. Take it from me: they giveth not the posterior of a rat.

Comment

1.

Job Seeker

February 19, 2007, 11:14 AM

You really don't want a job, do you? I mean, "clustersuck"? "Bite me"? I wouldn't let you even near students with a temper like that.

2.

Franklin

February 19, 2007, 11:29 AM

Actually, I refer to students as "Sir" and "Ma'am." Any fool can display servility to superiors. And in this case, too many do.

3.

Job Seeker

February 19, 2007, 11:34 AM

Two words: Anger management.

A few more: Get a life.

4.

Who is this guy?

February 19, 2007, 11:39 AM

I mean, you didn't get a job... so what? Beneath your "Sirs" and "Madames" you reveal what you really are: angry and resentful. We all have to go through bad job interviews, and CAA is just one of those places. Saying "sir" and "madame" is not the issue. "Job Seeker" is right: what is at issue is that you have a horrible temper. Why would a dean let you teach at a school when you spend so much of your life blogging in such vitriol? I think any interviewer can see through you in two seconds: you're angry and obsessive.

5.

Marc Country

February 19, 2007, 11:42 AM

Really, Franklin, such harsh language! University, college, and art school students would be shocked, SHOCKED I say, to hear such vulgarities! Somebody must protect the students from vicious ogres like you... besides, don't you have better things to go, like make snippy anonymous comments on other people's blogs, or somesuch more respectable enterprise?

6.

Marc Country

February 19, 2007, 11:44 AM

Yeah Franklin, Marc Country is right... oh, wait a sec... oops. Forgot to change my handle.

7.

abusive language

February 19, 2007, 11:45 AM

i think that job seeker's point is that franklin can be abusive. that's what his language shows. you miss the point.

8.

Work?

February 19, 2007, 11:46 AM

Maybe it's because his work sucks?

9.

Marc County

February 19, 2007, 11:47 AM

Nah, his work is awesome. I think Franklin's attitude sucks.

10.

We Can All Agree

February 19, 2007, 11:49 AM

... someone here is angry and obsessive.

11.

Franklin

February 19, 2007, 11:57 AM

I have a life, and it's a good one. And to paraphrase Lady Bird Johnson, it took years to get me to say "clustersuck."

I have an idea for Job Seeker, Who Is This Guy, Abusive Language, Marc County [sic], and Work, all at the same browser and IP address: Go click on that link at "abused them mightily" and look at comment #4. Apparently, the world is divided between people who don't criticise the CAA, and people with no life. Explain that to me. Afterwards, let's examine whether there's a problem with any of the above thoughts besides perceived character flaws in the writer. Are the above remarks incorrect, or do you just not want to hear anyone assert them? Because nyah-nyah comments like this usually indicate the latter. There's a reason for that Address the Writing, Not the Writer guideline.

12.

And you Franklin

February 19, 2007, 12:06 PM

How about the other IP addresses and browsers on this blog? Prove it's not you, um, "clustersucking" yourself? I mean, how is we know you're telling the truth and not getting reamed by a bunch of people who find your edict about attacking the your writing and not you a little disingenuous?

13.

Franklin

February 19, 2007, 12:11 PM

I hardly have to; Marc already busted you, and he doesn't even have access to the data file. So again, is any of the above incorrect, or are you just sore that someone's saying it?

14.

Who is lying?

February 19, 2007, 12:28 PM

A couple people above accuse you of something, and you muddy the conversation by lying and saying they have the same IP and browser. A few things:

1) Any documentation you show could be easily faked

2) They could have the same IP and still be different people: you ever hear of a school computer room?

3) It still doesn't avoid the obvious point: you have created a little domain for yourself so that you can vent your anger, unabated. As someone above said, THAT'S the reason you probably can't find a job: you are a mean and nasty person. Anyone who challenges you here gets accused of fraud. Why not address the writing and not the writer?

15.

opie

February 19, 2007, 12:34 PM

It is very hard to know what would make the art job market less disfunctional. I

I heard a guy on NPR this morning talk about trying to find enough people to handle computer design jobs in his digital advertising firm. He knows just who and what he needs but he can't find enough people capable of handling the work. That's what you might call a "clean" job market, where there is a specific need for specific skills to do something for which there is a ready market.

The art job market, on the other hand, consists of committees of academics with generally poor-to-middling "worldly" skills trying to fill positions with ever-changing, vaguely understood (if at all) criteria which have usually just fallen open rather than having been professionally reexamined, hiring from a huge, desperate population of people who really want to just do their own thing but need a job to live. The problems of CAA derive from these circumstances. I think improvements could be made, but I don't think the basic problems can be solved without changing those circumstances.

16.

opie

February 19, 2007, 12:44 PM

When I posted above I had not read all the comments.

Whoever you are taking Franklin to task with ad hominum comments, enough already. He was simply pointing out defects in the process. This is perfectly legitimate, and whatever faults of personality he may have are nobody's business but his own.

17.

open wifi

February 19, 2007, 12:48 PM

the commenter is right: the same IP address can be a single wifi, like an internet cafe or any open access point. you should check your facts before accusing.

18.

Job Seeker

February 19, 2007, 12:54 PM

I retain the right to be anonymous -- you don't use typekey or any other form of user authentication -- so live with the faults of your own system. I also refuse to be accused of being one person simply because you say so. I use a browser used by a lot of people. You can retype ip addresses in any documentation. So what?

Back to the point: Be critical of CAA all you want. I personally dislike them too. But the issue here is your abusive approach. He abuses low-level employees (Paper Clip Guy), he blames others for his own faults, and he makes fun of the schools he applies to. Everyone knows applying for a job sucks, but grow up a little and figure out that it might be things like the self-gratification and vitriol in this blog that prevent you from getting one.

19.

Franklin

February 19, 2007, 12:55 PM

Who is Lying, Wifi, et al., I have indeed heard of a school computer room, and realize that can it will create a group of common IP addresses, and everyone might be using the same browser. My readers are looking either at a single person, or multiple students side by side in a computer room at the Univiersity of Wankonopee, or something similar. I accuse no one of fraud. I have no interest in defending myself against the assertion that I'm "a mean and nasty person." Think that if you like; I don't care. Now, for the third time, are any of the above assertions incorrect, or are you just sore that someone's saying them?

Opie, I wrote in another e-mail to the CAA group: "You're absolutely correct that ultimately the quality of the interviews rest on the interviewers, and there are limits to the CAA's powers to reform their behavior. The art world is a strange place, academia is a strange place, and I don't blame the CAA for their myriad combined inadequacies." I stand by that. But there are a lot of fixes of the hiring portion that could be implemented given a bit of will. First, they could make it run efficiently. It's not like this is the first hiring event in history - people know how to do these things. Supergirl is one of many. Once it's clear that the event itself is not wasting peoples' time, they could additionally address the ethical problems. I don't expect them to fix everything, just the part that they hang their sign over.

20.

Job Seeker

February 19, 2007, 1:01 PM

No! You're right! You're always right! Mommy and daddy think you are special! CAA is a bad, bad place! All three points are correct!

That still doesn't mean you are 1) Nasty and mean 2) Unemployable on a college level 3) Lifeless.

21.

Who is lying

February 19, 2007, 1:03 PM

How did he know we were at Univiersity of Wankonopee? How did he fucking know students curse!?

22.

art habit

February 19, 2007, 1:13 PM

I attended CAA twice to seek as well as follow up on job interviews and found the event demeaning and expensive. My first expensive rookie mistake was to pay the conference fee when all I needed was a current CAA membership to interview. My second mistake was to assume that being asked to interview meant I was short-listed. Well no, you are usually one of twenty (before the conference starts). Eventually I took a stand against attending CAA predicated on the belief that if a school is truly interested they will at least offer a phone interview. That year I was fortunate enough to have multiple on-campus interviews. My point is it is foolish to spend an excessive amount of money to pay for a job interview, or even worse, the promise of an interview. Especially considering representatives from each institution will have their travel expenses reimbursed. As Franklin noted, most positions are posted on line through CAA, The Chronicle of Higher Education and HigherEdjobs.com. Face time helps, but it is no substitute for a strong portfolio and an active CV.

23.

Franklin

February 19, 2007, 1:40 PM

Job Seeker, my system grants you anonymity by design. It's up to you to use it well. As for your additional points, thank you for sharing.

Habit, I think that's a fair response. You're absolutely right that a CAA interview implies no progress through the system, except that maybe you don't smell offensive. Nobody claims as much, but it's a resonable enough assumption given the circumstances. I also came to the conclusion that if they didn't want to talk to me enough to arrange an interview prior to the conference or on-site, there was probably good reason for it, and no loss to either side. It's also worth noting as you did that the interviewees are usually spending their own money while the interviewers are not. I think that creates a lot of the stasis.

24.

wwc

February 19, 2007, 3:46 PM

I went to NY, walked over to the Hilton, had my hotel room interview (which went well and was very professional), then immediately left the building to cleanse my palate with the Martin Ramirez show at the Folk Art Museum. Nothing could have gotten me back into the Hilton after escaping.

I didn't have the experiences you did Franklin, mostly because I parachuted in and then got the hell out. But in my brief time there, I could see the mismanagement and soul-destruction going on. Emblematic was a set of stairs that seemed to offer an exit but instead went down into some sort of pit of boxes of music equipment.

25.

Jack

February 19, 2007, 4:25 PM

There may be no need for comments, as the facts speak rather loudly for themselves, but this CAA outfit seems quite wretched. It's clearly a case of indifference, insensitivity, and institutional inertia, not to say creeping rot. Basically, it's shabby, unprofessional behavior grounded in the ability to get away with it.

There's also the matter, theoretical though it may be, that arts people are supposed to be more sensitive and humane than, say, computer or business types. Of course, that may be just so much bullshit, a substance in which the art world is awash. Sad.

26.

JM

February 19, 2007, 10:47 PM

Sorry about your experiences Franklin, but I'm hopeful that those that sould be reading this are, and not those out to make personal judgements/attacks.

27.

Student

February 20, 2007, 12:13 AM

I agree with Jack. And in Franklin's defense, it's ok to be fed up and disappointed..and certainly ok to express it in his own blog. I have been a student of Franklin's before, and he was one of the most professional art teachers I've ever had...Even when his patience was tried by a bunch of smart-assed,cocky students, he always maintained his professionalism...
So JOB SEEKER, WORK?, AND WHO IS THIS GUY?, you all obviously don't know him...
Go "clustersuck" each other...(oops, was that too abusive? Please forgive me)

28.

BMD72

February 20, 2007, 1:34 AM

I don't understand people who condemn a persons attitude by taking personal shots at him.

29.

George

February 20, 2007, 7:58 AM

The 'flame' in todays NY Times

Just a FYI, no commentary intended.

30.

catfish

February 20, 2007, 9:01 AM

The situation with CAA is emblematic of the dominance of academic values in most things artistic these days. Jack can tell us about all the control dealers have, but really, compared to the influence the academic world has, they don't control much. In fact, it seems that the academic side is what "validates" the dealer side as having real value beyond mere commerce, and therefore makes possible the way they do business, especially their opposition to "tradition" and bias in favor of "contemporary" and "up-to-date".

It is of great interest to me that the original avant-garde was opposed to the contemporary art of their time, not in favor of it.

31.

Bob

February 20, 2007, 9:03 AM

I saw your entrance to the conference, you looked like you just valeted your pack dogs. I figured "hellos" could wait till you thawed.

To concur, the conference is a poor solution to meeting qualified candidates. I had a couple room interviews that were horrors, but also room interviews that, for one reason or another, were comfortable with intelligent conversation. It really depends on the people conducting the interviews.

CAA classics: interviewing in a hotel room that smelled like an ashtray, by only one faculty member. Two others showed up late, only to leave for MoMA. Could you imagine being on campus with such personalities?

Overhearing a faculty member in the lobby call the chair of her dept to relay that she's "had her crazy meter on and the candidates look sane."
The schools want, for the most part, someone to not rock the boat. Secondly they want someone to manage the dept and pick up the slack, easing their load. I think artwork comes in dead last.

For a fairly healthy upcoming exhibtion schedule, one interviewer actually told me that "they don't discourage personal growth for faculty." They didn't say they encouraged personal growth.

And, I never did find the tables/hall of interviews. Cluster.

32.

Bob

February 20, 2007, 9:50 AM

It is of great interest to me that the original avant-garde was opposed to the contemporary art of their time, not in favor of it.

Catfish-
Wasn't the "contemporary art of their" time the academy? Now it seems the roles are reversed.

33.

Marc Country

February 20, 2007, 10:03 AM

The roles are completely the same, Bob. The only difference is, back then, the avant-garde looked "far-out" compared to the academic work; now, the academic work all has to look "far-out".

34.

ahab

February 20, 2007, 10:06 AM

Sorry for the agonizing experiences, Franklin, Bob and wwc. The days have passed when an academy would of its own accord seek out people it felt were best able to contribute to its educational mandate; and how long has it been since a higher learning institution wooed qualified people instead of dredging for them. This is likely because the facilitation of learning has generally been superceded (if not abandoned all together) in favour of selling course credits for profit. I am loathe to participate in such an udsidepown system.

35.

opie

February 20, 2007, 10:35 AM

Catfish, Bob, et al - one of the problems we hhave when talking about art using any kind of general terminology is that there is only at any time two kinds of art: a lot of bad and mediocre art and a very small amound of good or great art. That's the perpetual, fundamental division on which all others hinge.

For example, what the hell is "avant garde" these days? Everyone is desperately trying to be avant-garde. The best art is "conservative", and, as the best art always is, neglected. So what is avant-garde? The term has been rendered meaningless and unusable. This is a basic weakness of current art discourse.

The pollution, as catfish indicates, is provided by the academy, where "ideas" can grow and flourish completely separate from any conformity to any model of reality, often being deemed "interesting" and "progressive" by that perverted standard only. This is nowhere more pronounced that within the permissive preceincts of art-making, which, by necessity, operates with no predetermined rules. Whether or not this plague is sufficient to bring art itself down will only be evident when the next economic recession appears and the lunacy is no longer supported by the market.

36.

Jack

February 20, 2007, 10:38 AM

Catfish, you're not reading me accurately. My real beef is not with dealers, objectionable though many of them are. They're in business to sell as much as possible for as much as possible, and I don't expect that to change. My problem is with the rich (or rich enough) collectors who provide the indispensable financial base for all the BS that's all over the place. If it didn't sell, it simply couldn't be sustained, especially if better stuff did sell (which would displace and replace the crap).

37.

George

February 20, 2007, 10:48 AM

Why does the 'better stuff' not sell?


BetaMax

38.

Jack

February 20, 2007, 11:00 AM

Because, George, among other things, far too many of the wealthy buyers are in it for the wrong reason(s) and are much more attuned to fashion, buzz and image, not to mention what they're told by "experts," than to simply looking at the stuff and judging for themselves (assuming, of course, they have the aptitude and experience to do so with real discernment).

39.

George

February 20, 2007, 11:05 AM

... are much more attuned to fashion, buzz and image, not to mention what they're told by "experts,"...

Ah ha, sounds like sucessful marketing to me.

40.

Jack

February 20, 2007, 11:25 AM

You can call it successful marketing, George, which it is, in terms of sales figures. Such marketing can be implemented for all sorts of things, even things completely lacking in any real substance or quality.

I, however, see the situation more as failed connoisseurship. There's the rub.

41.

catfish

February 20, 2007, 12:37 PM

Bob, "the contemp[orary art of their time" was indeed the Academy.

The "contemporary art of today" is also the Academy. Today's academy has embraced the shocking, the freakish, the outright bizarre in every way it can find, simply because they thought that was the lesson of the past. So it remains an Academy, the Academy of the "New" (as defined by a maverick aesthetic that is now 100 years old - Duchamp, Dada, and company), which is "new" only because everybody believes it is new.

The academics out hiring at the CAA are looking for academic credentials, starting with terminal degrees but quickly extending to exhibitions at "prestigous" venues, talks given at academic conferences, and a whole host of similar lines on the standard academic resume. If the lines are there in sufficient quantity, the art and the artist will be deemed good. If they are missing, the same art and artist will be deemed bad. There are nuances that I am ignoring, to be sure, but it really is as simple as that.

Once the "good" artists have been identified, the only task is to determine which one best fits the fuzzy conception of what is needed, as opie states above. That spawns another frenzy of strange assessments, but rest assured that, once someone is lucky enough to be hired, their only task is to tend their resume carefully. If they keep that on the academically straight and narrow, they will get tenure. If they don't, they are back out on the street.

Sorry Jack that I did not get you exactly right. Myself, the cause of all this seems to be the expansion of the art world and art market that took place just after World War II. George's "delta" metaphor remains the best one I can think of for the result. "Art", as now defined, has gotten too big for its own good and is soaking in its own waste products. The oversupply of everything, artists, art lovers, critics, collectors, dealers, students, faculty, and the like has weakened the structure so that all it generates is even more waste which is even more toxic, as the delta broadens and seems destined to cover the earth.

I am not sure an economic downturn will end it on any but temporary terms, sort of stiffle it for a while. I think we had one in the 80s. The glut only grew larger after "the correction", as all great gluts do. As the sage Yogi Bera put it, it won't be over until it is over.

42.

Jack

February 20, 2007, 1:40 PM

Yes, it's like the system decided that if it never looked like the old academy, and instead did whatever it took to look like the opposite, it would never be similarly vulnerable to attack, thus ensuring or perpetuating its position based on faux relevance or supposed cutting-edge-ness.

The endless, frantic, mindless (or certainly eyeless) contortions to maintain the appearance of "new and different" as well as "challenging" and/or "trangressive" should have been seen long ago for the largely cynical manipulations that they are, but that's where the rich idiots come in--and they're nothing if not very, very, uh, empowering to the creators and purveyors of all manner of glorified tripe.

43.

Bob

February 20, 2007, 7:01 PM

The best art is "conservative", and, as the best art always is, neglected

opie-

I realize that the avant garde's time has long gone., but how is "conservative" the best out there? When I think of conservative art I think Thomas Kincaide, Leroy Neiman, etc. I also think of corporate lobbies and boardrooms. Conservative in what way? Less material?

This comment/discussion was spurred by my noting that most of the hiring at CAA was by artists that really didn't make art. If they did it rarely got shown. This isn't a commercial gallery vs university gallery snub: the work was rarely shown.

I understand that there are elements of the new establishment teaching in big positions that favor the anything goes outlook. But the overall hiring for teaching positions are by administrators and not artists. Its become managerial with little consideration given to the student's need and the faculty member's growth.

44.

hydrophilos

February 20, 2007, 9:27 PM

To paraphrase the poet Robert Duncan, "the art of the day is as good as the current president in office

45.

opie

February 21, 2007, 8:00 AM

Bob, I did noit say that conservative art was the best, I said the best art was conservative, and I put "conservative" in quotes to emphasize that I was indicating not what was conservative in the sense of retrograde or old fashioned, but conservative in that it is thought to be not "avant", up-to-date, with it, fashionable.The art of Neiman and Kinkade is not conservative, it is just bad. It conserves nothing of value.

Although this is really a semantic issue, it can be said that so-called "true avant-garde" art is always conservative because it conserves esthetic value against the crowd. It looks "far-out" because it goes against the crowd by finding new ways to keep art on track. If you look back you can read all "avant-garde" movements of the past 200 years this way. Now that the crowd is completely "avant" those who wish to preserve value in art are going to seem, and be seen as and called, conservative.

Our terminology and our value system and our art are all very confused in this time of hysterical relativism.

46.

craigfrancis

February 21, 2007, 11:40 AM

Having been spared the CAA as a Canadian (I can't really think of a Northern equivalent), I still find this conversation interesting. I think it was Catfish who said once a while ago that the art world had been hi-jacked by the left. What I think is more accurate is to say that the art world has been hi-jacked by those wishing to appear to be leftist, or at least avant garde (as has been discussed). If you're in the Academy, it's easy to esspouse the rhetoric of the left, given that it's a requesite for the job that you don't really believe in art or social change anyway.

I heard Chris Hedges (author of American Fascists) paraphrasing St. Augustine last night: Hope has two children: Anger at the current situation, and Courage to make it change.

Thanks.

47.

The Left is the problem?

February 21, 2007, 4:05 PM

Let me explain to some of you why it's hard to teach in academia. It's not because the left has taken over. It's not because the market is too robust. And it's definitely not because artists are too avant-garde. There are plenty of schools in the country that teach students how to paint watercolors of beaches and will probably do so for another 200 years.

So why is it so hard to get a job? There are too few jobs and too many artists. Period. It's no easier to get a job if you're making installation art. In any one area of the arts there only a handful of jobs available at any one time in any one city. That's how schools can get away with being rude to you. They run the show. Not you. Not CAA. Schools have the money and the jobs.You and CAA rely on the schools for the same pot of money. The labor market is tilted in the favor of employers.

So get with it folks. The left is not locking you out of anything in some cosmic conspiracy. It's the fact that schools produce too many artists for artists to all teach. There are over 10,000 self-declared artists in NYC alone! Probably close to 80 teach full time! In short, most artists will never teach as a day job. Quit attacking the left for something it didn't do. You sound like the right-wing thugs who run this country.

PS:

craigfrancis : Having been spared the CAA as a Canadian (I can't really think of a Northern equivalent)

CAA is not a geographically specific org. They have many Canadian, European and Asian members. Read the mission statement and find us any mention of geography. One of their conferences in the 90s was in Toronto.

48.

Reality

February 21, 2007, 4:57 PM

Do you really expect a conference hall holding booths from institutions all over the country to be anything less than a clusterfuck? Even if it was halfway organized, it would still be a ridiculous meat market. It is probably that way because a lot of the applicants seem desperate and bitter, like you. The reality is that there aren't that many teaching positions out there and there are tons and tons of people applying. You don't want to move to Kansas beacuse its far away from the pretentious coastal art world and you probably have a media-addled mental image of the midwest. If you really wanted a job you would be willing to take a one in a place that was less than disirable. You can make your art work anywhere. It is a means to an end.

49.

opie

February 21, 2007, 5:27 PM

You are basically right #47. The root of the problem is the disbalance you describe.

Reality#48, I think Franklin was simply making a plea for civility. I have been to plenty of these things (on the hiring side, so no reason for bitterness) and I have been appalled at how people behave.

50.

Franklin

February 21, 2007, 5:39 PM

To The Left is the Problem? - First, please pick a name so we can address you conveniently. Second, I wouldn't argue that it's difficult to get a teaching job because of high demand and low supply. It's also a fact that the mainstream contemporary art world is postmodernist in its biases, and that postmodernism is a product of the left. That situation shapes people's careers accordingly. I'm a libertarian and have nothing against the left per se. I am opposed to foolishness and dishonesty in all cases. Third, saying "That's how schools can get away with being rude to you" is almost a might-makes-right argument. I don't expect the CAA to somehow legislate away rudeness - I can much more easily return it. I do, however, think that they have a fundamental responsibility, if they're going run a hiring event, to actively support its operation within the bounds of federal law and highest ethical standards, which it claims to uphold.

Reality: Do you really expect a conference hall holding booths from institutions all over the country to be anything less than a clusterfuck?

Yes. It's not rocket science. Event organization is a well understood discipline that has competent practitioners. Just not in the CAA.

It is probably that way because a lot of the applicants seem desperate and bitter, like you.

Really? My irritation creates the logistical problems? I'd enjoy hearing how that happens.

You don't want to move to Kansas beacuse its far away from the pretentious coastal art world and you probably have a media-addled mental image of the midwest.

I had no idea. Good thing I have pseudynomous commenters to come here and tell me what's happening in my own head. Actually, I don't want to move to Kansas because a friend went to KCAI and told me to stay far away. That in turn eliminates other cities whose landmark is Kansas City. But I happily applied to schools in Ohio, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Iowa. In fact, I find myself oddly drawn to the midwest and midwesterners. I'm hoping to have the opportunity to explore it at some point. At any rate, anyone who lumps together the art worlds of every city on both coasts just hasn't been around enough.

You can make your art work anywhere.

Maybe. My work changed quite a bit when I came to Boston last year, and I no longer think geography has no part in it.

51.

The Left is the Problem?

February 21, 2007, 7:04 PM

Franklin: Second, I wouldn't argue that it's difficult to get a teaching job because of high demand and low supply.

Huh? A libertarian that doesn't believe in the most basic rule of free market economies: supply and demand? Or do you not believe there are many more artists than there are jobs? Surely you can't believe the opposite, that there are too many teaching jobs?

It's also a fact that the mainstream contemporary art world is postmodernist in its biases, and that postmodernism is a product of the left.

Huh (again)? Have you ever been to an art school? Like I said, there are plenty of schools populated by folks who do nothing but paint watercolors of the beach all day. Postmodernism is only one part of a larger field.

I do, however, think that they have a fundamental responsibility, if they're going run a hiring event, to actively support its operation within the bounds of federal law and highest ethical standards, which it claims to uphold.

A libertarian quoted federal labor law! Brilliant! Maybe you mean social libertarian, because on the economic front you believe ideology makes a marketplace, not supply and demand, and you want the federal government to police your interview.

Please, for the love of God, tell us how that frictionless, Federally-mandated interview room is supposed to work. I mean, should the students have a Stasi-like ability to rat out bad interviewees? Then what? Is CAA supposed to hire another 10 employees to form a review board? A little CAA court of justice? How does that work exactly? It would be a tit-for-tat mess!

52.

opie

February 21, 2007, 7:36 PM

I believe Franklin was agreeing with you on the first point, Left, that he meant "I won't argue AGAINST it.

It is not something we can settle without reams of expert testimony and evidence, I suppose, but when it is claimed that pomo is the basic engine of power throughout art academia it certainly accords with my experience. The beach painter reference may be more or less true but it is a red herring.

Again, despite evoking the federal government within the context of a Libertarian argument I think Franklin is simply arguing for civility in the process, which, again, I have seen lacking at CAA when it needn't be. This is not unreasonable.

53.

Franklin

February 21, 2007, 7:59 PM

A libertarian that doesn't believe in the most basic rule of free market economies...?

If you insist on reading the opposite of what I write, we're not going to have a very nice chat. I believe in free markets. The number of jobs is probably acceptable, although given that many universities are federally funded to one degree or another, we're talking about a highly interventionist market, not a purely free one.

Postmodernism is only one part of a larger field.

And thankfully, it's waning. Tenure causes it to hang on longer than it should. I deliberately moved away from a place in which museums and the majority of galleries were actively hostile to the modernist project. If you're experience has been more varied, I'd like to hear where you are. I receive the CAA Journal, which is 100% postmodernist and ridiculous to boot.

A libertarian quoted federal labor law!

I'm not a huge fan of the EOC but I find it extraordinarily hypocritical that an organization with a Radical Art Caucus and a Queer Caucus, and one that publishes a magazine that aesthetically is slightly to the left of Stalin, is content to allow its hires to be interviewed in hotel rooms and asked about childbearing plans. This supports what Craigfrancis was saying about hollowed-out leftism. In a purely libertarian scenario, there would be no Equal Opportunity laws. Neither would there be government funding to create the university position, and the CAA would receive no public grants. I would find that situation entirely acceptable. However, it doesn't exist, and basic civility, as Opie put it, remains a reasonable thing to ask for of an organization that claims to uphold the highest standards for the field.

Is CAA supposed to hire another 10 employees to form a review board? A little CAA court of justice?

I already answered that above: one person, appointed with the authority to educate interviewers about the CAA's own guidelines and federal law and close down a table if need be. But even failing that, I have an expectation that if schools are renting tables to look for candidates and I'm paying membership partly to have access to those tables, if the CAA fouls up the mechanisms that would allow us to connect, all of our money is being wasted. Thus I won't attend again, and I recommend that anyone without a previously arranged interview avoid it in the future. As it is, the CAA claims to be upholding standards while letting its hiring fair go to shit. I don't find that acceptable. If you do, make a case for it.

54.

The Left is the Problem?

February 22, 2007, 12:30 AM

I already answered that above: one person, appointed with the authority to educate interviewers about the CAA's own guidelines and federal law and close down a table if need be.

You're kidding. That's your solution? It all comes down to one person telling everyone else that they shouldn't be bad? And then just close down the table if they are bad. Wow, you are nuanced thinker.

First, the educator part. Like the person above who claimed CAA doesn't do work in Canada, get your facts straight. There is a standard set of guidelines given to all interviewees. The rules are clear as can be. The schools have the power to ignore them because they have the money. Same situation as with you. Pal, in a market like this one money makes right. I don't agree with it, but that's how it is.

Second the policing part. (AKA the shut 'em down option.) To take an example: CAA already forbids schools to interview in hotel rooms. Why? CAA loses money! It's in its best interest to disallow this. Why does it continue? Because its staff is comprised of evil, cackling postmodernists! No, wait. That's not right. Because they can't do anything about it. How could you ever sort out false accusations from true ones? Suppose a student has a bad day, and lies? Then what? Shut 'em down! Send in the storm troopers!

Again, you claim to be a libertarian, but libertarianism seems to be for everyone else. When it comes to your interview you are Mr. Law and Order. Give someone the supreme ability to shut down the interview to protect people from what? Rudeness? Tardiness? Where is the line drawn here and how could you ever get everyone to agree on that line?

Anyway, as many people here have expressed, you have clearly been wronged in a minor interpersonal way by the school, but your manner of discussion, egotism, and downright nastiness almost encourages someone to not hire you. Work on your career, exhibit, publish, and keep interviewing for jobs, and perhaps you'll get something. Good luck.

55.

opie

February 22, 2007, 7:49 AM

I know this is Franklin's battle, Left, but you are being a bit wrong-headed. Franklin
objected to some circumstances of a sort I have observed many times and said that they were wrong and should be corrected and that the governing body was responsible. This was entirely appropriate.

To call his sharp and emphatic criticisms egotism and downright nastiness is ad hominum and has no place here. Disagree, please, but do not characterize.

56.

Franklin

February 22, 2007, 8:08 AM

That's your solution?

No, that's a modest improvement over a system that currently has no feedback mechanism whatsoever. I don't think there's a single solution because as mentioned earlier, academia and art are each strange worlds and their intersection has no hope for normalcy. But there are certainly ways to improve an event that people have been complaining about for, literally, generations.

Wow, you are nuanced thinker.

Many anonymous fools have come through this blog to apologize for the establishment at the supposed expense my intellectual abilities and personal qualities. None of these people have in turn demonstrated much of either themselves.

Like the person above who claimed CAA doesn't do work in Canada, get your facts straight. There is a standard set of guidelines given to all interviewees.

Again, this is false. These guidelines can at most be found via URLs in the paper materials given to interviewees, and the Career Fair Guide that mentions them wasn't included in the standard registration packet. They were available for pick up down in the applicant area. Did you attend CAA this year, or are you making things up to suit yourself?

CAA already forbids schools to interview in hotel rooms.

No, it recommends against them. Get your facts straight.

Why does it continue? Because its staff is comprised of evil, cackling postmodernists!

I was never suggesting that. It continues, because as I said above, they know who's buttering their bread. We seem to agree on that, but I guess you get more drama in your life if you pretend otherwise.

Suppose a student has a bad day, and lies? Then what? Shut 'em down! Send in the storm troopers!

What part of "egregious or repeated violations" are you having trouble understanding? You're arguing against a caricature of what I'm suggestiong. I guess your point is that a stupid version of the above ideas won't work, so nothing should be done. That's idiotic. How about the other suggestion, that the materials appear automatically in registration packets? Are you opposed to that as well? How about the idea that the event should help people to connect efficiently? You must find that totally unreasonable.

Again, you claim to be a libertarian, but libertarianism seems to be for everyone else. When it comes to your interview you are Mr. Law and Order.

On the contrary. The CAA is free to run their conference as badly as they want. The schools are free to act unprofessionally should they choose. I'm free to slag the CAA in public to my heart's content.

Anyway, as many people here have expressed, you have clearly been wronged in a minor interpersonal way by the school, but your manner of discussion, egotism, and downright nastiness almost encourages someone to not hire you.

I'm not convinced that those multiple handles are associated with many people. Once again, for the slow ones, you're welcome to think that I have myriad personal failings. I have not conflated them with the inefficiency and disorganization of the hiring event, and you shouldn't either.

Work on your career, exhibit, publish, and keep interviewing for jobs, and perhaps you'll get something.

Here's what I've been working on. How about you? Are you doing anything you care to attach to your remarks above, or is anonymity and argument against caricature all you have to offer here?

57.

Franklin

February 22, 2007, 8:34 AM

And let me clarify that I haven't lost my temper at you, Left, but that I'm mightily pissed off at the spammer who's been putting up porn links in the comments seventy five at a time every two hours for the last 24.

58.

craigfrancis

February 22, 2007, 11:28 AM

Hey thanks Left. Toronto in the 90s, eh? How could I have missed that?

59.

ashes77

February 24, 2007, 1:45 AM

i think it's cute that you actually attracted the CAA defenders. They know about blogs?

60.

Franklin

February 24, 2007, 7:56 AM

Apparently. Actually, I don't think any of these people are defending the CAA so much as attacking me, which is fine in a way, as it demonstrates just how far down in a hole these people are.

61.

George

February 24, 2007, 10:04 AM

How far down the hole? (it's 300 feet deep)

62.

Franklin

February 24, 2007, 10:10 AM

Maybe farther.

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