An anonymous Reaction GIF blog about the pitfalls of life in the art world
or an ongoing investigation examining the fecundity of Examined Investigations
During a period of deep dissatisfaction with the art world, I came across an animated GIF of Tina Fey’s peerless Liz Lemon. “Oh, brother,” she moaned, and as her eyes rolled on and on, the premise of First Thursday Art Schlock washed over me—a safe place to vent anonymous, honest critique. +lols
I setup a Tumblr and made a post…
Within the hour, I wrote a dozen more. I’d been following other reaction gif blogs and reddit threads, so I knew the format and what could work. I got so immediately into it that I’d made twenty posts by day’s end. Pent up anxiety and displeasure poured out of me so readily that I had to pace the output. Even with a rule to never repeat myself, I had over 100 things off my chest in the first two months.
In order to remain anonymous, I only shared the link with three close friends at the start. One of them posted it to Facebook and, awesomely, it quickly grew a devout set of followers. When there was a good group going, I publicly became a fan of the blog as well.
The response was surprisingly positive, considerate, and honest. I was overjoyed seeing people relate to the posts, share them, ask around who ran the thing. FTAS did several interviews and was even highlighted in best-of and year-end lists. But the most satisfying thing was hearing people bring it up in conversation, simply excited about it, not knowing—and getting to play along as a fan of the blog myself. Those were the salad days.
Soon I started making parodies of celebrated work I encountered in Seattle. FTAS Originals had one clear statement: “If I can make your art in 5 minutes, I will.”
I applied for The Betty Bowen Award, a highly sought-after artist grant, under the pseudonym Art T. Schlock.
Eventually the project yielded an unexpected product for me: peace. The honesty of the whole thing and its general embrace proved to be incredibly therapeutic. I also began involving myself less and less in all of the things that irked me, which in hindsight seems such a simple gesture. While this progress was great for me, it was the eventual death-knell for the project itself. A self-canceling system.
The project continued to gain steam and followers. For months I felt bound to its continued existence, that I had to keep up with this anonymous curmudgeon. Posting became as anxiety-inducing as the art shows that once spawned them.
Nearing 180 posts and a year of existence, I reached my end. Three ceremonial final posts wrapped things up and I bid FTAS farewell. Friends who had eventually figured me out wrote with condolences and I even saw some goodbye shout-outs that really made it feel right.
It was a satisfying conclusion for me.
Months passed. I got a great new job at an art museum and had an incredibly busy summer of shows. I found myself once again embroiled with the art world in ways that were occasionally maddening—and as I did, more and more friends suggested that I bring the thing back. I took time to consider it, and ultimately felt it would be better in someone else’s hands.
So, three months after my end with First Thursday Art Schlock, I found my replacement, drafted and signed a Dread Pirate Roberts Scenario Pact, and handed off the keys.
It was the most rewarding, honest and engaging project I have yet been a part of.