Joseph Reyes

 

 

Artist

October 28


I finally got my second vaccine shot. I haven’t experienced any side effects, so I guess I’m lucky. I got the shot in the middle of the day then went straight back to work. Later, I started feeling a mild numb pain in my arm, but it’s nothing too serious. I’m glad I got more protection and there’ll be less chance of me spreading covid to other people.

I posted about this on Instagram and just as I expected, it flushed out a number of anti-vaxxers who happen to be following me. “You are never fully vaxxed.” “You will keep needing boosters and it will never end.” “Complying with authoritarians will not end tyranny.” Later, they unfollow me. I kinda expected this kind of political craziness on Facebook or Twitter, not on Instagram. I post nothing but art. They also ignore that I’m a Canadian living in Korea. Both countries have extremely high vaccination rates. Koreans are very diligent regarding mask use. Neither countries have death rates that compare to the numbers that the US has. But oh well, I don’t need anti-vaxxer crazy people following me.

Koreans will adopt a “with Covid” strategy starting next month. The country will be dealing with Covid-19 as a fact of daily life and just live with caution instead of trying to eradicate it from the country. Bars and restaurants will open longer and seat more people. Masks will no longer be mandatory outdoors. Gyms and other businesses will be allowed to operate. All of these changes are due to the rapid vaccination of the population. Over 70% of the population are now vaccinated, with younger people being allowed to be vaccinated as well. I worry that Korea will have the same fate as England with its cases rising after adopting a “with Covid” strategy and easing restrictions, but I don’t think Koreans will be so quick to ditch mask-wearing in public. They were very eager to wear masks and practice strict safety measures well before they became mandatory. I suppose part of it is because of their Confucian community-oriented culture as opposed to the western individualist approach to things. No one is complaining about constrained freedom or tyrants around here.

Anyway, I’m quite excited. It’ll be nice to finally be able to go back to the gym. I think I’m amazingly lucky though not to have caught the virus at all. Here’s to continuing to be lucky. 

September 29


Danish museum, Kunsten Museum of Modern Art, paid artist Jens Haaning 534,000 kroner to recreate two of his works from over a decade ago. Calculating the cost of material and labor, Jen Hanning says that it was criminally low and would’ve required him to pay money out of his own pockets to recreate the two works. Now, Haaning is a known conceptual artist and I really have no idea how much reproducing the works would cost, but he decided to just pocket the money and rename the series ‘Take the Money and Run,’ and sent the museum two blank canvases. The museum in return, hangs the two canvasses as part of an exhibition examining the relationship between art and labor, but ironically still plans to get the money back from Haaning, accusing him of breach of contract.

As conceptual art, bravo Jens Haaning! Excellent. Artists’ works are criminally undervalued. Artists are often seen as doing a hobby and are expected to finance their art with “real” jobs. It’s not uncommon to hear artists being asked to produce work for “exposure.” Heck, even making art and posting it on Instagram (which I do), technically gives Facebook millions of artistic work as content for free. So when Jens Haaning refused to honor the contract after being paid what he felt was too low, as an artist, I couldn’t help but root for him.

But as someone who has a basic understanding of contracts, Jens Haaning orchestrated the whole thing and played the Kunsten museum. He’s a bad actor, not a victim. For a contract to be valid, there must be a valid offer, acceptance, consideration, mutual obligation, and both parties must be competent in the time of their agreement. No one forced Haaning to agree to reproduce his works for the price he calls “criminally low.” He could very well have negotiated to a higher and more suitable compensation for his labor. But he didn’t. Instead, he agreed to a contract which I suspect he had no plans to fulfill in order to make viral news, appealing to the sympathies of artists worldwide. The museum in return gets to benefit a bit from the notoriety and will no doubt see more people through its doors hoping to see a blank canvas.

Let’s not get carried away here. The stunt is closer to a banana on a wall than an upturned urinal. It may be speaking of truths that artists suffer through, but I can’t help but feel that the artist is distastefully cynical in his approach. Whether the museum gets its money back or not will not change the value and the meaning of the two original canvasses. I doubt if it would hurt the artist much as well. Even if he does get sued, I’m sure it will be settled without hurting him financially. In fact, being sued might benefit him more and gain him more notoriety. But while ‘Take the Money and Run’ tries to address how artists are criminally undervalued, I believe in the long run, it will only contribute to the notion that art is excessive, ridiculous, and arbitrary, and thus perpetuate the harm Haaning claims he’s shining a light on among artists. After all, how could two canvasses be worth 534,000 kroner? 

November 2


Been reading about Morris Blanchard, who goes by the Ojibway name Onagottay. He’s a Canadian artist who claims to be Anishinaabe and a survivor of the Sixties Scoop. For the uninitiated, Anishinaabe is a group representing indigenous populations of North America which include the Ojibway, Cree, Algonquin, etc. The Sixties Scoop was an initiative of the Canadian government of taking Indigenous children and assigning them white foster parents in order to integrate them into white society, remove Indigenous influence, and weaken the claims of land rights of indigenous communities in the future.

Unfortunately, despite being a celebrated First Nations artist and an “elder” teaching Ojibway in a local language program, it would appear that Blanchard is totally Caucasian. His brother and his ex-wife both claim that his autobiography of surviving the Sixties Scoop and living in the bush is all fiction. His brother says that their ancestry is Norweigan, English, and French. Now, like many Canadians, there’s a likelihood that there might be some First Nations in his bloodline, but not to the extent that Blanchard has carved and sold his persona.

Now, one can admire his visual works absent his misrepresentations, but it’s offensive to think that this artist has primarily used a First Nations story to make a career of himself, even being employed by Queen’s University teaching Indigenous language and culture. It’s one thing to steal and disrespect First Nations by misappropriating their culture, which I still think is oddly called “cultural appropriation.” But it’s another thing to steal the suffering minorities and claim it as your own. I find it more offensive than a thousand people wearing an Indian headdress as a fashion statement. He is actively stealing the history, suffering, and wisdom from other survivors.

He makes interesting visual works. Let him do that. I am fully on board with admiring works of art absent the vile character of the artist. That’s why I can still look at works of Paul Gauguin or occasionally watch a Woody Allen film. Blanchard can be just like Kirby Sattler, an artist who paints inaccurate realistic portraits of Native Americans. But just like Kirby Sattler, he must own up to his own history and say that he is an outsider admiring the beauty and culture of the First Nations, not claim to be First Nations himself.

I remember back in university. One of my first friends was First Nations. We hung out and met a local elder who was very friendly with us. He even invited me to a sweat lodge. I didn’t realize in the beginning that he mistook me for being First Nations as well, probably due to my complexion. I had to sheepishly admit that I wasn’t First Nations when he asked me what tribe I was from. Graciously, he still maintained that I’m welcome to the sweat lodge and visit his community.

Apparently, Blanchard would’ve gone along with the mistake and happily passed as First Nations throughout his university life.

October 8


I had to spend most of the day yesterday at the DMV. I don’t really drive in Korea. I think the last time I drove a vehicle was over ten years ago. The thing is, driving a vehicle isn’t really necessary if you live in Seoul. Transportation here is wildly convenient. There are buses everywhere, the subway is cheap and easy to navigate (compared to the confusing mess that is Japan’s), and taxis are cheaper than in Canada. Navigating through the city and figuring out schedules are also made more convenient by using apps.

To operate a vehicle in the city, not only will you have to worry about paying for your vehicle, gas, and insurance. You also have to deal with the notorious parking problem in the city. Koreans can also get their license rather quickly if they put their mind to it (And most Koreans DO put their minds to it when it comes to any test). Getting a license involves a written test, a car functions test, and a road test. With luck and skill, one can whiz through these. But with others, especially foreign drivers, they might get stuck dealing with the computer system in the car functions test. This is to say that some people might whiz through the test and get a license not really having enough experience driving, making the roads a bit more dangerous for other motorists.

So yeah, driving is expensive and dangerous. Add to that, Koreans are also very particular with their vehicles, not driving anything older than ten years old. If you’re not driving something that is fairly new, then you’re basically driving a hooptie in the eyes of locals.

But with the pandemic preventing me from traveling outside of the country, there’s been more pressure to get into a vehicle and drive around outside of the city, the only reason for me to own a vehicle. I’ll be getting a vehicle before the end of the year (an Audi A4), but I’m not really too excited about it. I’ve lived my life not caring about cars, and I feel like now I have no choice but be a car guy. Next, I’ll become a glamping guy. Glamping! Disgusting. The Canadian in me is dying in shame. The minute I load a $400 portable grill into the trunk of a car, I would have to surrender my flannel shirts.

Interestingly, today I learned that many famous people actually either don’t drive, never learned how, or just have a thing against driving. Norm MacDonald, Tina Fey, Javier Bardem, Elvis Costello, Kate Beckinsale, Charlie Watts, etc. Maybe owning a car and driving around isn’t really a key part of adulting. 

November 26


 I finally saw the latest James Bond film and the last of the Daniel Craig movies for the franchise. I normally don’t post movie reviews here, but there’s nothing much art-related stuff I could talk about at the moment and I have a three-hour lecture tonight which is making me nervous, so I thought I would do some writing to calm me down, just some random thoughts about the franchise and the latest film.

A few years ago, I decided to watch all of the Bond films in chronological order. I’ve seen it go from semi-serious, to campy, to more grounded, back to campy, and then back to the grounded semi-seriousness of the Craig films. I gotta say, Daniel Craig is my favorite Bond. Purists will always give the title to Sean Connery, but I can’t help but see him from millennial’s perspective, the casual misogyny and perhaps even downright rapiness is hard for me to get over with. Others enjoy Pierce Brosnan’s turn as Bond, but I never really enjoyed the franchise during that era. I found Brosnan a bit too cheesy and the writing of the movies too silly. Also, before he became 007, he didn’t realize that his wife’s ex-husband was disguised as their elderly nanny. You gotta be sharper than that, James!

The latest film was good. It didn’t really feel that long as things kept on moving. In fact, it kept moving so fast that the main villain’s motives barely registered. He was out for revenge? But once he got his revenge, why did he want to kill so many people? What’s going on? It’s sad to say, but the main villain is actually the weakest part of the movie for me. He just wasn’t that interesting. And for Spectre to be built up as this massive organization overshadowing so many evil plots across the movies… for it to be undone by a boring villain that seem to come out of nowhere, is really unsatisfying. Javier Bardem’s Raoul Silva was a great villain in the Craig films and wasn’t really matched by Christoph Waltz’s Blofeld. Then it was followed by Mr. Robot. I now appreciate Christoph Waltz’s performance (and 'Spectre’s' writing) much more.

Lea Seydoux was great as Madeleine Swann, but I actually found her quite forgetable in the film prior, so I was surprised to see her back in this film. If anything, what stole the movie was Ana De Armas’ performance and action sequence in Cuba. The first time I saw her was in a regretable Eli Roth film and I didn’t really get her appeal even after I saw her a couple more times in ‘Knives Out’ and ‘Blade Runner 2049.’ In ‘No Time to Die,’ I finally got it. Consider me a fan. I thought having a black female 007 was a smart little wink as well. It would be interesting to see more adventures of Lashana Lynch as a secret agent, but I think it was all just a cinematic coño to the obnoxious man-o-sphere who insists that 007 should never be black nor female.

It was not the best film among Craig’s Bond turn but it was a good enough ending. It had great sequences, the score was great as usual, and it left me wondering and excited at who the next 007 will be. It was a very utilitarian movie and it served its purpose, much like Craig’s Bond has been described as a “blunt instrument.” I think the best Craig film would either be ‘Casino Royale’ or ‘Skyfall.’ So for the uninitiated, go watch the first Craig film instead. But for those who enjoy the series, this movie should be fun.

For the longest time, I never really cared for the James Bond franchise and thought it was a relic of a power fantasy meant to be enjoyed by dads and uncles. Maybe that’s still true since I didn’t really truly enjoy it until I was in my mid twenties. These days, I see it more as my “Fast and the Furious”… my Marvel Cinematic Universe film, my super hero film on steroids. As much as I enjoy spy thrillers, like 2019’s ‘The Spy’ starring Sacha Baron Cohen (surprisingly!), it’s always good to see a fantastical secret agent do his mission with so much finesse and with a catchy blaring orchestral melody.

Oh and as for best theme. I love the original ‘Dr. No’ theme and it’s many reincarnations. I also think “Goldfinger” is great. But truly, the best and sexiest song ever written is “Nobody Does it Better.”