Off to Japan next week. It’s the worst time to go to Japan. We will miss most of the major traditional festivals except for one which I plan to attend. We also won’t be able to see any baseball game while we’re there. I’ve always wanted to watch a Japanese baseball game live at a stadium. There’s just a weirdly, exciting energy emanating from them, especially with the drumming and the horns.
The weather also doesn’t look too good in Japan right now. I’m off to a rather secluded resort. But if it rains throughout all the days I’m there, I’m basically stuck in a small Japanese beach town with not much to do. Weather forecasts past seven days basically have a fifty-fifty chance of being accurate, so I’m just hoping that all of it will change and I will at least get to see a bit of sun.
The worst part of going to Japan right now is that Abe decided to make fighting against Korea a key political platform. After the G20 summit, he remembered that there is an election coming up, and he decided to woo hard right nationalists and claim that since Korea is still fighting for the claims of their comfort women during the war, then they will punish the Korean economy by not selling key components to manufacturing giants like Samsung and LG. This started a backlash in Korea with anti-Japanese sentiment growing and boycott against Japanese products. This of course is fueling anti-Korean sentiment in Japan despite many Japanese questioning Abe’s turn on the country’s neighbor.
Abe has been spending too much looking at how Trump does politics. He’s had a history of courting nationalists long before Trump became president, but this sudden turn reeks of Trump’s tariff playbook. Japan seems to be thumbing its nose to its neighbors. Even the recent open hunt for whales, despite the lack of domestic demand for whale meat, suggests that they couldn’t care less about international opinion. They are Japanese first, citizens of the world second.
And now I’m faced with a Korean currency that is slowly deflating due to the current economic situation and a Japanese population that might not be too kind should they hear me or any other foreigner speaking in Korean. It’s been a rough many days. The last time I was out of the country was basically for a funeral. Can I not get a normal vacation?
I try to show my work in a gallery at least once a year. I’ve been doing well, and I already showed my work in a couple of places this year, but doing all of this by myself, shopping around, applying for shows, coordinating with galleries, framing and shipping work, all of it can be very tiring. Then I stumbled on an article which examined whether brick-and-mortar art galleries are still needed when the Internet allows artists to directly reach out to their audience.
It’s a rather long article which ends with the writer promoting his services, but the biggest takeaway for me is that for the longest time, galleries have enjoyed the myth that they are the gatekeepers to “making it.” That once my art gets into a particular gallery, I will reach an audience that would buy my art and love me. This might have been true back then, but now reaching out to audiences has been democratized by the Internet. Instagram artists can be more popular and possibly sell more works than professional artists who shows work mostly in galleries. And art-lovers no longer have to visit gallery to discover new art. Of course some art have to be seen and experienced first-hand, but many works are now made available to be enjoyed online.
Two things however, one is being accepted by a gallery is always a good acknowledgment of one’s talent. This is why I try to apply for gallery shows and not rent galleries. That, plus the returns for renting a gallery and hoping for sales simply doesn’t make economic sense. I also believe in Marcel Duchamp’s message when he made Fountain. If all works are accepted by a gallery as long as the “artist” pays a fee, then that makes every object art. It makes beauty, talent, effort, and meaning all null. And as Stephen Hicks argued, “Art is something you piss on.” Not to sound too conservative, but you need unbiased gatekeepers to tell you that yes, what you have on the canvas is indeed art. Of course, many galleries will reject your works, but when you do get accepted by a gallery, it makes the moment and the work even more meaningful.
Another thing is that because of the proliferation of art on the Internet, it is very difficult to grow an audience and stand out in a sea of artists. It has given rise to businesses ranging from online galleries that promise artists to introduce them to buyers, to companies which boost online presence and add more clicks to artists’ Web pages. The brick-and-mortar gallery model has moved online. It is still the same game.
So what is my point? My point is, if you want to sell work. Don’t rely solely on brick-and-mortar galleries. In fact, unless your work already sells wells and is ideal for hanging, then yes, galleries are the way to go. I think however for most people, a mixture of galleries, online hustling, and participating in art fairs and other events is the way to sell art. Most non-famous artists would be spending just as much time selling their art as making them.
If you’re interested in growing your audience, go online. Galleries will promote your name on their newsletter if you have a show, but more often, they’re relying on you to bring your audience to them, not the other way around. Don’t think that a gallery show will suddenly make you popular. If you are interested in growing a local audience, go with the brick-and-mortar gallery route. Show your work to several galleries regularly. I’ve been making art forever, but since I rarely do shows in my hometown these days, I’m quite unknown. Local galleries don’t know me although I’ve toured my works all over Canada.
If you want validation, apply for shows. Submit your work to calls for submissions. Chances are, you will get rejected repeatedly, but you’ll learn to deal with it. Don’t splurge on applications and definitely don’t spend money in vanity galleries in New York. Also remember that galleries are a business, and they often want art that they could sell. Don’t feel too bad if galleries don’t want your work especially if you’re not interested in making to sell anyway. Growing a big following on social media could be a sign of a good artist as well, but I’ve seen far too many artists on Instagram with thousands of followers who I know will never make it in a professional gallery.
So yes, for artists, there is still a need for brick-and-mortar galleries. It all just depends on what exactly the particular artist needs. Having work in hung in a gallery is no longer the standard of “making it” as an artist, it just simply means that it’s good enough that a business is willing to have it on a wall for a few days.
I like to think I come from a good family, everyone does. But in truth, I really don’t. I got great sisters. They’re all smart and good people who made wonderful families of their own. My mother, God bless her soul, was one of the most industrious people I know. She had a good heart and was the glue that kept not only our family together, but the rest of our clan. Honestly, without her, I couldn’t care less how the rest of my extended family is doing.
But despite all of this, there are many ugly and shameful spots in my family. It has people who would take advantage of their own relatives to make a few extra dollars. There’s some alcohol and drug abuse, even spousal abuse. It also has an unhealthy number of lazy men. Yes, men specifically… who, despite being lazy and inept, cling to their authority as heads of their households simply by the virtue of being born a man. This is not unique to my family, of course. This is an old school value carried over from the old country. And unfortunately, the closer you are to the old country, the more backwards things are.
It’s good to sometimes romanticize our origins; that we come from good, noble stock of hardworking people. My origins might be poor, but it was of no fault of my family, and that my family would never take advantage of others in any other way. But this is not so. Since childhood, I’ve been witness to many scummy things my family has done to itself, to me, and to others.
Here’s an example, particularly of this “lazy men” tendency that I mentioned. When I was young, a very close relative, not someone I look up to, but one who really should be a role model to me, was dating this woman. Let’s call him Daniel and her Michelle. From the very beginning, there was always something off about Michelle. Something just wasn’t right about her. Later it became apparent that she had mental issues. And yet Daniel, instead of pushing her to seek help, continued to seduce Michelle even as she went deeper into her illness. I remember one Christmas holiday weekend, she dragged me in front of a statue of Buddha and told me that we were now married. That terrified my poor young mind.
It would be great if it just ended there, a terrifying but amusing episode, but eventually, members of my family got her to sell her property. She got some benefit out of the sale, but I remember most of it being siphoned by Daniel and my family. I don’t quite remember, but I must’ve even got some piece out of that deal. Later, Michelle was dumped into some facility whose staff was more equipped to deal with her worsening condition. And Daniel went through her money like it was nothing. This was like something a band of thieves would do, but I witnessed this at a young age. Our family didn’t do that woman right. Now Daniel has passed away, and poor Michelle, no one knows what’s become of her.
This was just one of the many ways my family has been particularly unkind to others as well as its own. I’ve been thinking about this since I’m currently in the middle of an episode where members of my family are underestimating my intelligence and are gaslighting me to accepting their version of facts. The details are far too long and embarrassing, so I won’t even recount it. After being upset at the insult, I’ve become more depressed at the whole thing. What the heck is wrong with these people in my family?
Instead of going to Japan a week ago, I went to Vietnam instead. I enjoy going to Japan, but the recent tension between Korea and Japan has really made going to Japan inadvisable.
Abe, in his bid for reelection, has begun attacking Korea and imposed restrictions on components necessary for key Korean industries. He is basically trying to damage the Korean economy and has stroked anti-Korean sentiments, saying that South Korea is illegally trading with North Korea and that South Korea is reneging on the comfort women issue which was inartfully “settled” by the last Korean president. This in turn, has sparked an anti-Japanese boycott in South Korea, to which a high-level Japanese politician responded by saying that it doesn’t matter, that Japan’s economy will not be hurt if Koreans stopped visiting Japan and stopped buying Japanese products.
What an asinine thing to say.
First off, South Korea trying to ease relations with North Korea is a good thing. The two countries are neighbors. There has not been any illegal trade with North Korea. If anything, I suspect that Japan is afraid that better relations with the North would jumpstart South Korea’s economy which has stalled in the past couple of years. Of course it doesn’t help that the North isn’t too afraid of flexing its military strength towards its neighbors.
As for the former president “settling” the comfort women issue, President Park Gun-Hye reached an agreement to accept five million US dollars from Japan to help women dubbed “comfort women,” the women Japan’s military forced into sexual slavery during Japan’s occupation. The “settlement” did not include the women during the talks. It also did not include a formal apology and acknowledgement from the Japanese government as well as the royal family. It still allows Japan to deny that they forced women into subjugation in their history books. And if you look into any first year law book, any agreement absent full knowledge and consent from both parties is no agreement at all. The comfort women and their family have to be involved.
So yeah, the whole thing left a bad taste in my mouth. Many of my friends think that I have become Korean in regards to this issue, but I know about Japan’s war crimes long before I set foot in South Korea. I’ve also known veterans who fought the Japanese in World War II. And for Japan to try to skate along without making a full mea culpa and working to have their constitution remove Article 9, which forbids them from having an armed forces with war potential, is worrying at the very least. At least Germany acknowledged its crimes, made a full apology, compensated its victims, and learned from history. Japan has barely done any of this.
I also, don’t like it when countries are being dismissive of their neighbors. That’s me being a Canadian with a chip on my shoulder. I feel South Koreans’ pain in this.
What bothers me about the whole thing is that, while Japanese politicians seem to not care about local industries dependent on Korean customers, Koreans equally don’t seem to mind hurting other Koreans who are involved with Japanese products. I’ve passed by Uniqlo and Muji and there was no one there except clerks with nothing to do. Tour companies are having their customers cancel their trips. No one is buying Japanese beer. And many are even avoiding going to 7-11 which is owned by the Lotte Group, a South Korean/Japanese conglomerate. It’s getting ugly, and the little guys are the ones who are feeling the pain, not Abe and his cronies.
Nationalism is ugly. It is not patriotism. I understand South Korea in this matter, and in many ways, they really don’t have a choice. The recent Japanese election results showed that only the very few old people really support Abe and most young people don’t really care much about politics. Heck, the Japanese media don’t really show much about the Japanese/Korea tensions, when it’s always in the news here in Korea. This Japanese blind spot tells me that despite my hope, these tensions will last longer, maybe even until the Olympics. What’s dumb is that while Abe is quick to condemn and punish South Korea for what it claims are support to the North, it won’t condemn and punish the United States for actively supporting, and in fact, coddling the North Korean regime. Missiles launched by the North Koreans in the past few days were launched with little fear of sanctions by the United States. I would argue it is a direct result of Trump’s cozy relationship with Kim Jung Un. And yet, Abe would rather stroke sentiments against South Koreans.
Yep, Abe’s Japan would alienate the Koreans, but God forbid they say something against the Americans.
A friend of mine, Jordan Miller, is a gallery owner. She also rents out space for small events. Recently, a local wing of a political group rented her space for an upcoming meeting. She agreed and the meeting was scheduled.
Sometime later, she receives an e-mail warning her to cancel the event unless she wants a boycott of her business. The e-mail comes from Omar Kinnarath, an activist who appears to be quite active speaking against the alt-right. (I’m guessing from the alt-right’s point of view, that makes him antifa? Correct me if I’m wrong.)
My friend tells me about the situation and it doesn’t take much Googling to find out that the political party that rented her space was the People’s Party of Canada. It’s a party that was just created last year. About a week ago, several members of the party resigned after learning about racist members in the group. From what little I gather, it seems to be one of those typical libertarian types which unfortunately is a gateway to extreme rightwing politics. They want to privatize the postal service, have more private companies in the healthcare system, limit immigration, ease gun ownership, etc. They sound nuts.
Anyone would be smart to stay away from this group fresh from the controversy that they just had, especially if you’re a gallery that caters to an open community of artists.
Now, the PPC as well as their supporters are spinning the story that my friend has a “struggling gallery” and that she was “terrorized” by Omar Kinnarath into reneging on lending out her gallery space. They labeled Omar Kinnarath, who happens to be brown, as a “terrorist” and my friend, who happens to be a white woman, a “small woman” and a “young woman.” (Note the save-the-white-woman misogyny here.) Some guy with a video channel on Facebook hanging a Gadsden flag in his studio recounts the events and even says that my friend was “directly attacked.” There are so many racist dog whistles here that it’s hard to miss. I’m just glad she didn’t go to that guy’s poorly-lit basement for an interview.
The Winnipeg Free Press wrote a story about the whole thing, with the headline “Anti-racists labeled as ‘terrorists’ by the PPC.” And yeah, it is ironic that the PPC, being accused of being racists, accuses an activist who happens to be brown, a “terrorist,” thus showing their racist colors. People online are accusing those who oppose the PPC as being against free speech, but free speech does not give everyone the right to say anything at a private property. My friend’s gallery is her property and she exercised her will and her free speech by reneging on the agreement. Omar Kinnarath exercised his free speech by telling my friend that he will boycott her gallery if she associates with what appears to be an organization that has racist members.
The whole episode is unfortunate, and it’s sad that my friend, who couldn’t care less about politics, had to be dragged along with it. But here’s a few pointers moving forward:
-If racists are on your side, then you’re probably doing something wrong. If you’re against “anti-fascists,” then you’re probably doing something wrong as well. Yeah, I know, some members of antifa can be unruly, but stick to the topic. What-aboutism is a lazy argument.
-Privatizing the postal service is dumb. When was the last time you saved so much money on UPS? Privatization leads to citizens relinquishing things to private companies, NOT competition in a capitalist society (True capitalism doesn’t exist these days). At least if something is run by the government, leaders are still accountable to their voters. Large private companies couldn’t care less about their customers.
-The Gadsden flag has been adopted by racists, thus making it racist, just like the okay hand gesture. If racists think it’s cool, then maybe stop using it.
-Free speech is not ultimate. Any first year law textbook will tell you that it has limits. Free speech also doesn’t protect people from the consequences of their speech. If a previous action is offensive, then maybe I won’t be too open in allowing you to practice your free speech in my private property. It’s not that difficult to follow.
-I don’t really know much about the PPC, especially whether they truly have racist members, but judging from the whole interaction, I would guess they don’t mind tolerating racism among their ranks. A proper political party that truly cares for a multi-cultural community (and actually wants to win support) would have handled this situation better.