Joseph Reyes

Artist

 

 

September 9


Inktober is almost here. The prompts for every day of October is already out. One thing I’ve learned to appreciate about this October drawing initiative is that not only does it encourage people to make art, but it also does the hardest thing about drawing for me: coming up with ideas of what to draw. I think I spend half of my time tormenting myself thinking of what to draw as opposed to actually drawing. Thank you, Inktober. Here’s to trying to keep up with all of the daily prompts!


I just realized that it’s been a while since I’ve applied to any shows. Being busy and with the pandemic, it’s been very difficult to find an outlet which could cater to my works. I do make art regularly, it’s just that I haven’t been very active in trying to get them out there, especially with the postal services messed up and prices to send work overseas skyrocketing. There are tons of opportunities out there online, but I haven’t been spending the time getting my heart broken by applying to juried shows. It’s time to get busy.


The image here is one that was suggested to me. Make a busy traffic scene. I didn’t want to end up with the opening scene of ‘La La Land’ or the music video for ‘Everybody Hurts,’ one of REM’s worst songs, so I tried to look at traffic from an unusual point of view, from down below. Unfortunately, I’m not sure it fully translates. Half the time, I have to explain to people what is going on and why they are only seeing the undersides of cars.

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? 

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. 

August 30


So what was that whole thing with Onlyfans about? Well, just a quick recap of the events. Onlyfans, a platform that is made popular by creators selling homemade pornography, has grown even bigger due to the pandemic and many adult-performers opting out of mainstream pornographic productions. Looking for bigger investors, they announced that they will no longer be hosting sexually-explicit content, effectively alienating the creators that made them big to begin with. After a huge backlash from their creators and users, the company decided to go back on their announcement and continue to allow sexually-explicit content “for the moment.”

The initial move has been compared to Tumblr banning sexually-explicit content. For those unfamiliar with the events, Tumblr used to be huge, rivaling Twitter, Instagram, and Reddit. Then it decided to ban sexually-explicit content and its user base just plummeted. Now barely anyone uses Tumblr. Now, the sexually-explicit content Tumblr had wasn’t just raunchy pornography, it also included blogs on the LGBTQ community which were underrepresented online. But due to being forced by Apple, which has a notoriously anti—pornography stance, Tumblr had to follow suit in order to be available on Apple’s IOS platform and thus lost most of its value. Not many people remember it, but the whole thing reminds me more of Playboy magazine when it decided not to feature nude pictorials anymore. It was a move that spectacularly failed and had to be reversed later on when the publisher realized that GQ already exists.

I read commentary that Onlyfans needed to weed out sexually-explicit content in order to please payment processors like Mastercard who are quite conservative. Some even blamed Christian lobbyists as the ones pushing for the move. I also read that the problem that investors and payment processors are trying to avoid is the risk of being involved in child pornography. Onlyfans, being a platform for homemade pornography, it is possible for content with minors in it to be hosted in the platform. That, and perhaps other legal albeit unusual proclivities that investors might not be comfortable with. Now, instead of Onlyfans investing more money in policing their content, prematurely decided to scuttle the most profitable portion of their users. Laziness plus greed.

With that in mind, it also reminds me of the pump and dump scheme prevalent among cryptocurrencies these days. Influential personalities will publicize a new cryptocurrency, not mention that they are invested heavily on it, or perhaps even the creators of the cryptocurrency, and once people buy a huge amount of the cryptocurrency, they sell all of their shares and watch the value plummet on all of the people who trusted them. I’m thinking the heads at Onlyfans were trying to secure huge investments in order to expand, increase the value of the company, leave the company with their golden parachutes, and watch a pornless Onlyfans shrink to oblivion. The only problem was the backlash was so swift and so severe that their investors and payment processors got wind of the inevitable downfall that the plan had to be postponed.

And I say postponed because Onlyfans already showed their cards. Their creators better start looking for a plan B should Onlyfans finally decide to ditch them for good.

Regarding to the initial reactions, however. There were two interesting camps. The one trending on Twitter were the ones celebrating the downfall of Onlyfans and meme-ing that the girls on Onlyfans now have to find real jobs. Well, first off, sex-work is actual work. If anything, I think the men celebrating the plight of sexworkers are the same men who secretly enjoy pornography but don’t really pay for them. They hate women and feel slighted by not having the option of being able to take of their clothes and have swarms of women willing to pay for their time online.

The other interesting camp are from adult actresses who believe Onlyfans is offering a false sense of security among its creators. They are also giving naive young girls an “easy way out” by making easy money online. This is a more interesting take which I’m more keen on hearing. Apparently, Onlyfans is not very keen on its security and creators often have to deal with being hacked, stalked, and terrorized online. Not to mention that nudes online can easily be leaked and once your nudes are online, it’s there forever, often for free. Creators are also competing with one another. One girl posting for the first time is competing with several others who have bigger user bases, more content, and more experience with the platform. I do wonder how many people actually make a decent amount of money on Onlyfans and stick with it as compared to those who try it out for a few months and just flame out. 

September 16


Norm MacDonald passed away a couple of days ago. Now I don’t agree with everything he says, but he is one my favorite comics in the world. It breaks my heart to know that I’ll never heard any new material or pearls of wisdom from him. I truly identify with his humor, his weaknesses, his rants, and his propensity for non sequiturs.

Not many people knew that he had cancer for over nine years. He purposely kept it from the public. It’s funny looking back at his materials, especially the one about cancer and “bravely battling cancer.” He noted that no one really battles cancer, and if you die from cancer, you don’t really lose. Since the cancer also dies with you, it’s technically a tie. There are many popular Youtube clips of him, but I’m sure that one cancer bit is one among many that people will be watching.

One thing he mentioned in one of his shows however is that when someone is afflicted with cancer, people tend to talk about their experiences regarding their suffering. It amplifies the suffering and perhaps that’s where the term “battling cancer” comes from, because it lionizes them. In sharing their experience, they willingly or perhaps unwittingly garner sympathy which is in many ways not brave. What’s brave is keeping it to yourself, and shielding people from the pain and suffering you are feeling. When someone has cancer, it is not a unique thing that is happening to them. Most people get cancer. And the insight regarding suffering through cancer is something that most people will know soon enough. Best to keep that to yourself and have people lead normal and happy lives for as long as you can afford it.

He mentioned the stuntman and actor Richard Farnsworth whose last film was ‘The Straight Story,’ about a man who rode a riding lawnmower across the United States. He starred in the movie while he was suffering from cancer and never told anyone. He was nominated for Best Actor in 1999 and lost to Kevin Spacey for ‘American Beauty.’ Norm can’t help but think that if people knew that it was probably Farmsworth’s last film and that he was currently dying of cancer, he would’ve easily won the award. But Farnsworth kept it to himself because he didn’t want anyone’s sympathy. So the Academy went to an accused rapist.

Now, I see where he is coming from. But my mother passed away at a much younger age than him and deteriorated quickly after her diagnosis. She never used her cancer to garner sympathy, nor did she want anyone’s sympathy. She just let her children know that she was sick. In fact, she kept me and my older sister out of the city as much as she can while she was ill. She told us that things we’re okay and that we didn’t need to visit. It wasn’t until her last days that I was asked to come back home and be with my dying mother. I knew why she did that. She was thinking much like Norm MacDonald. She was shielding us from the pain and suffering, and wanted us to live our lives normally. But looking back, I really wish she was less brave and asked for us to come home sooner. I really wish I got to spend more time with her.

Much like ‘Rashomon,’ I guess it all depends on whose perspective it is. To the ones with cancer, perhaps they don’t really want to gather sympathy. They don’t want to share their suffering with others. But as for their loved ones, they simply want to take the suffering away from their dying relative. They want to sympathize and lionize them, in many ways eulogize their loved ones while they can still hear what they are saying. They want to make the passage of death softer and easier because their own fear and insecurities of confronting their own deaths in the future.

In any case, the world is a sadder and less interesting place without Norm MacDonald. Even in death, he got people thinking and perhaps smiling. I love you, Norm.