Reaction to the Report: Artist Richard Patterson

[Ed note: Richard Patterson’s response to the Creative Time report was originally submitted as a comment to Lucia Simek’s response the report, which you can find here. It also addresses comments by Laray Polk that were made in the comments to Simek’s piece. Patterson’s response below has been reposted with some corrections and additions by the author.]

Well said, Lucia. The other simple issue is that we just need much more stuff in general – more of everything – and as you say, not any old stuff, but good stuff. 

The critic’s voice is important for simply ‘being there’. It’s not an option to not be there, although somehow Dallas previously allowed it to be so. It is as much an integral part of the creative process as anything else, as anyone who has read FR Leavis will know. Art and criticism are not just bedfellows, they are the beast that makes two backs – the hairy, lairy, heaving, grunting, sweating, squirting, creaking, bed-collapsing, cigarette smoking, Belgian chocolate eating, lets go to Wholefoods now and then on to the Winspear….beast with two backs. It is the cultural ‘procreative’ process. I shag, therefore I am, etc. I eat Belgian chocolates afterwards, therefore I am – you name it… Can someone please write a decent novel in Dallas/about Dallas by the way. That might be bloody entertaining. 

There wasn’t enough clamour before, not enough racket – there was just Dee and Janet – it may as well have been just mom and pop, or the Simeks’ out-of-town folks. I love Dee and Janet, and they  did a great job for Dallas – but they were isolated, purely by lack of numbers, barking and howling into the wilderness like huskies on the frozen tundra – you need a whole pack to pull the sled, or preferably a snow mobile – where’s Sarah Palin’s husband when you need him? – I knew they’d be useful for something (just send the snow mobile, I mean – they can leave their ideas behind in an igloo for the penguins to snack on before the polar bears snack on the penguins – supposing the Palins could build an igloo – although that might give the extended eight generation Palin clan a decent winter project; it could double as a drug rehabilitation/Condoms to Go igloo/outlet –  or, supposing that polar bears and penguins cohabit the same hemisphere, which they don’t, but the Palins won’t actually know that, so it’s still a good plan).

Laray’s point about the solipsism of toadying up to critics, or critics toadying to artists etc, is vastly alleviated by more of everything being out there. We need more intelligent voices, more input – not just in the debate, but in the actual doing of stuff, making things happen. The lack of resonance was a large part of the problem before; pinball machines need bumpers, and without wishing to get dewy-eyed, like I’m watching the Oscars, there is a sea-change taking place in Dallas right now in its desire to construct a machine for the city. I’m not saying it’s great yet, because it’s actually mostly crap, but the conditions are becoming more favourable by the minute. We need an Oliver Reed. I volunteer.

Last week, Sir Nicholas Serota gave the Nasher Sculpture Lecture in front of an invited audience of about 150-200. In case you don’t know, it would be fair to say Sir Nicholas is one of perhaps the five or six most powerful and influential people in the entire art world. His contribution spills beyond that of just art into specific social change. Not done autocratically because he’s super rich – which he’s not – but simply because he exerted his ideas with great passion and great focus over several decades and understood how to harness and direct the energy of others. 

He spoke about the history of museums from the 18th century onward and their place in city building. The lecture was expectedly erudite; awe inspiring and its conclusion almost intimidating in the reach and force of culture in more developed older cities. What was particularly gratifying was the professional diversity of the invited audience. It precisely captured the sort of interconnectivity that is required here but has until now been so apparently wanting. i.e. not to simply concentrate on wealth and privilege, but on meritocracy and plain common sense. 

The position that Dallas finds itself culturally when measured against the prowess of, for example, Tate Modern (as a single real and symbolic marker for cultural achievement) places Dallas mind-numbingly far behind other cities in so many respects. We’re not on the same page, not even the same book, we have a whole library to get through to catch up, by which time the world will actually have imploded and all humans will be made by Toyota.

Nonetheless, the attempt at particle acceleration, the placing of Dallas into a time machine to hitch to the mother of all Six Flags rides, is very much dependent on a collective energy. More voices. It’s about being tantric in a group situation. It’s about not soliciting fake orgasms like the Creative Time report – it was annoying and trite to have conclusions foisted upon us at this moment. It was untimely and fairly uncreative. We, in the round-table discussions and beyond, had already defined the primary agenda with precision. It’s about holding it open and avoiding making conclusions, making the actions the conclusions and not settling for the CliffsNotes; not sidetracking into endless ether-debate, but translating thoughts into action, and actions into thoughts.

To be clear on one point, Dallas has so far over emphasised the role of the museum – perhaps out of expedience, since it was a necessary starting point. But museums are only the places that house the culture, they don’t generate it, and there may be an inherent danger in seeing them as the one-stop cultural super mall. The emphasis for Dallas very much needs to shift toward its own giant cultural deficit and what to do to build the framework for cultural production and all that this will entail.
It does not just come out of thin air as fifth-hand pass-me downs like the rusty yard art from Little Forrest Hills.

Creative Time’s report very much reminded me of Neville Chamberlain’s, “I have in my hand a piece of paper” speech. A speech for a day if ever there was one. 

The initiative that preceded, and will succeed Creative Time, was exponentially more significant than the CT report, even though at this early stage it is invisible to many. CT was merely a subset of this first on-going initiative, which unlike CT, drew various individuals together deliberately in groups of diverse professional type to allow for meaningful interaction, not small groups of the same profession or institution. Well over 100 individuals initially – from all corners of Dallas’ cultural map – that quickly spun themselves into useful extended sub-groups and tangential initiatives. What was so successful was that all the participants were already mired in Dallas’ situation and had a combined expertise. They didn’t lack resolve, they simply didn’t yet have the social interconnectivity to get their feet out of the mud and make things happen. With this bridge crossed long before CT arrived, progress was startlingly impressive. Creative Time’s report is in effect a sort of misfire that’s left a few annoying gunpowder-blackened faces and a sort of redundant cartoon gun barrel that’s now split open like a banana skin and is destined to join Saddam Hussein’s pistol up at the new SMU library. The CT report catapulted forward a premature conclusion while at the same time totally skimming over the critical points.

As to Front Row – I’m 100% with Laray on this – top notch. No one seems to have yet congratulated Peter Simek on the quality and comprehensiveness of what he’s doing here. So I’ll start. I think it is excellent and invaluable. Someone award Peter a large cigar. And a brandy. Maybe hand him the bottle. And the Belgian chocolates.

From Wikipedia on FR Leavis – the last few lines are about as well put as they could be:

 ‘He introduced a “seriousness” into English studies, and some English and American university departments were shaped very much by Leavis’s example and ideas. Leavis appeared to possess a very clear idea of literary criticism and he was well known for his decisive and often provocative, and idiosyncratic, judgements. Leavis insisted that evaluation was the principal concern of criticism, and that it must ensure that English literature should be a living reality operating as an informing spirit in society, and that criticism should involve the shaping of contemporary sensibility (Bilan 61)’