With a background in Art History and a special interest in virtual and digital curated spaces, I know it is not my place to comment on every topic relevant in today’s media. Nor do I wish to be a keyboard warrior in a period where respect and community should be ingrained in our psyche. I do, however wish to highlight the White Pube article written by Gabrielle de la Puente for Dazed Digital titled “My degree show was cancelled – what can I do instead? The White Pube advise.”
The White Pube is a “collaborative identity of Gabrielle de la Puente and Zarina Muhammad” via their website, Instagram and Twitter feed: exploring their personal response to art, alongside a collection of exhibition reviews, art and video game commentaries and critiquing the industry (you can read more about this on their website). The specific article I am referring to was written back in March 25th 2020, examining the necessity of degree shows during the Covid-19 period. Presenting the claim that: “art is, in my humble opinion, is the last thing we all should be worrying about.” In the least aggressive tone, in my humble opinion, I am disappointed and saddened by this statement. For two young women who in many ways represent the voice of young curators and academics, I found this to be incredibly cruel. On the White Pube’s “about” page they write: “we cannot stress enough that it is simply the two of us thinking out loud.” I understand that I, Grace Frazer, have never experienced the backlash of a considered opinion on an international scale so perhaps I am not justified in commenting, but I believe the White Pube has missed the mark here.
The article goes onto state traditional degree show formats: “prioritise the conditions required to exhibit either wall-mounted works” but at the same “disagree with the RCA’s decision to move the entirety of the degree show online.” From what I can see, only three sentences are dedicated to advising alternatives to the degree-show-cancelled reader, highlighting flourishing Instagram accounts including @Sadgrads2020 and a list of various university-specific pages. These accounts are becoming increasingly important in a world where our 2-D rectangular screen is a pathway into viewing art. The article comments on the issue of the Instagram algorithm and its similarity to the restrictions within physical degree shows. To me, it just seems De La Puente is disregarding any effort to adjust to displaying art in the pandemic. What’s wrong with having an online degree show in the current crisis? Everyone is trying to do their best. The article which is just under 2000 words is a contradiction of itself. At the beginning we as readers are told “check in on your neighbours; join a mutual aid group for your area”, “prioritise human life,” and be “proactive about the safety of our communities.” In many ways De La Puente is not doing this herself. As a figure in the art community, instead of accepting the attempts by her peers, for her peers, she rejects them. I too am not claiming that Instagram accounts or gallery websites should be the only way to exhibit art, but they are an attempt to share upcoming and new work to a wider, global audience.
After many years of adoring the White Pube, having slid into their DM’s on multiple occasions, I have to dare compare them to the likes of Caroline Calloway. For those of you who don't spend their Friday evenings refreshing their Instagram feed- Calloway is (I dare say) an icon of an Instagram influencer. Being a self-described “writer, art historian, and teacher,” Calloway is a total phenomenon (in fact I will link the White Pubes article on her below, seriously go check it out, they even compare themselves to her). Calloway’s persona and success exists through a series of controversies. This includes Calloway's Creativity Workshop’s which were initially described as a tutorial to “architect a life that feels really full and genuine and rich and beautiful” but was compared to a one-woman show Fyre Fest. While Calloway is an anomaly in herself, she reflects a culture of saying something just to get a response similar to the likes of Katie Hopkins or Piers Morgan. I'm not suggesting that the White Pube is in anyway on this level of absurdity, but a part of me does feel De La Puente knew the reaction she would get from her statement: “in my humble opinion art is the last thing we all should be worrying about.” This is included twice on the website page. My article is not about Calloway or even the White Pube, but I felt it was necessary to highlight their similarity in order to reflect on such bold statements the White Pube team are making.
I would also like to make clear that the White Pube article was written 2 months prior to the death of George Floyd, in a social climate that escalated selfishness and naivety. This must be taken into consideration when reading the Dazed article; I am confident the tone of the piece would have been more reflective and potentially less accusatory. Having stated in our last insights post, we as curators are committed “to educating ourselves and building stronger communities of POC, queer and female artists.” Referring back to the cancellation of final degree shows, for many this will impact their ambition to protest/exhibit their narrative of personal injustice, through race, gender, sexuality to name only a few. An artist to consider is, Sean Anthony Winn. Having graduated with an MFA Fine Art degree from UAL in 2019, Winn was able to have his final degree show but instead has been impacted job-wise by the outbreak. Winn questions the “ideology of life, relationship and mental health” through his dramatic and intimate compositions. As an artist who featured on the @SadGrads2020 page prior to their post on June 5th reaching out to Black creatives, Winn understands the difficulties of exhibiting in a period of social uncertainty. What I am trying to say is more than ever visual culture has become increasingly important for social change. As commenters, we have the potential to become part of the problem if we dismiss every opportunity for creatives to exhibit their important work.
Sean Winn, At World's End, Oil and Acrylic on canvas, 36 x 60 inches
I am also very aware as a young, female curator who has looked to Zahrina Muhammed and Gabrielle De La Puente for career and creative guidance, I do not wish for this to be an attack. Particularly as Profile Gallery is so young, and similarly run by a female collective. Instead, I just merely want to say (perhaps in too many words), in a time where there has been a constant unknowing and uneasiness for all aspects of life, I think it is naive to dismiss the importance of a final degree show for many artists, designers, architects, photographers, graphic designers, illustrators, who are all unique people with their own voice. Profile Gallery strides to establish a space in which people ranging from industry professionals, to the latest guy who've I've matched with on Hinge can share their isolation creations. That’s what is important here, sharing. Sharing artwork, our processes, our thoughts, our removals in a period of fear.
Speaking openly, Profile Gallery was a concept that came to me after my grandma passed away during the early weeks of lockdown. (Don't worry I'm not going to break into some X-Factor sob story here). I found making the site, discussing the ideas with Beth, Pearlin and Colette as cathartic. Below I have included a list of Instagram accounts that are contributing to the digital curatorial phenomenon .
I know this article is all convoluted, and like I've had one too many G&T’s (live, laugh, love xxx), my main aim is to stress- everyone is going through shit at the moment, but that doesn't make your shit any less important. For those artists whose last three years have been focussed around their final degree show to have it stripped away, you have every right to be disappointed. I am too not suggesting that art is as important as this pandemic or the events that have occurred during the period of isolation, but for many (including myself) it has been a mental stabiliser, and certainly a way of not feeling alone or overwhelmed in my middle-class NW London, wifi accessible, toilet roll stocked, cat and dog fed, parents in bed, acceptable TikTok background home.
I will end by quoting one commentator on the White Pube article who wrote “art is important, especially during tragedy.”
Read the Dazed Article here:
“My degree show was cancelled – what can I do instead? The White Pube advise”: https://www.dazeddigital.com/art-photography/article/48487/1/my-degree-show-was-cancelled-what-can-i-do-instead-the-white-pube-advise
Read the White Pubes article on Caroline Calloway:
To name a few, a more comprehensive list coming soon!
Written by: @GraceFrazer