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'A Long List of Zeros' by Miles Allinson

For seven months I worked in London at a large art auction house. For a long time now I have been trying to write something biting, an indictment of the industry which might express my dormant rage, my hypocrisy, and which might include a few privileged insights into that world. I keep failing.

Yesterday I found this image, a work by the Turkish artist Tunc Ali Cam which reignited my desire to put down just a few things about my experience. I was reminded of the Russians, for one, who came to buy back the glittering, hideous objects Communism made illegitmate, the pre-20th century 'bling', the palace decorations. These oppulent artifacts are able to sit, in such a context, comfortably and without apparent contradiction beside the revolutionary posters and paintings they were once so directly opposed by.

The auction house, far more so than the museum even, historises such tensions. Or perhaps history is too charged a term. Things are reduced there to a vague, factless history. Mere time, without events. Things are old, importantly old, therefore they are rare and thus desirable. The politics of history is carefully ignored. It is, after all, often rather unsavory and too often gets in the way of the sheer pleasure of ownership.

To possess what others cannot, what others would like to possess, this is the drive that keeps such institutions buoyant. The self perpetuating job of the auction house is to reinforce the privilege of this desire, it's exclusivity, and to protect the desirability of such objects from any criticism.

I have read catalogue desriptions which are blatant lies. I have seen collectors purring in forced appreciation in front of a truly awful Picasso (which later sold for two or three million pounds), a big, gunky scribble so bad even Ken Done would have thrown it away. It is sometimes possible to watch such collectors looking at pictures, not trying to 'see' them but trying instead simply to 'like' them, in order, perhaps, to salvage some element of grace from the imminent transaction. I have been gestured at by dealers who are so rich they are unable to speak, to say please or thankyou. They tip extravagantly because money has replaced their language. They walk around grunting. I have heard artworks described as if they were stamps, soley in terms of their rare colour combinations. I have heard sales pitches so vile they turn your stomach. I have heard someone say "Charles Saatchi thinks it's wonderful!"

John Berger has desribed these people: If you could fuck works of art, then they would be pimps' he wrote in his essay Art and Ownership Now.

With similar perspicacity, the Guerilla Girls wrote:

'Thou shall admit to the public that words such as genius, masterpiece, priceless, seminal, potent, gritty and powerful are used soley to prop up the myth and inflate the market value of white male artists.

* * * * *

A painting and beside this painting a small plaque. Upon this plaque a long list of zeroes qualified at the beginning by another number. So simply, the act of perceiving this painting is fundamentally changed. It's threat, it's beauty is filtered through this price tag. If it is strong enough it still reaches us. Occaisonly these works still seem dangerous, they still glow, however dimly now, with the promise and challenge of another world. Sometimes they catch you off guard, but all too rarely. Sometimes it is possible to drag them from the vacuity which surrounds them, but it requires an enormous effort of wonder, something equivelent to love.

None of this would matter really if you didn't care just a little bit for art. If with every extra dollar, something essential, something wonderful didn't become just that little bit harder to recognise.



From A Confrontation With Falling blog by Miles Allinson

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The Only Revolution Left

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The Only Revolution Leftpicture for the article 'The City, I' poem by Miles Allinson
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'The City I' picture 7

'The City I' picture 7picture for the article 'The City, I' photo by Miles Allinson
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'The City I' picture 6

'The City I' picture 6picture for the article 'The City, I' photo by Miles Allinson
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Momentspoem from the article 'The City, I' by Miles Allinson
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"The City, I" by Miles Allinson

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The City, I title picture Car parks have always struck me as the saddest of places. Returning from cinemas, with our eyes attuned to the process of perceiving a two dimensional image, we are struck by the presence of the third dimension, by the real. Everything is heightened. We become characters and directors ourselves. Sites are wonderful with their own existence; the very strangeness of life is powerfully apparent. Entering the car park in this state is like stepping inside a dream. The car park is how the city dreams of a desert. The stairwells smell of concrete and piss. The air buzzes with fluorescent light. We are suddenly disoriented by the similarity of this place, to itself or to a memory, by an empty sense of déjà vu. Foreign noises echo, as if someone else is dreaming them in a sleep nearby. 'The City I' picture 1 The car park does not welcome pedestrians. They are naked there, less than naked. They are non-entities, almost invisible and vulnerable in the dim light. As a pedestrian the car park is a non-space. We go to the car park to put our skin back on, to remember ourselves as separate and distinct again. Moving across it by foot is to exist with no agency. What place has dream in today's city and what part might it play within this particular landscape? I am interested in art objects that might act as dream pieces, as if that distinction between dreaming and waking has suddenly been upset. To dream is to sense the possible. My intention is to create an art that seeks to empower the footed individual, the human being within the city. That we have created for ourselves a system of living wholly inhospitable to our own humanity, a home for ourselves from which we are each intrinsically alienated, is a massive indictment of capitalism and of all its protectors and cowards, those “men of straw" who serve power itself. The spectacle becomes irreversible and we have only left the desire to flight, in whicever small way has been given to us. 'The City I' picture 2 The car park seems to me a landscape particularly symbolic of the city's intentions. Firstly, to be a great beholder. We must begin with this. The only revolution left is the desire to perceive differently. Art is life remembering magic. It is being. It is activism. It is ritual and prayer. It is play. It is the first word. It is the antidote. It is futile. There is only the dull hum of air-conditioning units without it. Our job is to find the wonder. The city is the site of our collective dreaming, the soup of popular conspiracy. We must dream it alive again. Places of memory are being replaced by replicas, 7-11's, identicals. These are dead spaces. Places in which it is impossible to believe in anything. I choose, beyond fashion, to believe. Car parks appear to me as examples of these new dead spaces. I am shocked within them. Such a cold beauty! I wish for an art whose explicit job is to enliven space. In the city, we lack a sense of orientation and a sureness of instinct. We are numb to the subtle. We are dazed and bombarded, drawn irreversibly in. There is to be no answer, no response. We are not required or permitted to speak, though we are constantly spoken to. Our movement is directed along lines of consumption. 'The City I' picture 3 Therefore, we must remember our bodies, our movements in space, where we are. Our voices and our dreams. The sense that places us in space, creates us. We must remember. We must seek tirelessly, an alternative. We must imagine existence other than the one imposed upon us. Every excuse is a death. We are each here to fill our own small silence with dancing. 'The City I' picture 4 we are so lonely together because birds are our only animals and they require nothing of us except for those things which, left behind on tables in the spilling wind we have already forgotten 'The City I' picture 5 I propose an art that calls to the human condition directly where it is most under threat, in the cities. An art that is disruptive, interventionist, disobedient, which speaks back. Which creates rather than kills space. Which cuts holes in the fabric of a city's given reality, which lets light in. Which proposes difference, confronts the death march of economic progress, which denies commodification. Which is transitory and transformative. Objects are powerful containers. If the red plastic Coke chairs could speak they would scream. My objects are intended to act as beacons in the dark. The door's place in surrealist painting is significant. It stands alone in a desolate dreamscape. It is transition, opportunity, travel, transcendence, mystery. It invites and forbids, conceals and protects. It stands between the inside and the outside, between public and private. It seems to me symbolic not only of the way the city by its very nature forbids and accepts, but also of the transition necessary in order to step from the banal to the magical. The city is so full of rooms. Who knows what goes on in them all? They are the rooms of the mind too, each a dream, waiting to be stepped into. This project is only to dream small moments of life, and to breath them tentatively into existence. Moments of life or magic, the opportunity for an unconditioned or unexpected thought, the presence of the moment, a feeling of loss or mystery, the unknown, the inexplicable, the random, the useless, the beautiful, the human, the space instead of a car. 'The City I' picture 6 Art cannot change the world. But we cannot live without it. It has the eternal job of protecting tomorrow. Art testifies against complacency. Art is the process of imaging the away forward, a way of proceeding, and a way of receiving. I am for an art that can heal, which must. Art is the final religion, before both art and religion are finally eclipsed by life itself. All other religions are conclusions. Art is never final, never known, it is the reaching for something ungraspable. It arrives forever. Art is dream. 'The City I' picture 7 The function of its objects adhere to a separate system. It values ambiguous ulterior qualities. It is perhaps the most human of undertakings. It cherishes confusion because what is most essential is the incredible mystery at the centre of which we all stand. As in theatre, the art I want creates the space to dream. Art dignifies that lonely exhilarated cry into the void.It is sad that those who take most from art are those that make it. This given, we should encourage all to become makers. The artist is not the divine among us, but the divine within us all. We are all free to choose it, some with greater difficulty than others. Art is the divine gasp which propels the hard climb toward an unreachable peak. This has all been said before. What does it matter if I say it again? The sun rises everyday, and yet it matters each time no less. I believe in these words and in the actions which must spring forth from them. It is enough and only enough that the words anyone uses , and the actions which these words compel into being are believed in. All art says the same thing, more or less. Who knows what that thing is? It if for each of us to ordain what is holy. We are all guilty of deceit. Art is the opposite of that. Everything is rewritten in the face of unavoidable systems. In writing again we proclaim the dignity of our own revolution. We wake and wake and wake. The dire condition of Capitalism awakens new resistances, with a greater urgency we insist upon life. Art keeps answering from the dark. The Only Revolution Left Miles Allinson's writing can be found at Undergrowth's Nomadology and his blog 'A Confrontation With Falling'
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Wall of Leaves

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Wall of Leaves"Wall of Leaves" an installation in the city of Melbourne by Miles Allinson
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Wilfull Mass Deception

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Wilfull Mass DeceptionWMD by MU and Portenti
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your job is to find the wonder

your job is to find the wonderby Miles Allinson Nomadologist and author of the blog "A Comfrontation With Falling