This is the celebrated journal of Mr. Simon Collison A.K.A Colly

Suicide artwork was not interactive!

7th October 2004

Busy couple of weeks? Well, yeah. Not sure where to start really. There’s been controversy, hedonism, speculation, derision, joy, fatigue - the usual. I’ll share a little of this with you. Let’s start with our efforts to encourage suicide amongst emotionally fragile people.

Suicide cover

Oops! No - that’s not what we were doing with the You Are Here Festival, although the front cover of Monday’s Nottingham Evening Post would have you believe differently. This piece of malicious, ill-though-out, one-sided and lazy journalism sought - across the cover and three pages, and backed with equally damning editorial - to ruin our festival the day after it closed. Even a freelancer’s review was chopped and re-headlined to fall in with the editor’s vitriol.
Basically, one artwork amidst thirty or forty was deemed a “sick and irresponsible stunt” by the newspaper, with the offending journo seeking out the grieving parents of a suicide victim, the local Coroner, and the Police for anti-art commentary and week argument against an artwork we selected for the festival. Yes, the artwork was about suicide, but was objective, thought-provoking, and sought not to glamourise or promote it as a sensible option. Suddenly, art is responsible for suicide amongst young people. I’ll let you make your own minds up about the ideas behind the work, and would ask you to read our official statement in response to the fucking stupid article which the paper published yesterday - too little too late, but at least we got to say our piece.

Best quote from the article came from the Arts Council of England:

“The [suicide artwork] should be viewed objectively, and is not intended to be interactive.”

Ha-ha! Priceless support from the funders there. We’ve got a few allies over at The Post (who have supported us in the past), and we are told that the editor and the gimp who penned the article were rubbing their hands with glee sitting on the story. Bloody children. The paper has vilified a number of artists and artworks over the past few years, typically branding such costly, confusing or controversial material as anything from “rubbish” to a “waste of public money”. One artist (our city’s number one, and world-famous installation artist) was almost ruined by the paper. Now, this lazy hack is suggesting that we shouldn’t receive any more funding for this annual event that makes a huge difference to the community, and helps advance the careers of many artists and curators.

The moral of the story? It’s either “Be careful who you trust”, or maybe “The Evening Post is a pathetic, dangerous rag written by mindless morons who couldn’t give a fuck about those they hurt in order to sell newspapers”. Still, I’m not bitter…

Aah. Feel better now. Aside from that, I launched a new website (details soon) in front of an audience of nearly 200 - which was nice, ran a workshop for almost fifty people, and neglected my blog for almost two weeks. So yes, been busy. If you’re pissed off about the neglect, imagine how my Mother, girlfriend, mates and cat feel about it.

Responses

# Manzell B responded on 7th October 2004 with...

Not that i’ve seen the piece in question, but I’d wager there are a meaningful number of previously obscure artists who have ridden the public outcry and free publicity to the top.  I can only recommend the same course of action for you and your team.

# Blair Millen responded on 8th October 2004 with...

Simon, I feel for you as I feel your vitriolic anger spitting out at me from my screen.  But as Manzell B hints at, any publicity is good publicity.  It will be interesting to see further public reaction (if any) within the next few weeks; and then much further down the line, if the festival is continued next year, if this matter is dragged out again.

# Simon Collison responded on 8th October 2004 with...

It’s carrying on. The Letters page of the Post is rather animated on the subject, and apparently they are publishing a “more balanced” article tomorrow. We shall see.

Manzell, Blair - I know what you’re saying. I too have seen similar negative press benefit an artist, gallery or organisation in many ways. Unfortunately for us, the level of criticism could affect future funding, which would obviously be a serious blow to the festival, and involving grieving parents is just too much. Still, we had a bit of national interest out of this, and I suppose it will be viewed as typical knee-jerk journalism. I still feel a bit bruised by the whole affair, as do the rest of the team.

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