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Think About Feigning It: Half-Assed Solutions for Image-Conscious Quandaries

By Russ Gottwaldt

What to do when you long for the easy, mind-numbing days of your summer job?

So you’ve worked diligently over the summer to pay for the ridiculous tuition that comes from attending Chicago’s most aggressively promoted art school. Perhaps you even abandoned your low-paying, thankless, work-study job on campus for a low-paying, thankless job at Jiffy Lube or Pizza Flame.

Initially, the first few weeks of cleaning offices, making pizzas, or changing the oil on Ray Bickles’ Ford Focus seemed stifling, but eventually, you nestled yourself right down into a little routine of mundane repetition. You became comforted by the fact that none of your academics transferred into your part-time job.

As a responsible, carry-your-own-weight, never-take-a-free-ride student, you persistently carried out the duties expected of you at your soul-crushing, minimum wage place of servitude and found that once your soul had indeed been crushed, existence seemed, ironically, less existential. At the end of the day, you were too tired to worry about the culturally negative impact the summer blockbusters were having on the nation’s youth and your fatigue eclipsed any worries you had about pumping gasoline paid for with the blood of Iraqi civilians and U.S. soldiers. You began realizing how pleasant it is to go an entire day peeling potatoes among co-workers without anyone mentioning Matthew Barney. You grew comfortable with describing images, performances, or stories as “cool,” without any elaboration or specificity.

Then fall semester began and you realized how complacent you had grown. You now long for the days when formalism was limited to evenly spaced pepperoni amidst the green peppers or when conceptuality was reserved for the days when you had to figure out how to move the furniture around for the carpet cleaners.

You’ve grown so accustomed to being uninspired that the thought of creating an opinion of your own frightens you. There are ways to remedy this:

First, be sure to take classes with an opinionated, self-absorbed professor. Since these abundant teachers enjoy reflecting solely on their own tired notions, the academic work in such courses is simply a matter of paraphrasing their divine thoughts when prompted to write or speak. Try to repeat these teachers’ concepts, as would a struggling first year student—with repetition and over-discretion—as if these nuggets of brain food are the newest, most exotic and nourishing forms of thought ever experienced.

Secondly, if your friends challenge your artistic sensibilities, don’t risk doing a mental workout when you’ve grown so flabby and brittle over the summer (mentally speaking). Repeatedly lifting opinions from Artforum, Wired, or independent film magazines is the only work out you’ll need. It’s an easy way to let a group of established, aesthetically conscious professionals think for you. You may worry that your peers will discover uncanny parallels between your thoughts and popular magazine articles, but set these superficial qualms aside. Most students, steeped in their own self-consciousness, will validate points of view only when another institution or larger authority has already backed them up. Teachers and friends will be flabbergasted that your insights coincide with the insights of respectable cliques in New York City.

Third and most important, do not contradict Michael Moore. Trying to argue against even minor points contrary to the I-love-Michael-Moore collective, will discredit your integrity as an artist and make you appear prudish. No art student fresh off the farm should think contrary to such an insightful, charming, funny, funny man.

F Newsmagazine
September 2004

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