Since 2014・Volume 7
BALLPOINTBRIEF by B. Neufeld posted April 19, 2020
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Any art school grad with hopes for a career knows publicity is key. It's art school curriculum: Making Oneself Marketable. The art world is too crowded to make a life of it otherwise. Linking oneself to a charity, a move straight out of The Publicists' Playbook, projects integrity. Unfortunately, that move is also so worn that its use as a publicist's modus operandi has become transparent to anyone actually paying attention. This is not to throw shade at the institution of charity, itself; only at those who might exploit it for product placement. Mister Selfie's 'please share and repost' is telling. Translation: help boost my SoMe numbers! And 'awkward video of me'? Self-effacive scripting by a master manipulator gunning to go viral.
Art-illiterate FF&FFs don't know any better; a perfect crowd in which to install oneself as Savior, where merely appearing charitable will suffice. Trendy types pushing lifestyles, or merely appearing to — movie stars, rock stars, politicians, especially would-be art stars — come across as egocentric to the Waltons crowd, so charitable pursuits score points and turn the dubious into darlings. The teflon protection of charity. Damned be any detractors; as the accused would never admit to their altruism being anything less, accusers come out looking like Meanies. Benefactors often deflect suspicion by asserting they're 'not taking one penny of it ', but here's an equation one need be neither Einstein nor Picasso to grasp: art + charity x publicity = priceless.
So here we are, full-blown pandemic. Families around the world are losing loved ones, jobs or both. Everyone is suffering. But wait, here comes DaVinci the Deliverer to the rescue! And all we have to do is ... buy one of his paintings? It's already self-important of anyone to consider oneself Thy Deliverer. Making one's product a factor, promoting it with a SoMe announcement prompting people to 'repost', and packaging it as an outstretched hand to charity shouts 'spurious!'. Minus any one of these factors, potential Meanies might not feel inclined to say anything, but, faced with such an overt act of orchestrated opportunism, how could a Meanie hold his peace and not post a SoMe comment in response?
Convenient thing about social media: one can simply ignore, delete or block detractors. Publicists will have you ignore, delete and block; not getting caught up in a public debate which may endanger one's own saintly position is also in The Playbook. Better yet, let oblivious FF&FFs defend you. In the case of one Meanie's critical SoMe comments — unwelcome, no doubt, but a valid opinion expressed in a polite manner (as polite a manner possible ; truth is not always pretty) — out of left field come two FF&FFs hurling insults like guard dogs barking in Master 's defense: 'raising thousands of dollars' bark bark 'talking shit' bark bark 'desperate' bark bark bark 'bitter' bark bark. As the FF&FF tag team sees it, Meanie was also 'using someone with more success and a larger platform' (doubt it!) for attention. The teflon protection of charity, indeed. Meanwhile, not a peep from Selfie.
''Starting tomorrow, for seven days, I'll make a new small painting each day to raise money for NYC Health and Hospitals,'' announced Selfie's SoMe post. ''Receive a painting with the highest bid! How much money can we raise?! Please share and repost this awkward video of me talking directly into the camera! Let's do this.''
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Bowler hat. Spotless sneakers. Vanity ballpoint pens. Ad nauseam social media (SoMe) sketchbook 'selfies' and name-dropping of passé celebs who's kids Mr. Selfie himself has drawn in ballpoint. That's all part of an I-Me-My equation indicative of a person making calculated moves. The branding of oneself. So why should anyone be surprised that credibility might be questioned when Selfie suddenly deems it so important to help a purportedly cash-strapped health care organization not by simply making a donation and calling on others to do the same but instead making the purchase of a Mr. Selfie painting part of the equation (minimum bid $200), targeting family, friends and facebook followers (FF&FFs) who themselves may be cash-strapped?
In defense of a Ballpointer colleague, a few thoughts about art, publicity, and questions of motive when charity joins the two...
It's presumptuous (naive at best) to think that one's 'thousands of dollars' raised is anything more than a drop in the bucket, or of consequential help, to a system in need of billions. I'd be happy to donate 'thousands' if I thought it would make a difference in cases like this, without having to buy (or sell) a thing. Hopefully those 'thousands' get to the intended, but Selfie's charity du jour has the government and other agencies to turn to. ('Health and Hospitals', by the way, is itself a corporation.) Health care workers having a bad month on the job? How about the rest of the world, fending for themselves with no one to turn to for help? Pandemic-level charity is best left to Bill Gates or the Elon Musks of the world. Prompt McDonald's to donate a penny from the sale of every burger to the cause. Then you'd be closer to something actually beneficial in getting what's needed to those who need it, and Selfies can leave their Selfie paintings out of it・
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