Oh hell, the conflicted hypocrisy of being an artist and using social media, the bad taste it leaves… 

SW – “BLACK EXCLAMATION” Acrylic on canvas, 25x35cm, June 2013

And there go Archers of Loaf blasting a song called Information Age and there’s Eric Bachmann singing about the death of truth on their excellent new album, “its open 24 hours every single day” sings Eric, damn fine return, I’ll post a review on the Organ website in a bit. By the way there is actually an Organ page of Facebook, you don’t get to see it, I don’t pay to advertise on those damn sites, I finally gave in and put an Organ page on Instagram recently but you probably don’t get to see that either. For those of you who don’t know Organ covers music, art, underculture, we started it back in our art student days way way (way) back in the last century, there’s lots of history, this isn’t about Organ though, well it is in a way, it is about how we find out about art and artists and the hypocritical compromise…  

As a working artist, as a painter trying to survive (for that is mostly what I am), I’ve been wrestling with the problems of social media (a little bit more than I usually do) for the last couple of days. Frankly I hate it all, I hate the control it has over my life, I hate that I have to interact with it everyday, that I wake up and look at my phone, I detest all the algorithm bulpoop and their “your post was seen by 35 people last week why not post again” messages like the one I just got from bloody Facebook just now when I’ve actually got thousands of “friends” and followers (reached 35 people! really? Am I supposed to impressed by that Facebloodybook?!), I detest it all. Yet, as an artist trying to make a living in this annoying information age when galleries openly ask you stupid questions like how many followers do you have? I need to use them all, I have very little choice – Facebook, Instagram, Ello, Twitter and yes, for the last few years, Vero –  I’ve resisted Tik Tok, don’t think I can stomach all the dance routines and Paul bloody Pogba and the “me me me” – but then isn’t it all “me me look at me”?  I did once have something like 100,000 followers on My Space, hell I’ve been around long enough to remember when My Space was being talked of as a new thing and quick get over there and sign up, it was the big new thing over on Friendster, do I still have a Friendster account? I’ve been on Vero for a good few years now, 2018? Most visual artists seem to think it to be a new platform that started last week when Matthew Borrows joined it with a big trumpet blowing fanfare that had everyone following him. Matthew Burrows, for those who don’t know, is the founder of the excellent #ArtistSupportPledge, something that we all welcomed and something we were all thankful for during the darkest days of Lockdown (thanks Matthew).

So last week Matthew Burrows declared Vero to be great new thing and everyone followed him over to the great new platform (got to say it is a little disturbing to see the way he’s followed in an almost unquestioning messiah-like way by so many artists, something a little strange happening there isn’t there?). This week Matthew has declared Vero not to be the great new thing he said it was last week, that it is indeed a very evil thing, he’s decided he’s leaving. So for two or three days my Vero feed was full of familiar names and art and artists and now, well now the feed is back to where it was before Matthew dragged everyone over.  Now I’m not in any kind of way going to defend Vero here, I frankly don’t know enough, I suspect they’re all evil, that their motives are all extremely suspect, that the bits of evidence point to something very unsavoury.  I pretty much know without really having to look that Vero is bad but then I know that that is also the case with Instagram and Facebook. I don’t know though, it does seem to a little hypocritical for you to all to be on one of Zuckerberg’s platforms saying all this this week or for Matthew to be posting on the evil thing that is Instagram about Vero, last weeks great new thing, being this week’s evil thing. Matthew shared a meme or two, where did these memes come from? Colour me cynical but hey, who made them? Who’s encourage all this anti-Vero sharing? The meme about the evil CEO of Vero seems to be in my Instagram feed rather a lot alongside the suggested videos of cats and the adverts and very very few posts from the people I actually want to see and follow. When did the Meme first appear? Was it just after the Vero campaign to get people to move from Instagram and Facebook? Just after the Cambridge Analytica data scandal? 

And in no way am I being down on Matthew Burrows here, I don’t know the guy, he seems decent enough, I greatly respect what he’s done with the artists pledge, I’ve never met him. I did try interacting with him a couple of times in terms of Organ and Cultivate, got no response but hey we’re all busy. I have no problem with Matthew, quite the opposite, I like what I know of him. he seems like one of the good guys, I am a little conflicted and confused about this last rather hypocritical week or two though.  

“Until 2013, Vero’s founder Ayman Harari was deputy CEO and chairman of Saudi Oger, the Saudi Arabian construction company which collapsed in 2017, mired by controversies over the welfare and treatment of their employees. However, Hariri is quick to point out that he divested from the firm in 2014 and the worker’s rights violations occurred after he had left the company”. (Wikipedia)

Is any of this as black and white as it appears? Did this Vero guy, Ayman Harari, leave the company that we’re told did very (very) bad things (and if these things are true then they are very very bad things) but did he leave way before any of these horrendous things actually happened? Who did he sell his interest in that company to? Who really honestly knows? Who’s information can we really trust? Where are the Russians in all this? I don’t know, but it seems to me if you going to leave one platform on ethical grounds then you need to leave the others as well and to be posting on Zuckerberg’s evil Meta empire about ethics is surely rather unethical and very hypocritical isn’t it?

But you surely can’t be posting on Zuckerberg’s platforms about evil CEOs? Surely he’s a more uncomfortable bedfellow? Surely they’re all evil? So, I wonder, are you artists all going to leave IG and Facebook as while you’re busy cancelling the Vero accounts you set up in sheep-like haste last week? Personally I’d like to see the back of it all but then I’m clearly being hypocritical as well. I don’t like IG, I don’t like FB, I don’t like Vero (yet I’ve used it for a good few years, I didn’t join it last week, if I recall it rightly I joined when they sponsored the Art Car Boot Fair a few years back, actually in terms of it as JUST a social media platform I like it far far more than any of the others, I get to see the posts of the people I chose to follow for a start). I use them all, actually I suspect Meta is far worse than Vero in terms of who they are but then I don’t really honestly know, do you?

I don’t like social media full stop and I really don’t like how we are forced to use it now. I liked life far more when we actually read each other’s mailouts and we went to each other’s shows and actually supported each other with more that just a “like”, when we worked with the artist-run media, the alternative blogs and magazines and the webzines that some of us run, I liked it when we supported the artist-run spaces far more than we do now, but that’s a whole other level of questioning about how things work for us artists and the way we really don’t support each other that much when it comes down to it. I don’t know, if you’re going to post on Instagram then don’t be hypocritical about other platforms or, like I already said, should I be expecting all those now cancelling their newly set up Vero pages to close their Instagram accounts and their Facebook pages this week as well?    

And there go the Archers of Loaf blasting a song called Information Age and singing about the death of truth, and how its open 24 hours every single day and besides my compulsory 15 minutes of drawing first thing this morning (like I try to do every morning if social media hasn’t pissed me off), I’ve not made an actual artistic move today as we head into mid afternoon. I haven’t posted on any social media platforms so far today either, I’m conflicted about doing so. I’ve answered questions, responded to messages and comments about my art on several platforms this morning (seems people want to ask you a question about postage or ask about a commission in a comment or via an Instagram message rather then send an actual e.mail these days).

I’m conflicted, I’m confused, I’m slightly angry (but then some might say I always am slightly angry these days). Sure, I’ve done some research on Vero, I’ve read various pieces, I’ve read that Guardian piece (but then I know from personal experience how completely factually wrong and damaging the often excellent Guardian has been in the past in terms of their articles, especially when it comes to art). Some of these stories or reports about the CEO of Vero are truly awful, but then so are lots of the things I read about Zuckerberg and his surveillance empire and there go those Archers of Loaf singing about how they hate being cynical but they can’t trust anyone these days.

I mean what is Zuckerberg all about? What is Twitter all about? What is Vero all about? What is that bloke with his rockets all about or the other one who dressed himself up as a hippy and released Gong records, the one who owns your media, the one with his fingers in every healthcare company going as he tries to pull down the NHS so he can make even more money? Or what about that Chinese phone company or that Russian one and who was that who wanted to buy a painting off me last week, did I check him out properly?  And I love football, I grew up on the terraces but how can I even consider watching the next world cup in those stadiums built by all that slave labour, all those construction worker deaths? I hope I won’t watch it but it will be hard not to. Hell I refuse to even enter the ground of the team I’ve loved and followed around the land for big parts of my life these days but I can’t wait for the season to start this weekend and I’ll be glued to some illegal feed watching every minute they play.

We’re all hypocrites, we’re all conflicted, we’re all confused, most of us are exploited but then probably not exploited as much as those construction workers or those women who sew together the shoes we wear or the clothes we lust after, who makes the canvas we paint on, most of it comes from China doesn’t it? Do you shop at Great Art? I do, should I be doing that?   

But hey, if you’re going to tell me one social media platform is evil, don’t be doing it via another one that’s almost certainly equally as evil and manipulating. Is Vero worse than Instagram? I don’t have the answer, I do know they all suck, they all create misery,  they all treat their workers like shit, they’re all laughing at us as their evil empires, their bank balances and their obscene power grows. We’re all hypocrites. So now I’m going to post an image of a new piece of my art, something I feel I poured my heart and soul in to yet again, something I have to do, something I often think is a burden, something that makes me tick, something that makes me sick, something that makes me feel alive, I’m going to post a photo of a piece of art (taken on a phone that tracks me) I shall post it on Instagram and share that post on Facebook and Twitter and Ello and yes, on Vero, I might even add the Artist Support Pledge hashtag and hope for a sale and then get to go spend 20% of anything made from that sale on the art of someone else who’s making the pledge and what a total utter piece of shit hypocrite I am and when they fed me to the lions I could hear your mama crying and it really is hard to be human.it really is conflicting to be an artist, it really is a selfish act.

Damn, this new Archers of Loaf album is really really good, got to go review it now, well after I’ve fed the pigeons and done some painting and ignored that electricity bill over there. I detest social media, I hate that I’m forced to use it.

You know what, I shall almost certainly go to someone’s exhibition opening tonight and take some photos and write about it tomorrow, I;ll do that rather than just hitting the “like” option under something they posted on their social media feed. But then you won’t know that I’ve written a review of that exhibition that I’m going to go tonight unless I post a link to it on my social media feeds tomorrow morning and then only if enough of you “like” the post I put up with the link to the review and you share that post and that link on your own social media feeds, so what’s the point of me writing a review in the first place?

Have a nice day now, it really is a messed up world, I hate being cynical, you can’t trust anyone, you can’t trust anyone, why do I even make or write about art? Why does it matter? Hate being cynical, the damn thing is open 24 hours every single day, I hate this information age but hey, surely you can’t be telling me how evil one social media platform is by posting on another one equally as evil… (sw

And for those interested, I’ll post the Archers of Loaf album review later, here’s the news piece from a couple of weeks ago and there’s their recently released single – ORGAN THING: Archers of Loaf announce their first album in 24 years and share a track off that new album…