"Don't rejoice in his defeat, you men. For though the world stood up and stopped the bastard, the bitch that bore him is in heat again."
So says Bertold Brecht at the end of Sam Peckinpah's 1977 war film Cross of Iron as Corporal Steiner (James Coburn) sardonically laughs through the credits over ghastly pictures of civilian victims from World War II and future conflicts. Hollywood filmmaker Sam Peckinpah once said, "...the outlaws of the old West have always fascinated me... I suppose I'm a bit of an outlaw myself."
So here is some lowdown on Mat Gleason.
When I stormed the citadel of the art world a few years back, my initial goal was to target the institutions, the galleries, the museums and the collegiate art departments. I wanted to inspire them to film their artists, exhibitions, and collections and to share the films through ubiquitous social networking sites. Films are a social means with media potential, reaching far beyond the soon-to-be-obsolete standard website. Facebook's social networking has gripped our society and made us media junkies -- and what better way to get your art fix than by watching a flick on your daily newsfeed?
The lack of professional film documentation of the art world's activities was astounding to me, so I was aiming to fill a void. I first got my foot through the proverbial "door" with gallerist Jack Rutberg who presciently and instinctively knew to lead me toward a down and dirty source of juicy art world knowledge: intrepid art critic Mat Gleason. Rutberg exposed my then-naive mind to a YouTube video of him and Gleason at the Brewery Art Colony that was produced by Mark Walsh. At the time of my art scene myopia, I thought that the erudite "Jack Rutbergs" of the art world were the gatekeepers to my unfolding career.As I watched the film, my initial intent was to study Rutberg, or to "do my homework," as they say. Within 10 seconds of the film, Mat introduces himself, while brandishing with pride a "quadruple espresso." I've been known to order a Starbucks Black Eye myself, so Mat was my kind of guy (not that I will ever admit to a man-crush) but I was instantly drawn to this guy who works at my tempo and understands what an espresso can do. At one point in Walsh's film series, Gleason states that the only reason there are art schools is for art professors to get laid by young girls. Rutberg's chuckling reaction was classic, as if we were let in on an "inside joke."
I never thought of the art world as a laughing matter, but this small moment broadened my awareness. Through this seemingly insignificant revelation, I learned quickly that it was okay to have a real sense of humor about the art world and have fun with it, even when sitting next to a top gallerist.
Before that "profound" moment, my view of the art world consisted of those pretty galleries dotted along main street tourist destinations in Carmel, Waikiki, the Vegas Strip, Jackson Hole, and Park City, Utah. I thought the other half included high-end brick-and-mortar super-structures that people like Jerry Jones and Ed Roski would build, also known as universities and museums. They were coliseums of higher learning where MFA alums wore cardigans and turtlenecks and spoke proper English.
Up to that point, pop culture films based in New York like Pollock, Scorsese's Life Lessons, and Basquiat had created and fed my view of the Art World. Art world people were either chic-uptight-yuppies out of Sex and the City who had to wait in long lines or be on a VIP list to get into a show; or they were Upper East Side preps out of a Whit Stillman film. In Stillman's Metropolitan the "Urban Haute-Bourgeoisie" in lieu of WASPy preps, were those who populated museums on stuffy docent tours throughout Manhattan as the hoi polloi shuttled them in taxis from MOMA to the MET to the Guggenheim and to the Whitney. Let's not forget Gordon Gekko out of Wall Street who acquired art as trophies and investments that was seemingly rampant throughout the 1980s milieu of Ronald Reagan.
The point is that Mat didn't need to explain Brandvik's film. The film explained itself and if you didn't get it, then that was your problem. In the Tel-Art-Phone film I did, Mat is standing in front of Tim Youd's "Vibrating Super Cunt." Upon "action," Mat rips off his shirt laughing hysterically. Why, you ask? I'm not sure. But I used the shot anyhow. Perhaps this was Mat testing me to see if we were on the same page. Was I some academic prick filming Art 21 PBS style films or was I going to use the shock Mat wanted out there.
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