Saltz on the Wound


In March of 2009 I quit Facebook. I'd only been on it a few months but I rapidly discovered that, while I was an asshole in real life, on Facebook I was an insufferable asshole.

Over the past year or so I found that I missed Facebook. There were people I only kept up with through the site, old friends I'd lost touch with over the years. The kind of people I might not remember to e-mail specifically but who I really appreciated hearing from in a brief status line every so often. "Friend you haven't seen since high school's birthday is today." That kind of thing. So a few days ago I decided to rejoin Facebook and try, very very hard, not to be an asshole this time. All my old settings were still intact -- I still had all my old friends, images, games and whatnot. I picked up where I left off.

Three days later I was unfriended by Jerry Saltz.

And not just unfriended but blocked, too. Jerry's just gone for me now. Poof. Considering he was one of the reasons I came back, this is unfortunate. What did I say?

I know exactly what I said, and I'd say it again.

As every art Website and online publication has already reported, Louise Bourgeois died on May 31. Of course everyone has to jump on this bandwagon, as if having just one blog not mention this would be somehow wrong. Jerry naturally had to join in. One of his status lines read something along the lines of "Fill in the blank: 'Louise Bourgeois' work is ________'" There followed 150 comments and every one positive. Every single one.

Personally I dislike groupthink. And furthermore I think Bourgeois' work sucks. All of it. She's fucking awful. The highest praise I can lavish on her is that she's better than Koons. Her work is dreadful, seventeen kinds of bad on a stick.

So my comment was to the point: "Lousy."

That didn't do it. Later Jerry had a new status update, a quote from Bourgeois: "I have nothing against the penis. It's the wearer."

This struck me as several flavors of obnoxious, but I settled on one I thought was worth pointing out: "I had no idea I was wearing my penis. Let me see if I can take it off...."

Mere moments after posting that and Jerry's status line evaporated from my Facebook page. And when I went looking for it, it was gone. Not just that status line but Jerry's whole Facebook existence. I can no longer see Jerry at all.

I want to make it clear here that I like Jerry. I don't mean to say I always agree with him, but I like him personally. Not that we're buddies or anything but when we've spoken he's always seemed to me to be a nice guy.

And of course it's his Facebook page and if he wants it to be a happy-happy nice-nice land, that's his prerogative. More power to him, I say.

But I'm reminded of something he said. When I was at the School of Visual Arts summer residency back in 2007 Jerry gave us a talk. I forget now what he was talking about at the time but I agreed with him vociferously and he turned to me and, not unkindly, said, "Do you know what I just heard you say? 'Do me! Do me next!'" Which is exactly right. That's what we say to famous people, to well-known people, to people we see as higher up the food chain than we are. We say, "Notice me!" We say, "Fuck me!" We say, "Elevate me! Uplift me! Make me like you!" He's absolutely right.

At the time he made it sound like a bad thing. I've thought of it that way ever since, that's for sure. Why should I beg Jerry to do me? He's just a regular person, after all. Just a writer.

Which is why it's so odd that he'd enforce conformity on his Facebook page. I'd thought it was peculiar, the way the comments all seemed so upbeat and friendly and uncritical. Now I know why. Well, I suppose if what Jerry wants is an audience to cheer him on with peppy advice whenever he, for example, explains in detail why he can't manage to make a decent cup of coffee on his own, he's got it.

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Chris, I am convinced there are many people in the New York City art world who have enough self-confidence and sense of humor so that they can take some ribbing and suffer a little dissenting opinion once in a while. Really, there just have to be. Let us know if you find them.

Yes, you're there and that is something, but I do sense you get very frustrated some times. Franklin is probably right, but that begs the question: so why bother with them? We all like to see someone with the wit and gumption to put pinpricks in the ballooned egos of the high and mighty, but at the end of the day, what does it get us? I wouldn't fret too much about those types. There's plenty of good art work out there (which you also review to good effect), done by talented honest types who work damn hard at developing their craft and art. They may not be as easy to find and they will not get as trumpeted by the powers that be on the art scene, but they are there to be discovered, enjoyed, supported and celebrated. Fortunately, things like blogs make it easier to connect with such people, lessening our dependence on people who think they can (and probably can) dictate popular fads and taste.

Well, I'm rambling and babbling ...

Did you quit Facebook again?

No way! I can't believe you're more insufferable on Facebook than you are in real life. It's just not possible.

I had a similar experience to the one you describe. I knew this guy - I'll call him Chris. He was a bit clueless sometimes, but also kind of cool. Smart, funny and didn't dish out or tolerate bullshit. I disagreed with him sometimes, but i liked him well enough. We had a close friend in common. Then one day he decided to not speak to me anymore and to ignore me when I spoke to him. I sent him an email saying that I'd like to work it out if we had a problem but that I didn't know exactly what the problem was. No answer. I check in on his blog once in a while. It's usually a lot of resentful whining about how badly other people (usually people in the art world) treat him. It occurs to me that these other people may not even know that they're treating him badly.
Anyhoo, don't mind me. Just talking to myself.

Touchy much? Just asked because you didn't come up when I searched your name.

didn't come up when i searched your name either, send me an invite (ki don't offend easily)!

I have other friends who are assholes, too. Don't think you're special or anything.

He defriended me too. Every once in awhile he would announce that since the friend limit was 5000, he would be periodically eliminating people, starting with those who didn't participate. I tried to keep up and leave comments, but I guess I wasn't witty enough and/or didn't comment often enough for him to know me. I did rather like getting his updates and reading through the comments but whatever. He's gone from my news feed and I missed it all for about one day. Anyway, it's not like he ever participated on MY page!

Oh and yes, I have considered that he defriended me because I am over 40 AND horrors! a landscape painter! who doesn't even have a NYC gallery!

Tracy, he defriended me too, and I sent him an indignant note about it, and he refriended me. He said he didn't recognize my name because I didn't comment enough. Since I once got into a flame war on one of his comment threads which attracted a certain amount of attention, I think it's safe to say that he's not following his followers very closely.

This post reminds me of an article on criticism in higher education published recently:

Jerry's wall is now set in such a way that everyone can see it, and everyone can like and comment on the postings there, regardless of friend status. Even so, it does sting a little to be unfriended.

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