The Top 40 Don’t Pay To Play

by Jim Jeffers

Pay to play art shows are the pyramid schemes of the art world.  For my $40 I get four images in front of three jurors with art world credentials in the hope of getting in the show and possibly winning some amount of money.  Now I can rationalize this if the venue is non-profit, this revenue will be used to continue having heat and lights and someone to pound nails into the walls to hang art—also, this is tax deductible in the USA.  As an artist in academia, the other rationalization—albeit sick—is that these exhibitions are juried, i.e., ‘peer reviewed,’ so my inclusion in the exhibition ‘will count’ toward my rank in the university—my own institution’s move toward wanting the show to be reviewed too is atypical and fueled by egos who have no idea how little press there is for the arts, let alone critical press.  One can view fees for submission to juried exhibitions like any other speculative endeavor, like gambling or investing in the stock market, and you can make an educated decision as to the fit or resonance your work might have with the jurors or venue, like reading a company’s prospectus or knowing the odds and looking for tells, etc.  But here is the kicker, you pay to submit and you pay to transport, and maybe you win a prize and break even or bank a few dollars, but most likely less then your cost of materials.  Then there is the sale, your work might sell, now this slips into commerce and means someone wants to live with your work, and you make a bit of money—but this is rare in the world of non-profit venues, who are usually not savvy at sales.  I paint a grim picture of this side of the art world and I think it is grim.  Artists are like any culture producers—actors, dancers, musicians, etc—there are a lot of us working, producing great things in basements, backyards, and allies.  The art word is not one world but many, where some artists live by their wits traveling to fairs in small communities selling, selling, selling, while others live by hawking our knowledge in the classroom—maybe adding to the problem more than the solution.  But, like music, art has its Top 40, we all know their names and we see their work all the time, in galleries, museums, and on the cover of art magazines, and like music the list might actually be 200 artists who are making a good living with an un-supplemented studio practice, but this is in the whole world!  The rest are gypsies, teachers, trust funded, sugar mommied, or no longer make art.  I hate paying to exhibit, and have been fortunate to not pay to exhibit in non-profit and community-based venues to the point of having a teaching job, which pays the bills.  I understand the engines that drive all the art worlds, and paying to play is one of many, but it just seems, from the artist’s perspective, like a Ponzi scheme without hope or the promise of great returns.  This is especially true of for-profit exhibitions, where the fees are used to pay the winners and venue, without much or any social redemption—and no tax deduction.


Project 52 for 2010 – Description

by Jim Jeffers


Project 52 for 2010: an intermedia Performance / Video artwork is existent on the web ( in the form of 52 video / performance works, one realized each week of 2010.  The work is by nature diaristic and intimate, yet grapples with travel, dislocation, and global events. All of the pieces mark time, reflecting thoughts and feelings of the moment.  Some pieces stand as conflations of emotional connection to place with dutiful art production, others are whimsical flights into formal tropes momentarily unconscious or fully cognizant; all have back-stories.

52: culminates two years of wearing the same “uniform,” grey work shirt and blue trousers every time I set foot on the campus of the University of Massachusetts Lowell.  During that time only one person ever said anything to me about it.  The deeper meaning is even more a (unconscious) metaphor for the two campuses of UMass Lowell, North (science & engineering) and South (humanities, arts & social sciences), and my blue and grey uniform, yet my body presented the “North” (top) in grey and the “South” (bottom) in blue reversing the color forms of the American Civil War… My thought is the poles are somehow reversed in Lowell (see: my portfolio archives for 2-D discrete works titled “Pole Change” from ’05 / ’06 when I started living in Lowell).

50: winter solstice.  Doing this work made me very aware of the changing of seasons.

49: is excerpt from “Close Encounters (Superhero Action)” a performance piece I did at the Staten Island Museum in New York.  I asked each person who wanted to enter, “Frisk, Hug or Abstain?” and depending on their answer I engaged them. In this iteration each participant received a color coded paper tag with a star, or if hugged they received a cookie.

47: is my retake of Skip Arnold’s “Girls in Bikinies” (1983) (; when I made this I felt like I was ‘getting fucked all day,’ and not in a good way.

44: is a phone call with curator Lydia Grey.

42: is by most accounts, a failure, and might be a counter illustration of the Beat idea of “first thought, best thought.”  But I still find something endearing in its sad attempt (lookout for “11 years in the making”). An acknowledgement to Netflix for such easy access to this antediluvian TV footage.

40: is how brains work, making wild connections across ideas, finding common ground and acting.  I think about the numerous times I have watched The North Shore (1987) andBlue Crush (2002), and what are my takeaways?  “You should go to art school instead of surf,” “you don’t need to clean your room while on vacation, but you should,” and “friends treat friends more better…” in fictional surf films, oh and yellow Casio G-Shocks are the fucking bomb!

<Cut to a 15 year old kid, skinny, tan, an out of place mountain city kid now able to see a small triangular slice of the Pacific from his new home. He is looking into the watch case at the electronics section of Longs Drug off El Camino Real (you know, near where the Trader Joes is now: 33° 2’52.99″N 117°15’25.24″W), but the $35 it would take to get what he wants seems so far away… and shit what would his friends think? Yellow watch.  Besides, he has had the same silver Lorus digital since 6th grade.>

38: is what happens when I am given a $1 Chinese “Swiss Army” knife (by Alex Eagleston, a student of mine), and I start thinking about my place in global material culture: Japanese watch made in Thailand, American pants made in Honduras, German gun manufacture t-shirt made in El Salvador-printed in the United States, South African wine, American beer made in the German style, and a Swiss Army knife (in this case, my first, a Victorinox Champion circa 1980).  I have subsequently performed this piece live twice (using a new Vic Explorer), and each time the $1 knife managed to open a bottle of Hungarian wine but has yet to open a can of Californian olives.

more to come…

The Stubbornness of Competence in the Expansion of Artistic Practice

by Jim Jeffers

still from "Crude (three) Supine (25 of 52 for 2010)" HD video/performance, 2010

Limits, specialization and realized compartmentalization are the basis of mercantile culture.  The idea that we can’t know or do everything for ourselves is the basis of the trades, professions, and academic disciplines. This fact also gives us purpose, as my propensities are not yours and likewise. However, there are those whose wits outweigh common dogma, are apt at many things. Sometimes aptitude follows aptitude and those who are really good at something are also good at many. I am haunted by thoughts of the Jeffersonian ideal of an agrarian gentleman scholar, a renaissance man, as skilled as he is well-read. Personally, I set a goal for myself a long time ago to know as much about as much as I could and remember at least 90% of everything I encounter. I am sure you do not need to be a neuroscientist to know how the 90% part has declined over the years, but my will is still good on the ‘know as much, about as much’ it is the ‘i can’ part that has slowed it seems.  Or has it? We are faced with so much information, and so much of it is complete shit, distraction, hassle, spam, bad advertising, and it just keeps coming at us.  With my practice of knowing unmitigated I would have gone mad like some supervillian’s backstory; ‘His only fault was paying attention. Attention to EVERYTHING! He is the Insane Omniscientro!  Driven MAD by the Details!’  No, I have a sharpened double-edged Bullshit Detector, which helps.  But, I still am inclined to get sucked into the desire of knowing, only to be pulled back by a environment staked to mediocrity and status quo.  Environment is a euphemism of course for the place I am in my life: art here, academia here, and community (which I use loosely).  My stubbornness to know is pit against time and capacity, as well as, my moments for implementation of that knowledge. If the problem of knowing is distilled down to the most basic, fundamental moment of everything we might be talking about Physics in practice or Philosophy in epistemological treatment of knowing itself.  But it is Art which parallels life and at times is knowing, or requires knowing something to make new knowledge in the form of new art.  This is not to lionize Art, but to come to terms with why Art is marginalized in the academy, yet it persists in all gradations throughout all places in our lives.  Just because we know something or transform the commonplace to a static memory (like still-life painting and photography), does not make it important.  I am digressing. My point is hovering around a personal stubbornness based on my inflated sense of knowledge interest, capacity and above all time for knowledge acquisition and implementation.

I am stymied by the narrowness of others.  The world is such a vast and wondrous place, yet we fight over two people wanting to officially love and care for one-another because they happen to have the same genitals, and deny civil rights to those we fight in the name of freedom and civility.  And these greater issues find purchase in the little moments, personal moments when it seems a broadness of thought, art practice, and caring for others is found to be a fault rather than a strength.  The world is crazy right now, as I suppose it always is, but that is no excuse to stop to try to learn and grow.  I wish at times it was in my character to make one narrow road of practice and pave it until famous and smooth like warm feet bare and rubbed over frosted ice, until the ice were a perfect flatness ready for a picture to be snapped or painting to be wrought.  I wish I could, but I want to know more about more, and fuck it, I am good at lots of things, and I hope, I mean I really keep waiting for some of this breadth and depth to payoff; breath held and fingers crossed.

Liz Nofziger Artist Talk at UMass Lowell

by William Paide

I caught this in an e-mail from Jeffers.  Nofziger is worth checking out.


The UML Art Department, Web Art & Design Area is pleased to have

Liz Nofziger
Monday, March 29th
3pm to 4pm in O’Leary 329
space is very limited.
her website:
her work is currently on view at the
2010 DeCordova Biennial
Lincoln, MA
January 23 – April 25, 2010
Liz Nofziger is a site-specific installation artist whose work
examines relationships to space within the physical, architectural,
political, and pop-cultural landscape. Employing a broad range of
media including sculptural elements, video, light, audio, and text,
viewer investigation completes her work. Nofziger received her MFA
from the Studio for Interrelated Media at Massachusetts College of Art
in 2004.

Her work has been shown nationally and internationally, most recently
in the 2010 DeCordova Biennial (Lincoln, MA), and in Tocsin, a
large-scale multimedia installation sited in a renovated firestation
in East Boston. Solo exhibitions have been held at Soil Gallery
(Seattle, WA), Galeria Ateneo (Medellin, Colombia), the Glass Curtain
Gallery at Columbia College Chicago (Chicago, IL), Vox Populi
(Philadelphia, PA), Kult 41 (Bonn, Germany), the Contemporary Artists
Center (North Adams, MA), Montserrat College of Art (Beverly, MA), and
Art Space (New Haven, CT), with group exhibitions at NEXUS Foundation
for Today’s Art (Philadelphia, PA), The Cheekwood Museum of Art
(Nashville, TN), the Sante Fe Art Institute (Sante Fe, NM), and at the
Judi Rotenberg Gallery (Boston, MA) .

Nofziger has received numerous nominations, residencies, and awards,
including an AICA Award for her solo exhibtion, Grate (Black Gold) at
Second Gallery (Boston, MA), and funding from the LEF Foundation
Contemporary Work Fund, The Massachusetts Cultural Council, the St.
Botolph Club Foundation, and the Berkshire Taconic Foundation.

Nofziger is an adjunct professor at Massachusetts College of Art and
is the Managing Editor of ASPECT: The Chronicle of New Media Art, a
biannual DVD publication of time-based work.

The Google Brain (but not what you think!)

by Jim Jeffers

picture-5I don’t know if I have just acquiesced to the idea that I am hopelessly internet interconnected or my profound case of information overload has become terminal, but more and more I’m okay with my Google Brain.  I know there are videos, blogs, and articles about Google becoming a sentient artificial intelligence.  This is not what I’m talking about.  I’m taking about a low-fi cybernetic relationship between us and Google as stand-in for the internet as a whole and as an extension of our local, native, biological, or natural onboard memory storage system–our brains!  Like eyeglasses for your memory, our Google Brains just help us remember.  I have spent long hours fretting over this idea feeling somehow less smart having to resort to the internet to remember any number of minute facts, names, or places.  But, now that I have friends with 3G iPhones, or access to free wireless hotspots almost anywhere, I am feeling like the time lag I associated with use of my Google Brain has sped-up to make it almost realistically practical to use it in conversation.  On a resent visit from Kristen Spillane ( we would be casually walking through the mall, a question would arise and seemingly out of the blue, she would answer it.  Kristen is very smart, but much of the knowledge she forwarded was really obscure, and regurgitation of obscure facts is not intelligence.  It was her iPhone working Google with digital (meaning fingers) acuity to pull information from her Google Brain to her local brain.  Last night at Lowell Beer works a group of my colleagues and I were trying to pullout the bass-player for Spinal Tap’s real name, out popped an iPhone, and the race began, was slow and my local brain was quieted slightly by the drawing of an elephant’s ass the waitress drew on the check (really!), and I pulled-out “Harry Shearer” just milliseconds before the iPhone.  I beat the Google Brain this time, but there are numerous times throughout the day I access my Google Brain, and I am getting more comfortable with its use, and I think my acceptance has made my local brain more relaxed and work even better.

Cub Country, The Big Big Bucks, Yoni Gordon and the Goods, Borrowed Eyes at the Middle East Upstairs

by Jim Jeffers

cubcountry_album3Borrowed Eyes took the stage around 9:20 or 9:30 pm with a round setup including a trumpet and trombone player, they were a eclectic mix of sound all firmly placed in America.  They seemed like an appropriate opening act for Cub Country and if they had been the only opening band I would have been delighted.  With Borrowed Eyes I could hear the singer and parse all the music without ear plugs, but something happened with the audio by the time Yoni Gordon and the Goods took the stage, something which seemed to get worse throughout the evening.  Again, Yoni and the Goods played music rooted in an America with a slight twang, absolutely what one would expect in an opening band for Cub Country, however, the audio had shifted and Yoni’s vocals were drowning in his guitar and bass and drums.  I have seen many great band’s shows suffer from a one note johnny sound guy, the worst being the consistently bad sound at the Belly Up in Solana Beach CA in the ’90’s.  Now don’t get me wrong he seemed very attentive stepping out from behind the board, listening, going back, appearing to move things, but the instrumentation just seemed to get louder and louder, leaving the vocals in the background and very hard to make out.  Yoni and the Goods finished their set and then The Big Big Bucks started, and “what the fuck?” was all I could think.  First off they had no business opening for Cub Country, despite well documented punk roots it didn’t work to have Bucks on the bill.  And secondly, they were just not right, The Big Big Bucks did at least three songs on which I’m pretty sure none of the band was in the same key!  This sort of “experimentation” coupled with skewed audio made for a cacophony of crap.  At least their set was short.
So now it is nigh midnight and Jeremy Chatelain and crew take the stage.  By now the thin crowd is even thinner, and it would have been nice to bring the audio down with less bodies in the room, and maybe the audio guy did but not much.  I was delighted by Cub Country, it was the old pros following the juvenile upstarts.  They had a job to do and they did it.  Jeremy apologized about the hour noting their appreciation for us staying as we probably had to go to work.  Cub Country’s set was smooth, if way too short, I wanted to hear more.  Jean and I even danced to one of the new songs, it must have blown the hipster’s minds who stood around almost too cool to head bob.  Professionals to the last, Cub Country played their set and all to soon the show was over with a twinge of sadness.  Walking out I thanked the band and they were genuine in there returned appreciation.  It had a soul, the music that is.

I blame the Middle East for stretching out the bill too far and too late for a Wednesday night, and having some sound issues.

Go see Cub Country in NYC tonight at the Cake Shop or Maxwell’s on Friday or both, praying for longer sets and early on times.

On ‘Appropriateness’ In Greater Boston

by William Paide


Untitled (UMA! with three planes) by Jim Jeffers, 2009

I walked around Genii Loci (Ghosts of Protection) an exhibition by Jim Jeffers (the guy who runs this site) looking for a piece I knew only to find it not included.  I asked Jim where the “rabbit with the gas mask and the three planes” piece was.  He told me it was hanging in the lobby of the Dean of U-Mass Lowell’s office.  I thought, “Cool” and then on to other matters.  I would not have given the matter another thought except while out with Jim and Jean, I mention to Jean how much I dig the drawing of Uma (their rabbit, the model for the piece), and she asks me if I want to buy it as it is back from U-Mass Lowell.  I’m thinking I don’t have the cash, but then I think, “why is it back?”  So she tells me it only hung for about two weeks before someone in the administration found it “inappropriate.”

“What the fuck?”  I say, “Why? How could this image be ‘inappropriate’?”

Now I understand that maybe the chesty gas-masked ladies might set the imagination off, but a rabbit?  The semiological leap-frogging from rabbit to bunny to playboy playmate might be doable, but who wants to do that?  I think this kind of editing is the symptom of a much larger unspoken secret in Massachusetts.  People here are afraid.  Afraid of seeming unseemly, but ‘gawd’ knows this is only thin veneer.  For it takes a special kind of dirty mind to jump from rabbit to bunny to playmate to bondage scene to the apocalypse!  And it takes a mind so dark and dirty to think the thin layer of prophylactic-like ‘protection’ encasing the purity of essential moral rectitude could be ‘offended’ or compromised by an image of a rabbit in a gas mask that it would defy measure.  People are busy in Massachusetts keeping us ‘safe’ from burned-out LED Mooninites and MIT students who are too smart to think the rest of the neighborhood could be so dumb.  Puritans know best what is filthy down below.  Okay, so those of you reading this in the deep south are thinking, “Massachusetts is filled with liberal elites who love abortions and bible burning right?”  No, the brand of liberalness in Massachusetts is grounded in caring for those less fortunate than you.  Which I might point out is not out of line with over wrought protection. After all in Massachusetts you MUST have health insurance or pay a penalty. And again this is not out of step with ‘appropriateness’ and “putting yourself in other people’s shoes.”  My problem with this ideal taken to extreme is “I know what is best for you” arrogance and eventual intolerance.  My response is, “Fuck no, you don’t know me.” and “with that said I think you underestimate the audience in general.”  There are heros who push community standards, Jeffers, sure ain’t one of them.

Perhaps ‘gawd’ blessed greater Boston with a paucity of natural disasters and cursed it with appallingly suck weather, but lighten up will you.  “Art is the Handmaid of Human Good” (Lowell City Motto) don’t second guess the audience, they are smarter than you think (mostly).

Drawings That Work: 21st Drawing Show Reviewed

by William Paide

Drawings That Work: 21st Drawing Show
at Boston Center for the Arts
Sept. 11 – Oct. 25 2009

Sounds Great But What Does It Look Like?

If you peel away the skin is there anybody there
If you peel away the skin is there anybody there
If you peel away the armor is it too late to begin
Is there anybody hiding if you peel away the skin
from “Skin” by Oingo Boingo

This show is a great idea turned into a hot mess.  Perhaps peeling back the skin and looking at the guts of the pre-art making process is, in this case, like seeing your steak get the air-bolt to the head; something only the toughest of carnivores can take.  With that said, maybe this show is so solipsistic it is great.  Artists marginalized, or rather artist’s most marginalized activities, i.e., sketches, doodles, mind-farts, etc., are given voice in this exhibition. But, the major question is who cares?  We skip from unrealized work to unrealized work, and one gets visually down, without the conceptual up.  I really get what Raftery (the juror) was going for, and I’m sure in the dark with slide after slide snapping by it looked really cool in his head, but on the wall the exhibition has an insurmountable incoherence.  Oh, sure there are pieces (two on the home page) exemplifying the beauty of the ‘sketch’, and there is the video by Nicole Ratos Enerson which stand up, or out in the noise of unrealized art; like a show of ugly ducklings–I know there are some swans, somewhere.

The really great concept of this show is not enough to save it from formal mediocrity.

Go see it and tell me if I’m wrong!

Juror: Andrew Stein Raftery


Gwen Barba • Nancy Berlin • Nataliya Bregel • Dana Clancy • Ken Clark • Camila Chavez Cortes • Michael David Stella Ebner • Liz Ensz • Andrea Evans • Jodi Hays • Diane Hoffman • Victoria Jacob • Julie Levesque • Clara Lieu • Lara Loutrel • Jeffrey Marshall • Nancy Murphy Spicer • Kristen Mills • Stephen Mishol • Lynn Newcomb • David Teng Olsen • Andrew Pez • Linda Price-Sneddon • Trudy Raftery • Nicole Ratos Enerson • Matthew Rich •  Amy Sallen • Karen Schiff • Suzanne Schireson • Brian D. Smith • Jill Slosburg-Ackerman • Linda Stillman • Jonathan Weinberg • Deb Todd Wheeler • Sung Won Yun
Opening Reception: September 10, 2009 at 6:00 pm. Free and open to the public.

Gallery Talk:
Andrew Stein Rafferty will give artists talks on Wednesday, September 30 and Wednesday, October 14 at 6:00 pm in the Mills Gallery.

Onieda with Sunburned Hand of the Man, Big Bear @ Outside the Lines Studio – Medford, MA –

by Jim Jeffers

Outside the Lines Studios
70 Colby Street
Medford, MA 02130

Okay so let’s start this by saying I missed most of Big Bear’s set, but what I did catch sent me right back to the noise of my childhood and I could not help thinking this sounded a lot like Santa Cruz circa 1993–with much much much less plaid.  Not to say good or bad, just the kind of discordant soundtrack over cyclical vocals people were playing with in the bay area before the more melodic and directional music leapt the bridges and hit the mainstream.  They were loud, and maybe for good reason.
Next, Sunburned Hand of the Man, started their set with a kind of chanted ‘blessing’ by a black-dressed guy, bearded, ponytailed, and freaky.  The music then poured forth from two drummers and two guitarists plus gadgets.  The music was fine, and the attendees seemed in to it.  They were earnest, but something about them just bubbled-up anger.  Sunburned Hand of the Man, just made me mad.  And not mad, like ‘I just spent 10 bucks and these guys suck,’ but rather a profound visceral soul anger, that made me want to punch someone.  At a point in the set, after cruising along sans vocals, the greasy ponytail snaked his way through the audience frotaging his boozy cigarette stink on me and the Pabst swilling guy next to me, and up to the mic.  As soon as he started singing, more like chanting, my personal anger was hitting a tipping point.  When the bearded ponytail started taunting the audience to dance in post-punk high pitched vocal waves, I couldn’t take it anymore and shot through the audience and grabbed the first non-lethal thing from a sink area next to the band and poorly winged a plastic lid at the entranced band.  At this point I lost my cool totally and yelled at the band, spilling forth nonsense swear words, there bearded ponytail said something about my courage and handed me the mic into which I blew my voice out, I grabbed the bearded ponytail by the lapels and shook him, then sprang back and whipped off one of my flip-flops at a time and threw them at the band.  Regaining my senses for a moment, and needing my shoes, I hit the stage again to retrieve my sandals, which I did along with the poor guitar player’s last Sierra Nevada which he was willing to fight for, so I opened it for him and handed it back.  I’m not sure if this was what Sunburned Hand of the Man was going for but that’s what they did for / to me.
Last up, Onieda.  Onieda is a five-man crew powered by drums.  They sounded like the best soundtrack to the best car chase sequence ever, for an hour plus.  The rhythm holds the tonal drift in tight reins, and moves the transitions smoothy through waves of sound.  Some of their songs had vocals, but where neigh impossible to make out.  The end result was a power meditation, a loud trance state of muscle, poignant feedback and synthesizers, creating a ride more than a show.
Somehow by the time a got home I had torn the front open of my favorite pair of camouflaged shorts.

Tepthida Khmer: Fine Cambodian Cuisine – a review

by Jim Jeffers

Tepthida Khmer
115 Chelmsford Street
Lowell, MA  01851

The interior of Tepthida Khmer is elegant but, with a prominent bar and at least one massive flat-screen TV, there is a general comfortable feel to the place.  The service was very good, with ample warnings and questions about how authentic we wanted our food.  This is good and bad.  Good, if this is your first trip to eat South-East Asian food, and are not initiated to the tastes of fish sauce / paste.  Bad, if you are well aware, and just want to order your food.  I am reminded of sending back the calamari at another Lowell jewell, Viet Thai, because it did not have the red pepper to which I am accustomed, asked, “do you want three star?” and I said, “Yes, three star!”  It came back great and spicy.  But, this is really material for another review.

We started with drinks: I with a chinese beer, Harbin; and Jean with a glass of Argentine Cab.  My beer, was a typical asian lager, and Jean’s wine was fine, if a bit long in the tooth for being opened.  The next thing to come out was the crispy rolls in vegetarian, which were really nice, with a light vinegary dippy sauce with peanuts floating in it.  These rolls were perfectly cooked, not greasy, with a filling including mung bean threads and julienned vegetables. For our shared main dishes, we ordered the Cha Greung with chicken, and the Teuk Greung.  Let’s start with the Teuk Greung.  This dish consists of a bowl of ground fish, with lime juice, spices and green onions, and a plate of lightly steamed broccoli, cauliflower, raw eggplant, cucumbers, and cabbage.  We are instructed to eat the salty-sour protein with the vegetables. This was very good, but not for the unadventurous.  The Cha Greung with chicken was more familiar, being one of the many dishes in south-east asian cuisine employing red chillies and basil on meat.  This was really great, the chicken was coated with spices, and green beans carried the bulk of the vegetable component; not too spicy but with enough kick to get me interested.

All and all our meal was excellent, and we plan on going back.