Newspaper article lists artists as top non-essential workers during a pandemic

A partial transcript of my episode 14 of THE ART MOVEMENT. Click here to listen to the show.

“Finally, we have arrived at the shit show. One that I cannot help but address in my radio program that completely revolves around art and thoughts, and that says a lot about the world that we live in today. In an article on June 14, the Singapore Sunday Times revealed the results of a commissioned survey on people’s perceptions of essential jobs within the context of a pandemic.

Results were collated from the responses of around 1000 participants aged 16 and above, with a nationally representative sampling across age, gender and income groups, and was carried out by a Singapore-based consumer research firm.

The top five jobs Singaporeans believed to be the most essentials were doctors and nurses, cleaners, garbage collectors, hawkers (i didn’t even know what that was…) and delivery men. But the 5 non-essential jobs were: at number 5, Human resource manager; number 4, Business consultant; number 3, social media manager and PR specialist; 2, Telemarketer and you know where this is going. At number 1, artist. So, artists beat telemarketers! That baffles me!

Ok, so this is an obnoxious list to begin with but this is the age of information we live in. It’s all about provoking people, less about informing people. In any case, let’s face it, the majority of people in any country looks down on artists. And these are the same people that watch movies, play video games, listen to music, read books and consume copious amounts of porn every day. And by the way, these are all art forms, of course

I am forced to once again talk about how artists tend to be underpaid for the work that they do, most are freelancers who will never see a pension and who are destined to be exposed to a day-by-day stress whereby they depend on a non-fixed income based on commissions, often not bound by contracts. Just today, I found out that freelance workers within the film and television sector cannot apply for UK government funding schemes and I’m not surprised, therefore, that this is a country that voted for Brexit. I have nothing against Britain but as far as I am concerned, I am stating a fact that points to a general lack of culture.

But let’s think about this. Can you imagine a world without art? If you can, it most likely would entail being sucked into a black hole for all eternity, which is probably what hell is like, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Essentially, I also believe that people generally think that art is a guy wearing a striped shirt and a beret, with a curly mustache , a glass of wine in one hand and a paintbrush in another and paints a landscape portrait every now and again or worse, draws a couple of lines and calls it art. And that’s probably what the people who put this list together think of when they hear the word artist. You want to know how I know? I’m not kidding when I say that the “artist” they hired to make the illustrations for this list was commissioned to do a minimalist drawing of exactly this caricature of an artist that I just described! Although I must admit that it looks more like Mario than Salvador Dali.

Again, this newspaper was published in Singapore but it doesn’t matter as, since then, the list has gone viral and many of the people who have shared it have expressed their disgust and outrage over it. But listen, the way I see it, if they were to ask that very same question in any other country in the world, with the possible exception of France — although I’m not so sure anymore — you think that the list wouldn’t point out to the same result?

My hopes of the quarantine shining a light on the importance of art have been shattered once again. But this has really been the destiny of art since the industrial revolution. The way I see it, the majority of people don’t think twice about snubbing art simply because they don’t have a single clue about what art is. The question is, who do we blame for that?

A statement on the research does say that “Just like junk food, this might be a situation where previously adaptive mechanisms get exploited now that we have unprecedented access to novel curiosities.”

Click here to buy my book of thoughts on film, Eye of the Beholder, on Amazon!


Information overload causes anxiety

A partial transcript of my episode 14 of THE ART MOVEMENT. Click here to listen to the show.

“… So, I began to think about that and about how people have, over the past few years, started to talk about how we live in an age where we may have too much information. So, are we overly informed? Well, I recently read an article from two years ago by Oksana Tunikova on, who mentioned that the volume of information has been growing exponentially since the beginning of the internet and this large volume of information leads to something she defines simply as information overload.

She defines this as “something you’ve likely felt or dealt with at least once. The feeling you get when, after hours of searching the web, you realize there’s so much data in your head that you can no longer think clearly.”

Personally, I know exactly what she is talking about because in my work, I have to do copious amounts of research on the internet. But Tunikova also argues that while theoretically, having so much information at our fingertips should be a good thing, in reality, it seems to do us more harm that good for a few reasons — and she lists a few of them but I can summarize all as a lack of focus and an inability to make decisions as well as an increased sense of anxiety.

Jacques Lacan famously defined anxiety as the opposite of desire but in my opinion, anxiety can also offer opportunity for empowerment. What I mean by that is that I believe that anxiety can be a normal reaction to stressful situations, but it becomes a problem when it is excessive and effects daily functioning. One approach to using anxiety to empower ourselves is to understand it as a message about our own needs. When we start to notice where and when it shows up, we can start trying to understand what it’s trying to tell us.

Frankly, I don’t see any way we can understand what the message of our anxiety is unless we try to stay informed — whether we search for news on current events or look for it in the arts, in books, in paintings, in films, in music and so on. So, in a way, information overload is partly to thank for the current times of change that we are experiencing. And it’s okay to take a break from the internet and other sources of information, to give yourself time to understand and process all that we have taken in and think about how to act upon it — actuating change.”

Click here to buy my book of thoughts on film, Eye of the Beholder, on Amazon!

The Art Movement – Episode 8 (RADIO SHOW)

Welcome to THE ART MOVEMENT, a radio show that revolves around art and culture, where all art and free thoughts are allowed. This is the seventh episode of a radio show format created and hosted by arts presenter Matt Micucci, featuring plenty of music, interview clips, comedy and chat about current events.

Featured in this episode: Kraftwerk, Suprematism, Little Richard, Banksy, Alan Partridge and more.

The Art Movement – Episode #7 (RADIO SHOW)

Welcome to THE ART MOVEMENT, a radio show that revolves around art and culture, where all art and free thoughts are allowed. This is the seventh episode of a radio show format created and hosted by arts presenter Matt Micucci, featuring plenty of music, interview clips, comedy and chat about current events.

Featured in this episode: Willem de Kooning, Marina Abramovic, future funk, Naomi Foyle, Bill Maher and more.

I was wrong about Tiger King…

I was wrong. Up to a few days ago, I believed that people would be receptive to the animal abuse exposed by Tiger King. This despite the fact that its makers seemed more determined to have animal abuse be a marginal element in an epic documentary where it should have been the point of focus.

My reason for believing rested widely on Walter Benjamin’s theories of reception in distraction. I hoped the images of mistreated big cats, caged, abused and depressed, would serve as the flashed of history that Benjamin talks about, which lead to strong moral awakenings.

Well, that has not happened. I was wrong.

Tiger King has been out for several weeks now. And even though we are living through a pandemic that most likely was born out of mistreatment of animals and humanity’s insatiable hunger for meat, Tiger King has done little to aid a discourse in animal welfare.

It is clear, now, that whenever Tiger King is mentioned across all media – from mainstream television to blogs with ardent followings – the focus is on Joe Exotic’s incarceration. Many are calling for his release. In the midst of a pandemic, a journalist even asked President Trump whether he would consider pardoning him.

I find all this incredibly depressing. Up to ten years ago, I too could not have cared less about animals. Then, my awakening was so strong that I feel just as passionate about it as I do about the arts. So, having realized that nothing positive has come out of Tiger King makes me feel totally hopeless about humanity and generally unwell.

And the worst part is that I don’t know who or what is to blame. Is it solely a problem of conditioning? Is it a problem of the media being financed by companies that, in one way or another, make money off of mutilated animal corpses? After all, the media runs on advertisement.

It also seems to me that people would give just about anybody the time of day. Even flat earthers. But when it comes to animals, unless they are presented as cute and unthreatening to the order of things, no time is spared. Images of battery farms are unpleasant. They won’t get you any friends.

Bacon will.

The Art Movement – Episode #5 (RADIO SHOW)

Welcome to THE ART MOVEMENT, a radio show that revolves around art and culture, where all art and free thoughts are allowed. This is the fourth episode of a radio show format created and hosted by arts presenter Matt Micucci, featuring plenty of music, interview clips, comedy and chat about current events.

Featured on this episode: Langston Hughes, Lucien Zell, Walter Benjamin, Roger Corman and more + lots of great music.

How Tiger King Exposes Animal Abuse

I’m a big animal rights supporter and have been since I turned 20. Before then, I did not care for animals at all and it was when my family took a little Yorkshire Terrier into our home that my life changed. Little Chloe became my hero because she awoke a whole new level of empathy, which entails a respect for animals and the environment.

Naturally, when I heard about Tiger King, I knew I had to see it – though I feared for the worst. Those fears were intensified by claims by animal rights organisations that the film underplayed the animal abuse side of the story about big cat trafficking.

The series is directed by Rebecca Chaikin and Eric Good for Netflix, and is seven near hour-long episodes long. I think the length is excessive, despite the wealth of material. But the claims of animal rights organizations that the animal abuse side of the story is treated lightly are wrong, in my opinion.

From start to finish, we are exposed to the eccentric characters that populate this world and while they are admittedly entertaining, they are far from likeable. Or, to put it in another way, they are as likeable as Charles Manson was a good songwriter and Bill Cosby was a funny man.

Sure, the true crime side of the story drives the narratives, as well as the central feud between Joe Exotic and Carol Baskin. But images of lions, tigers and other wild animals in cages, mistreated and used as objects are right there in front of us.

PETA and other animal rights organizations too have their dark sides but they do a heck of a job raising awareness of animal welfare, some of which are so complicated that it is hard for most people to even understand them. That is what makes some of their policies and actions so damn controversial.

But I really question the ways in which most of these organizations communicate their goals and missions to the wider public. One of the ways in which they try to do that is by producing documentaries. I have seen these documentaries and they are rarely effective. Their tone is propagandistic and I struggle to believe that they can win people over with their aggressive or pontificating (or both) tones.

Furthermore, I am a believer in the theories of Walter Benjamin, who claimed among other things that only shock can cause moments of awakening, and these moments can only occur when the spectator is distracted. This is a theory commonly referred to as “reception in distraction.”

To put it simply, the eccentricity of the protagonist of Tiger King and the absorbing crime narrative – together with the feeling that you are watching a movie rather than a traditional documentary via stylistic choices – hypnotise the viewers. But it is the pitiful shots of objectified wild animals that offer the opportunity to provide the spectator with those shocking moments that Benjamin referred to.

These moments are far more effective, I believe, than indoctrination. When I was a kid, I hated going to school. I was a good student but I did not like having to learn things that I was told to. I suspect that most people also don’t like to do what they are told, or think what they are told to think.

Had the makers of Tiger King made the animal abuse side of the story clearer, it would only have pleased those who are passionate about shining a light on these topics already. However, it would have been far less effective in winning people over and making them understand that wild animal markets are awful.

Another thing worth mentioning is that people don’t necessarily know why breeding is a dangerous and criminal act. This is possibly the first major film production to proliferate this information successfully. On top of that, we are also exposed to other things, including zoo owners who raise cubs to take photos with people and are killed once they grow older.

We also learn how easily ideals are thwarted for the sake of power, hunger and lust. Joe Exotic apparently sells his soul to the devil, turning his back on his past self and the mission that he had set himself for the preservation of big cats. But in the end, he gets what he deserves: a sentence to spend the rest of his life in a cage, like the wild animals of his zoo.

Click here to buy my book of thoughts on film, Eye of the Beholder, on Amazon!

F. Scott Fitzgerald Coronavirus Hoax and the Danger It Illustrates

Last night, a friend of mine posted a letter allegedly written from F. Scott Fitzgerald while he was quarantined in the South of France during the Spanish Influenza outbreak in 1920.

For context, here is the letter:

Dearest Rosemary,

It was a limpid dreary day, hung as in a basket from a single dull star. I thank you for your letter. Outside, I perceive what may be a collection of fallen leaves tussling against a trash can. It rings like jazz to my ears. The streets are that empty. It seems as though the bulk of the city has retreated to their quarters, rightfully so. At this time, it seems very poignant to avoid all public spaces. Even the bars, as I told Hemingway, but to that he punched me in the stomach, to which I asked if he had washed his hands. He hadn’t. He is much the denier, that one. Why, he considers the virus to be just influenza. I’m curious of his sources.

The officials have alerted us to ensure we have a month’s worth of necessities. Zelda and I have stocked up on red wine, whiskey, rum, vermouth, absinthe, white wine, sherry, gin, and lord, if we need it, brandy. Please pray for us.

You should see the square, oh, it is terrible. I weep for the damned eventualities this future brings. The long afternoons rolling forward slowly on the ever-slick bottomless highball. Z. says it’s no excuse to drink, but I just can’t seem to steady my hand. In the distance, from my brooding perch, the shoreline is cloaked in a dull haze where I can discern an unremitting penance that has been heading this way for a long, long while. And yet, amongst the cracked cloudline of an evening’s cast, I focus on a single strain of light, calling me forth to believe in a better morrow.

Faithfully yours,

F. Scott Fitzgerald

Beautiful, ain’t it? Turns out that, quite predictably, it’s a fake. It’s actually quite obviously a fake and I would have been surprised if it hadn’t been a fake for several reasons – especially the second paragraph.

The post immediately received something like 200 likes, which is worrying. In fact, people seem to be so bored that they absolutely love to share things about the tragedy of the Coronavirus in many ways. There have been people discussing how Russia has been getting in on the fun by promoting the proliferation of fake news to destabilize societies and systems.

Wouldn’t it be interesting if we were to find out that this virus had actually been created on the internet?

What strikes me about this letter is how it perfectly illustrates how fake news is proliferated. While I have nothing against the use of artists and their works to freely illustrate situations, it bothers me that the original creator of this hoax never specified that this was essentially a fantasy. There would have been no harm in that.

Somehow, the need was felt to change history – and when you do it for forms of social media retribution, you may as well be doing it for money or any form of corruption. It is also worrying how nobody thought enough to check the sources and just took it for granted that this touching and inspiring letter had not been written by the man to whom it was accredited.

We also take for granted that those familiar with the great works of F. Scott Fitzgerald should be a little more clever about these things. But it’s not true. While it may seem like such a small thing to get worked up about, I don’t think so. Even things like these contribute to the spreading of the idea that knowledge is something we should take for granted – or that the cultural gatekeepers are merely those who are able to get more likes, or have more money, or have more power (see the connection there?).

Why the Coronavirus Videos of Singing Italians Annoy Me

I have been hit hard by the quarantine period. Stuck in the Czech Republic, where I had traveled to just a few days prior to the announcement of the state of emergency to cover an international documentary film festival, I am forced like many others to stay put and watch the world from afar.

It hasn’t taken long for the internet to come up with a fair share of memes, which act as a defense mechanism during these difficult times. I have never much cared for memes myself, as I find them pandering and obnoxious, like most things that appear to be popular these days – including K-Pop.

Yet, one thing that has particularly annoyed me is a trend that is almost impossible to escape: videos of Italians singing or playing music from their balconies.

This trend annoys me on a number of levels. I have very little time for the kind of virtual storytelling that has arisen with the advent of Instagram, where everything from the filters themselves seem to make abuse of nostalgia as a communicative mechanism.

On a practical and personal level, these videos annoy me because the last thing I would want to hear is somebody else singing or playing music in the flat next door while I am trying to get comfortable in my own flat. In fact, the first thing I check of any flat I rent is that the walls are thick enough for me not to hear sonic intrusions of my next-door neighbour.

I am sure I am not the only one who feels this way and as I accidentally scroll down my social media home page and one of these videos autoplays, I instantly picture men and women in the flats next door rolling their eyes or being legitimately annoyed for much the same reason.

Finally, however, this is just another example of how art comes to the rescue of people or institutions of any kind for reasons that could be considered propagandistic. After the European outbreak of COVID-19, people looked at Italy like the country to avoid at all costs and its image was temporarily damaged (as if the nation hadn’t damaged its own reputation enough by treating the madness of Salvini with a level of legitimation).

Of course, romatic images of singers, whether professional or not, and musicians, whether professional or not, are being used to project an image of Italy abroad of nostalgic romanticism. At home, they serve a similar purpose, countering the harshness of news hysteria, as info about medical staff having to choose whom to cure and whom to let die have started making the rounds.

While I have no doubt that some people are legitimately encouraged by these impromptu performances (though I hardly believe that anything filmed can truly be disinterested in the age of social media gratification), I cannot help be annoyed by something else.

These performances show, once again, that in times of trouble, it is art that comes to the rescue. It is art that people turn to, in order to forget their struggle and be reassured. In these days of social distance, art becomes a very real bridge between people.

Then, why is art so regularly mistreated? Why are artists not given the right attention they desevre? Why do we instead let our artists be replaced by modern monstrous figures like influencers or reality TV stars? Why do so many artists starve, struggle to pay rent or live normal lives?

The thing is that, as I watch these videos, I am reminded of just how jaded I am. When people first began to talk about the Coronavirus, and I heard about its origins, I immediately thought of it as a defense mechanism unleashed by the planet itself.

A few weeks later, it is blatantly clear that the air is clearing up and the world is all the better for it. Sure, people are dying of Coronavirus, but less people are dying for air pollution. Yet another proof of the fact that humanity truly is the problem.

The false sense of community created by these videos are countered by images of empty supermarket aisles and shocking footage of people fighting over toilet rolls. Young people failing to stay put and America still widely seeing the Coronavirus as a European problem.

I may be jaded but I think that quietness and meditation is the only thing that will allow us to establish a legitimate sense of community. It is too early to point out the ways in which we try to stay together even while apart, and support each other even as we can’t even shake hands. It hasn’t been long enough for us to understand how important we are to one another and the future of the planet.

I believe in the intimate power of a surprise phone call or message. I even believe in prayer and meditation. I believe in the intimate rediscovery of a book, an album or a movie. I do not believe in these kinds of eccentric showcases.

I am not totally insensitive to these moments. There is a scene in Casablanca depicting the dueling anthems between French refugees and their German occupants singing “Die Wacht am Rhein.”

It is one of my favorite moments in the film. When this scene was shared prominently in 2016 after the terrorist attack on Paris. I thought it was great because it expressed an outrage that people couldn’t quite express with words and also showed us how violent events constantly repeated and it seems humanity is incapable of changing its course.

In contrast, I could use the example of Italy in the immediate aftermath of the announcement of Coronavirus infections within its borders, when politicians and people seemed to endorse online campaigns preaching to people that they should carry on living as if nothing was happening.

Click here to buy my book of thoughts on film, Eye of the Beholder, on Amazon!

Thoughts on Getting My First Copyright Strike on YouTube

I just got the first copyright strike on my YouTube channel.

For the last while, I have been using footage of a video of a lava lamp to accompany the audio of the conversations I record for my MATT’S ART CHAT series. These are conversations with creative and artistic people from all over the world. The videos are also accompanied by images and photos. But the important part of these videos remains the audio, which is why recently, I have been uploading them in podcast-only form on Spotify and various other audio streaming platforms.

Still, when I first started making these videos, I knew that I would have to have some type of visuals accompanying the audio. At first, I thought about only using the images and photos. Then, an idea popped in my head, that I should have some type of loop playing in the background as well. When I came across footage of a lava lamp, I decided to download the video and use a part of that to fit the length of the audio.

I didn’t think much of it because I never thought my videos would get a lot of views. And they don’t. One thing I have noticed over the years of talking about the arts is that it is difficult to talk about the arts in any forum. It’s not exactly viral video content, especially the way I try to do it, via long take videos and unhurried conversations. But it is the way I want to do it and becoming some type of viral sensation was never my intention. If it had been, I would have started making toy reviews…

Nonetheless, the copyright strike I have received actually threatens to take down my channel. This means that all the videos I have uploaded on it would be lost, including not only my MATT’S ART CHAT episodes but also my LONG TAKES and everything else. And the annoying thing is that the copyright strike I got was for a video that hardly even got to ten views – and hardly ever will.

So, why should I care, given the tiny viewcount, whether the YouTube channel is taken down?

Because, my YouTube channel is a passion project. My way of chronicling the art that I encounter, the knowledge I have acquired and share my interest in it, in a truly independent way. It’s my channel and I can do on it whatever I want. I have other work I do beside that, the volume of which is very high. Besides that, as part of my deep interest in the arts, I have been living a nomadic life for a very long time, so it is a committment to take time out of an already overwhelmingly busy schedule to find new ways to talk about the arts in a style all my own.

If I have made a mistake, it is only due to inexperience. Nonetheless, I do fear that this copyright strike will be the first of many – three strikes and you’re out. The YouTube channel will be taken down and all its videos lost forever. The video that threatens to destroy all the work I have done is a 5-hour shot of a lava lamp. I have since reached out to the man who filmed it, asking him whether we could solve this problem in an amicable way. He has yet reply, which is not promising.

I am now editing a video of Veedzy loops for future Matt’s Art Chats, desperately trying to get it done in time to upload my weekly episode later today…

Click here to buy my book of thoughts on film, Eye of the Beholder, on Amazon!