SHOOP @ Studio DTFU
SHOOP: Don’t Fuck This Up
Review by Eli Walker
Studio Don’t Fuck This Up (DTFU) is unmistakably an alternative space. Justin Hunter Allen and Lucy Kirkman have been able to consolidate their home with their studio and their studio with their exhibition room. Nestled in an upstairs apartment above the corner of Parry and 1st Ave, they have managed three shows all on their own time and money- very critical resources for young artists- but they get their shit together to make it happen and it pays off. This is DTFU’s version of ‘careerism’ and people in Dallas should take notice before we allow this concept of what a professional artist is give us anxiety again.
What gives DTFU the advantage in Dallas is that the studio is ran by an extremely intelligent couple that have experienced and navigated through other art regions. This isn’t to say that it is mimicking other cities, but that DTFU has an understanding of the presuppositions of the rules and how to calculatingly break them. If you ask Allen or Kirkman where the name “Don’t Fuck This Up” comes from they’ll say it started with a simple mantra they gave themselves to “not fuck this up.” But would a studio concerned with self-promotion settle on a name that includes a four-letter word making it censored in most of Dallas’ conservative publications? And doesn’t that raise more questions about the conservatism of the papers than it does the artists? In a city that will aggressively advertise strip clubs and prostitution, how does the culture section of our newspapers stay so uptight?
In other words, let the games begin. DTFU doesn’t have to work in the way other galleries operate, from the outset it has been run by artists doing what they do best: experiment. With their last exhibition, SHOOP, they asked artists to submit digital work but without video. All submissions must be in the form of .jpg, .png or .gif formats. The furthest to stray from these restrictions were a few inclusions made in cinemagram but they still fit in to the low-file-size realm. The images were compiled on to a disc and projected on to a screen. “We were thinking that these images should be considered just as equally as painting and video,” Lucy Kirkman says- “the trouble is how do you market an image that can be just as easily pulled from the internet for free?”
The short answer is you can’t. Movie and Music Industries have spent years of effort and money trying to fight Internet piracy just to find that it is a losing battle. About the best solution to the issue is Louis C.K.’s ‘strait to download’ approach with his recent comedy special. On a gamble with his own money, the comedian cut out the cable networks and produced the special on his own, then simply asked his fans to pay the $5.00 and to please, don’t pirate it. His gamble paid off big, earning him millions from fans that sincerely appreciated a request from a celebrity that asked for honesty and didn’t chastise them with overpriced material or legal threats. Faith in humanity is restored. DTFU had the price set by artists and printed in a formal gallery list sheet. They range from $20 to $500 with one individual, Trent Stephenson, truly grasping the concept pricing his entry ‘Ghost Face Killah’ at $2.5M (negotiable).
The fact that nothing sold from the show is beside the point. The exhibit was primarily produced to explore the model of art trafficking. Would a patron feel more or less comfortable in supporting new media artworks directly from the artists; or is it still necessary to rely on the standard mechanism of gallery/dealer middlemen? The results unfortunately suggest the latter. Unfortunate because of how it positions the profitable income of the artists that produce the work- continually striving to make for little or often no return. Nor is this a matter of not having something physical to possess. Take, for example, charitable fundraiser events that ask artists to submit work for free to support “awareness” of this-or-that cause. Often times the artists get they short end of the stick for a cocktail party that benefits the organization trying to reach their own profit margin. The Louis C.K. reference is evoked again- how can an artists create sincere material that isn’t overshadowed by corporate dominance?
By the time this review was to be written, the show was over. The borrowed digital projector had to be returned and the only remnant left for sources were a gallery copy of works listed and a cell phone recording of the images as they glowed on the screen in the gallery space- an appropriate bootleg.