November 11, 2009
This Saturday East Austin will be teeming with art lovers, or at the very least people who want to believe they are. Expect to see clusters of trendy looking people wandering around trying to read the East Austin Studio Tour Google map on their iPhone. Statistically there should be a corresponding bump in hit-and-runs and muggings, but the Eastside has become so gentrified in recent years that the biggest crimes seem to have more to do with architectural design than they do with personal injury. The latter gets more press understandably. It’s very rare that an Austin Police Department officer riddles a tangerine-and-teal postmodern condominium quadplex with a hail of gunfire – regardless of how much it deserves it. He might upchuck a little bit of doughnut in the back of his mouth when he’s driving by, but as far as a voluntary corrective action, nada. It’s probably all for the best. You definitely don’t want to cross the Austin arts community – even if you’re strapped. There are nearly as many artists in Austin as there are musicians. You might be able to take out some of the first wave (and what makes the first wave so formidable is that all artists consider themselves to be in it), but eventually your clip will be empty and you’ll be overwhelmed with an relentless tide of bitterness and resentment. Hey, it could be worse. You could be a music critic. Now there’s a suicide mission. Devoting your life to making compelling arguments on why people should suppress their urge to create is a thankless job to say the least. Fortunately, most visual artists don’t mail in copies of their artworks for review. More often they’re likely to have a website with a memory-hogging flash intro followed by 7-point text at the bottom of the page that says, merely, “enter.” If you’re willing to squeeze your waning interest through the eye of that cyberneedle, you’re probably ready to experience the artist’s work in all its two-dimensional, pixilated, broken-linked glory. What did you expect? Internet art can’t be a fulfilling substitute for the real deal. If that were the case, you would be totally satisfied with Internet porn. You have to admit, as truly awesome as Internet porn is, to get the payoff you still have to do the dirty work yourself. It’s pretty much the same thing with art. Seeing a 360-by-420 JPEG of dogs playing poker is a horrible substitute for the real thing – even if the dogs are really just bad taxidermies with spotty fur and creepy poker faces. To see real art, sometimes you have to get up and leave the house rather than just buying on it on the Home Shopping Network. Of course, if you’re going to have to go traipsing all over the Eastside just to look at art, it had better be some good shit … or at the very least you should be able to get some nice snacks out of the deal. Well, there’s a good chance of getting a little of both this Saturday when the East Austin Studio Tour kicks off its sixth year. Print yourself a map and spend the next two weekends visiting the 154 studios, 20 exhibition spaces, 49 happenings, and 30 programs that make up EAST. If you somehow manage to tick off every box on that to-do list, you’re a true art lover … and you have way too much time on your hands. Perhaps you should be come an artist yourself?