Buck Naked unmasked? Nah…
6 March 2009

So, my Seattle dealer Stephen sends me an email saying “I didn’t think you were Buck Naked…” with a link to an interview with Buck Naked of How’s My Dealing by a writer named Qi Peng published on examiner.com out of Salt Lake City, Utah. The terse interview makes a couple of things clear. I’m not Buck Naked and it is indeed an art project. I feel bad for everyone who became so irate with the site, precisely because asking Buck Naked to alter it or change it is asking he or she to censor the work. Had people known it was initially an art project, it may have changed the nature of the site, although that didn’t stop people from saying terrible shit for my parallel enemies/allies project. Still, How’s My Dealing may very well be a brilliant relational artwork, creating a very social critique through others of the secretive nature of the art world and it’s (awful) reliance on perception to drive business. The commercial system is largely revolting, thus my fucking work. Anyway, if people feel duped or had by How’s My Dealing, I find it laughable that no one thought it might be an art project. Of the confusion about my participation, Qi Peng asks Buck Naked about why I might be a suspect? Buck Naked replies “William Powhida has a reputation for institutional critique within the commercial New York art world.”

I love it. I didn’t even do the fucking project, and yet, it seems so similar to what I’ve done or would do, that I manage to get something out of it anyway. So, if Buck Naked reveals him or herself, it will be great to share notes on harnessing the power of anonymous comments to paint a portrait of the art world. If not, I think the piece will be a stronger critique, but as a whorishBRILLIANT art world figure, I would never be able to keep out of it. Since I’ve already been dragged into it, I’ll stand in for Buck Naked on the institutional critique front until he or she ever steps forward to receive the brunt of ire from litigious dealers who feel defamed. I was actually talking with lawyer-blogger Jonathan Melber at Pulse yesterday who laughed at the threat of lawsuits, which would launch Buck Naked from art world insider to national sensation. The lawsuit, according to Melber, would have no merit, and the dealers would have to try and subpena the IP addresses of the anonymous comments, not Buck Naked, which is highly unlikely unless you are George Bush. It’s a no-win situation for annoyed dealers, and will only advance Buck Naked’s goal of auctioning off How’s My Dealing when he or she is satisfied with work.

Oh, it’s a brilliant move, but with the amount of loathing and hatred the site has generated, I am glad I didn’t do it. I think I would have used the word art visibly, to ensure that the project had a framing device to call its function or certainty into question. Especially when the artist is relying on the work, the comments, of others to produce the piece. In the Enemies/Allies project, it was evident from inception that the comments would be used for an art project to allow the community to participate in the selection of enemies and allies of New York, but knowing that an artist was involved, suggesting the possibility of intention. With How’s My Dealing, people were not privy to its meaning or possible meaning as art, and while Buck Naked’s role is limited to some moderation of personal attacks there certainly was an ulterior motive, money. It is going to be auctioned after all. It’s not an ideological or transparent move, which sort of negates the critique. Again, I’m not a purist (everything is always for sale), and I constantly undermine my work criticism by being an artist. How’s My Dealing suggests is what the art world needs transparency, even if it comes from behind opaque identities, yet it was never transparent, at least to fraying dealers.

Strangely, Qi Peng also sent me a series of engaging questions to answer for his column, as well as Ed Winkleman who passionately defended that gallery system, although, I’m sure now regrets falling into an art trap. Peng must be very savvy, so I am looking back over the questions with a jaundiced eye thinking about motives, because interviews with Buck Naked, William Powhida, and Edward Winkleman are clearly all about exploring the various connections here.

Pulse looked nice yesterday. It always looks nice. Also, Jonathan Melber has a book for artists dealing with the market coming out at the end of the month but you can get it on Amazon.com already. It’s called Art Work: Everything You Need to Know (and Do) As You Pursue Your Art Career. It’s probably something I should read, or have read a long time ago. I wish it had a chapter called…

WILLIAM POWHIDA
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