Episode 9 The is No F IN ART and Conceptual Art & Artists

Updated: Oct 11, 2019

Hey Everyone, welcome to Episode 9 of the Arty Anglais Podcast. The Podcast where we talk about art, culture and society to help you learn English naturally. If you haven't already subscribed to the podcast, make sure you subscribe on whichever platform you listen to it on so you know each time a new episode is released.

00:00:28 Hey everyone and welcome back to Episode 9 of the Arty Anglais Podcast. I can't quite believe I'm almost at number 10 and I think for number 10 I'm going to celebrate. I'm going to celebrate by making a podcast all about Australia. What I want to do is make a list of my 15 recommendations for places that you should visit in Australia. These places will be culturally interesting or artistically interesting or just some really beautiful places around Australia that I will recommend to you.

00:01:38 How are you going anyway? Are you on holidays? Or Vacation? Is it summer, or is it winter where you are? If it's winter, I'm sorry to 'rub it in', but I'm enjoying quite a lovely summer here in Montpellier. So what I want to explain to you is that first expression I've just used - 'rub it in.' This is an excellent little expression that (well a lot of Australian's like to use this expression) and we like to use when we mean to make someone jealous and It's just for a bit of fun. For example, I might say to all my friends who are working inside on a really nice day 'I have the day off, so I am going to the beach, and then my friends might say back to me 'Don't rub it in!' because they are jealous. But maybe don't use that when you're talking to someone at work for example.

00:02:09 So yes, as I was saying, thankfully it's summer here in Montpellier and I'm about to go on holidays to Portugal, so I'm feeling excited to be having a break and spending some time on the beach in Portugal. I think I'm fortunate though, because I already live very close to the beach here in Montpellier. It makes it feel like I am always on holidays. I've also been reading plenty which has been relaxing and good for my brain! So the last time I went to the beach I started reading the Petit Prince (the Little Prince) in French! I know right, it took me long enough. But finally, I decided to do it thanks to some encouragement from my French teacher. So far, I'm finding the story to be extremely relevant to all the things I like. I'm wondering why it took me so long to start reading it in the first place? Sometimes I think these things only happen when we are ready.

00:03:15 I also started listening to many more podcasts in French. The first one I started to listen to is called Change ma Vie which is a podcast about personal development and staying motived. I like listening to these sorts of things and I especially love it when I feel I might be in a situation that is out of my comfort zone, and I need to challenge my emotional brain. So as you may already know I'm living in the south of France and I'm learning french. For someone who has only just started speaking french that can be a daily challenge. I'm not ashamed to say that living in another country and learning an entirely new language can sometimes have its challenging points. It's not...It doesn't mean its bad, it just means that sometimes I appreciate the extra emotional challenge that the podcasts will offer me. So I decided to start listening to this podcast in French. The host of this show Clotilde's also recommends an English podcast called The Life Coach School and this is made by Brooke Castillo and it's what I wanted to tell you about and share with you. It is a podcast which has influenced Clotilde's life and her podcast content. So if you feel like doing the same thing in English, I recommend listening to The Life Coach School. Brooke speaks in a super positive and energetic way and I find both the podcasts (the English and French one) to be excellent complements for each other. Sp Brooke is American, too, so she speaks with a lot of energy. You may appreciate this energy.

00:05:13 As I often say in the other podcasts Episodes, I have found that listening to podcasts myself has helped me keep a maximum contact with learning French. You can do it where you want and for however long want and you can always listen to an episode for short periods over a few days or even in the same day. I often use them right before I'm going to meet with some french friends or speak with my French teacher or conversation partners because it helps to wake my brain up and help me to think more in French. You could do the same in English. I'll put the links in today's episode notes, along with a link to some of my recommended shows in English that you could listen to as a podcast. And these Podcasts are good because they are not all just made for learning English. Some of them are made to learn English in a natural way by where you're learning interesting things about culture and society.

00:06:23 Anyway, back to talking about reading! The thing I've enjoyed most while lying on the beach has been reading the book (in English of course): There is no F in ART by Eli Castelli. So this is what I've decided to share with you today. I had the chance to chat with Eli a few weeks ago, and it certainly was a very fruitful conversation. By a fruitful conversation, I mean that I learnt more than I imagined and I enjoyed our chat. So before we start I've taken a photo of the front cover of the book (along with some of my art tools and equipment) and I want you to have a look at the picture of the front cover of the book and tell me what you think of the cover. What do you think of the cover? What do you notice? What do you see in the title of the book also? I tried to make a picture so it was a little bit conceptual using some of my art equipment next to the book.

There is No F in ART - Eli Castelli

00:07:30 So, we'll talk about the cover of the book a little bit later in the show. I'm thrilled that I contacted Eli because when I asked him about his book and I interviewed him, I learnt so much about the art world and conceptual art. I was also really lucky because he sent me a signed copy of his book. So Thanks Eli. I'm glad I now have a signed copy of your book.

So what is it all about - There is No F IN aRT?

00:08:05 It's an interesting book and I mean that in a really good way. It's not your typical art appreciation book. If you've been listening to the podcast from the start, remember back to Episode 4 where I talked about What Makes Something Art? Well, this book explores that very idea. If you haven't listened to this episode yet, I recommend also listening to it. I think they complement each other well. Okay before I go on actually. I'm going to explain something. I've just used a word that I think might need an explanation.

In English we have two words 'complement' and 'compliment' and as you can hear they have the same pronunciation but you spell them slightly differently. Complement with an 'e' means when two things go well together. For example, the colour red is an excellent complement to blue. The other word compliment which we spell with an 'i' is used to say when you say something lovely to someone. For example, if you tell someone they look beautiful, you're paying them a compliment, you're complimenting them. They are quite the high-level vocabulary, however, I wanted to point it out. I wanted to point it out because we use both of these words very often when we describe art. I very often will use it to explain how two things will work well together.

00:10:07 Anyway... back to the book... The Author - Eli starts by asking what is art? As we already discussed in Episode 4 I think the definition of what makes something art is different for everyone. Eli believes that art is something that gives you a feeling and that feeling will be different for everyone. Like me, he also believes that art should be accessible to everyone. It should be available to everyone which is precisely why I make this podcast. I think it's interesting to learn a language while also learning new things about art and culture at the same time, even if you're not an artist or someone who is an expert in art. In the book, there are a series of different quotes and statements made by artists. These quotes help you to think about what they are trying to tell you, what they are trying to tell us. At the end of the show notes for today's episode, I'm going to include some of them and I invite you to find out who said them and what they might mean by googling them?

00:11:20 My favourite quote from the book is one that was said by Edward Hopper:

He says:

If you can say it in words, you wouldn't need to paint it.

I always think about this quote when I'm doing Urban Sketching. Very often I feel like the way I paint a place is unique to my feelings and my thoughts. So, I try to capture a place different to the way I would catch it in a photo. This is my own personal interpretation. This is the way I see it and how no one else in the world does and I think that a very special way of looking at a painting. So that's why I like the first quote.

My second favourite quote from the book is the one on the back of the book which was said by Banksy. I think this was a smart way, a very clever way, to represent possibly one of the most famous Banksy quotes of all time. See if you can find the quote on the back of the book then follow my link to a Pinterest page in the show notes to see if you can find which famous Banksy quote it is. That will be a little interesting task for you to do before you listen to the interview.

00:13:02 The book is full of useful information including different artists and art movements, vocabulary for the art world and different examples of art also. I particularly enjoyed reading about Marcel Duchamp who is considered one of the most influential artists of all time. If you're French you may already be very well aware of him. His fame has always been quite an interesting concept to me and very controversial to many other also. Its very interesting especially if you know his most famous artwork which was actually a practical joke - but has since become a legend. It's entitled Fountain 1917. If you don't know what I'm talking about I suggest you follow the link in the show notes. According to Marcel Duchamp, Art's value depends on it's ability to transform the way we see. The Fountain 1917 does just that. Eli will talk about it a little later in the interview.

This book specifically talks about conceptual art. The Tate Modern in London defines this as:

art where the idea (or concept) behind the work is more important than the finished art object. It started as an art movement in the 1960s and the term usually refers to art made from the mid-1960s to the mid-1970s.

00:14:53 Conceptual art can be or can look like anything. Conceptual artists use whatever materials and whatever form is most appropriate to put their idea across – this could be anything from a performance, to a written description, to a sculpture or to items arranged in a specific way. The reason I loved the book so much is it made me think a lot about how I feel about conceptual art compared to artists who paint for example. I believe anything that makes you think more is worth reading about. Which is why I think you should read this book. You'll finish it with more questions than you had to start with. Even the pictures are enough to start to provoke you into thinking what makes art successful and what does this mean?

In the interview with Eli we certainly talked about conceptual art but we also talked about how things are changing in the art world in galleries, street art and graffiti, social media and how artists today provoke their audience. A lot of what we talk about also complements the interview I had with Seb Duke from the Big in the Small in Episode 7.

00:16:13 So in the interview Eli and I talked about:

Why he wrote the book and all about the book cover

His trips to The Tate Modern in London

Why he thinks art should be for everyone; and of course

We talk lots about artists and how clever they are and how the provoke their audiences.

Some of the artists and places you'll hear him and myself talk about include:

The Tate Modern in London

Urban Nation in Berlin

Marchel Duchamp

Michelangelo and the Sistine Chapel

Banksy (The Street Artists) & The Shredder incident

Charles Saatchi

Jeff Koons

Damien Hirst

Jackson Pollock

00:17:03 I have put links to all the different artists he mentions so if you want to learn more, you have a place to start. You might just learn as much as I did. If after listening to the podcast you're interested in buying the book you can go directly to the Sven Dali Press Website to purchase the book online. The link will be in the transcript notes. I'm also excited to say that we will be giving away a signed copy of the book to an Arty Anglais Podcast listener. All you need to do is follow @ArtyAnglais and @NoFinArt on Instagram or Facebook and tag two of your friends. I'll put more information on this little competition when I post the podcast episode on Instagram so keep an eye out for it.

Eli was really generous for giving me his time today so I want to say thank you for our interview and for absolutely making my day! So without further ado. Let's meet Eli and we'll catch up at the end of the interview.

00:18:37 Interview

Tara: Hey Eli, thank you so much for joining US today. Before we get started, what I'd love for you to do, is just explain who you are and why you wrote the book.

Eli: Sure, I've always been interested in art. I worked in the music industry for twenty three years so I've always been around creative people. The creative process has always interested me. I don't really see myself as a creative myself but what happens behind the scenes is always something that kind of fascinated me whether it was how a record was made in a studio or how a video was made by a video director or an editor or a painting or a sculpture.

The book was kind of a complete accident and it just kind of happened organically.

Tara: So was it something that you'd (you had) been planning for a while or something that almost just happened overnight?

Eli: I've never had a desire to write a book, I never had. This was a pure accident, really. I suppose maybe a bit out of necessity as well. I took my niece to the Tate Modern on Sunday. She had just recently moved to London and the idea was that I would show her around and boast about the fantastic art that London has. She's (she has) been round the world to different places and different museums and I wanted to show her, you know, one the building is an amazing building and the art is always new and exciting and there is something different there every time you go. But the day we went, the Sunday we went, it was a little bit disappointing in the sense that the main turbine hall, was... it felt like being at the beach. There were crowds and it was noisy, people were rolling down the carpet (there is a decline/slope into the turbine call) and at the end of the turbine hall there were these adult sized swings. Above them, there was this giant disco glitter ball. So it really didn't have the museum reverent respectful kind of feel to it. There certainly wasn't this quiet place to reflect on, on a Sunday afternoon. As she was walking around looking at the swings and stuff, I read the description and it was to see what the exhibition was about. It was an installation by three Dutch artists. So we went into the next room which happened to be the conceptual art wing, just purely by accident. That was the next logical place to go. likewise in there, there were a few strange blank canvases and a couple of other sort of odd-looking things which didn't really inspire me. So to cut a long story short when we left the Tate, as we were talking, my niece actually said to me (we were joking about what we saw, you know - was it art). A few days later she was on Instagram and she sent me a few images. One of the images was actually someone who had been to the Tate Modern a few weeks previous and dropped her scarf as she was walking from room-to-room. About two rooms later she realised she was missing her scarf. When she went back there was a bunch of people standing around the scarf thinking it was part of an art exhibition.

Tara: Ah no, that's funny!

Eli: So, she actually said to me 'You should write a book"

Tara: about all your experiences at the Tate?

Eli: Yeah about what we saw. You know was it a joke and how could people take it serious, how can a scarf on a floor be art. Another thing she had sent to me. An Art student had dropped a packet of pasta onto their kitchen floor and photographed it and the title they had put on it was something like 'This is my final exam'

Tara: So I guess what you're saying is your trip to the Tate Modern made you question what makes something art and why is it like this and why are people reacting the way they are and the book is really you exploring this idea.

Eli: Yes, so my next..I actually started writing.


Eli: and I basically only had enough for a leaflet (about 4 pages) and I thought to myself, well you know this isn't a book. So, I decided to.... Ah that's right

I spoke to the room guide in the conceptual art room. I said to her (particularly about the blank canvas) there were three blank canvases together. I was looking at them and I didn't understand how anyone could spend half an hour looking at a blank canvas but I read the description (the wall description next to it) and that was really really intriguing and really thought-provoking. So I decided to ask the room guide (you know) who wrote this fantastic description and she stunned me when she said it was a team of curators. I said 'oh wow, my impression was that it would be the artists because this is their work and it's communicating not only the work but also the title and the bare description you get kind of as a lead in to give us some clues a little about what the work is about. So I thought to myself if you start out as an artists in your bedroom and you make it on the high street or with a gallerist or a (an art) dealer and then you make it to museum level that's the pinnacle of any artists career, that you would be more and more involved in every aspect of your work and how it is presented to the public. So I then sent an email to one of the curators to the Tate modern that afternoon and she came back to me and that stunned me even further because she said "Oh yes we at the Tate modern have this policy of trying to engage people who aren't necessarily interested in art... MORE.. you know to bring them in and interest them in art so our team of curators..effectively she was saying that we are salespeople so we get more numbers through the doors you know.

Tara: So do you think that means that what they are trying to do is market the artwork so that it fits with how they want to present it, rather than what the artist interprets their piece as?

Eli: I think you've kind of hit the nail on the head. If I could say two other things. I then contacted Charles Satchi through his book publisher and because I'd read about Andy Warhol...actually if I go back. When I first came to London, I went to Tate Britain because the Tate Modern wasn't open at the time and I used to collect postcards when I came to London and I came across a postcard from The Tate and

I'd written on the back of the postcard a quote from Andy Warhol and it said:

Anything you can get away with

I then went to the library and read more about Andy Warhol and I realised he worked in advertising before he got into making a living as an artist. Then I thought to myself well Charles Satchi ran Satchi and Satchi Advertising Agency with his brother and left that business and became an art gallerist. He discovered Damien Hirst, Tracy Emin

Mark Chapman and all these guys. Advertising is heavily driven by marketing principles he basically broke those guys as artists.

Eli starts referring to The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living which was a Shark in a box of formaldehyde. I've put a picture of a more recent reproduction of a similar piece that you can find on his Instagram.

A Shark in a Tank is a Shark in a Tank but the fact that is was presented in such a way and given a fantastic title and in Satchi's gallery and it was free to go and see it, it engaged a lot of people.

00:26:56 So you're absolutely right. I think the Tate Modern are kind of doing what Satchi was doing in the late 80's and early 90's in his Boundary Rd Gallery in Swiss cottage. That the Tate is doing now on the Southbank (this is where the Tate is located).

Tara: I think to me the book really highlighted that good art now is not just about how good/ the art or the artist is but rather it's about the marketing and how well the writing about it is and how well it's marketed in the world. I think that's really interesting after having spoken to Seb Duke, another artists who I spoke to (from) Canada who talks a lot about 'it's not about the art itself, it's about how you market the art, it's about how you push what you're doing and how you come across to people. I think it's really an interesting way of looking at art because in many way art can be anything and art can be in a museum or an art gallery like the Tate or it can be something on the side of a wall. For me, these are so different and in such different contexts. After you went to the Tate Modern with your niece, have you been back, do you go back often?

Eli: I go occasionally. I mean, its the other side of town for me and London is quite spoiled for choice anyway.

The rest of the transcript can be found on our YouTube Video - turn on the subtitles.

Well done for making it all the way to end of the interview. I hope you enjoyed it and you learned lots! Remember to follow us on instagram and subscribe to the podcast.

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Here are some of my other Recommended Podcasts

Change ma Vie - Personal development podcast in French

The Life Coach School Podcast - Brooke Castillo

Quotes: Can you find out who said these famous art quotes?

1. Without people, it's not Art, it's just stuff in a room?

2. Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.

3. Painters should cut out their tongues in order to express themselves only with their brush.

4. I like to pretend that my art has nothing to do with me.

5. The more you like art, the more art you like.

6. Art should be something that liberates your soul, provokes the imagination and encourages people to go further.

Hi, I'm Tara. An Australian English Teacher in Montpellier. You can get in touch with me by email info@artyanglais.com