BUT IS IT ART? // The Comedian

TATI: Tony, I believe you can be considered a professional artist, yes?

TONY: I guess I can. I might not make much money from what I do but I certainly take it seriously.

TATI: How much money have you made with your art? Do you remember the biggest amount you ever received?

TONY: I do believe it was two Scribbean melamine dollars back in 1996, which was quite a payday for a young, starving artist working out of a cardboard hovel in an inner city red light district.

TATI: Scribbean melamine dollars? Red light district?

TONY: Oh, that’s industry talk for failure. Don’t worry about it…

TATI: No, I’m curious now. I need to hear the entire story.

TONY: There’s not much to tell. I was a starving artist in a cardboard hovel.

TATI: But I see you’re still alive and even have a pretty notable belly.

TONY: Yes, I’ve managed to live off of this belly for many a year now.

TATI: Well… anyway, I wanted to ask your professional opinion. (If we can be agreed that you’re a professional artist.)

TATI: Is it art?

TONY: Oh, I’ve heard of this…

TATI: You’ve heard of this. Awesome. It means you can hear, even though you’re deaf. But it looks like you haven’t heard my question.

TONY: Is it art? Yes, I heard your question, smarty-pants! As for the banana taped to a wall… well, do you think it’s art?

TATI: Tony, don’t turn this around. I asked you first!

TONY: Well, I guess it is art. Maybe. I don’t know. I mean, someone did end up paying $120,000 for it. Real dollars by the way, not melamine ones.

TATI: Why don’t you do this then?

TONY: Stick fruit to walls?

TATI: Yep. Why spend days and weeks toiling over drawings? Why sweat over your silly comics month after agonising month? Tape bananas to walls and enjoy platinum-plated baguettes and brie for years to come!

TONY: Well, I suppose it should have been obvious the day I tripped in a food hall and my McJolly’s Super Happy Meal ended up all over that rather bland ‘Exciting New Store Coming Soon’ sign. I really should have put two and two together and started throwing all kinds of shit against vertical surfaces. I mean, instant riches right there, am I right?

TATI: I hear sarcasm in your voice when you say, “All kinds of shit.” So, you admit it isn’t art, but rather shit? Or is it just jealousy speaking that someone else made money, even from shit?

TONY: Oh, definitely jealousy. My problem is that I’m not enough of a lateral thinker to come up with a genius idea like that!

TATI: Tony, you have an amazing ability to blab endlessly and say nothing useful. Can you just answer the question, please? Is this fucking art or fucking shit?

TONY: Alright then! It’s a fucking art that someone taped fruit to a wall and duped some dude out a shitload of cash! Satisfied?

TATI: The art of manipulation? The art of fraud? The art of proving the world is sick and can’t distinguish between what is real and what is fake?

TONY: Pretty much. Kinda like when guys choose fake boobies over real boobies. Same principle.

TATI: So, it can’t be considered a real piece of art? In a good, classic ‘art is a diverse range of human activities in creating visual, auditory or performance artifacts (artworks) that express the author’s imagination, conceptual ideas, or technical skill, intended to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power’ kind of way?

TONY: That was quite a mouthful.

TATI: If you don’t have a clear opinion, my hesitating friend, then let’s ask our dear readers. I hope they can find a clearer position on this than you.

TONY: Sure! Why the hell not?

 

by TETIANA ALEKSINA & TONY SINGLE
© All rights reserved 2020

BUT IS IT POETRY? // how to explain life to a live girl

they walk around the room cuddling a dead hare
smearing the floor with stale syrupy gold
they cry out loud that awakening is here
exactly as beuys has foretold

i lie on the floor trying not to sleep
but the damned gold flashes before my eyes
here i balance over the greasy steep
falling through the creaky rickety skies

and i see in my dream how a huge dead hare
cuddles me to its soft warm belly
runs its paws over my messy hair
treats me to marmite and orange jelly

the hare whispers of shoes and sealing wax
of shooting stars over the seashore
that a worldview’s a matter of parallax
…i wake up to the sound of a slammed door

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TONY: You have the most fascinating brain I’ve ever had the privilege to encounter.

TATI: Nice start, Tony. Go on.

TONY: Erm…

TATI: How’s your head, by the way? It wasn’t a concussion, I hope?

TONY: The doctor said you hadn’t hit me that hard after all, and that I should stop being a whimpersome girly-boy.

TATI: Good boy. All you need to do is wise up and don’t repeat that painful experience from our previous discussion. There is a reason we discarded it, after all.

TONY: So now we’re having an entirely new discussion for the purposes of this post. Oh yeah, I totally get it now.

TATI: Let’s go then.

TONY: Erm. Well. I wanted to discuss a particular poem with you.

TATI: What poem?

TONY: It’s called ‘how to explain life to a live girl’.

TATI: I remember this one. Do you hesitate to call it ‘poetry’?

TONY: Oh, no, I definitely think it’s poetry. It’s just that… well, a dead hare?

TATI: Yes, hares die sometimes. Sad, but true.

TONY: Well, sure, but what is the poem about? It seems to be about a dead hare, some strange yellow substance that could be honey or gold paint, and some dude called Beuys.

TATI: Do you know who this is, Tony?

TONY: Is it a ‘Harry Potter’ character?

TATI: Are you serious?!

TONY: No? From ‘Hunger Games’ then.

TATI: I don’t think the poet should have to explain to the reader each and every reference.

TONY: ’50 Shades of Grey’?

TATI: Yuck! If you, the reader, really cared then you could have dived into the poem to understand what the author wanted to say here or there. You could have educated yourself.

TONY: There are too many books in those series. You expect me to read all of them?

TATI: If you don’t understand something, you need to google it or at the very least try to think of your own interpretation. Don’t you have an imagination?

TONY: Maybe It’s a recipe for honey-roasted bunnies. Maybe that’s what you wrote.

TATI: That is one interpretation, I suppose. It isn’t necessary for it to be the same as what the author implied.

TONY: So, I’m wrong?

TATI: Don’t you know anything about the magic of poetry?! You are not meant to make a school book report from it, and you don’t ask the author to explain each and every detail to you!

TONY: Why not?

TATI: If James Joyce had tried to explain ‘Ulysses’ to each and every idiot, would the novel have been listed in the Bokklubben World Library amongst its one hundred best books ever? I bet no. They would have dismissed him as another graphomaniac who wastes valuable paper instead of increasing the GDP of Ireland!

TONY: But nobody understands that book! Are you saying that in order to write greatness that whatever one writes must be completely incomprehensible? I expect you’ll be awarded the Booker Prize any day then!

TATI: Seriously, Tony, I am not going to sit here and explain to you who Beuys is. Nor will I explain about his performance ‘How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare’ and other shit. And you should be saying thank you to me because I am doing you a huge favour! I’m giving you a chance to grow and educate yourself!

TONY: True. Sounds like it was boring and pretentious.

TATI: Cool. Then I propose to go back to what we were doing before you started this discussion. You can nap and play video games, and I will sit here and continue to read this idiotic book.

TONY: ‘Ulysses’?!

 

by TETIANA ALEKSINA & TONY SINGLE
© All rights reserved 2020

BUT IS IT ART? // Goo Goo McArt

 

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TATI: Bachelor of Visual Arts.

TONY: I’m sorry?

TATI: You have a Bachelor of Visual Arts.

TONY: Yes.

TATI: Your art has even featured in a comics exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in Rijeka, Croatia.

TONY: Erm… yes.

TATI: You’ve contributed to various comics anthologies.

TONY: Also yes.

TATI: All of this hard work and critical acclaim has led you to… this?

TONY: To what?

TATI: Shame on you!

TONY: Huh?!

TATI: This drawing of a goo goo muck with blood all over her tits!

TONY: Goo goo muck?!

TATI: A vampire woman!

TONY: Ohhh-kayyy…

TATI: Tony, this drawing is not art! It is complete shit!

TONY: I beg your pardon?!

TATI: You have thirty seconds to convince me otherwise. Tick tock!

TONY:

TATI: Well? I’m waiting!

Tony turns to the Unbolt Me readers. His voice drops to a whisper.

TONY: Help me out, guys…

 

by TETIANA ALEKSINA & TONY SINGLE
© All rights reserved 2020

BUT IS IT POETRY? // Cynisca (One-Horse Consolation Race)

“Sorry, we’re closing.”
…and she leaves the battlefield
on her gala-shield.

Jingling with armor,
she fumbles with a jammed lock
in the half-light hall.

In the cold bedroom
she kicks into the corner
a chlamys on which

two heraldic cats
with apathetical smiles
claw a lonely heart.

And then stands face up,
mixing her tears with water
and Bloody Caesar.

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TONY: So, I wonder…

TATI: Again?

TONY: Okay then. You start! Tell me what I’m wondering.

TATI: If this poem is about puppies and kittens.

TONY: How the hell did you know?

TATI: Oh my god! Are you serious?

TONY: Erm… yes?

TATI: I was fucking kidding!

TONY: Anyway, I want to ask you about Cynisca. Is she a personal hero of yours?

TATI: Cynisca was a pretty ambitious chick. And she was the first woman to win at the Olympics. She even bred horses on the side. But… nope. She’s not a personal hero. Should she be?

TONY: Not necessarily, I suppose. But, hey, you forgot the most important thing about her. Her name means ‘female puppy’ in Ancient Greek! And since everyone loves puppies, I naturally assumed that you’d see her as a bit of a role model. I mean, isn’t that why you wrote about her in a poem?

TATI: No, that isn’t why I wrote about her, Tony.

TONY: Oh. Okay.

TATI: Anyway, while she was the first woman to win at the Olympics, it was only in a manner of speaking. She didn’t actually participate, you see. She was merely the owner of the winning team. The chariot was ridden by men she’d hired.

TONY: Fair enough.

TATI: Doesn’t this interest you?

TONY: I still can’t believe you’re so unmoved by the puppy thing.

TATI: It’s a silly name.

TONY: It’s not silly!

TATI: Stop kidding around! I’m talking about serious things here.

TONY: Woof.

TATI: Anyway, I have read another version of Cynisca’s story where it was her brother who planned for her to win. He wanted to discredit the Olympics by directing her to join the competitions. By having a woman win, he hoped to show how unmanly and trivial this sporting event was.

TONY: So, what about the puppy thing? You mention cats on her cloak in your poem. Do you think Cynisca got along very well with felines, given the meaning of her name?

TATI: Tony, are you going to discuss the poem or continue to say bullshit?

TONY: It’s a legitimate question!

TATI: Fine then. Just for the sake of argument, why would someone who was named after a dog have worn a picture of cats on her cloak? No. Unless, of course, it was a dead cat with its tongue stuck out.

TONY: And two little crosses for eyes.

TATI: Exactly. Crosses for eyes. See? Even you understand. But, wait a moment. Did I write something about crosses in the poem?

TONY: No.

TATI: Then the cats were alive.

TONY: Oh, god. Don’t tell me this has something to do with Schrödinger’s cat!

TATI: No, this was before his time. Stop being silly!

TONY: Meow.

TATI: I can see there’s no point me telling you about a Russian expression we have that literally means: ‘Cats claw on a heart (soul).’ Look, just go and bring me a cappuccino. You would do a better job of that than conducting a serious poetry discussion.

TONY: But how is that remotely connected to what we’re talking about?! I thought this was about feminism, about someone who could be considered a symbol for the rise of women in ancient society. But did this newly found status make her any happier? Even with the cool puppy name thing?

TATI: Scat, you wretched cur!

TONY: Grrr. Hiss.

 

by TETIANA ALEKSINA & TONY SINGLE
© All rights reserved 2020

BUT IS IT ART? // Stheno

 

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TATI: It looks like you’re obsessed with Gorgons, Tony.

TONY: Only insofar as they’re fun to draw. Especially this one!

TATI: Yes, I saw you had a lot of fun with this. Is this a man or a woman, by the way?

TONY: A woman. Stheno was the oldest of the three Gorgon sisters. She was immortal too.

TATI: Hmmm… so, it’s not a bunch of penises here…

TONY: Nope. Just a bunch of pubic snakes that would be very unfriendly to one if it ever got close.

TATI: Now it’s getting interesting, Tony! So, do you have a theory about Gorgon physiology? Every hair is a snake? Not only the hair on their heads?

TONY: Exactly. Everywhere there would usually be hair, are snakes instead. So, it stands to reason they wouldn’t have any form of hair removal. No Brazilian wax for Stheno!

TATI: I had hoped for this answer, Tony. Now I’m going to have fun!

TONY: That sounds… ominous.

TATI: Hee hee hee…

TONY: Now you’re scaring me.

TATI: Question number one. Her brows. Where are the snakes?

TONY: Oh, she plucked them.

TATI: Plucked? But plucking doesn’t get rid of all the hair. It only makes the brow a different shape, or thinner. There would still be snake heads there.

TONY: Okay, then Gorgons don’t have eyebrows.

TATI: But I see them on your drawing!

TONY: Oh, shit. Erm… Those are cosmetic tattoos!

TATI: And what about the lack of armpit hair?

TONY: Laser hair removal!

TATI: But moments ago you said something about no Brazilian wax for Stheno!

TONY: Next question!

TATI: Hm. Okay. Your wish is my command. What kind of black liquid is that dripping around her feet?

TONY: That’s blood from a… well, penis. It got too close. Can you see it lying there in the middle?

TATI: Oh, so this blob is a penis? I was sure it was her reflection in the water. Or a part of her left leg. I dunno.

TONY: Nope. It’s a penis. A willy. Man’s bouncy ball buddy. A one-eyed wonder weasel. Hitler’s salute. A salty pube kebab.

TATI: Okay, you can stop phallomorphologising, Tony. I got it. It’s a penis.

TONY: Well, I didn’t want there to be any ambiguity.

TATI: Where’s the head?

TONY: Erm. What?

TATI: The head, Tony! The man’s head! His noggin. Pate. Bean. Dome.

TONY: Oh! I thought you were still referring to the penis!

TATI: Sigh. It’s plain to see where your thinking centre is located. I’m referring to the upper part of the human body that (usually) contains the brain.

TONY: Are you saying that there should be a man’s severed head at Stheno’s feet?

TATI: Of course! Let’s speak sense, shall we?

TONY: Well, I could have put one there, but I felt that a severed penis would be a more powerful statement of her independence and ferocity.

TATI: But a man approaches Stheno with an obvious intent to copulate. (I don’t comment on his taste though. They say never speak ill of the dead.)

TONY: Perhaps he was attracted to thickset women with unmanageable hair? I don’t know!

TATI: Obviously, his head was equally as close and important a target as his penis. Agreed?

TONY: Well, yeah! What’s your point? Are you saying I should have drawn a severed head instead of a severed penis?

TATI: No. I’m just trying to be logical. At the same time Stheno’s lower serpentry was busy with his penis, her higher serpentry would have been busy with his head. But, for some strange reason, the snakes on her head look clean and pretty relaxed. Do they have a different attitude toward men?

TONY: Maybe her ‘higher serpentry’ was tied up in a neat little bun at the time? I don’t bloody know! I just drew the damn thing. I didn’t think too much about the logic of it all!

TATI: It’s evident that you didn’t think at all, Mr Artist. Let me tell you how it should loo—

TONY: Oh. Fucking goody.

TATI: The serpents on her head should be dripping with blood also, and the man’s severed head should be laying somewhere around.

TONY: Somewhere around, huh? What if it’s just out of shot? Did you think of that? Huh? Did ya?!

TATI: Of course! Her posture, actually, can point to the possibility that she has just kicked the head off his shoulders—like a soccer ball—and her happy expression can mean that she scored a goal.

TONY: See? I didn’t need to draw a man’s severed head after all. There’s a perfectly legitimate story behind its absence.

TATI: Well, I’ve just explained it, Tony. What would you do without me? Those angry art critics would tear you apart with their tricky questions!

TONY: Really though? It’s not like they’re even paying any attention.

TATI: Yes, they are! And we need to invent an explanation of why the snakes on Stheno’s head are clean. Only then will I allow you to post this picture on your Instagram.

TONY: Oh, I’m sorry, your highness. I didn’t realise I needed your permission!

 

by TETIANA ALEKSINA & TONY SINGLE
© All rights reserved 2019