Friday, 16 February 2018


Apes aren't natural artists, although they clearly have the thumbs for it, their hands being far more complex than ours - and they have twice as many. A chimp might trace its shadow on a wall with a finger, but that's generally as far as they go in terms of drawing and painting, unless they are presented with the right equipment and lots of encouragement. The pictures here are by Julia, Bozo, Jessica and Lady, respectively, all chimpanzees showing great promise. I love the great apes. That's where the future lays - not only in art, but of humanity.

Friday, 9 February 2018


Alan Resnick is an American comedian, performance artist, film maker and consciously terrible mime. He first came to prominence with his Alantutorials, sixty six short films posted to YouTube that both parodied and celebrated the modern phenomenon of people making films of how to do stuff, including simply opening boxes and showing you what’s inside. Resnick plays Alan, a ‘little kid’ (with massive feet and hands) who uses his phone camera to make short films in which, for example, he tells us how to put dirt in a box, crush a can with a piece of wood, spin a salad with an electric drill, or to glue spray painted coins to an external hard drive. Most of the films are only two or three minutes long. The tutorials encapsulate the hollow nature of YouTube: the obsession with gathering likes and subscribers, the impossible yet oddly achievable dream of becoming an online star via a compulsion to create content that is neither necessary nor needed. In some of the films, despite being ostensibly in control of the process, Alan clearly doesn’t have anything set up, and has to improvise, falling back on staples like lengths of wood, dirt and ‘water’ that actually resembles antifreeze.

Resnick nails the nascent YouTube style perfectly: ‘Hi Guys’ or, later, ‘Hi Tutorialheads’ in a soft, high pitched voice. The films are not badly done, but they are clumsy and unprofessional. Later on, they will descend into chaos. We never see Alan in person, just bits of him. He makes the majority of his films on his phone camera, which causes him problems as many of his tutorials require at least two hands, leading to a great deal of tragicomic fumbling and his favourite expletive: ‘shoot!’.

The Alantutorials are not simply clever parodies, they contain a narrative arc. After watching half a dozen or so, it becomes clear that Alan is not an excitable child, he is an adult with mental health issues, desperately trying to find some online validation. He seems lost and alone, and although he sometimes achieves a kind of gleeful hysteria (usually while being destructive), he is most often unfulfilled or confused by his own films, prone to accidents and mistakes. Far from being an expert, he is a rank amateur, not even skilled in the bogus activities he wants to show us.

The turning point in the series is when Alan teaches us how to expose the slats of the ceiling and rub the ensuing dirt onto a bed. This act of destruction has serious consequences. The next time we see him he is locked out of his room: cold, snivelling and waiting for someone to come and help him. No-one comes, and Alan is forced to live in the woods, scavenging for food and water and shelter. Despite these desperate circumstances, Alan continues with his tutorials, although they now have a feral, psychotic edge, full of blood and mud and the inexplicable actions of a deranged man in an altered state.

After an uncomfortable period of mayhem, Alan is next seen locked in the back of a truck and then in what is first assumed to be a hospital or asylum. But why are there Stanley knives on the table, why is he allowed to collect his own urine in bottles, and who is sliding a dollar bill under the door each time he makes a film?

The room becomes dirtier and dirtier, and Alan becomes more and more unhinged. In the longest episode of the series, Alan stomps about the piss bottle filled room in a filthy gown, talking indistinctly to himself and his ‘best friend’, a figure he has fashioned out of scuzzy looking dollar bills. We can’t hear what he is saying, and we can’t work out what is happening other than that this perhaps represents Alan’s offscreen reality: the way he spends his time when he isn’t thinking of his audience. In the next film, his room is dark and more chaotic than ever. Whatever this facility is, it has clearly now been abandoned.

A straightforward reading of the Alantutorials is that they are challenging the evolution of YouTube from an online platform for individual expression to a corporation owned site that exploits raw talent in return for relatively small amounts of cash. Is Alan kidnapped by a company who wish to use his tutorials to direct his audience towards their own ends, their own products? And is his abandonment the result of falling figures, or a drive towards a different demographic? Or is all of this irrelevant, as what we are actually seeing is the inside of Alan’s head, an elaborate and disturbing fantasy played out online on perhaps the darkest of all social media channels, the place where irrational people feel most at home, amongst conspiracy theories, convoluted commentaries, dubious political rants, strange fetishism and compilations of cleavage shots from ‘Friends’. What happens here defies interpretation: it’s insanity in all its grubby, self-harming, self-soiling horror.

To further reinforce the nightmare, and if you can face it, read the comments on Resnick’s YouTube channel, an Escher-esque tumble of opinion in which people express sympathy for Alan and are then lambasted by others for not knowing that Alan is not a real person. But is this symptomatic of a growing split in society? Those who care are criticised for not getting it, those who do get it are superior and condescending. Just because Alan Resnick is not Alan Tutorial, does this make the madness any less real? Is it art, or is it artifice? What does the fake Alan say about the real Alan? 

If nothing else, Resnick has a fervid and unusual imagination - and his later work is even more disquieting.

Saturday, 3 February 2018

Thursday, 1 February 2018

Thursday, 28 September 2017