Video: Dave Hickey, part 1: There Is No In

by Glasstire January 15, 2014

On Saturday, December 14, 2013, Glasstire invited cultural critic Dave Hickey to come to Houston to speak. In front of a full house at Rice University’s Sewell Hall auditorium, Hickey called ’em like he seed ’em.

Part 1: in which Glasstire founder Rainey Knudson introduces Hickey, and he disses Glasstire, Texas, Houston, stupid liberals, Rice University, and questions why art should be popular.

He goes on to theorize on the futility of the NEA and alternative art institutions, and reminisce about the the good old underground at Max’s Kansas City. Remember: “there is no in.”

Part 2 of our 4-part Hickey-fest here!



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Marshall Harris January 13, 2014 - 11:13

Wow, what a curmudgeon! And I thought I was grumpy. While many of Mr. Hickeys observations have underpinnings of truth, does he have to offend everyone in the room least the state while delivering his message? Me thinks that he has adopted the notion that when you get older you can say what ever you damn well please. I think he needs a hug.

John January 13, 2014 - 11:56

he’s a wonderful raconteur – eager for part II

Julie Speed January 13, 2014 - 12:23

I think Dave Hickey is right. Art is supposed to be hard. It’s supposed to be from left field. Art should eat popular culture’s lunch, not embody it. Can you really stand in the middle and outside at the same time?

Peter Briggs January 13, 2014 - 12:40

Did he say that 35 seconds a week watching wild birds and sorting garbage was just about enough time for those things?

M. Edwards January 13, 2014 - 13:05

If you’re going to make art of any consequence you’ll do it whether you can pay your rent or not, whether you’re up till 3 AM after you’re “real job”, in or out of an “art program”, and in the messy business of living.

Mac January 13, 2014 - 13:29

Why are we being teased at he expense of continuity? Post the remaining parts swiftly if they are in fact ready for uploading, please. Bill can always write more content! 😉

Bill Davenport January 15, 2014 - 22:48

Sorry, we’re not trying to tease. These were shot in HD! Parts 3&4 coming tomorrow.

Steve Gibson January 13, 2014 - 15:34

The truth will set you free. Hickey’s view of the truth is a hard pill to swallow for many in an art community that are vested in the perpetuation of the status quo.
Looking forward to seeing the rest of the talk.

Loli Fernandez (-A Kolber) January 13, 2014 - 21:55

More! And Thanks Glasstire!

Lindy Chambers January 14, 2014 - 11:18

Bravo, Bravo for Hickey’s blunt but honest opinion on art of the last 40 years.
I totally agree with him.

Matt Abraxas January 14, 2014 - 12:44

Looking forward to the rest of this. He’s like George Carlin on Art.

chickenG January 14, 2014 - 14:13

whats happen to all four of them on utube i reposted them, ahhh i think what he said is a riot, but i was counting the many ways if he was a proff now saying that, he would be fired, sued, assaulted, and arrested. yeas its a better world we live in.

HJ BOTT January 15, 2014 - 01:34

Dave Hickey is really a ribald put-down performance artist, that can also write (“Mac-Genius”), but has been afraid to take the artist-title plunge. This fear goes back to opening a Clean Well Lighted Place in 1965, watching the self-absorbed yet sharing exhilaration of the artists he represented. And concurrently effected, will he ever get over UT’s failure to award him his PhD in English Lit? This curmudgeon shtik is “almost” tired. A few more vilifying bursts with all his well honed speaker performance ticks, mocking insults, profane “truths” and yet audience adulation/hate are still to come. Long live his distressingly imperative irritations. GAWD! He does make the visual arts a Glasstire. Such great fun!

Lindy Chambers January 15, 2014 - 07:45

I only got to hear about three and 1/4. Where are the rest, I wanted to hear them all and listen again. What fun. Please put them up and I can’t find
them on Rice.

Patrick Reynolds January 15, 2014 - 08:29

I wasn’t there. Haven’t watched the video. Based on Harvey’s comment, I hope there was some audience fist-pumping and high-fives – and a Christopher Guest film crew on the sidelines.

pinky diablo January 15, 2014 - 12:07

“Vernon Fisher is a born caretaker?!!”

DFWkunsthalle January 16, 2014 - 09:27

Dear Texas based art blogger, Many thanks in advance for never ever ever ever posting the final segments in this series of recordings. wtf.

pinky diablo January 17, 2014 - 11:10

in reply to Julie Speeds’s good comment:
I agree, except he is positioning himself to be both on the inside and the outside at the same time. In the first 3 sections of this video he bashes the art establishment and even artists, all the time constantly name dropping and talking about how pure his art criticism and teaching are. He is indeed masterful and entertaining in his interpretation of the past 75 years of art in America. He sure seems to want to be on the inside, and when he’s not, it’s sour (really SOUR!)grapes. I can’t wait to see how he wraps it up in the last section.

Steve Gibson January 17, 2014 - 11:40

I think Hickey is lamenting the demise of the avant garde in the arts rather than bemoaning the fact he is either in or out of what he sees as a bankrupt system.

Peter Briggs January 20, 2014 - 12:43

Following up a bit on Diablo’s, Gibson’s and Speed’s comments… Might it also be reasonable to think of Hickey as an apologist for metropolitan art? While I am sympathetic toward his observations on the consequences of academic art environments, of Federal involvement in the visual arts, of contemporary art that either saves or salves, and of a few other terse but reasonable observations, his position that provocative art is centered in metropolitan arenas summons an old refrain. The binary model of center and periphery has long shifted to a more complex understanding of how innovation, problems, resolutions and more arise and are addressed, an understanding that emphasizes the dynamics of wider or narrower connections to larger or smaller nodes. Like complex systems in general, the fragility of even one relationship or one node can have dramatic and extensive consequences…butterflies abide.

Fernando Castro January 20, 2014 - 17:06

Did Mr. Hickey have anything good to say about anything? Over-reaching attacks of contemporary art like Hickey’s are proliferating here and there for good or bad reasons. But exaggerations and partial truths such as those he expresses do little to clarify anything. His alternating self-deprecating and offensive tones do not help to sell his many theses. His name-dropping borders in the ridiculous. Moreover, when you come down to it, his view of what went on in art since the sixties is either provincial or imperialistic (not a term I like to throw around except when it fits) for he bases his narrative in a very idiosyncratic view of what went on in the United States artworld. The only thing with which I might agree with Mr. Hickey is on the obscure and pedantic style of critical writing that has invaded the art world in the last twenty years or so.

Hills Snyder January 22, 2014 - 16:15

Love the Dave! It is a fact that there is no In — the guardians of it have circled up to protect the turf, all back to back, too full to know there’s nothing there!
Thanks Dave and Rainey!

earl staley January 24, 2014 - 18:04

Why would someone who has dropped out of art move to Santa Fe? Why not Marfa or San Miguel? Maybe Denver where you can drop-out, turn-on and cool-down and forget-about-it.

Jack Stenner January 27, 2014 - 12:21

Great to see/hear the current state of DH. Thanks for recording the event. It reminds me I need to retrieve my autographed copy of Invisible Dragon from that grad student I corrupted last year 😉

DFWkunsthalle January 27, 2014 - 12:59

24 responses to “Video: Dave Hickey, part 1: There Is No In”

24 responses. That’s the stat expression of ‘wholly irrelevant’.

MIKE VANDY April 9, 2014 - 18:06

Hickey is a freakin’ legend, and all most can do is launch whiny attacks on his excesses. One might consider looking past the style and delivery and respect what this guy stands for. Genius can’t be judged by the normal standards. They aren’t the same. They are more than you are.

Marshall Harris April 14, 2014 - 15:32

I wouldn’t disagree that Mr. Hickey is knowledgeable and outspoken, experienced and well versed but why, as it is most often in the art world, must we tolerate borderline belligerence and bad behavior in hopes of experiencing some nuggets of wisdom ? Bad behavior and sarcasm is a distraction and counter productive to the intellectual discussion and dare I say content. Who the F cares if you don’t like being referred to as a Texan? An esoteric and dismissive attitude is certainly entertaining but then so is a circus dog in a tutu. If you have professed dropping or being invited out of art culture for whatever self delusional reason, you are, for some reason, neither relevant or contributive and foul language and eccentric behavior will only result in becoming a cultural oddity (similar to Joan Rivers) to be tolerated because no one has the balls to say “Mr. Hickey, thank you very much for your time but get the fuck off my stage.” We see a lot of the art elite being pissed off and expounding on how they have experienced everything and that nothing nowadays measures up. Dave is no exception. I agree completely that there is a lot of crap out there and an even larger amount of crap that is being shown and purchased for outlandish cash because we are being told it is good when really isn’t it all just a play we are putting on in our garage? In the end, who really gives a shit?

Marshall Harris April 15, 2014 - 06:39

Let me be clear. I agree with many of Mr. Hickey’s assessments in this video essay and that most of the art world has become a load of crap and that on an institutional level we are devolving; allowing and supporting more and more crap and expecting or insisting upon less and less critically new thought. I just find issue with the constant rambling condescension and consistently curmudgeonly manner.

Mike Vandy May 20, 2014 - 00:36

The thing is… Marshall… that one needs to know when they are in the presence of genius, because the rules change when you are. Suddenly, you must look beyond the bad behavior and excesses, and the normal rules of etiquette don’t apply. The genius… the philosopher… is birthing ideas out of their heads… and these difficult and emergent ideas are sometimes born into the world from out of pain… the pain of knowing that the world pulled over our eyes does indeed blind us from the truth.

The cool deliberation you seek is a virtue of the academic approach, which recycles and/or expounds upon the pre-existing paradigms of accepted norms. Hickey is not doing this. Hickey is beyond this. Hickey has cast aside all manner of getting along and seeking approval. This necessarily exposes him to the jibes of those who command social approval. Given that such approval is the very nexus of Hickey’s critique, it is no wonder that the judgment on his methods and behavior is swift and disapproving from the audience largely made up of academic types and students…most all of whom desire approval more than anything.

We don’t expect that artists in their studios must “cooly deliberate” on their creations, and be polite and well ordered in their manner. In fact, we’d rather that they were kind-a losing their minds in the quest for the expressions they seek. Why is it then that the intellectual must mimic the manners and style of a professor, the scientist, or the bureaucrat?

I think the reason is that we suppose the intellect is the product of such calmly rational deliberations. Which it is for the normal intellect. But for those pushing beyond the obvious, the disjuncture between what they express and what is commonly understood is so vast as to require a very heavy hand. And the greater the distance between the paradigms of the art world and the man who sees the anomalous bullshit so clearly as Hickey does… well, that is an explosion at the very center of culture. FIRE IN THE HOLE.

If you don’t want to be around such violence, then please retire to somewhere safer… behind the barrier of the academy, perhaps.

Harbeer Sandhu May 20, 2014 - 16:03


Seriously dude, what grade are you in? Grow up, Jack Kerouac. The adults are trying to have a conversation.

Mike Vandy May 21, 2014 - 09:39

Harbeer calls Hickey a quack, charlatan, racist, and sexist… and then calls my expression romantic claptrap, and tells me to grow up. He is skilled at the essential blog-style of putting down others while having nothing constructive to say himself. It’s actually gutless, and typical of those who presume to weigh in on cultural matters without the courage to put their heart on the line, or the skill to express themselves.

Steve Gibson April 14, 2014 - 15:47

Spoken like a true Texan.

a mcdonald April 20, 2014 - 12:54

Dave Hickey is right but exceptional artists like Akiane Kramarik (Idaho !),Pussy Riot,Femen and exceptional philosopher Zizek are creating a new intellectual and participatory/co-creative context that supercedes `In` and `underground` and the conventions of the 20th century .At Gothic Moon Records website the English artgroup Royal Family&the Poor have their new physical cd single`Is That You,Darling?` available. “The perfect art, music and ideology crossover.”

Harbeer Sandhu April 21, 2014 - 11:40

Dave Hickey is a quack and a charlatan. A very intelligent quack and charlatan with a talent for lyrical, even beautiful turns of phrase, but a quack and a charlatan nonetheless.

He is also a racist and sexist, as evidenced by his assertion in part three of the Rice lecture (1:30 into the video) that women and black people are inherently less qualified and therefore more submissive and more easily manipulated than “we.”

a mcdonald April 21, 2014 - 13:18

A quack and a charlatan (or racist and sexist) who witnesses a crime can still speak the truth about that crime. Hickey`s thesis that there is no In remains true. Other witnesses have come forward. Harbeer Sandhu has said nothing about the `crime`. Does Harbeer see an In somewhere ?

Harbeer Sandhu May 20, 2014 - 15:58

I don’t understand your question, “Does Harbeer see an In somewhere?” Please clarify.

If you are asking me whether Dave Hickey is not indeed sometimes right, then the answer is yes, of course, but even a broken clock is right two times every day, and considering the number of (often contradictory) positions that Dave Hickey is willing to take on any given issue (depending on his mood that day, what will get a rise out of his audience, what he had for lunch, etc), of course he is right sometimes.

As I state in my review of his latest book, he is at his best when he leaves “the art world” behind and writes about Ghana or Hunter S. Thompson (just two examples). As for what he says about “the art world,” well, it’s covered in the review. For what it’s worth–I think he crafts a marvelous sentence, he can be a joy to read–and I understand the attraction. And he’s not afraid to be provocative or confrontational–what fun!

But the man behind the curtain is just throwing rocks–beautiful, dazzling rocks, radiant as they sail through the air–but sometimes he hits a worthy target and sometimes he mows down innocents with his reckless scattershot.

amcdonald May 20, 2014 - 20:25

What are the `In` artists and galleries for Harbeer? Who and what is `In` for him ? Hirst,Gagosian,the Russian oligarch collectors ? Here in the UK the BBC is producing an update to its 1969 Civilisation series. Who and what would Dave Hickey and Harbeer include ? Camille Paglia? The philosopher Zizek says the 20th century is over. The future will be utopian or there will be none. The only `In` left is practical utopian. If Dave Hickey or Harbeer have any shining ideas it`s Janice Hadlow,Special Projects,BBC,London they can contact. Could it be that it`s the BBC that`s thinking big (just for once) and Texas that`s thinking too small on this ? Significant international questions have been raised here that require radical answers . Over at Standpoint magazine (online) some attempt at this has been started.

Mike Vandy May 20, 2014 - 00:47

Political correctness is religion without a god… a faith without a sacred text. It whispers itself into the ears of the desperate as they seek to align themselves with the herd. It relieves one of the effort of thinking for themselves, substituting instead the validation of the group. Like all social power, all it asks in return is that you give up your integrity.

Harbeer Sandhu May 20, 2014 - 15:43

If you are attempting to channel Dave Hickey, you are *almost* there. Your sentences add up to about as little sense as his, but his *sound* much better.

Nice try though. Keep at it, lil buckaroo! You’ll get there.

(In other news, if you are trying to disprove my claim that Hickey’s implication is “that women and black people are inherently less qualified and therefore more submissive and more easily manipulated than [some undefined] we,'” your gibberish about political correctness did not succeed.

So, are you agreeing with Hickey that “women and blacks” [his words] are inherently unqualified and only hired as charity cases? Please clarify, yes or no, whether you agree with this statement, and don’t give me any mumbo jumbo about “Political correctness is a religion without a god” or any other such meaningless hokum. Yes or no? Simple question.)

Mike Vandy May 21, 2014 - 09:54

Like I said….

Political correctness is religion without a god… a faith without a sacred text. It whispers itself into the ears of the desperate as they seek to align themselves with the herd. It relieves one of the effort of thinking for themselves, substituting instead the validation of the group. Like all social power, all it asks in return is that you give up your integrity.

barnaby fitzgerald May 26, 2014 - 15:39

Hickey’s Rice lecture was worrisome. Dave, I felt, was gasping for air. His anger is really directed at complacent positions all across the spectrum of opinion. Your dialogue needs to become a dialogue, with the question of some ideas such as that of ‘in’ can possibly have developed to become in a web society. Obviously what you wear and how you behave are less evident. What is evident, then? Perhaps predictable discourse has replaced bell bottoms and, on opposite sides, crew cuts. Surely you can do better, both of you, than wear ready made critical stances.


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