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To burn, or not to burn: that is the question

When someone sends a MySpace bulletin attempting to publicize their event with the following kooky message (in regards to not attending the event): "Or I will hunt you down and make you wish you'd never been born ... No, but seriously… I will," you best listen. I had no other choice but to check out this event, for fear of my life.

Now, I'm not one to question a person when it comes to publicizing their upcoming shows — most pass out fliers, post cards, send nice little email reminders — but Mike Suarez (who also happens to be a regular visitor to our comments section on our site) went all Satan-like (in short, he didn't mind busting out the crazies with us) with his approach to getting the word out on his event Watch it Burn. I Googled Suarez's name to find that he was part of the Satanic Calendar Project (if you haven't been living in a hell hole, this is what it's about — it's a first-of-its-kind calendar created by the Church of Satan Members listing major Satanic holidays and birthdays). On that note, Suarez has my attention.

As included in the rather normal informational-type email from Suarez (I must note this was following the MySpace bulletin) the event was tagged as a performance piece/psycho-drama/cathartic ritual not limited to: fascist imagery, mood music, a bit of speechifying, and questioning the value of "art" according to your Average Joe. I was hooked — all New Year's Eve plans were out the window — I had to see this. Watch it Burn, his devilishly planned performance entailed burning pieces of art. No it wasn't full-on anarchy, as one may think, it was rather actually subdued. In fact, it worked — it has since got me seriously thinking about the local arts scene.

I headed out for evening New Year's Eve event, and as the sun set the winds picked up and my feet went numb. I spent nearly an hour in a trance as Suarez picked up the mic repeating "This is a revolution" and preached his views. The few audience members in attendance chose which art to burn and which would survive. A handful of art survived; while the rest was tossed into barrels where "executioner's" doused lighter fluid on various art works.

Watch it Burn 01

Following the event Suarez immediately chatted it up, with me asking my opinion of the event. As I previously told his camera crew, I considered it to be thought-provoking. Suarez did bring up a few points, how various artists in San Antonio tend to keep it safe. And how First Friday has somewhat escalated into a place to be seen, rather than to see art. True, true … however, with artists like Bunnyphonic (aka Michelle Valdez) who presents outrageously interesting mixed media and performance shows and the FL!GHT Gallery crew (who, judging by a sneak peak image of the show SNEEZE, providse a unique and a definite conversation starter for weeks to come) who create art forms that they enjoy that are out of the ordinary and catch a few people off-guard — I think there are artists that are creating art to the beat of their own drum, but in Suarez's opinion, the San Antonio arts scene is stagnant. It's safe, mundane, and nothing short of extraordinary and I would have to say that I agree with Suarez's suggestion to break free from the safety net in the local arts sphere. Because isn't art about creating something beautiful? And what's more beautiful than creating a piece of work that the creator feels reflects their character, mood, emotion, etc? It's a true masterpiece when there are no restrictions and when everything needed to be expressed, is expressed. If it offends a few people, that's fine … not everyone will be enjoy it, but that's what makes art art.

Suarez questions in his blog: "Is Art truly a subjective experience for artists and audience? Or must some objective standard be applied to all creative endeavors for them to be considered good? If so, where and by whom are these bars set? The power of Art appreciation is NOT in the hands of some elitist group of snotty collectors, galleries, or "Artists." The responsibility lies with each of us." I second that notion.

This newbie art critic gives Suarez major props for his efforts: Suarez's rationale is something I can agree with no matter how bizarre his execution with it is — I understand his plea. He isn't fond of the Blue Star art scenesters; he doesn't want to fall into being tagged as a Chicano artist (which by his own works won't label his as one); he isn't about to follow some trend in the arts world just so he can get noticed.

He may come across as a jaded artist that may have been snubbed repeatedly in the local scene but Suarez is definitely speaking out about the scene the best way he can — if not through words — through action art.

Maybe San Antonio isn't quite ready for Suarez as he seems to note in many of his comments on our site, but he's definitely someone that the city should notice in a serious manner. Suarez, a local artist (with his work being shown at Gas Gallery in July 2007 in the show Porn Paintings: The Allure of Color, which raised an eyebrow or two while also questioning our contemporary racial views), is credible and has the potential to really stir the arts scene in town— however, it comes as a disappointment to me that people haven't quite taken his actions too seriously. Possibly, it's his in-your-face approach, or his tendency to come off as arrogant online, but as commented earlier in the week by Suarez (under the nickname Mr. Atrox) Watch It Burn "was a swift kick to the [art] scene's testicles."

I'm not sure if I fall into Suarez's category of "self-appointed critics of the creative" considering that I am a creative-type too, but I really don't care — and Suarez probably doesn't care whether or not people showed up at his event or not, or if people take him seriously as an artist. His goal was accomplished by causing people to think, even if I was the only one in the crowd to do so.

I must end this post with the powerful clincher to his December 18 post "Setting the Standard: "San Antonio, you artistically bulimic bitch, you prepare to FEAST!!!!!!! Oh, sweet San Antonio, how I love thee. No worries, you'll be plenty fed of art in '08.

Posted by Jennifer Herrera on 1/2/2008
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