Podcast - Adam Savage Project

A Wide-Ranging Conversation – Still Untitled: The Adam Savage Project – 8/30/16

While Adam is AWOL on a cross-country road trip, sculptor Tom Sachs joins Simone and Will for a wide-ranging conversation about The Space Program, becoming an astronaut, discovering your calling, and the Mentat mantra.

Comments (72)

72 thoughts on “A Wide-Ranging Conversation – Still Untitled: The Adam Savage Project – 8/30/16

  1. I’ve never turned off this podcast mid-way through before, but I found this fellow so pretentious that I couldn’t keep listening. It was actually making me a little angry. YMMV, of course, but I’m gonna skip this one.

  2. Tom Sachs is surely an amazing artist. Always thought that he has a desire to explore and thus can open an enjoyable view on reality that leads to thought and understanding. But then I could be off the mark not being part of the current art culture of expression. Think Simone is an artist too-sorry.

  3. Kudo’s to Tom for unpacking some complex thinking about creative expression. I wish more complex thinkers spent the time to share outside of museums and galleries.

  4. The comment section over at YouTube is fricken toxic as hell. I actually like Tom a lot better than I like Rebecca as a guest. I think a lot of the backlash is because Tom takes a very different approach to viewing the world that what most would consider conventional. I don’t know why people say he’s pretentious? It seems like he’s attempting to make space exploration accessible and “today” through interactive art displays? Sure it’s not space camp, but I think Tom is saying that it doesn’t have to be….

  5. The comment section over at YouTube is fricken toxic as hell. I actually like Tom a lot better than I like Rebecca as a guest. I think a lot of the backlash is because Tom takes a very different approach to viewing the world that what most would consider conventional. I don’t know why people say he’s pretentious? It seems like he’s attempting to make space exploration accessible and “today” through interactive art displays? Sure it’s not space camp, but I think Tom is saying that it doesn’t have to be….

    Yeah the like/dislike ratio is crazy. I think that they should have shown some of his art before the podcast, and maybe directed people to The Talking Room episode. I find that just dropping such an unconventional artist into the middle of a conversation, in a matter of speaking, kind of threw people off. I find that his artistic style and view is very similar, or in the same vein, as Casey Neistat’s, and people really love what he does. So I feel that it’s not that people didn’t like what he does or necessarily what he was saying, just that it caught them off guard.

  6. This video has cinched it for me… I’m not watching Tested on YouTube ever again…. The ignorant, abusive, “revel in stupidity” comments there are just too much.

    Tom was (is) a great guest!!! This was a wonderful, what did someone above say, “Unpacking” of a little sliver of a creative genius and his process…..

    More please!!

    I’ll share here, my take on the Mentat’s Mantra (Which I seem to recall reading/hearing was improvised by Brad Dourif on set… maybe I dreamed that… )
    It is by caffeine alone I set my mind in motion
    It is by the juice of the bean
    The thoughts acquire speed
    The hands acquire shaking
    The teeth acquire stains
    The stains become a warning
    It is by caffeine alone I set my mind in motion

  7. I think a little more background or introduction to Tom might have helped.

    But i have to say i love the look Simone gives Will when he talks about drinking the kooliaid

  8. I mean, Casey’s entire outlook on life was formed while he and his brother worked for Tom, and it shows in his work. Casey edits his videos the same way Tom chooses to show the edges of plywood.

    I remember watching Ten Bullets when it was first made and thinking Tom had some degree of delusions of grandeur, but that was before I’d actually seen his art, which I find ridiculously compelling… and before I heard him describe the meditation that goes into it.

    I started understanding why running his studio with rigid rules is necessary to achieve the end result he is looking for.

    And when I saw the Talking Room interview, it all clicked. I realized that Tom, Adam and myself all strive to understand the world by recreating it, in our medium of choice. I think what some people see as arrogance is just him being super honest and open in interviews, as well as being proud of his work and the effort he is able to coax from his team…

  9. Yes congrats to Tom for rousing emotions and sparking interest – that is his job I guess.

    Didn’t hear anything pretentious in the podcast so not sure what’s up there. Go to one of his installations and you will get a better appreciation of the objects. Pretty sure he will meet Adam and that will be interesting as well.

  10. This is the first Tested podcast ever I haven’t finished. I made it to 17 minutes in and then just turned it off. This just was not the kind of content I came for to Tested. Maybe I understood something wrong, but I got the impression that he openly uses amphetamine based prescription drugs, that someone gave to him, to get to the flow to do his art? Maybe it wasn’t exactly that and I got it wrong. I wouldn’t recommend this video to especially to the younger audience because of this. Before I wouldn’t have hesitated show any of the previous content to everybody.

    I’m all for it to bring in guests with all sorts of ideas, philosophies and talent. And I respect Tom’s incredible high level of thinking. I’ll never be able to get there.

    This is just my opinion, but I would have never published this podcast under Tested logo. Maybe it gets better after 17 minutes, but personally I don’t care to try anymore.

  11. He clearly says he only takes the adderall for fun with the exception of that one bit in the Space Program demo. It’s not part of his regular creative process.

    You don’t come here for the fine art theory, I don’t come here for the RC plane articles. Yet only one of us feels the need to steer the site’s content to only cover the stuff we like. Tom is a friend of Adam’s, their work has remarkably similar philosophical foundations, it is no stretch to imagine he is an appropriate guest for the podcast.

    BTW, adderall is what they give kids for ADHD, which statistically means a significant portion of that “younger audience” are already on it. They probably won’t have their tender minds shook too bad by a grown man making fun of its recreational use.

  12. In agreement there. I like Tested BECAUSE of the variety. Not many sites are really like it. Product reviews, games, cutting edge technology, art, building, all merging together. It’s opened me up to a lot of new interests and appreciation for different things over the years.

  13. I’m all for it to bring in guests with all sorts of ideas, philosophies and talent. And I respect Tom’s incredible high level of thinking. I’ll never be able to get there.

    Don’t be discouraged, consider this instead. Tom isn’t just an artist, but also a maker. He’s injecting some heavy thinking and concept into what he makes, but a maker all the same. Unless your open to more ideas and ways making can contribute to the larger sphere of ideas, then you may have missed an important opportunity. Adam recognizes this and saw and opportunity to enrich the community. Its not an easy step but I’m personally very glad it was made.

    I have an MFA in fine art and make work that attempts to have these kinds of complex discussions but also realize that it may not be for everyone to absorb, but I gave kudo’s to Tom for trying because I too often resign myself to the idea that its unwanted and a waste of time.

    Consider instead that you won’t be able to fully understand, but if you start to recognize parts of it, the your one step closer to new and potentially exciting ideas and avenues. Tom’s exploring differently than most makers here on tested and even without a ton of personal reasons to want hear more like this.

    Others have made good points that some preface might have made for a smoother transition, but I have to admit that its injecting some energy into a discussion that might have gone unnoticed

    I would like to think Tom’s not surprised by the response but hopeful like I am that it starts a conversation like this one.

  14. I get your point about who comes here and for what and I agree. The drugs and their recreational use, specially giving them to other people in the koolaid without them knowing, that I don’t approve. Also having most of the kids already taking adderall might be the situation in the USA, but not the rest of the world. And people without ADHD taking adderall is really, really bad idea. It has the exact opposite affect than designed.

    Still just my personal opinion about the content.

  15. The people who drink the kool-aid are his team of artists who worked on the project, not unknowing members of the public.

    Maybe it helps to have some context of the project and the demo to understand the kool-aid thing?

    The Space Program installation is built by a whole crew of people, some of which take part in the various expeditions at museums around the world. A big part of the artistic narrative of the Space Program shows comes from the elaborate rituals and experiments that Sachs and his crew go through. Not settling for just building sculptural vehicles and tools for years, they train and prepare for months as if the expedition was real… in the Talking Room interview, Tom talked about asking real astronauts how to fix the problem of helmet visors fogging up, he takes this stuff seriously 🙂

    So for months they test and develop their experiments, and they construct elaborate tools and rituals, like the kool-aid ceremony. Like Tom says in this podcast, his Space Program is a musing on American imperialism and cultural appropriation. A riff on Dune and the Electric Kool-Aid Acid-Test is just one small bit of a very elaborate puzzle, performed by consenting adults exploring human expeditionary rituals and the role of drugs in that type of group-bonding. You don’t have to agree with it, or like that his exploration of american human/drug culture involves actual prescription drugs, but it seems silly to dismiss it categorically.

    And I went through grad-school at a pretty demanding program surrounded by dedicated people, I saw first-hand what adderall does to people without ADHD. It made them able to work very hard and saved them a fortune at Starbucks.

  16. You are right, I completely forgot Casey was an apprentice at Tom Sachs’s studio.

    I think most people are not used to someone talking with no filter and to a layman he may sound pretentious, but I think that a high level physicists (or other high level scientist) also sounds pretentious when he is explaining his craft. It’s a language most people are not used to.

  17. Absolutely, and it is interesting that Adam’s TED talk got an almost universally positive response, even though he is discussing the same exact ideas… people expressing themselves and interacting with culture through creation, displaying the results of said process and expanding the narrative through performance.

    But in the end Adam and Tom engage in remarkably similar subject matter, from weapons to Star Trek, from fake birds to designing their workspace… and they approach it in an almost identical way. And if you listen to Adam’s Maker Faire and SXSW talks, they talk about it using very similar language.

  18. i thought the massive butt plug was the guy who did not shut up for 20 minutes straight as he told us how much he hates the place he live in

  19. You don’t come here for the fine art theory, I don’t come here for the RC plane articles. Yet only one of us feels the need to steer the site’s content to only cover the stuff we like.

    Bingo.

    To be sure there are Tested fans that have been around since this site was probably better known for reviewing graphics cards but I think ever since Adam came along it was clear this site was going to branch out. (Adam doesn’t even seem very interested in graphics cards.)

    I’m on board.

  20. I watched the podcast this morning and needed to leave before it ended. I did not know anything about Tom Sachs. This evening, I came back to Tested to watch it and read the comments. I am listening to Sach’s interview with Adam right now. If you are new to Tom Sachs, I think that it is really useful to listen to the Talking Room interview before watching this podcast.

  21. Yea….. ummm….. What is happening with this podcast anyway? How about this: More Simone. Less pretentious assholes. Simple. If you cannot do that, then skip a week. We all will be the better for it.

  22. Sadly this is the first podcast on Tested that i did not like. I think Tom Sachs is so into how great he is that I could not listen to him. I am very disappointed and this why Adam is really missed on this podcast.

  23. Please don’t pay any attention to the youtube comments, as I’m sure you don’t anyway. I for one enjoyed something different and hearing about Tom’s art and projects. 🙂

  24. Curious to hear if anyone can explain what is pretentious or self absorbed about Tom’s discussion?

    When I think pretentious artist I think of Knox Harrington from the Big Lebowski, the laughing smirking, everything is an inside joke cleft a-h, nothing like Tom.

    Unlike Knox in that movie, Tom didn’t exclude anyone, instead he let loose a fire hose of what and why he does what he does. Its dense but pretty much how he speaks to the work on a daily basis as part of his job.

    He didn’t tout or compare himself to anyone else suggesting he’s better than, nor did he dismiss the question to explain his work, which is complicated and requires some, well really, a lot of exposition. Its honestly the exact opposite of that.

    Is it because art suddenly becomes more than aesthetic qualities?

    I’m not trying to argue against anyone’s opinion, but genuinely curious to see if there’s an approach where that info would have been better received. Like I said before, I normally wouldn’t try to explain his work or work like it to this group for those reasons, really making me the pretentious one. Wondering instead how that could be done without this kind of response and if there’s anyone interested in making that kind of clarification.

  25. i’d like to hear that, too. i heard someone very passionate about what he does, and very noncompromising. definitely not pulling any punches. maybe it’s the combination of those qualities with the approach of his art. ala ‘this isn’t how art is supposed to be done, you’re supposed to make pretty pictures and then think they’re not really all that hot.’ kind of like how women can’t be assertive without being called ‘bossy’.

  26. If this podcast discussion was a Mythbusters episode, someone would be wearing a pyramid on their head testing for psychic waves.

  27. Still looking for a podcast name? What about: “The Build with Adam Savage”. Or: “Trade Secrets with Adam Savage”.

  28. Agreed, While I’m sure Tom Sachs is a lovely person he was a little bit ” too on ” for my tastes. It felt a bit foreign for a still untitled podcast. Still he’s a great guest and has interesting commentary I’m not sure he was the best fit for this particular podcast. He’d make a great Talking room subject and perhaps his shop tour should be added to the roster. I’d love to see more of his stuff. Simone and Will are lovely as per usual.

  29. Simone needs her own show on Tested to compliment her YouTube content. She could expand on her “shitty robots” theme and get out on the road and visit various robotic companies out there and she can use those experiences to inspire new projects. Give this girl a budget and let her kick some ass! She is capable of so much more than being bored to death by a self-infatuated “artist”. 🙂

  30. Tobin The name they settled on is the current title of the show. also I 100% agree with Johndiz, Simone needs her own show or podcast on tested. Show more of her creations or her going out visiting other peoples shops making robots. That girl rocks! she needs more screen time.

  31. Guys, normally I love your podcasts, but this is the first time I couldn’t get through one. This guy is a self obsessed bore.

  32. For those that didn’t hear Adam speak about Tom Sachs before on this podcast, this is the same guy who let Adam drift his modified Caprice police car outside a museum that was showing the car as one of his works.

    Maybe check out some of his work before you decide – A lot of humor and keen insight into pop culture and hardly pretentious.

    http://www.tomsachs.org/exhibitions

  33. For those seeing Tom’s work for the first time, and after hearing him talk about it. Consider this.

    You don’t need to get or even recognize all of the layers in the work. What he talked about in this week Still Untitled is a bit of how and what HE considers when he’s making work, what he hopes to communicate to some people. He knows not all of it will be available to everyone who sees the work, but think there’s something for nearly everyone to take away from seeing it, particularly in person.

    Each observer will have their own interpretation based upon their background and ideas, you don’t have to see it the same way, but instead enjoy (or hate) it at your own level. That’s really the best part of looking at art.It can be interpreted in many different ways.

    Knowing more about what and why he does what he does can only broaden your view, and you don’t even have to agree, because once its out there, in the ether of public consumption, its result is limited to each persons own experience.

    I highly recommend Still Untitled listeners revisit http://www.tested.com/food/490224-austin-trip-1272015/ episode where Adam tells the story of drifting Tom’s Caprice. I think that show’s how approachable the work can be especially when realizing its fullest potential as a utility object, and its probably the best Adam story shared on this Podcast.

  34. I can totally understand the tendency to conflate ‘different’ with ‘pretentious’. I find myself doing it at times (both the aforementioned, and actually being pretentious… or maybe just different…).

    What I can’t understand however is the fact that in the lengthy discussions both here and on youtube no one has commented on what a clear demonstration this podcast was of passive gender bias – please feel free to correct me if I’ve missed where this has been talked about.

    What I see here is two smart, passionate and clearly sensitive men who have unfortunately created the common dynamic wherein their female counterpart is left disempowered in conversation. This leaves her to reduce her input to servicing platitudes as she had been trained to do by this common oppression.

    Now, I’m not saying for a second that Simone is a drone – as we’ve all seen, she’s clearly fantastic and incredibly thoughtful. I’m also not saying that Will or Tom hate women or anything like that either. I just wanted to voice my concern that our beautiful Tested community has allowed something, which to my eyes is very plainly and insidiously right in front of us, to continue. We should have to collective insight to watch something like this with a critical motive beyond bland, partisan character judgements.

    Tested needs to be a safe place for all.

  35. We sometimes also see this dynamic with Adam, Will, and Norm – Will and Adam talk enthusiastically about a favourite topic that Norm doesn’t have much to say about, such as cooking. Will gets caught up in the conversation and doesn’t have quite the ability to see the whole piece while it’s happening that we do. I feel Norm can see the whole while he’s part of it and that is his superpower. Simone probably has it too. Adam sometimes sees it, after a comment from Norm to bring them back on track.

  36. I’m not sure I see the gender angle here, like RedGold says this is a common dynamic in this podcast. Two people have more interest or immediate engagement and control the conversation a bit too much, and its tough for the third chair to get back in. Usually that third chair is Norm, he’s just naturally more reserved than the others. Simone is still fairly fresh to the podcast and this is her first time on there with Tom, who has a pretty powerful personality. Give her time and I’m sure she’ll be sidelining people like the rest of them :p

  37. All good points, and I do see the similarities in dynamic here to previous episodes. There are some key differences that make this stand out for me but I think it’s mostly about understanding the passive inequity in our social norms rather than overt sexism.

    A strong standout for me was the section where they were telling Simone what her work meant, and that she was making a comment on women and society. Now, I understand Tom lives in the world of a million subjectivities but to me it seams like a phenomena which is cropping up around the place at the moment; one in which men are continuing to simplify a woman’s existence to the point where it fits within the patriarchal scope. “You’re a woman so you must be a good cook” and “you’re a woman so you must be exploring the patriarchy in your work” are equally as demeaning in my opinion.

    Now I’m clearly no expert, nor am I qualified to accurately represent these important issues here but I’m glad to have gotten a conversation going.

    As for the “that’s just Adam”. While I accept that both Adam and Tom are naturally outgoing people, it seems to that this kind of personality – and indeed associated level of fame – is much more likely to be accepted and encouraged when it belongs to a male. Females are told not to be confident and outgoing with their feelings. When each side on this phenomena intersects (as in the case of this podcast) I think it is important to be conscious and critical of the power dynamic that it produces.

    There are subtleties to feminist issues that go beyond intent, and Tested being such a warm community I thought someone should bring them to our attention so we can all begin to monitor ourselves that little bit more rigorously. Not just for the sake of our sisters, it benefits all of us.

  38. It’s clear we as an audience are divided about this episode. I couldn’t stand it, myself, it’s just not something I enjoy listening to because it gave me flashbacks from art school.

    Still, I don’t need to listen to every episode, and I think it’s okay to have a gut reaction in the “I hate this with a passion!” category, just like it’s okay to love it. Both sides are just as right here, and there’s no need to try making the other side feel like they are in the wrong.

  39. American (broad assumption here) culture of anti-intellectualism.

    Adam makes art accessible, calls things beautiful but doesn’t expand on what makes it art —- > He is well received because he shows people how they can participate and make/acquire “Art”.

    Tom Sachs talks about art theory, unpacks deep concepts and culture, people don’t care to understand or even listen (as exemplified above by all the people who stopped listening before even making it to the end of the relatively short podcast.) —- > Long story short, “he’s pretentious and self absorbed”.

    “I don’t understand you and I don’t want to understand you, therefore, you think you’re better than me and I’m going to hate you.”

  40. American anti-intellectualism? Please. I guarantee you that there are topics you have no interest in hearing about, even from well-informed and considerate speakers, in which your lack of interest or outright distate has nothing to do with anti-intellectualism. Let’s try a few:

    “Boy, that guy sure does love to hear himself talk about:

    -his insights into the influence of Dadaist critique on modern Latin(x) studies

    -his bitchin’ Camaro and exactly how that new cam has really boosted performance

    -the Bronco’s prospects in this year’s draft, with or without spreadsheets and exhaustive statistical models

    -how much stealing pills and getting f*ed up really, like, help his creative process, man”

    FWIW I thought that Tom was so far up his own butt he could probably see his house from there, but I’ll defend to the death his right to hold forth for anyone interested in listening. But his interests and mine don’t overlap. “I don’t understand you and your ideas don’t interest me. In fact, I find some of them distasteful, and I think less of you for holding them.” That’s a perfectly appropriate response.

  41. All that text, and you did nothing to disprove my point. Can you raise a reasonable argument why you felt he was “up his own butt”? I’m genuinely interested.

  42. What, your point that objections to the content of the podcast must be based in anti-intellectualism? Because you haven’t addressed anything that I said about that. Have you eagerly say through a street preacher’s heartfelt narration of their personal religious conversion recently?

    Why do I think he’s up his own butt? Good question, but defending a matter of taste like that verges on the sort of let-me-tell-you-about-my-dream narrative that I generally find self-indulgent and uninteresting. But you asked, so: Sachs says that ‘I only wanna make cool shit’, but also that ‘these issues [that he’s discussing] are not explicit in the work, they’re implied’. But it’s apparent that he doesn’t just want to make cool shit, he wants to make cool shit in a particular and unusual way that he finds personally significant and fulfilling. Which is perfectly fine. But having volunteers sort screws, making the process intentionally tedious, as an essential part of crafting the sort of narrative that makes him happy, is purely masturbatory. The viewer of the finished sculpture can’t tell hand-sorted screws from screws purchased pre-sorted. Which is perfectly OK, of course, but the further afield your process goes in order to satisfy your idiosyncrasies, the farther up your butt you are. Your opinion may vary, of course.

    Also, I find the misuse of prescription medication for recreational purposes distasteful. So that colors my perception of his character, since such behavior is purely self-indulgent.

  43. What got it for me is that Adam isn’t on the show titled “The Adam Savage Project”. I subscribed to hear his insight and knowledge or at least have him interview people. I think he could have done a better job asking the right questions and people would have been more accepting of the new guest. However, having his podcast without him here and a guest completely unusual for the show turned everyone sour. I hope they don’t release another episode without Adam.

  44. Is it purely masturbatory when Adam goes into incredible detail to get the exact right lacing to use on the Alien space-suit, even though the unique design of said lacing won’t be visible when worn and it could be replaced with any other “good enough” material?

    He rationalizes that as “adding to the narrative” of the build and his experience building it. The effort matters to him, it helps him get into the mind of the maker of the original, and when the effort is communicated to others it seems to add to their appreciation of the object. He isn’t making that effort for the 100 people who wouldn’t notice the difference between used and box-fresh screws on a sculpture, he is doing it for the 1 or 2 who would be absolutely delighted by it.

    It isn’t necessary to appreciate the suit, the quality of research is only implied by the level of detail on full display. But you can go deeper, and each effort made is a small story that adds to the narrative of the object, and for those that are interested it means the end result becomes much more interesting than an effort in replication. It becomes a conversation with culture and it becomes an expression of the builder(s).

    Reusing old screws, sorting them by size and shape yet still clearly worn and torn at different rates, creates an implied quality to the finished work. You don’t have to know where the screws came from and how much time it took to get that quality in order to appreciate it, but it is one of those many stories…

    In the same way that Adam documents his builds, and communicates them to the interested minority through Tested, Tom documents his process leading up to any exhibition and makes that documentation available in book form for his interested minority.

    I’m looking down through the comments here and with a couple of minor exceptions, no one is saying you can’t have a different opinion on Tom’s work, to just not find it interesting, to not like it, and to think him using prescription drugs to make a point distasteful, unnecessary and juvenile…

    I see people who are exhausted by people whose reaction to something like don’t like is an overwhelming need to express their distaste in a dismissive and negative way. Especially when that reaction is to a podcast in which an artist is invited to explain his artistic process. Is it their right to do so, sure, but it also makes you a bit of an asshole, and an attention seeking one at that.

    And sure, is it your right to think less of someone for being into fantasy football? Yes… but it reflects pretty poorly on you.

  45. this guy is a total twat. I’m sorry Adam finds this guy’s complete BS intellectual enough to want to be associated with this douche

  46. Hey, at least we know its an interesting video when Biff the resident troll wakes up from his slumber to imitate Simone’s ‘Arguing on the internet’ robot with his bi-monthly post.

  47. I only posted to refute PMBs assertion that American anti-intellectualism is the reason that people had a negative reaction to Sachs’ interview. Maybe, but it ain’t necessarily so. There are other reasons to dislike him. Some folk here apparently didn’t feel that he let Simone talk enough, for example.

    I’m perfectly happy for Tested to include a range of guests of different backgrounds, with the expectation that some of them will rub me the wrong way. À chacun son goût, and all that.

  48. You also make good points. Are there other combinations of Tested contributors that would give Simone more room to be heard? I think a discussion with Norm, Simone, and Frank would be worth trying. There certainly seems to be scope for shared interests.

  49. I haven’t seen the post on YT and won’t bother after reading the reflections of the members here. I don’t understand the “pretentious” comment at all. I think he was being very generous in answering the questions that were asked. Many artists don’t like to discuss their work flow or thought process’s so calling him pretentious is a little confusing.

  50. I totally think that lineup would be a dynamic that I would love to listen to. At the same time I think we should not be saving gender equity for some special event or safe space. As an audience we should discuss these issues, push them to the front of the comments section and make sites like this a more inclusive and interesting place.

    A shame for this thread to be such a side-note. I wish people would be less afraid of the implied “incorrectness” associated with biased behaviour and be more interested in improvement (of self and community).

    We’ve all listened to Adam talking about the power of embracing mistakes. I make them all the time when it comes to issues of gender and beyond. But I’ve benefitted immensely from critical conversation and accepting that I was wrong.

  51. I can appreciate that members here feel strongly about
    gender equality and are willing to speak openly about it. However I have to
    personally question its place here in this particular thread.

    I’ve watched and listed to this podcast and all other from
    the Tested team, and not once have they been exclusive or acted as her
    feedback, input, or contribution should be less or controlled in some way. Just because she didn’t get equal time in
    this discussion isn’t a sign of unfair treatment. This isn’t a political debate, it’s a free form
    discussion, and that discussion gravitated to mostly Tom speaking about his
    work, and outside of that Will because he brought up the subject and knows the
    work enough to comment and interact.

    Others have sited Norm’s sometimes quiet listening approach
    to some of these discussions and would agree that Simone appears engaged and
    attentive and is brought into the discussion at several point. They asked her
    for her input, in an effort to include.

    I would also point out, Tested hired her, a woman, as
    replacement for Will. That speaks volumes.

    That said, I would also point out that the same effort to create
    an air of ‘inclusiveness’ with commentary like this in these comments, may be
    doing the exact opposite. Creating a false sense of unfairness to insert a point
    of contention suggest personal motives that probably should be addressed
    internally. Specifically for some, making the point publicly and as often as
    possible become one own brand of pride, inserting the point and the brave defense of
    that point everywhere as heroic. I’m not
    suggesting that’s happening here, only that it does happen, and most often its
    men, who rush in to defend the female point of view.

    I would point out doing that, is actually quite gender insensitive,
    reinforcing the idea that all women are weak and need a man’s help to be saved.

    I don’t have any exposure to Simone outside of her recent appearances
    on Tested but here is what I can gather, she’s a smart, capable, woman who
    impressed Adam and Norm enough to hire her as their new third. She’s been
    active and contributed in all discussions. I would also point out that she
    herself said in this very podcast that she was uncomfortable putting gender
    issues as part of discussion, specifically when it was brought up my Tom in her
    work. The work reflects femininity in some ways naturally, because its made by
    a woman from her point of view, but not because its sole purpose was to comment
    on that, and she said so directly.

    My impression of Simone based on that is she is happy and
    capable of defending herself and if she wanted to be a part of that discussion,
    she would have, but instead focused on listening. A choice, not an imposed
    situation. I would expect that anyone could
    find support of that in the video or past action to suggest anything less.

    I would counter that if you want an example worth speaking
    up about, and making an effort to change thinking, then express outrage or at
    least concern for the recent treatment of Leslie Jones from the new
    Ghostbusters movie. Those are examples of attacks. I would however also point
    out, that she didn’t need anyone to come to her rescue, she did quite the
    amazing job standing up for herself, and expecting that and supporting that, is
    treating her equal.

  52. I think I understand your position. However some of your points here are somewhat problematic. I’d like to re-enforce the idea that perhaps passive sexism (the brand which I feel present in the podcast) just as insidious as overt sexism (as in the case of Leslie Jones) as it forms the bedrock for our collective behaviour and expectations. The same way cultural views on status correlate the likelihood of violence. It’s the base of the pyramid.

    The fact that you focus a whole section of you appraisal on the character of a commenter (lets face it, you meant me) speaks volumes about the nature of your reaction. I choose to bring this issue up here not as a self esteem exercise. I saw a thing that I’ve seen in my daily life (and in fact been guilty of myself), a thing that I’ve been told by people on the receiving end and people who work with these issues that it is their life and it’s immobilising.

    I choose to bring it up here because I know this is not a community of overt bias. It is a community that openly wants to learn.

    Please feel free to PM me if you’d like to discuss where the reality on this situation might lie. I’d love to discuss the intricacies of passive sexism with you because, as I’ve said, I’m no expert; and discussion is about finding new truths.

    Final note: standing up for women in no universe implies they’re weak. Speaking for them is entirely problematic – a stanza which I try to avoid. Whether you agree with my viewpoint or not, I think that it’s totally logical and non-oppressive to have voiced my sighting on bias – based within the framework of systems of oppression.

  53. “The fact that you focus a whole section of you appraisal on the
    character of a commenter (lets face it, you meant me)”

    Actually, no, your post and a few others reflect a trend in my opinion, and
    I referenced them in general in order to make the point that in my opinion is counterproductive.
    Your response any others didn’t actually provide enough evidence to suggest
    specific egotism. I spoke to the trend in general.

    I wouldn’t bother with a personal attack, even passively it doesn’t promote
    a positive environment or feed discussion which is why I commented.

    “standing up for women in no universe implies they’re weak.”

    It does if they don’t need it. Themes of the classic damsel in distress have
    infiltrated popular culture at its deepest roots and can be tracked back to
    some of the earliest writings. Because of that history, action on their behalf
    as a male, under the presumption your making is loaded shaped by that history
    and refreshes the mentality that made that kind of symbolism acceptable. The
    trend of this kind of commenting contributes to that in my opinion. I didn’t
    suggest that a man shouldn’t defend a woman, but that this case didn’t warrant that
    when there is a cost.

    Consider this. Are you defending the person or the gender, if the later is
    that fair to the person, who in this case actually expressed distaste for that
    kind of gender classification? Her response to Tom’s suggesting her feminist
    position in her robot’s design was clear, she wants her and her work to be
    viewed solely on its own merit, as a reflection of her as a person, not as a
    woman, which I respect and appreciate. In some case discussion of any topic, not
    just this one, doesn’t serve a real universal good.

    Lastly you make claim of “perhaps passive sexism (the brand which I
    feel present in the podcast)” without any evidence or detail to support
    it. I noted I observed the opposite and countered with comparison to Norm’s own
    reaction to some discussions. I would recommend you share those specifics as an
    educational exercise, but also to provide the actors you accuse of this
    behavior an opportunity to respond or at least consider so they can decide for
    themselves and maybe act differently.

    I don’t feel either exhibited that behavior, but perhaps we’re all socially
    blind to it and could be enlightened.

    I will say here’s what I observed and what I consider is the opposite. Tom
    Sachs, though most don’t know it, is an art rockstar who makes hyper
    intellectual work. Just as many in these comments made clear, that can be
    difficult to deal with especially in person. He does telegraph and authority as
    a thinker and because of his position in the art world, that carries some
    physical presence but don’t feel it can be interpreted as machismo or oppressive.

    Personally that would be intimidating to be around. I would also consider
    that new to the role and experience of being a host and commenter takes time to
    adjust to, and perhaps (we don’t know for certain) she’s working into her
    stride, or maybe she just didn’t have anything to say. I Anyone regardless of sex, ability, or
    experience, would have trouble interjecting into Tom’s description. It’s well
    practiced and honed on probably countless discussions in galleries, museums,
    and in presentations about the work. When it was done, the show was over. He
    had said everything really can be said under those conditions, what was there
    to add for anyone, Simone or Will.

  54. That is a very fitting name for that comment!

    It’s often interesting for me to hear artists talk about their work or their process. It seems like a world so alien to me.

    I often get that feeling of “What would it be like to see the world to this person’s eyes?”.

  55. I’ll attempt to deal with your response chronologically.

    Firstly, it is interesting that you can identify the difference between a cultural expression and an individual one when deflecting accusations of blaming, but can’t quite understand it in the context of sexism. In the same way that according to you, I am an agent of a cultural phenomena (calling out sexism – no matter how ‘small’), the men in this video are in fact agents of a cultural bias that is incredibly ancient and thus very hard to distil.

    The idea that a minority sometimes doesn’t need support or for their power status to be identified shows me that you don’t understand the issue of passive sexism. If you search any key term I’ve used you will no doubt find a trove of insights by people much smarter than the both of us.

    The action I take is conscious and not based of the idea that I am protecting people. I am trying to progress our culture by practicing and vocalising the ideas that I’ve come to see as important. As I’ve written to you privately: I can see with your reference to the ‘damsel in distress’ trope that you have done some preliminary ‘reading’ on the topic of sexism. I might suggest doing some more on the topic of the flow of power and also ideas of passive sexism – google will have what you’re looking for. Representations in pop culture is one step higher on the pyramid that I alluded to in my response to you. More prevalent, harder to spot and understand but just as dangerous.

    Your paragraph questioning who I’m protecting really has too much misidentification for me to personally be able to pull apart – a copout, I know. I will say that I share your admiration for Simone’s approach to engaging with her work as is. Highlighting passive biased behaviour is always aimed at global good but perhaps it is only ‘bad’ for people who refuse to recognise their own.

    Next paragraph, again deals incorrectly with the idea of blame and evidence. Do we need evidence to show us that minorities, be it ethic, gender or sexual, are disempowered in conversation and in life? Look at any socio-economic statistic, people in positions of power, people in prisons, pay gaps, on movie screens, pretty much anywhere. These things do not exist in a vacuum, they are the eventuality of a society that talks around and at these people due to bias or the fact that their character traits are encouraged through bias. We need to work from a presumption of collective guilt rather than “show me where he’s being sexist”. I know that sounds sad but it is a small sacrifice for us privileged people to make in order to progress as a whole.

    As I’ve discussed earlier, while Tom is talented and passionate, he in some way – however small – owes his fame and encouragement to the fact that he is male in a system that has a preference for them. In the same way that he recognises the african diaspora in his work. When he or any of us are interacting with any form of marginalised persons (and I’ll remind you that Norm is a person of colour so the same discussion applies) we must recognise what traits of ours might have come to be at the expense of another person and try to even everyones participation in an interaction through whatever devices we have at our disposal.

    Next time you are talking to a person who is in some way less empowered than yourself, try to see the similarities in behaviours that you attribute to ‘newness’ or ‘shyness’ or them ‘just being like that’ and try to note your own behaviour and think of what dynamics birthed the two. I think you’ll find that its not just isolated to this podcast, it’s all around us. We should not blame or feel blamed, we should just start up a new consciousness around power dynamics.

  56. Thanks Tahl

    I appreciate both the public and private dialog. I realize in hindsight that
    responding point to point of each others argument isn’t getting anywhere and
    digressing beyond either of our intended points. My apologies for framing it that way, it wasn’t intended as an attack, but that type of framing makes that kind of impression.

    I am familiar with the topic, I just don’t agree with its evidence here.

    I’ll try to clarify and focus instead on the podcast itself.

    I think in fairness to the accused and for the betterment of the group you hopefully
    want to inform, it would help identify what specific actions in this podcast you identify as
    sexist behavior.

    That kind of specific constructive feedback would seem more likely to lead to self assessment and possibly behavior change.

    I’m not asking because I disagree, but because I’d like to understand your point of view.

  57. Agreed, I’m glad to be having this kind of discussion. You’re right, let’s stick to the content.

    As noted in my previous comments this was a matter a of a sexist dynamic rather than overtly sexist behaviour. And I think the idea of affirmative action should have been employed. When Simone would most often respond with some kind of feedback to Tom’s analysis of his work, Tom and Will would take as more of an interview question than a method of steering discussion. They only ask questions and put the ball back in her court when she disagrees with them (possibly a generalisation but that was the dynamic to the best of my memory). There are obviously some extraneous variables in play to do with Tom’s fame tipping the presumptions of the nature of discussion. I think however the principles of affirmative action are useful for anyone interested in how to avoid a dynamic that perpetuates power imbalances – whether you think it was present in this podcast or not.

  58. Curious to hear if anyone can explain what is pretentious or self absorbed about Tom’s discussion?

    I think the people using the word “pretentious” aren’t quite elaborating enough on what they’re trying to explain. What they really mean is Tom is the type of artist who finds meaning in everything. I went to art school and I was surrounded by this type of thinking; I couldn’t stand it. I am a strong believer in people being able to think anyway they please, but when it’s in your face it really gets on my nerves.

    You could make a painting for the simple reason of the beauty of the subject but people with Tom’s way of looking at the world will see the same simple painting but find some sort of super important meaning hidden in it; a meaning you certainly never intended. Finding new meaning can be a cool and interesting thing, but not always. You can see him doing this with Simone’s lipstick robot. She just made it because she thinks it’s funny but to Tom it has this whole other level of meaning about femininity and he acts as if that’s what she really intended which clearly she finds offensive. When he tells her about the meaning of the robot as if it’s some fact of the way of the world, that the act of making that robot at all is some sort of statement about femininity, he’s telling her that she doesn’t know what she’s really feeling and that he knows more than she does. I think this is where the word “pretentious” comes in.

    They actually summed this all up pretty well during the podcast:

    Simone: “To me in the projects I do, I shy away from having a reason to do them because people always ask me ‘why do you do it’, and I’m like ‘why not?’ I think the building process is a reason in itself, and it feels for you like there’s a lot of reason around it and a lot of focus on the reason as well.”

    Tom: “Well I think there’s probably more reasons behind why you build them than you’re admitting. Or that you’re even aware of.”

    I’m just…I can’t even.

  59. @Talaaya

    I have to agree I winced when I heard Tom say that as well. It does seem a bit too much like art school drone. I think the intent was to open her to a deeper possibility, but disagree with the idea that art exists in spite of the artists intent.

    I believe he saw those feminist tropes in her work because they come from his experience. I’m not a fan of the idea that art is where it isn’t intended. It devalues the effort an artist makes to suggest it can be art without their hand. I’m of the opinion that art can’t be art until an artists makes it into art, that same thing untouched, can be artful, beautiful, meaningful, but not a work of art alone. Not without the action of making it an expression.

    I’m also adverse to that kind of thinking because its too often the hallmark of the worst kind of pseudo-intellectual artist who is more than happy to let their audience drive the intent and latch on the adoration of complex ideas that were not actually those of the maker. Its lazy and awful and more often than not, what most ‘high minded’ art stems from, which is a tremendous disservice to those who do act and work with complex intent.

    In the end its a ‘does a tree falling in the woods make a sound if there’s nobody to hear it’ problem. The answer to that questions is simple. Yes. “SPLAT” when it lands on a pile of bad artists trying to hear it.

  60. YouTube comments once again filled with vitriol, though I can perhaps understand why many listeners were confused.

    Tom was great in the talking room, it’s unfortunate he was in this podcast format as I feel when he’s not bouncing off someone one-to-one who’s familiar with his work & can give context to the audience, his train of conversation can be quite hard to follow as he discusses his work. Especially if listeners are at work & not giving their full attention.

    He’s a great artist who’s work is perhaps a little unsuited to the podcast format.

  61. The youtube comments on this are hilarious, you can feel their burning desire for the comfort of the norm (small N).

    This isn’t even close to normal conceptual artist levels of pretension, this is just a guy who makes great looking shit, thinks about things and is willing to tell you what he’s thinking. Occasionally he overlays his ideas on other peoples processes, and is obviously wrong, but who doesn’t do that.

    He also sounds lightly toasted.

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