Last month I was asked to write four articles about art in Dubai for the website of a London based organisation called Art Review. When the offer came I was delighted. Somebody was actually offering to pay me for writing this shit ?? Brilliant!
Of course it isn't that simple and the past month has put me off writing for money ever again. First this was a very casual arrangement. No contract. No clear brief and a suggested word count that was half the size of what was necessary.
Then there was the editorial problem. When the person who commissions the articles really wants to be doing it themselves, there is an inevitable editorial imposition of their view, which at times differed considerably from mine. This was particularly acute when changes made seemed to play to certain prejudices while I assumed the articles were there to inform these otherwise.
Another difficulty which was actually a shock to me was realising the extreme western-centric view of what is happening here in terms of art and culture. At one point this resulted in an editorial insertion about what constituted 'progress' which I had to ask to be removed.
To be fair the first two articles were not too bad but tensions crept in at number 3 and by number 4 I just wanted it to be over. Also number 4 was about Art Dubai which was the least interesting for me to write. A big contemporary art fair is a big contemporary art fair wherever it's held. Apart from the flamboyant, dubious, paranoid or just plain weird people that can turn up on preview nights, they are a bit like sales conferences. I wasn't crazy about them in London so the interest value here is only in terms of Art Dubai's relationship with what is happening on the ground and how it contributes to other non commercial development. Of course nobody here seems aware of the notion of non-commercial development but I realise this is my problem and that everybody except me actually embraces this reality! I am trying to change my attitude! I am also trying to accept that 'press release' and 'newspaper report' are synonymous... but that's a tough one too ...