The cod often casts an eye on our behaviour with our propensity to take paths that lead to misery, both politically and aesthetically. So, in this instance, I feel that it’s my duty to let the cod speak directly.
“To put it bluntly, how is it that you haven’t sorted out the idea of your so-called postmodern period; that all started way back in the 1960’s. Also, there is this rather annoying element of the ‘enlightenment’ as a way of thinking, that pervaded the modern movement, that, as Baudelaire put it, ‘Modernity is to develop objective science, universal morality and autonomous art according to their inner logic’. That kind of thinking was in the 19th century, a move towards the emancipation and the enrichment of life. In art you called it progress through the meta-narrative. All that appears to have been ditched. You’re floundering in a mess of pastiche and kitsch in the arts in this present day.
It’s time you saw that time and space have altered through compression of both. Space and time in art have become something different to the modern idea. You humans have not risen to the challenge completely. If the modern was drawn to the idea of reason through the enlightenment, where did it leave the freedom of the artist? Globalization, too, has to question the idea of freedom of the artist. What is freedom? Is it possible? If I come back again to look at what you humans are doing to resolve these important issues and you have not countered them intelligently I will have to do some more thinking.”
I have to listen to my dear old friend or the seas will get even more turbulent. So, my next move, just in case Cod of Codswallop might break the silence, is to set up a collaboration connecting Codswallop with Falmouth University. This event is a performance of dancers, performance artists, a musician, two narrators and two surveillance cameras with projections, with drawings on the ground. The artists will examine postmodern ideas in relationship with the enlightenment and the state of the arts today. They will form a microcosm of the world as it is. Trapped as we are in a cash flow of corrupted economics, cultural mimicry and a circulatory set of ideas brought about by the stench of reason and commerce.
I don’t want to be here. The title of the performance signifies the desperation of the artist and their protest. I don’t want to be here trapped in networks of control where values have no meaning except in whirling systems of profit and loss, greed, and exploitation. But as the performance indicates, we fight. We fight ideas of cause and effect, we fight for chaos and imagination against reason. We fight the border guards and heed the voices of the narration as they voice the adventure of not knowing. Not knowing where action will take us, or what kind of reality we will create, is our condition. We explore the realities of culture today to arrive at the ‘Reality of the Trap’. We are sleepwalking into an abyss of our own making. What the Cod in Codswallop is saying is that artists have a duty and a responsibility to actively present the predicament not only of the cultural environment but also of our minds. The media slides like worms into innate values of human vitality. My material is in paint and performance, nevertheless I need to speak because I don’t want to be here. The trap as a real place, the border guards are real, the surveillance cameras are real. We fight in the name of art through art. Time and space is still the province of the artist. Today the compression of both point to confusion. The need is to challenge the idea of a single and objective sense of time and space against which we can measure the diversity of human conceptions and perceptions.

Ken Turner

Volume 32 no 6 July/August 2018 p 5

51 thoughts on “Speakeasy

  1. Hi Ken,
    Did you send over a cod to inspire this woman’s masterful performance in NYC?

    While Natasha highlights the foolishness of men, she protests an archaic dating system and barriers put up by society. Nor does she want “to be here trapped in networks of control where values have no meaning”. Though somewhat comical, she does get her message across with her very well orchestrated and artistic performance.

      1. Thank you for the information; as soon as there’s a date for the performance in Falmouth, please let us know somewhere that’s visible online. A small group of Cod Ladies would like to come over for this.

  2. Maestro Turner,
    Where does all this leave freedom of the artist?
    We fight in the name of art through art with space still the province of the artist.

    1. The latest Banksy update:

      “The transformed work has been given a new title, Love Is in the Bin, and has been granted a certificate by Pest Control, Banksy’s authentication body.
      The buyer, a female European collector and a longstanding client of Sotheby’s, confirmed on Thursday that she would proceed with the £1.04m deal. “When the hammer came down last week and the work was shredded, I was at first shocked, but gradually I began to realise that I would end up with my own piece of art history,” she said. ……
      Sotheby’s plans to show the new artwork at its London galleries on 13 and 14 October, before its presumed delivery to the buyer.
      Alex Branczik, Sotheby’s head of contemporary art, Europe, said: “Banksy didn’t destroy an artwork in the auction, he created one. Following his surprise intervention on the night, we are pleased to confirm the sale of the artist’s newly titled Love Is in the Bin, the first artwork in history to have been created live during an auction.”

  3. “We fight in the name of art through art.” It’s just what Banksy is doing through his art, what the cod in codswallop is doing through Ken Turner’s performances, brave artists that they are. Banksy has had over 8,000,000 views to his Instagram account, with that number rising vertiginously every minute. These numbers are an indication of not only curiosity, but of a generalized sense of dissatisfaction with what’s going on in the art world.

    1. With nearly 12 million views to Banksy’s Instagram account so far, I wonder who is behind this elusive artist. Is it dissatisfaction, or is it just someone who is having fun at the expense of the “important” buyers? I cannot imagine that Banksy is alone; there is most probably an organization behind him/her.

    2. Hi Mortimer,
      Lambert Zuidervaart wrote “Autonomous art both affirms and criticizes the society to which it belongs. This combination of affirmation and criticism is inextricable from its autonomy.” (from The Social Significance of Autonomous Art: Adorno and Bürger – jstor)
      Banksy criticized the bourgeois society which was attending Sotheby’s auction by shredding his so-called art work in public. Sotheby’s in some way must have led the woman from Europe, who had bid on the painting, to believe that the “artwork” she was purchasing was now part of art history, thus affirming the work’s value today. (Never lose a sale if you can help it.) This affirmation is what Banksy was aiming for. What will it be worth in 30 years’ time? Anything?
      In a way the woman and her shreds have become a part of art history, and she can soon carefully go home with her little pile of paper and add it to her collection. I imagine her friends at the dinner party she will organize to show off her latest purchase and piece of art history. Surely she must certainly count herself lucky to have been able to spend over $1 million in such a useful way.

  4. I think we have another Codswallop here.
    In the Wan Chai area of Hong Kong, Sotheby’s auctioned off Xu Zhen’s s Supermarket for approximately $200,000 for the right to be built wherever the buyer desires. The supermarket contains everything a normal minimart contains, just that there’s nothing inside any of the packaging – no contents. The man who bought it said, “…is it a bargain or have I played into the hands of someone eager to show how gullible art collectors are?” I am in agreement on what Ken Turner wrote, as though in answer to what Xu Zhen is trying to say, “Time and space is still the province of the artist. … The need is to challenge the idea of a single and objective sense of time and space against which we can measure the diversity of human conceptions and perceptions.” Xu Zhen in an interview with The Collector says, ““The market is like air. It’s everywhere,” he says. “Every day you make judgments based on signals from the market. You can even think of an auction as an exhibition, or that the market – any market – is like an exhibition hall.”


  5. Hi Ken,

    How do you imagine a microcosm of the world? Could you possibly describe it here?

    I know that you are also a painter, where and when will your next exhibition be?

    Thank you,

  6. Can anyone tell me why this area of the magazine is called “Speakeasy”? During prohibition in the US a speakeasy was a bar or store that sold illegal liquor. I have been reading the New Art Examiner’s Speakeasy articles for a while and can’t find anything illegal or controversial in them. A more appropriate name might be Speaker’s Corner, where the speaker/writer takes center stage.

    1. The history of the NAE is unique. It was born into a society that did not welcome the new arrival. An 8-page tabloid in Chicago that proclaimed as an editorial identity “Without Fear of Favour.No we are not illegal but we are controversial. Though in my opinion, this should not be so, the Art elite of Museums and Academia find it difficult to recognize the quality of what we publish. Speakeasy is an expression of free speech and Independence. With a nuanced attempt at humor. A password into our club.Derek Guthrie co-founder and publisher.

  7. Our world is defined by 4 control mechanisms that are part of these networks of control that Ken Turner refers to. The control can be selective, passive, direct and collaborative, while the networks can be inclusive or exclusive on a global scale, thus the power of globalisation. Not only are social networks controlling our minds, playing on our vulnerabilities, they are influencing our lives at all levels, stealing our creativity and free thought. on a global scale, while transforming how we think, live and act. We are trapped in our networks, in particular our online information networks that make us believe we are truly connected at all levels.
    “Last month scientists at Tufts University announced that they had created a sensor that can be mounted on a tooth to track diet quality and make tailored nutritional recommendations.
    Around the same time, Microsoft announced that it had developed software that could translate Chinese to English as fast and as accurately as a human. To top it off, just last week the world learned that there is now a robot that can autonomously assemble furniture.
    Such stories make it clear: to read the science and technology news today is to see a world of rapid progress and infinite potential. And from one perspective it is. But we believe that now is a good time to remind everyone of a fundamental limitation of the ability of technology to make the world a better place. All of these advances in one way or another rely on the internet – a tool which remains foreign to over half of the world’s population.”
    In my opinion, fortunately only 50% of the world is connected to the internet. The 50% which is disconnected, albeit living mostly in conditions of poverty, are the people who are free of the burden of this information or conditioning and are those free to think, to create and to become the artists of tomorrow.

    1. Is Art Smothered? The NAE wants to believe in artists. It seems PC has won the day Or Social media. Bansky makes significant gestures with his images. images, He touches a raw nerve.

      1. Banksy’s very delicate ballet dancer on a tightrope which does not support her at all is emblematic of the current situation, where the aesthetics of the visual arts are only misleadingly supported, a very fragile situation. Much of today’s artwork, though worthy of merit, goes totally unnoticed, wasted and never displayed, remaining in the darkness of artists’ studios or garages. How many millions of paintings, sculptures, drawings, and so on get no notice, while countless works of what I think represent worthless junk are exhibited in the museums and galleries that “count” today, all the same names at exorbitant prices?

  8. What is it that attracts everyone to Codswallop? I’ve been following this phenomenon for a few months now and really do wonder. I think it might be the transgression from the mainstream art world, that frankly, has become boring. Codswallop appears to offer a window of creativity, stemming from the rebellious Ken Turner, who I understand is in his nineties. Does it take a 90 year old man to tell us that we are all sleeping and letting it pass us by? I think he has made his point and look forward to his next work.

    1. Hi Nicky,
      People are not only attracted to Codswallop, they are consoled that someone has opened up a platform for the truth. Looking at numbers, there have been over 5,000 readers of this article which is an indication of the power of the Codswallop message. I believe Ken Turner is really on to something.

      1. I feel that I and the cod have to say something about the interest in codswallop.
        Codswallop is a means to work subversively as an art form. For many years, that is since 1968, the year of revolt for some of us is where I began be leaving London’s west end galleries, (after three solo shows), to just take to the streets. Where I established ‘Action Space’ to work outside institutions and established an artists run organisation. I haven’t stopped, though Action Space ceased in 1978 because there is still a need in today’s in contemporary arts to counteract the absurdity of the art market. Banksy himself is subject to the pressures of the commodity market and his work is now collected, torn off walls to appear in auctions. Ron English has bought a Banksy for a large sum and is going to whitewash it out of reach of the greedy speculators.
        Some talk about freedom, but that is an impossible state to achieve, and one we should not even contemplate. The only possible way to work against the onslaught of the financial market is to take heed of one’s conscience, that is where essential values of humanity really exist and in that place freedom of another kind can thrive.

        1. I agree with Pendery. Why is Ken Turner not recognized in Cornwall St Ives.? A good question that needs an answer. Ken is known to all in the Cultural community. He is dismissed as being too old. the Tate Gallery St Ives is consumed with trendy. That is what can be sold as fashionable. Culture is stuck. The Media is useless as it works on the lowest common denominator of a provincial populism. Ken Turner is a very intelligent and informed man. In my opinion, he is too idealistic for the St Ives crowd who are hell-bent in their commitment to keeping alive a tradition of abstraction that died on the vine many years ago. Codswallop has struck a cord in the International Art Community, through a small cord it is a significant achievement. I suggest to any readers they read Ken Turner’s words a penetrating opinion on the sad state of our decayed Art World. Now St Ives and Cornwall have access through the New Art to an informed International Community. Unfortunately, there is a power struggle in place, Simply called Art Politics.

          1. I feel that it’s necessary to give at least a date for the start of rehearsals at Falmouth, which is 4th February, from there we will need to raise funds to continue, and continue we will regardless of success in raising funds.
            The Cod expects us to squarely face the issues I, and he raised on questions that are so important to art’s survival in the public realm: if not it will remain as an underground, undercurrent of activity until it breaks through the stupidity of so called intelligent human beings.
            Thank you all for such interest, I am heartened and good cheer for the future.

  9. Knock, knock Mr Codswallop, are you there? Are you perhaps sleeping and letting it pass you by? Cod Lady here would like to know what you think. Come on and roll up your sleeves; get involved and bring out the cod in you. I’ve been waiting for weeks for you to get involved, but sadly, no further comment here from you. Did Banksy shred your tongue?

  10. Having personally had the opportunity to visit Ken Turner’s studio just outside St Ives in Cornwall, I ask why his important work is not being covered and written about more, why it’s not being shown more around the world? Why is it not being discussed and examined? I found his work nothing short of exceptional, as it witnesses his philosophy and thinking done with paint. Hard to describe, I had a very moving experience with his display, or rather dance, that he created with his paintings. It was truly unique and worthy of a film so that others could perhaps witness in part this experience.

  11. A Brexit minimart exhibition has opened in London under the name of Costupper. It has on display tired flowers, a couple of oranges in an empty crate, butter labelled with “I Can’t Believe the Price of this Butter”, “Conman’s Mustard”, “Tomato Botchup” and other items parodying how the shops will be after Brexit. Unfortunately, this highly creative exhibition closed yesterday after only 2 days.

  12. Hi Ken,
    You wrote, “Globalization, too, has to question the idea of freedom of the artist.” What is globalization in your opinion? Isn’t it just a phenomenon of the capitalistic world, which excludes many underdeveloped countries? I see it as a homogenization of our culture, our beliefs and our creativity, with the end result that today’s artists have little to say that is original, except what everyone else is saying in the art world or rather in the global village. However the less developed countries fare no better, as their artists try to copy what is going on in the rest of the world. I agree with you that we are all trapped in networks of control and would like to know where it all will lead to. No one seems to rebel because people have become powerless and incapable of thinking on their own, myself included.

  13. Happy New Year to Ken Turner and the Codswallop Movement from the Cod Ladies! We look forward to your performance in Falmouth in the spring. Is there a date so that we can make our plane reservations?

    1. May I ask dear Cod Ladies who you all are and what your role is in the Codswallop Movement?
      I, too, would be interested in knowing the date of the next performance in Falmouth.

      1. Hi Giovanni,
        We are a group of 11 female artists from various parts of the world, who are fed up with established art. One of us was in St Ives when Ken Turner had his famous Codswallop performance. Since then, thanks to an artist residency in Nice, we have united in support of this movement which for us means fighting the fake art world out there and the “institutions” that represent it. We would like to meet up in Falmouth at Ken’s next performance. I come from Queens in New York, but other Cod Ladies come from Bangor, Maine, Rio, New Delhi, Hong Kong, Guangzhou, London, Singapore, Istanbul, Plymouth in the UK and Osaka. Would you like to join us as a Cod Lord?

        1. You have all failed; just the fact that you are a group of 11 female artists says it all – hopeless, to say the least.

          1. Hi Karen,
            Does it really matter that we are male or female artists? Perhaps you would like to join us in our endeavor. Come to Falmouth (UK) for the next Codswallop performance so that we can meet and perhaps go forward with a strategy to combat what we are talking about. Let’s hope that Ken Turner gives us a date soon for his next Codswallop performance so that we can organize in time.

          2. Hi Karen,
            In part I agree with you, but we must also look at the fact that they have organized a small protest group at an international level that is fed up with the state of the arts today, increasing their impact because they are from various countries around the world. What I don’t like is that they distinguish themselves as a group of female artists vs. a group of male artists, when they should just be a group of artists. Women must stop setting themselves apart because it makes them lose some of their worthiness, especially when we still read in the news today about the first women to be in certain high level positions or the first to have won such and such a prize. It is very limiting, while highlighting the differences of women’s achievements regarding men’s. It’s time we just recognize ourselves as people or individuals.
            I, too, would like to know when the next Codswallop performance is so that I can come down from Exeter to see it.

  14. Hi Ken,
    Why the choice of the codfish as your symbol? Does the cod have some sort of special power for you like the Kwakiutl First Nations Indians believed? For them the lunar eclipse was “caused by a codfish trying to swallow the moon” and they would make “a large bonfire and add green boughs to produce dense smoke, which causes the codfish to cough and spit out the moon.” (from Jim Oooooo’s book, What I Did on My Summer Vacation Or North to Alaska: An Inside Passage Cruise, p. 102).

  15. Hi Ken,
    Though I find this article very challenging in more ways than one, I would very much like to read more writings by you. Where can I find them?
    Thank you and best wishes,

  16. We need to step back a moment and look at the work that this man has done and is still doing today! Why is the clamour so silent? What are people afraid of? Afraid that they will be awakened to take action and to all start Codswalloping or Banksying their work? It is high time we open our doors and minds to change; there is no place for fear or inaction.

  17. Hi Ken,
    Have you seen what Nan Goldin is doing with her protest of the Sackler funding at the National Portrait Gallery in London? She is rightly protesting the “networks of control where values have no meaning except in whirling systems of profit and loss, greed, and exploitation.” It’s time we stood up to these institutions, though I think the gallery will probably find a way to unload her and take the £1m, even if it is dirty money earned off the profits of OxyContin. Besides, her boycott will only give them more press coverage than perhaps her exhibition would give.

    Article first published in Newscabal:

  18. Nearly one year has passed since I first read this Speakeasy, but I have often had it in my mind as a very meaningful piece of writing on the state of the art world today. How “we can measure the diversity of human conceptions and perceptions” is what struck me most when I saw this building in Peru with a very artistic facade. It’s an example of Codswallop in action. The staircases of the building go only to the 4th floor, the rest of the building is left to the imagination of the viewers, with open windows visible from the street; it looks fully functional. It is the facade of our lives and of what is taking place in the art world today.

    1. Yes Rob, it could be seen as a facade that hides the nothing of art as this building hides the nonsense of education in universities in England that shut down the arts and humanities, The facade build by celebrities, auction houses, collectors and dealers who protect their economic interest to the detriment of the arts and humanities, Indeed to life itself. Thank you for the sight of this building that signifies and symbolizes the state of the arts and education today not just in Lima, Peru but globally as well.

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