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CoDT: [Intro] On Bush’s Paintings

The Chronicles of Dim Tim

By Paul McLean


Everything that is not infinite, which is to say, all finitudes, all subjects of Time, the subjective, are prone to uncertainty. If fate exists, the fate of finite subjects is the ontology of uncertainty. Which is not to say that the chronologically subjected must submit to this fate. Realization is a sign of the rejection of enslavement to uncertainty. The abandonment of subjectivity reflects objectivity, even if the action as such is mimetic. A time-subject can only pretend to the objective of objectivity, since Time is the only Object. Pretense and mimesis are closed loop dynamics when co-configured. Triangulated with perception, or to be specific, a mobile perceptual complex capacitated to generate a conceptual analysis, pretense and mimesis plus concept generation produce the imaginary, which is obviously, inherently contingent, in its self-relating, -affecting and –effecting, reductive qualities. Subjectivity is not only prone to uncertainty, it is prone to illusion (or self-delusion), as a causal, looping feature of the self in the context of fate. How to free oneself is the question, and it is not an easy question to answer, for every answer to that question is absolutely unique, but always identical to every other correct answer to the question in consequence.

Possibly, the first idea that must be smashed is that the answer is to be found in timelessness. There truly is no such thing. – Dim Tim, EotW + 19



In this era of crisis and catastrophe, we have a new facet to the malaise. We discovered that the former ineloquent President of the United States is an artist. We learned that he is fond of the autoportrait, and his preferred scenario is located in the washroom.

The paintings by George W. Bush, leaked by GUCCIFER, reveal much about the reflexive nature of the “Art World,” and about critique practice, taste, prejudices toward craft, and the assumption that a person’s innate character can be determined by degree – deduced - through analysis of that person’s exercise of formal expression.  Most importantly, these new works of art reinforce the meme that everyone, even political operative-psychopaths, can be artists.

I am reminded of the oeuvre of serial murderer John Wayne Gacy’s, of his garish and terrifying clowns. Some art writers have linked Bush’s art to Winston Churchill, which is a boon to the one and not the other, and probably not fair to either painter.

It is difficult to compose any thought on the subject not colored by irony. The phenomenon is a perplexity on the whole, a conundrum. The fact that the pervasively despised and toxic figure Bush is drawn to the plastic arts short circuits embedded notions about his drives amongst the culturati.

I would argue that the revelation that Bush paints for pleasure indicates his affinity for the heroic, and his concern for his legacy. Therefore, we can judge him to be fearfully misguided, even delusional. At the least, we can acknowledge Bush’s deeply flawed perceptual apparatus.

It is unfortunate that Baudrillard missed this moment.  It is equally unfortunate, but in a very different way, that the task of responding to the Bush painting leak is assigned to the likes of Jerry Saltz and his wife Roberta Smith. Less bright stars in the constellation of public art criticism would be well advised to survey the “ground” on which this media event unfolds, its spatial qualities, its laws and the forces that apply.

The interiority of Bush is inhabited also by the likes of Dick Cheney, infamous torture memos, “Victory” over Iraq, the founding of Gitmo, and much worse. The internal Bush topology includes his ancestors, his father, mother and brothers, and a host of shades as fearful as any contrived by any poet, including Poe. That the toilet paintings of the second President Bush do not communicate anything of this darkness is a horror to ponder, indeed.


The nature of the disclosure of Bush’s amateur painting habit to the public, the leaking of the painting couplet’s digitized versions along with thousands of the ex-President’s private emails by a pseudonymous hacker, is itself phenomenal. No American leader, with the possible exception of current President Obama, has borne more responsibility for undermining the virtual personal privacy of U.S. citizens than Bush. That anyone would defend Bush’s privacy in the digital domain is prima facie astonishing, and an act of chutzpah.

Thus, the (on Bush’s part) involuntary dispersion of his “private” paintings must be seen in terms of reckoning. If he experiences some embarrassment in the course of the paintings’ subsequent critical deconstruction, Bush’s angst ought to be weighed in light of moral e-causality, a technology-enabled form of karma.

It might be, and probably will be, argued by extreme voices in the critical classes, especially of the left - among which we can find those who believe Bush ought to be imprisoned for some of his Presidential actions – that, in a just world, the former President would be breaking rocks, not making clumsy paintings. Maybe so, maybe so.

Not every prison permits its inmates the luxuries of paint, brush, easel, canvas, and the other tools of the painter. It ought in context to be remembered that international indictments have been filed against Bush and a handful of his cohorts, which is a reason why the former President’s travel engagements have been limited to the domestic. I recall a story about an inmate who painted with M&M’s candies, using the dyes from the candy to do his pictures.  The authorities eventually removed that privilege. Tragic. An art world enamored with alterity periodically trots out inmate paintings, lunatic paintings, Outsider paintings. Bush’s paintings somehow seem appropriate to the genre.

Whether the arts have a humanizing, restorative or therapeutic effect on the criminal is a question for penal specialists, of whom I am not one. Nonetheless, the point is moot in one respect. Bush is unlikely to ever be jailed for his bad Presidential behavior. He belongs to a class of un-prosecuted or under-prosecuted criminals, real persons and artificial personhoods, whose activities, often superlatively heinous, go unpunished, due to their Untouchable status in courts of law.

Artists in free societies enjoy special privileges, it’s true, but Bush the artist has enjoyed protections the average artist can only dream of. The President is secured through the auspices of the Secret Service. His networks include extremely dangerous people. He has often said anything he wanted, sometimes badly, and suffered no physical consequences for doing so, other than having the odd shoe hurled at him (which he deftly dodged). Bush 43 is also now very much acclimated to people mocking him. He has experienced caricature as few have. Perhaps he thought those days were behind him, that his hermitage in Kennebunkport would avail him respite. Not so.


If only W had taken to painting in the beginning. How his life might have been different!

One wonders if, after having been bitten by the art bug, Bush now thinks of his life in sum as a kind of artwork. Hitler, we learned, had aspirations to be an artist. The conjecture is not entirely unfeasible. It seems Bush is capable of justifying anything through rationalization. Why not re-organize his existence via the art lens?

On our side, we can justify considering Bush in his totality as an artist through the mechanics of the Creative in society. We have theoretical precedents and arguments galore to ratify a new assessment of W according to the no-rule rules of modern art. If Beuys and Warhol were right, we can genuinely re-analyze the Bush phenomenon holistically as a product of the fungible art of living. Let’s entertain the notion that everyone, even W is an artist, and that everything an artist does is art, and that, as Creative Time posits programmatically, that living itself is a form of art.

Are there criteria for this conjecture? Whatever the protestations and stylized pantomimes of The Enflamed Critics might suggest, malpractice in painting, or art in general, isn’t tantamount to wrecking the global economy. Bush didn’t sign the crash of 2007, but he could have, or should have. Would the financial collapse (for the 99%) be more tolerable, if we understood it to be a function of George W. Bush’s art?

I can see the E-flux release: “The ex-President artist, embraces authorship only when it suits him creatively. He engages in both innovative collective practice, an iteration of neo-systems game, and more traditional object-based solo work. Bush is exploring contemporaneity and precarity as an enforced condition on the Other, while maintaining a certain critical distance in his practice from the audience, outside the realm of cybernetic effects, situated himself, or at least as a version of himself, inside the spheres of cause. For Bush, authorship is only the beginning of a chain of irruptive events converging at last in the frame of representation, a rhizome with roots in a wholly constructed (simulation/Real) toggling scenario. As an artist composed of multiple selves, Bush experiments in revolving architectures, spanning the political, commercial, social and aesthetic, but never seems to lose his naked self, no matter how complex the arc of his trajectory might appear to the viewer, even the qualified observer. Bush abhors criticism, but invites it, and so we have tension. Only in the quasi-secret worlds he inhabits, the one described in his peculiar paintings, do we find Bush releasing this tension, in actuality and pictorially, simultaneously. ‘What is he doing in that bathtub?’ we must ask!”

One answer might be: fostering huge disparities in wealth distribution, undermining U.S. sovereignty through fiscal subterfuge, starting wars that take hundreds of thousands of lives and weaken the American military, institutionalizing a propaganda machine for a hybrid corporate-government machine, establishing torture and illegal surveillance programs, nurturing a U.S. prison state, and so on. Bush as President did all these things, or protected those who did. He lavished Wall Street with special beneficence, and the extraction and exploitation industries, too, enabling evil firms, individuals and even regimes to run amuck, without real consequence beyond the periodic and paltry payoff, the rare cost incurred by serial criminal enterprises and syndicates now.

He might also be jerking off. Which is what these paintings look like.

Clay Patrick McBride Shoot Vidz in 4D

Video treatment by Paul McLean
[source content by CPM Studio]

Paul does a photo shoot with Clay Patrick McBride in Williamsburg, BK
[video courtesy CPM + crew]

Raw vidz. Photos coming soon.

New purpink hair for PJM by Chelsea Pickthorn + Jocelyn [Bushwick, BK/Jefferson St. L stop].

PickthornBK rox!