2016 Ordinary Guild Councillor Chad Bensky and his loathsome associates have long been a scourge on UWA. The university’s lack of culture and soul is no better concentrated than in Benksy’s Instagram account, @benskysbrunch, a manifestation of a series of harmful social media trends. It’s non-ironic, conciliatory, and more harmful than one might immediately assume. It affirms Western imperialism and denies inherent senescence.
It’s Bad Art, and I won’t have it.
The fallacy of this entire account is contained in its title. ‘Brunch’ is a buzzword, but it’s also an important ritual for many esteemed Guild personalities. A form of social authentication, Brunch connotes a sense of normalcy that will gain you acceptance into an exclusive group. Bensky has chosen to carry this egregious and misplaced philosophy into the digital sphere, by dedicating a whole account to the ceremony surrounding Brunch.
His photos may be badly taken and completely unoriginal, but more infuriating is that they are simply unnecessary. What is his aim here? One can only assume this is an act of derision towards those experiencing homelessness and famine. Bensky’s entire feed can be seen as a humble promotion of his own first world status, and a remittance to those not fortunate enough to experience it. ‘We have so much food we can pause to photograph it,’ or so the philosophy must go. His publications, collectively, can be read as an impugnment of charities such as World Vision and the Red Cross. Where they give, he and his friends consume. Bensky’s Instagram is one scrolling advertisement for capitalist supremacy. He might as well bite the bullet and begin to advertise crude oil at this point.
Harold Bloom wrote “in the genius of Instagram as an Art form is consecrated an ability to reach both within and beyond your own social circle, in order to exchange philosophies and contribute to the authentic global discourse” Here he succinctly identifies the inherent paradox of @benskysbrunch- Bensky posts photos of food to evidence social ability, yet his audience are absolutely lacking it, meaning his posts fall on deaf ears. The type of detestable ‘UWA personality’ to which he is marketing knows no ‘brunch’ outside of their own ecosystem. @benskysbrunch is an exercise in Sisyphean self-depreciation, whereby none of his photos make any notable impact on the milquetoast normies he begs to appeal to.
This brings us to the sparse positives of Bensky’s account. He at least spares us from the more egregious University centric content popular among most of his ilk. (find the IG of that guy in your lecture who was campaigning for Star or Liberty – I guarantee you most photos relate directly to UWA. These people have nothing else to post about.) If I was really pushed on a second positive I’d say I can’t fault Bensky on his editing. His filtering is subtle, and where utilised yields tasteful effect.
I’ll leave it to the reader to decide whether these are really positives, or merely less disgusting negatives. I had originally intended to laud his choice of venue; among his roster of coffee houses are Harvest Espresso, Felix & Co. and Addison & Steele. The latter is undoubtedly the best coffee service in Perth, and initially I was impressed with Bensky’s patronage.
Upon further consideration, Bensky’s endorsement of these establishments is the most harmful aspect of his whole enterprise. I am loathe to think he has any influence over the customer base of such nirvanas, which for the time being remain relatively virgin. Bensky represents the kind of normie that has the potential to ruin Perth’s blossoming cultural cathedrals. Stick to the Tenth State with your Kyle Sandilands Coca Cola Snapback Pop Mac DeMarco Low class Nike Iced Latte Mainstream bullsh**, Chad.
The content here is so detestable I began to think it must be an ironic provocation of current culture. Here I must pause to play devil’s advocate, and provide a more generous reading of Bensky’s work:
If we take it as a mockery, his account is an apotheosis of post-modernist cultural criticism, a super subtle news media exploration of greed and selfhood in the contemporary climate, in the same vein as Ai Weiwei or Tillman. The miserable collection of portraiture here, if driven by such cerebral concept, may indeed exist as the artistic satire of Pierro Manzoni updated for our digital age.
The notable lack of self representation in Bensky’s Instagram, through this lens, is perhaps his great master stroke – in a Kafkaesque dissolution of the Self, Bensky satirises the very people he purports to accept, and exists as a mirror for the atrocious normie culture he exists within. This presents cognitive dissonance in terms of figurative magnetism; his photographs both attract and repel.
After reading Brave New World, Gertrude Stein, in her fantastic wit, commented “Aldous Huxley writes like a dead man.” Even a brief look at the brunch photos on this feed reveals the opposite is true of Bensky. He is clearly not familiar with the Hagakure, and expresses no engagement with any idea of death, literal or otherwise. Each photo is a shrine to Bensky’s willing ignorance towards global disorder and the futility of micro-utopia. There’s a war going on in Pakistan, and these people wouldn’t even know it.
What’s perhaps most disappointing about this whole situation is the sheer amount of photos Bensky has uploaded. At current he has 142 photos comprising his account. What possessed Bensky to think it was necessary, or indeed appropriate, to share such a volume of work? Surely not the quality, since general feedback has been lukewarm for some time, albeit previously un-manifested in critical discourse. I don’t mean to try answer this question – I genuinely can’t for the life of me explain why he has allowed this to continue. There’s simply no merit in the exercise anymore, for him or the viewer. Nothing has any Kantian aesthetic spirit, there is none of Danto’s ‘embodied meaning,’ and he isn’t even creating controversy in the more contemporary tradition of Hirst.
Perhaps that last point is not entirely true. Francis Halsall describes a system of contemporary Art whereby Hirst cultivates publicity around his collection, and is thus able to maintain his high status in the Art World. She writes:
“Every damning column inch, book or radio and television program which condemns Hirst and his influence contributes to a self-fulfilling cycle of positive feedback. Hence, with every act of reflection, the system becomes ‘locked in’ around these examples. News breeds news.”
The idea of such a ‘hype’ system is no new phenomenon – again, the pop music and cinema worlds are full of examples of such marketing in recent times. Halsall’s diagnosis of the system behind Hirst’s art reveals the inherent fault in the hostile criticism offered by me here. Though just in my challenge, the very act of expressing it only empowers Bensky and validates his system further.
I am guilty for endorsing him even through criticism, and for that I emphatically apologise. Someone had to call him out. I will conclude by noting the injustice of his measurable followers. At current he has 635 disciplines on his journey through artistic sciolism.
If Haruki Murakami knew what an iPhone was, his Instagram would look something like @pharoahsanderson [hmm, this appears to be the author’s own Instagram account – eds], and yet that account goes without the same attention as Bensky’s white-devil sophistry. This is why Hirst is worth $900 million, it’s why Dylan Thomas died hungry- the masses simply don’t appreciate good art anymore. Still, we must allow @benskysbrunch to exist. George Washington once said “If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.” Then again, George Washington was a slave owner. Bensky’s Instagram is detestable, but I suppose he at least doesn’t own any slaves.
Though in retrospect, I wouldn’t call those 600 followers entirely free.
Words by Harry Sanderson
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