Doug Fishbone / Lecture


I am now commencing my second year and my first Gravity Lecture started with guest speaker, Doug Fishbone, American born, London based film, performance and installation artist.

Fishbone set out the whole lecture by asking, “How do you determine the value of an Artwork?” which he loosely based his lecture on.

Doug Fishbone presenting his lecture, telling the audience a joke about an octopus. Image is my own, taken on iPhone 4.

The lecture overall was excellent, he spoke with utter passion about his work which is something that you want from a lecture, he kept his audience engaged and entertained throughout with his spontaneous humour, telling jokes at each and every interval and this made his lecture so great and memorable leaving you with the wish that every lecture should be like this, he had his audience enthralled where as so many other lectures become over serious, it was so refreshing to have a guest present this way.

Fishbone used the lecture to discuss several pieces of his work, which I will discuss later but he also used his time to give us ‘useful tips’ for creating projects and how to get into the art industry and by using his own experiences he came up with a list of top tips.

Tips for projects:

  • Make them interesting
  • Make them visual, not too text heavy – can be dry/too abstract (in the sense of needing a statement to support the work, not to be confused with the use of text based art).
  • Go easy on Art speak
  • Remember you are trying to sell them something, make it both attractive and intriguing
  • Consider the ‘Aura’ of the Artwork in a gallery.
  • Look for opportunities, be persistent
  • You sell the “sizzle” not the “steak”
  • You are only as good as your last project

It was really useful to hear such helpful tips from an artist and to actually see their successes alongside them.  Going into an Art Gallery you never really take into account how much effort each art work has behind it, how much persistence and pushing it has taken to get their work out there, it was really important for me to see this giving me much aspiration for the future.


Returning to Fishbone’s presentation he discussed several piece of his work including;

Elmina, a film that explored the Nigerian film industry which opened at Tate. Hypno Project, where he hypnotised an audience to explore the idea of propaganda in advertising and how images are able to change our behaviour without us actually knowing – Fishbone created a two screen installation to convey this.

Made in China, a project where he explored how in a village in China that reproduces famous paintings to sell around the world, creating a contradiction, all being handmade and unique, holding an artistic creation but yet still considered mass produced, this asked the question, “is it still an Artwork in it’s own right?”.

Doug Fishbone with his Project ‘Made in China’, featuring the real and commissioned fake  painting of Fragonards ‘Young Woman’. Image sourced from –!102

To prove this theory Fishbone produced an original piece, ‘Young Woman’ by Jean-Honore Fragonards and placed it alongside the fake that he commissioned in China, in Dulwich Gallery, then he asked the public which was the real one?  Only 11% answered that the false was indeed a fake.

I really liked Fishbone’s theory of Made in China as it really makes you considered how easily it is to be deceived.  He only paid $88 for the fake and yet most of the public he asked thought this was the original, it brings up how we all visit art galleries and stand in awe of their works and yet any one piece could be a fake, questioning why we need to have this authentication even if they have the same qualities?

The final artwork Fishbone discussed was ‘Doug Fishbone’s –  Leisure Land Golf’.  This was a sculptural installation piece where he asked artists to create a design for crazy golf holes.  Here he gave another tip; when you start a project, let people know, as it can create many opportunities- in his case he created this ‘Artist Mini Golf’, which was featured in the Venice Biennale Art festival May-July 2015.  A  well received piece where the audience could interact and play with the art which visually looks fun but is actually a quite serious piece deriving from political and ethical issues that have occurred in the world and in history raising my questions and issues making it quite edgy.


Again I really appreciated this piece, fun to play and aesthetic to the eye but how problematic it can be that once you play you enter into playing with many big issues that the world holds, such a well received piece by the public, showing the importance of the art as it has clearly brought several issues to light.


Fishbone ended his lecture with the words, “By failing to prepare, you prepare to fail”, a quote from Benjamin Franklin.  What a fantastic way to end such an inspiring lecture, Fishbone enthralled and captured his audience and showed how persistence, enthusiasm and effort really do pay off.

Find Fishbone at –


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