The second issue of Manya Scheps’ quarterly critical journal New Asshole launched on the internet recently in .pdf format. The journal, a self-described “DIY critique of DIY,” focuses primarily on goings on among the collective and community-based art scenes in Philadelphia. (Full disclosure–this is a scene I only recently left to pursue a graduate degree, and an article of mine was published in the first issue. It was a piece of writing that the editor copy & pasted from my blog without my prior knowledge.)

New Asshole succeeds, however, in not limiting its scope to the politics of the art scene and extends its grasp to act as a sounding board for critical inquiry within the community. Put simply, it exists to call artists and collectives to task, creating a forum where “DIY,” “hip,” or “rad” art can be discussed critically and held accountable.

In Issue 2, “This Opportunity Comes Once In a Lifetime,” Scheps arranges the various arguments and anecdotes of her contributors in a method reflexive of the way art collectives are described in New Asshole by contributors Roberta Fallon and Libby Rosof (of Philadelphia’s theartblog): “The whole enterprise is utopian and nobody’s embarrassed about cooperating and relying on friends and networks. The collectives are to the core about sharing — ideas, glory, art.”

By this I mean that the whole of the magazine reads like a discussion. It careens between serious theory-driven analysis on the state of the art world (Daniel Wyche, “Aesthetics, Politics, Irony”) and a satirical outline of a fake Professor’s counter-DIY diatribe (Cecilia Corrigan, “Saddle Up Cowbeuys”), between the story of how a DIY artists’ space got shut down (Sharif Abdulmalik, “The Almost Successful Resurrection of Real Aesthetics”) and a take on why noise music usually just isn’t very interesting (Ben Remsen, “Fun Fest”).

Sometimes this sharing isn’t terribly successful. James Rosenthal, a lecturer in Art History at UArts and faculty member for Moore College of Art’s MFA program, for instance, turns in a semi-anecdotal pseudo-review of a popular exhibit on Star Trek that in some segments could be easily dismissed as “goofy.” Further, the aforementioned Fallon/Rosof piece doesn’t seem to fit very well in the publication overall. Yes, they’re talking directly about the same types of art and organizations New Asshole focuses on, but the piece ultimately reads like a public service announcement (literally ending with a paragraph that begins “So listen up …”). In this way New Asshole ends up inadvertently pointing at one of the most interesting elements of the DIY scene: contributors who could be seen as having the most legitimate credentials don’t seem to fit in.

Ultimately New Asshole exists as food for thought about art in the age of personal production. It is a call for the consideration of aesthetics and a critique for a movement where both often fall by the wayside. DIY is a movement that has yet to reach its potential but it has already established a solid foundation on which to grow.

NewAsshole is available in print at AHN/VHS Gallery Philadelphia and online at newasshole.com

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Artie Vierkant

Artie Vierkant is an artist based in San Diego CA and Philadelphia PA. He is currently pursuing his MFA at UC San Diego following an undergraduate degree from the University of Pennysylvania where he studied...