Artists Of The Year

From escapist entertainment to aesthetic ecstasy: Twenty-nine writers script valentines to twelve months of culture


by Michael J. Nelson


Trevor Collis

Mandy Moore has done astounding work in the last year. To begin with, she has made me hear of her. True, I have no concrete idea of who she is or what she wants from me (I assume nothing nefarious), but making me hear of her is no small feat in a crowded field of people wanting me to hear of them. For instance, Billy Crudup wanted me to hear of him, and despite being handicapped by having the name Billy Crudup, he has accomplished it. That guy who's from here--that Josh kid, the one who's in movies? He wanted me to hear of him, and so I did. Granted, he has more work ahead of him if I'm to remember his last name, but he has made strides.

It should be noted that I am old. And while it's true that I don't pen cranky letters to Lou Gelfand, or display my puffy baseball caps in the back window of my '89 Oldsmobile Delta 88, I am unlikely to be seen in the latest, ultra-hip Ace of Base video (the reader is asked to substitute something up-to-date and meaningful here, as even an Ace of Base reference strains the absolute limit of my ability to be current). From the sketchy details I have, I can conclude that I am not in the target audience of a Mandy Moore, and yet she has made me hear of her. Nicely done.

Next year, I'm sure, will prove to be an even bigger year for Ms. Moore. There are rumors that she will be in some sort of movie or sing some sort of song or another, and perhaps wear something revealing on a television program.

As for me...well, my hats are nice. Why shouldn't I show them off?

Michael J. Nelson is the former head writer and star of Mystery Science Theater 3000, and author of Mike Nelson's Movie Megacheese.


by Geoff Dyer


My favorite artist of 2000 is Gavin, definitely.

Having made that statement, I need to qualify it. First, I hope that I've remembered his name correctly. Second, this doesn't actually matter since I use the name synecdochically; that is, he is the representative of a larger group undertaking that I want to applaud and celebrate.

One of the best things at Burning Man 1999 was the HMS Love, a full-scale submarine breaking the surface of the Black Rock Desert. I spent many a happy hour on its sloping, burning deck. I had no idea who made it. This year I spent a similarly happy hour in a mushroom-shaped tower overlooking a big sound system located, if I remember rightly, at the intersection of Ten O'clock and Gut. I got talking to one of the guys who'd built it. A carpenter by trade, he was particularly proud of the tightness of the spiral staircase and the fact that the tower was able to support so many people without collapsing. This guy's name, I'm pretty sure, was Gavin and it was he and his crew who had built the HMS Love the year before. So I'm actually choosing Gavin as my artist of the year as a way of sending a thank-you note to all the people whose names I never learned who contributed to this year's Burning Man, including those whose stuff I didn't even see.

Perhaps I can best express this negatively. A few days after getting back to London from Nevada, I went to an opening at the Serpentine Gallery for a major show by one of the most highly rated Young British Artists, Gillian Wearing. These YBAs and their even younger progeny (like the execrable Gavin Turk) have pretty well conquered the art world and we are all bored stupid by them. The BritArt bubble has burst, but--and this is perhaps its historical novelty--the scene keeps on expanding even after it has burst! As one would expect, this show of Wearing's challenging, radical whatever was ditch-water dull. In terms of eye nourishment, it was the equivalent of about one minute at Black Rock City.

So I'm grateful to Gavin and his like for reducing my part in all conversations about the London art scene to a single response. Asked what I think of Tracey Emin or the Chapman Brothers or any of the others, I respond with a look of sorry-I-don't-speak-the-language bafflement and say, "I've been to Burning Man."

Geoff Dyer is the author of Out of Sheer Rage and Paris Trance. He lives in London.


by Kate Sullivan


The first time I read a single paragraph by columnist Cintra Wilson, I thought, Holy hamsters, why can't everyone write like this? Unfortunately Wilson, the white-hot pop-culture critic-at-large for, is also frustrating: She seems to contribute her first-person essays when she damn well feels like it, or perhaps when the rent is due. And when my personal Queen of Outrage does see fit to bless us with her heat-seeking animus, her work is erratic, manic. She roves among the fields of professional surfing, the evils of Olympic girls' gymnastics, the "fiery wall of cocksmanship" that was the young Mick Jagger, and the genius of Lester Bangs. Sometimes she aims and misses. Yet Wilson is still my angel of literary inspiration these days, and she has given me ineffable joy in the year since I discovered her ranting in the archives of the otherwise snippy Salon.

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