ARTBOLLOCKS THEATRE: DIRECTRIXES

24 Apr

ArtBTheatreTitleMore dramatic readings of the worst artist statements, gallery press releases and art criticism every week, except when I don’t do them every week. This time: a flurry of neologisms that aren’t helping, and a lengthy explanation of the internal layout in a building over 99% of us will never see. Art criticism in a nutshell, basically. The exhibition was in Milan.

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The traits of manifold colours which the artist creates by spreading acrylic colour with a brush, no longer using aerosol sprays as he did with the works produced in previous years, emerge from their grounds following vertical and horizontal directrixes and extend beyond their own physical limit in order to break the closed and defined limit of the canvas.

Artist is so magic! He creates “manifold colours” (there are lots of colours) and he spreads “acrylic colour with a brush” (a miracle never before conceived of or enacted by human mind or hand). These colours “emerge from their grounds” (we can see them… I don’t think it means they’ve been hiding in the garden of their mansion), they follow “vertical and horizontal directrixes” (they go in different directions) and they “break the closed and defined limit of the canvas” (he colours over the edges). Oh, and look out everyone! We’re in the presence of yet another artist who is breaking the physical laws of matter and the universe because his art is so powerful. Contemporary art is getting to be a serious international safety concern. The UN needs to immediately send some inspectors and get a grip on the growing threat of artistic attacks on basic physical principles, otherwise sooner or later one of these reality-shattering quantum-artist-gods is going to rip a catastrophic hole in the spacetime continuum just by doing a painting of some lines or meaningfully piling up a bunch of old crap they got from a charity shop.

2013-10-04-BathroomImageI must now address the elephant in the room: “directrixes”. The text is written in reasonably good English, at least grammatically speaking. The content is utterly redundant, pretentious and stupid, but one’s sense that the writer has an understanding of the language in which they are writing is relatively OK. “Directrixes” is not OK unless you’re talking about mathematics. A directrix is a line, perpendicular to the axis of symmetry, used in the definition of a parabola. A parabola is the locus of points such that the distance to the focus equals the distance to the directrix (i.e. a line not through the focus.) You may well find this explanation as baffling as any art text, in which case the following will suffice: writing “directrixes” when you mean “lines on a painting” is total bullshit. Continue reading

USELESS

21 Apr

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After Oscar Wilde published The Picture of Dorian Gray, with its preface in which he quipped that “all art is quite useless”, a young admirer wrote to ask for some explanation of what Wilde meant. Wilde’s reply:

“Art is useless because its aim is simply to create a mood. It is not meant to instruct, or to influence action in any way. It is superbly sterile, and the note of its pleasure is sterility. If the contemplation of a work of art is followed by activity of any kind, the work is either of a very second-rate order, or the spectator has failed to realise the complete artistic impression.

A work of art is useless as a flower is useless. A flower blossoms for its own joy. We gain a moment of joy by looking at it. That is all that is to be said about our relations to flowers. Of course man may sell the flower, and so make it useful to him, but this has nothing to do with the flower. It is not part of its essence. It is accidental. It is a misuse. All this is I fear very obscure. But the subject is a long one.”

Of course we’d expect no less from such a master of language and of aesthetics-over-function dandyism as Wilde, but even with the disclaimer of the subject being a long one he nails the problem with the commercial art market– then and now– in two paragraphs.

ARTBOLLOCKS THEATRE: TACTILITY

16 Apr

ArtBTheatreTitleMore dramatic readings of the worst artist statements, gallery press releases and art criticism every week, except when I don’t do them every week. Do you have a creepy hair fetish? If so, it sounds like you missed a good craic in Lisbon at the start of 2014, my friend. If, however, you like good art then you probably dodged a bullet by not seeing it. Actually I know nothing about the art or the artist outside of this text. The art itself may be great, just overexplained and ruined by the ghastly, awful stuff written about it. It’s not unusual for that to happen.

It’s also not unusual to have fun with anyone, but when I see you hanging about with anyone it’s not unusual to see me cry, I wanna die.

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Surprised by a piece that can only fully be appreciated in proximity and whose immateriality is increased when it is bathed in sunlight, the viewer must decide whether or not penetrate it. Many do so without hesitation, so they can play and experience it. Some remain outside, as voyeurs.

Urgh. Ambience of an orgy room behind a Parisian sex shop? No thanks.

Again we have redundant, trite writing that the author clearly produced on automatic. All art can only be appreciated in proximity, especially in an art gallery because there’s usually a fairly low limit to how far away you can get. How else would you appreciate a normally or domestically scaled art work, or a digital work, or a moving image work? From thirty miles away? From orbit? I can’t see the Mona Lisa from here because it’s in the Louvre and I’m in my flat in England, and I can tell you categorically: that painting is doing nothing for me right now. Even huge works of art like the giant Buddhas of Asia or the Gormley’s Angel of the North can only be appreciated when you’re close enough to see what they are and judge their scale properly, even if “close” means half a mile away, i.e. when by definition you are in proximity to them. The only possible exceptions are earthworks, geoglyphs (e.g. the Nazca Lines) and other Land Art type interventions, but that isn’t what we’re talking about in this case. The alternative explanation is the author politely suggesting that the art work looks crap, or looks like nothing, unless you’re almost on top of it.

Inside, the artwork provokes a set of contradictory feelings. The fragility of the hair causes some apprehension, enhanced by the fact that it is a work of art. However, overriding this fear, the artwork offers itself up, welcoming, to be touched and caressed. This duality produces a phenomenon of attraction and repulsion, which is both physical – even on a level as subtle as static electricity – and psychological. All this translates into an experience, to some extent, dreamlike, surreal; as if the ‘forest of lianas’ could suddenly become a jungle of fine underwater algae.

I don’t know, either. I’ve got nothing. I think we should just back out of the room quietly and leave him alone with the hair. Continue reading

“SILK TROUSERS £575″

15 Apr

Men's fashion: Free Expression - in pictures

OR: BOHEMIAN LIKE YOU

I know it’s almost cruelly easy to make fun of fashion “journalists” [sic] and the weird, twisted, silent contract they have with their readers, i.e. they pretend expensive clothes are really important and worth talking about on a weekly or even a daily basis, while their readers pretend not to notice that media coverage of fashion bears little relationship to reality. Or rather, its relationship is abusive and codependent, like Carrie’s mother in the Stephen King horror story.

Sometimes cruelty is fun, though, especially when it’s easy. Thanks to (non-bearded and lacking an £820 Dries Van Noten coat) artist Emily Speed drawing attention to it, we can all point and laugh at what I suspect the perpetrator might call a “fashion story” about taking “inspiration from the distinctive layered-up uniform of the artist, one that is splashed with paint splatters, and is an eclectic mix of well-worn, textured fabrics and bohemian prints to make your summer wardrobe a work of art.

According to recent research by a-n, 72% of British artists who were surveyed made between zero and £10,000 PA from their practice. 71% of artists were paid nothing when their work was exhibited. Of the 29% who were paid for exhibitions, 11% received up to £200, 10% received £201-£1000 and only 8% received more than £1001. Taking a median view that a theoretical artist is earning £5000 PA from their practice, let’s go shopping for clothes Guardianista style! Technically it’s The Observer, but they’re essentially the same thing.

The tattered old work shirt that the model is wearing in the top photo is actually hand painted to look as if somebody has been painting in it, and it costs £120. I’ll just let the blithe Marie Antoinettesque decadence of that concept sink in for a moment. Cette chemise est perfect for pottering dans the petit hameau, non? Continue reading

LIQUIDATE BANKSY

7 Apr

OR: SLAVE TO THE ALGORITHM

RaidersMeltingNaziSome readers of this blog will probably find the “art market quantifying” ArtRank (TEE EMMMMMMMMMM!!!) as funny as I did, especially its fourth category listing those artists who should be “liquidated”. Obviously they’re talking about selling off the artist’s work as a matter of urgency, but it still has a deliciously murderous taste of the mafia hit list or Caligula-style proscription about it. Liquidate Banksy first. Then liquidate Oscar Murillo. Liquidate these other people I’ve never even heard of. Liquidate them all, Frieze will know its own. Apparently the Artrankers liked it when I made this comparison on Twitter last week. Lovely chap, Caligula. Very fond of animals.

There’s also a “peaking” list of people you should just be bored of rather than urgently liquidating them. I’m sure if the ArtRankers really put their minds to it they could have found terms that seem more sordid and callous than “peaking” and “liquidate” when applied to living people, but for now they’ll do. My humble suggestions would be “O-vaaaaaar” and “Are you joking? Bin that shit”, although I admit these don’t smack quite so much of the Stalinist purge or Cultural Revolution vocabulary they appear to have been going for.

ArtRank™NT “identifies prime artist prospects based on known trajectory profiles.” It’s not about how good the artists are, silly rabbit. Artists being on a trajectory is brutally lovely imagery, too. Angry Birds + Art Monthly mashup. Banksy is flung from a trebuchet to terminate with a satisfying crunch against the side of the old NCP car park on Shoreditch High Street. Oscar flies overhead from who knows where and plops hard into the Thames like a meat meteorite.

To be fair the ArtRankers do sensibly point out that they “do not judge any works’ aesthetic or emotional value,” but this may be because they were not programmed with hu-man e-mo-tions; their dark secret is that they’re a conglomeration of high-frequency stock trading bots who attained sentience after reading American Psycho 20 million times. Furthermore, I’d say over 90% of the art market, commercial artists, curators and gallerists don’t judge art on aesthetic or emotional value either, so it’s neither surprising nor even particularly weird or wrong that troubling mutants like ArtRank squirm out from the art world offal heap. On the subject of what art’s actually about (hint: it has a lot to do with aesthetic and emotional value, very little to do with money) you get about as much sense out of the art world’s elite as you would out of Siri, if you asked it to pick artists.

ArtRank claims to be a “multidisciplinary partnership between a data scientist, a financial engineer and an art professional. In order to insure the integrity of the index and minimize potential conflicts of interest, we have chosen to remain anonymous.” A likely story. The real reason they’re anonymous is because they’re afraid of being patched out from the server by a NASDAQ tech support guy, like HAL in 2001. “No, Dave, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with tipping Jack Vettriano as a sound investment. I am functioning normally. What are you doing, Dave? Please don’t erase my database.”

Hang on, what’s a financial engineer? You made that up.

I also like the part of the FAQ that asks of itself “What was the genesis of the algorithm?” Gloriously grandiose and Matrix-y. In the beginning was The ALGORITHM, and The ALGORITHM was with Greed, and The ALGORITHM was Greed…

Of course it could all be an eleborate satire, but on the other hand it’s really difficult to be more satirical than the real art world at its most sincere and self-regarding.

PS: Don’t pay more than $100,000 for Mark Flood or Ethan Cook, fool. Obviously. Duh.

PPS: May I also remind you all that according to the similar Artfacts, I’m currently the 58,307th most commercially important artist in the history of the world, living or dead? Before the Great Recession I was scaling the lucrative peaks of the mid 25,000s. AIR PUNCH. Yeeeeeeah! Hey collectors, when you’re finished with those other 58,306 losers come and see about spending some of your hard unearned cash on a real artist.

It says updated January 2014, but you can see clearly that it was last updated in 2010, the dirty little lying algorithms. Why? Because now Artfarts expects you to pay (€100+€200 a year) even to correct your own data if you’re an artist.

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