Tag Archives: art speak


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.

Play Artbollocks Bingo!

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


4 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 we’re going to demystify the inflated artist person. Look, we just are, OK? Don’t ask me how.

I seriously doubt that anybody could tell from the text what (if anything) the press release pertained to or was meant to promote, so I’ll have to explicitly say that it was a group exhibition in Vienna at the end of 2013. We all missed it. What a shame.

Play Artbollocks Bingo!

Keep watching after the credit to see all ten of the takes that were required before I could correctly say “a critique of institutional structures of authorship or their representational politics of normative gender roles and ethnicity.” This is a perfect opportunity for me to air out one of my favourite quotes about writing and its relationship to the voice. While working on one of the Star Wars films, Harrison Ford had an outburst at George Lucas about the latter’s apparent inability to write dialogue for humans: “You can type this shit, George, but you can’t say it.”

The same goes here. Even if your writing is only meant to live on the page, if a person can’t say it aloud then it will also be nigh impossible even to read silently. In this regard you should also remember that in (Western) antiquity, those few who could read at all would read any lengthy text aloud. It was considered weird and rather suspect when early theologians and philosophers started reading books silently in their heads. Writing should always be readable in the abstract and in the physiological, literal senses of the word. You may recall the phrase “writer’s voice”, usually related to the necessity of finding it. It doesn’t just mean finding a readable, unique version of yourself in your writing. It also means don’t be the page-based equivalent of the person whose droning voice and endless, unpunctuated monologues make others lose the will to live.

“I could go on about critiques of institutional structures of authorship or their representational politics of normative gender roles and ethnicity, but I’m probably boring you.”

There are many reasons why artists appear as fictive persons or anonymously in a collective and create narratives situated between fiction and reality: as reference to gaps or blind spots in an otherwise discursively safeguarded canon, as a critique of institutional structures of authorship or their representational politics of normative gender roles and ethnicity, as protection from political persecution, and, last, not least, to demystify the inflated figure of the artist person.

Continue reading


28 Mar

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 week’s artist is doing a lot of boring stuff. ON. PURPOSE. My mind is blown.

Play Artbollocks Bingo!

Sofia Hultén (b. 1972 in Stockholm, lives in Berlin) delicately occupies herself in her videos, installations, sculptures and photographs with the wide variety of opportunities for action. By reconstructing or rearranging courses of events she explores in the process banal everyday procedures like eating an apple as well as the character and history of profane objects with little value like a worn piece of wood or an old toolbox she finds at construction or demolition sites. She hence regularly succeeds in breaking through conventional patterns of perception and tracing unknown dimensions in the everyday.

The second sentence is nearly fifty words long and completely unpunctuated. Try reading it aloud and making it sound interesting and informative. I failed, obviously. In fact I think I almost lost the will to live about halfway through that sentence. Punctuation: use it. As for “tracing unknown dimensions in the everyday”… seriously? How does one even trace an unknown dimension? This isn’t Ghostbusters, lady. Science-y handwaving about perception and unknown dimensions needs to stay in the script for Doctor Who, where it belongs.

I am undoubtedly mispronouncing this woman’s name and for that I apologise to any Swedes who might be reading. Look on the bright side though, dear Swedes, she lives in Berlin now. Not that the Germans deserve her, either. Of course she lives in Berlin. There’s no pretentious, overblown artist like a pretentious, overblown Berlin artist.

Continue reading


21 Mar

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 week we erase the lasting and iniquitous effects of colonialism by vandalising high school textbooks. Who knew it was so easy? Somebody should have told Gandhi. Montezuma? The fool should have just done some cut ups with the Conquistadors’ books and everything would have been OK.

Bonus: play Artbollocks Bingo with me!

The ongoing exhibition and production project titled Margin of Error, now opening as a show at Tasneem Gallery in Barcelona, constitutes Magnetic Declination’s first public intervention, and premieres the first instalment of the group’s planned cinematic work, which will include further releases in the future.

Magnetic Declination is a research and production group formed by theorists, curators, and visual artists. DM’s work is based on post- and de-colonial approaches that seek to dismantle the imagery and the discourses underpinning Spain’s mainstream historical narratives. In parallel, DM (note: their own abbreviation of Declination Magnetic, which is lucky because I’d have been really bored and annoyed having to say it repeatedly) also explores hybrid methodologies arising from the intersection of different artistic and research strategies in the field of practice and knowledge production.

Intervention– DING! Postcolonial– DING! Decolonial– DING! Discourses– DING! Narrative– DING! Hybrid– DING! Methodologies– DING! Intersection– DING! Research– DING! Strategies– DING! Knowledge production– DING!

No plan can involve further releases in the past because this is a logical, semantic and chronological impossibility unless you’re a time traveller. Which they aren’t. The third singular present tense of the modal verb “will” already indicates something to come. Therefore the whole sentence is redundant from the final comma onwards (“…which will…”), because we’ve already been told it’s the first instalment of planned work. 50% of the entire first sentence-paragraph is filler.

DM’s main line of work at the moment comprises a series of short audio-visual productions where different fictional, non-fictional, and essay-like styles and formats are mobilised in a re-examination of Spain’s (and Europe’s) colonial background as it unfolds historically into the present, especially in the light of the current global crisis.

Margin of Error is a critical re-assessment of past and present-day coloniality focusing on the dominant narrative construction of historical events such as the ‘Discovery’ and the Conquest of America, as they are reflected in text-books used in schools in Spain. Besides deconstructing the assemblage of graphic discourses, visual materials and textual constructs found in official school books, the project also surveys alternative uses of the same educational resources, as new possibilities arise through an exploration of group dynamics involving secondary school teachers and students.

“Group dynamics involving secondary school teachers and students”? First time I’ve ever heard it called that. Continue reading


14 Mar

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 like soil? Are you interested in the self? Not soiling yourself. That’s a different thing. No, this is how one of the artists describes his oeuvre as represented in an exhibition of South Korean artists at Mindy Solomon Gallery in Miami. For the purposes of this week’s reading I’ve mashed up several of the artists’ statements into one incoherent whole. In as much as one can generalise, I’ve rarely come away disappointed from exhibitions by South Korean artists. Whatever the Korean equivalent of je ne sais quoi is, I think many of them have it. Google unhelpfully translates je ne sais quoi as eotteon 어떤, “any”. Yes, Korean artists have any. Thanks Google, you arsehole.

Where was I? I think Korean artists are generally quite interesting, and even if they weren’t I’d usually give them some slack for writing in a foreign language because I sure as hell couldn’t write one in Korean. However, since this gallery is in Florida that consideration is not relevant because the gallery is responsible for making sure their publicity material, catalogues and interpretation texts don’t inadvertently make foreign artists sound like imbeciles.

Talking of imbecility, one thing that probably can’t be put down to translation issues is yet again an artist expressing open disdain for thinking and a concomitant lauding of just doing whatever. Artists used to be renowned for their intelligence and deep thought, didn’t they? When (and why) did it become OK for artists to sneer at thinking? This anti-intellectualism is particularly weird and dissonant when it so often sits right alongside the current fashion for artists to cloak themselves in language that apes social science, physics, psychology and so forth.

Let’s play Artbollocks Bingo!

Ree Soo-Jong says of his pots, in his own words: ‘My work happens through manual kneading of soil, showing its natural, raw aspects and calling for viewers’ instant reflections on the work. Through the unification of soil and self, I intend to reach a primitive essence. The refreshing fascination with nature through soil provides an infinite sense of lifeforce, and also a positive significance to my own life. My work begins with the touching of soil. I think of myself as a very sensitive person who spends more time working rather than thinking; thus, I don’t really care so much about the outcome of my works. Whatever it comes out to be, whether a jar or a human form, the important thing is not the result but rather the breath-like act of rubbing soil and my devotion toward it. It is undeniable that giving real significance to the act of creating itself provides the most delight and meaning for me.’

One of the phrases that should never under any circumstances appear in an artist’s statement or press release is “I don’t really care.” The whole second half of this paragraph raises the question of why we should care or pay any attention to an artist who admits to not caring what we think, and not being bothered at all whether he produces anything provided he can be left alone with his dirt and the touching and the sensitivity.

He actively shows work and is collected in Korea and worldwide, including [blah blah blah].

Woo! He actively shows work! Unlike all those boring artists who passively show work by leaving it face down on the floor in a cellar behind a locked door in the hope that someday a random human will stumble upon it by accident. Incidentally, his work is collected. He isn’t collected. Continue reading


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