It may surprise some of you to learn that I don’t go out looking for things to annoy me. Since I actually work in the arts and a lot of both my employment and (frankly, sadly) my socialising takes place in galleries and arts organisations, some of the bad work I see is all up in my face whether I actively seek it or not. I would still prefer to like things than not like things. As somebody who works in performance and video I’m particularly invested and interested in– and therefore conflicted about– Tate Modern’s Tanks, which opened a few months ago to provide spaces more suitable than the existing galleries for the presentation of live, ephemeral, performance and interactive art. It took me a while, but I finally got there just before their first programme of work comes to an end, along with Tino Seghal’s long-form live work in the Turbine Hall.
The Tanks are post-industrial, almost science fictional spaces. I wish any architect had recently designed a new, built-from-scratch gallery space in Britain that was anywhere near this inspiring, unique and full of character. The immediate unflattering comparison I’d make is to the dysfunctional Firstsite in Colchester, with its meagre selection of badly planned, sterile, poky spaces that in fact seem inimical to the showing of any and all forms of art, despite it being a purpose built new art gallery. Certainly I never saw anything at Firstsite yet that was flattered by the space rather than having to battle its quirks.
Secondly, I like the fact that the upper echelons of certain parts of the art world are finally waking up to what artists are doing and what they’re interested in now. Thanks for noticing that some of the most interesting, relevant artists around at the moment and in the recent past are once again not (or not just) working with flat objects you can sell and/or nail to a wall. Continue reading
Damien Hirst’s For the Love of God (AKA the diamond-encrusted skull) in the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern. An overhyped, pointless object that was made by a canny half-wit charlatan, the art industry’s village idiot cowering inside a small, mean, dingy hut built at the heart of an immense void. Missing every point there is to miss, and then missing some that nobody else even thought possible. Obviously they were aiming to awe but instead they accidentally ended up with the perfect quasi-Nietzschean metaphor for art as an empty commodity, for the spiritual and moral vacuum at the heart of the YBA ethos and practice, and for Hirst’s life, career and work itself.
SUPPORTED BY YAYOI KUSAMA, 9th FEBRUARY-5th JUNE 2012
I may have this the wrong way around, or I may not. Kusama is now in her eighties, and she’s been working as an artist since the 1950s, so in one sense a major retrospective of her work is long overdue. Possibly somebody thought it was not only overdue but probably also prudent to do one before she drops off the perch, if only to encourage her to bang out a few more paintings WHICH ARE COINCIDENTALLY FOR SALE AT VICTORIA MIRO CONCURRENTLY WITH THIS HUGE EXHIBITION AT BRITAIN’S LARGEST CONTEMPORARY ART INSTITUTION, AN EXHIBITION THAT WILL SURELY HAVE DRIVEN UP DEMAND AND PRICING FOR KUSAMA’S WORK. Funny, that.
There’s an art world insider story about Victoria Miro- one that may just be a funny story with no basis in fact, but in any case as far as I know it’s a story hitherto unreported to civilians- about the way she’s been known to go up behind potential collectors of an artist’s work and whisper things like she’s an absolute genius! in their ear as a way of encouraging them to buy and/or instilling a sense that they’ll be missing out terribly if they don’t commit now. If the story’s true then her marketing technique is equal parts Jiminy Cricket, Jim Jones, Carphone Warehouse salesperson, and schizophrenic head-voice. I think Victoria should have just gone all out and stood outside Tate Modern with a fluorescent GOLF SALE-type sign pointing at her gallery. Continue reading
It’s like the BBC when they just want to pack work in for the holidays and go skiing but they’re officially still at work so they do tons of lazy Top 10s and clip compilations, except mine doesn’t have a panda included as one of its “women of the year”. Here are the most read Career Suicide posts from 2011. These will differ a bit from the top posts in the right-hand menu, because those ones update dynamically every day and take into account things that have been published more recently. The top five below have been calculated over the whole year.
Sorry, I don’t know why I told you that. Even I got bored and started to glaze over.
- #1 THE DEADLY CURATOR In which I use Peter Brook and William Shakespeare to castigate curators who seem intent on deliberately presenting exhibitions that nobody but a Ph.D. researcher would enjoy. Not that there’s necessarily anything wrong with Ph.D. researchers… but most people in the world are not in fact Ph.D. researchers.
- #2 ENGLISH, MOTHERF- -KER, DO YOU SPEAK IT? In which I mark one of Sorcha Dallas gallery’s press releases for content, grammar and comprehension like an English teacher. Spoiler: F- -, see me after the lesson.
- #3 FOR WANT OF A NAIL (IN PRAISE OF ARTSWAY) “Libraries will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no libraries.”
- #4 BRITISH ART SHOW 7: IN THE DAYS OF THE COMET Although they mostly did it in secret for fear of being blackballed, a lot of people really hated this exhibition. I hated it in public.
- #5 TACITA DEAN: FILM This article was really popular. Obviously Tacita Dean is… not so popular.
The installation in question was ‘The Coral Reef’ and the students in question were traipsing dutifully but warily through one of Nelson’s characteristic labyrinths of old doors, grotty vestibules, vacated office spaces and the like. Opening a door, I found myself almost literally nose to nose with three of these overfed children wearing adult bodies. They looked at me in horror for a moment. Incidentally, I didn’t look particularly horrifying. No more than usual, anyway. They just seemed to be noticing for the first time that other people in London actually existed as independently willed entities and not just as compliant, facilitating waiters or hotel receptionists. Then I moved past them and out of the room. The students remained rooted to the spot and silent until they thought I was gone, then one of them exclaimed “Hey, there’s a guy in here!”– half in indignation, half in warning to the others (I think there were ten or so in total) and entirely inaccurately since I was no longer in the room with him.
So from that point on I enjoyed the installation even more by creeping around so as to appear unexpectedly behind them, making doors groan ominously, whistling eerie tunes or skittering across a doorway at the periphery of their vision, horror movie style. Of course I could always tell where they were because American tourists seem physiologically incapable of lowering their voices to levels considered acceptable to Europeans or indeed of even walking as quietly as Europeans do; for American youths this goes double or triple. They do deserve some credit for being in an art gallery, though, instead of clogging up the pavement outside the Houses of Parliament or having lunch at an Angus Steak House or doing any of the other stupid, unimaginative nonsense that American tourists do in London. I’ll give them that.
Their clueless presence greatly enhanced my enjoyment of ‘The Coral Reef’. Whether they enjoyed the experience quite to the extent that I did is another matter. Call me sadistic, but to be honest if I thought they did enjoy being stalked it would kind of spoil the memory of it for me.
Now I’ve written this, one of them will probably sue me for causing intentional psychological distress and giving them persistent nightmares about scary English men looming at them out of cupboards.