“My art has been commended as being strongly vaginal, which bothers some men. The word itself makes some men uncomfortable. Vagina. Yes, they don’t like hearing it and find it difficult to say, whereas without batting an eye a man will refer to his dick or his rod or his ‘Johnson’.” Maude Lebowski
You don’t need me to tell you that the Coen Brothers’ film The Big Lebowski is a classic; just ask the internet. It’s also remarkable for having two painfully accurate satires of contemporary artists in it. The art talk and Julianne Moore’s mid-Atlantic Sylvia Plath drawl, geometric hair and snotty attitude are all perfectly observed, and hilarious. In fact there’s three painfully accurate satires of contemporary artists if you count The Dude’s landlord Marty and his almost entirely unattended vanity premiere of a self-devised interpretative dance/performance art piece to Mussorgsky in a “nude” bodystocking and plastic vines. I’m sure many of us art lovers have been to those shows and regretted it.
“HE’S TAKEN TO A PALACE FULL OF FRUIT… THE CURE FOR BLINDNESS IS A REMIX OF A SONG BY COLDPLAY”
… are just two of things that happen when Kanye West decides he’s a video artist and makes a seven screen installation to be shown in Cannes. Well, in a tent in a car park in Cannes. Naughty Kanye isn’t the first and nor will he be the last artist to massage their CV by claiming more approval, imprimatur and enthusiasm for his work than actually exists. Like those artists, he’s probably gambling (and he’s probably right) that people will notice “Cannes” first then skip all subsequent processing.
A ridiculous Muppet… and some kind of pig thing? (IMAGE UNRELATED TO KANYE WEST’S VIDEO INSTALLATION.)
Firstsite, Colchester, 8th September-25th November 2012
How the hell does somebody who makes such dim, shallow, repetitive and pointless work get such a big show? Oh… she’s been in Frieze. Mystery solved. Frieze seems to be all Firstsite cares about, because they appear not to care that there’s usually a ratio of about 10 staff to every visitor; there was exactly one other visitor when I was there at lunchtime; a period when a large public gallery should by rights be full of people even if they’re just passing, curious, getting out of the rain or killing time. This other visitor looked like a professional on her lunch break, but she was obviously bewildered and left quickly. Every alienating, vapid exhibition like this escalates the already sky-high resentment, disconnection and mistrust that still constantly swirl around Firstsite’s arrival in the town and in the east of England generally, whose flagship gallery it’s meant to be. I only sat on a bench outside for five minutes and I heard three passing pedestrians opine about how much they hated it.
The artist herself is present as an endless loop of babbling, random, artspeak Tourette’s syndrome on a wall monitor, with– yes– her Frieze cuttings in a file below. It seems the curator had a bit of wobble and realised that the exhibition was all over the place and mostly incomprehensible. Nice try, everybody, but this video isn’t helping. I actually found it highly entertaining and engaging for entirely the wrong reasons and I had a really good laugh at it (or rather, at her). I have to thank Hamilton for that, at least. And to be fair, she seems to be the first artist to find some viable way to actually show art on Firstsite’s intensely stupid and art-hostile sloping walls, even though it’s just giant wallpaper decals of John Travolta’s head. I don’t know what John Travolta has to do with anything, but he reappears as a screensaver in the foyer as well. Again, credit to Hamilton for calling a screensaver a screensaver instead of doing a Tacita Dean and claiming it as art. Continue reading
I’ve mentioned Christian Marclay’s overrated, beloved-of-the-bourgeoisie art gallery video collage The Clock before, but another YouTube supercut has surfaced recently that grants us another new perspective on the slavering art world enthusiasm for Marclay’s massive and extremely lucrative (as in bought for the permanent collections of several art museums) act of intellectual property violation, the kind of thing that gets lesser mortals sued or at the very least kicked from YouTube. If you’ve seen The Clock, I invite you to compare it to Dondrapersayswhat (NB: probably a pseudonym) and his or her mining of the same corpus of Hollywood films to stitch together a rendition of Sir-Mix-A-Lot’s already hilarious 90s hit, Baby Got Back.
… and now, bearing in mind that the research, craft and almost autistic attention to detail in Baby Got Back are easily equal to Marclay’s celebrated work (albeit in the service of silly laughs rather than a high concept), I invite you to contemplate whether this video would be art merely as a result of being put into a gallery context, or because its maker has an art world track record. Not everything an artist does is automatically art just because it’s been made by an artist, and some things not claimed as art by their makers actually are art. If it’s not art, is it not art because it’s funny or silly or accessible? Couldn’t contemporary art be these things sometimes, even if it doesn’t involve Sir Mix-A-Lot?