ARTBOLLOCKS THEATRE: DOG LOVERS SPECIAL

4 May

doge

Dramatic readings of the worst artist statements, gallery press releases and art criticism. All real! Oh how I wish they weren’t. In this super special edition with added PERFORMANCE ART that will make Marina admit defeat, pack her money bags and retire at last:

Q: Does your promotional material and critical text need to have any relation to or mention of what is actually in the exhibition?

A: Apparently not. Just write about looking at a dog in a sort of vaguely prose poem that reads like some stoned high school kid’s notebook scribbles. Apart from listing the names of the artists and mentioning that it’s an MA degree show, there is no mention whatsoever of what we might see, what’s interesting about it, what media the artists are working in, or why we might want to go. So it’s not just a horrible, pretentious piece of writing, it’s also a complete failure in terms of promotion and as a way of documenting or describing the exhibition for those of us (i.e. 99% of us) who will never see it.

In keeping with the bogus stoner profundity of the text, I made some impromptu, dog-related interpretive performance art that you can also “enjoy” in this video.

They face off in the room. He looks into her eyes and she looks into his. She sees him looking at her looking at him looking at her looking at him looking at her and she feels self-conscious so focuses on the detail. The brown that pretends to be black and the nostril that pretends to be still. She tries not to blink, but it’s hard work. She blinks.

She tries to maintain the kind of eye contact you might have when your eyeballs don’t actually touch. But with or without contact, the in-between-ness remains, even if it is only as membranous liquid or coagulated tears or the crust that separates wet from dry. The space between prevails with an unknown exchange rate. She wonders how long they would have to touch before they would conglomerate…or was the still, stale air of judgment and opinion already mattering between them.

She looks again, imagining a bird’s eye view and a hind sight too. She tries to allow the image to surprise her: tiny hairs and the space behind the ears and the eyelid twitch and the nervous tick.

Is this what an encounter feels like? I try to find words to say but this moment escapes language. Are you, too, intoxicated with life? It all rises viscously around us, like an ocean storm and meaty tiptoes and a packet of midnight howls.

Are we feeling something together? Are we becoming something and then meaning something and then all the magic sensations in our bodily pits…We dance on the threshold of a primal immediacy, and weigh each other against the wild and untamed. A half sunken waltz to an ensemble of smells, crystallizing endlessly between offering and protecting ourselves.

Still I wonder if my vision is stubbornly dogged, or worse, dogmatic. Tell me if I am seeing you or just an actor performing the real you.

What does he stand for? What have I made him stand for? He sits but his size is not reduced…broad shoulders and square jaw.

I want to sing to him but he stands. And lifts a leg. In lieu of mine, he is suddenly estranged from this romantic fiction. He flees with his fleas and his nervous tick too. A diagonal escape into his own self-referential future, going blind, making me invisible as he madly gnaws at his own tale.

His trace is brutal, and yet the space has shifted. And in the end, making art and meeting a dog can be much the same thing.

BARBARA HEPWORTH COSPLAY AT TATE BRITAIN

26 Jun
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Artist duffle coat, £425.

What better way to celebrate a major* exhibition of Dame Barbara Hepworth’s Modernist art at Tate Britain than spending £1200 in their gift shop to dress like a Hepster? Luckily the costumes clothes don’t have bloody great holes through the middle of them like her sculptures. Rather than a real artist of Hepworth’s vintage, they’re more like the sort of slightly-too-on-point-to-be-real ensembles you’d see worn by a beatnik artist Don Draper was knobbing on Mad Men. They’ve also wisely stuck to mod and steered clear of Babs’ occasional sartorial forays into getting herself up like a forest witch from a Russian folk tale. Designer Margaret Howell says “She was a woman to roll up her sleeves, and a woman who needed pockets – for chisel, pencil, and pebbles from the beach.” Do my eyes deceive me or is this woman actually mansplaining pockets to women? I know this revelation of the true purpose of pockets as places to put things will come as a shock to all you ladies who don’t generally need pockets and didn’t know what pockets are for. Buy a £135 Artist Smock and start getting some pebbles in yer. Maybe get a £1 Barbara Hepworth pencil like what she had for making her sculptures and shit.

You get the pencils from the gift shop, incidentally, and not from the beach where you also get chisels, as Howell’s bad grammar would suggest.

* Damn those pesky minor exhibitions, so pernicious that art museums and galleries constantly need to distinguish their “major” ones from paltry minor ones. Yeah, get the fuck out of here and don’t come back, minor artists with your minor exhibition bullshit.

Anyway, I’ve taken the liberty of virtually modelling some of the gear for you all. Next time I’m in the Crapital I’ll have to pop in to the old mausoleum and wear some of them for real. Or maybe we could all dress up as stereotypical-looking modern artists to storm the place en masse. DM me. I probably shouldn’t have said that. They’ll have printouts of me behind the tills or something: CALL SECURITY. When I have my retrospective at Tate Britain because I’m dead and can’t actually benefit from it, it’s going to be really easy for the gift shop buyers because usually I alternate between an outdoors lumbersexual look and for indoors hikikomori time (which is most of it, frankly) a black or dark blue T-shirt and the same trousers I’ve been wearing all week if I bother to put trousers on at all.

GET YOUR SMOCK ON, GET YOUR SMOCK ON, GET YOUR GET YOUR GET YOUR SMOCK ON

HepworthCosplay1

Scarf £195 + artist dungarees [sic] £245 + artist duffle coat [sic] £425 = £865. I’m wearing the artist duffle coat under the artist dungarees because the rules of your uncool square society don’t apply to me, daddio, and hell yeah I’m wearing a headscarf with the Tate logo on it. Half Withnail, half butch lesbian factory worker, all artist, dig?

 HepworthCosplay2

The twin influences of Cold War nihilism and Modernist utopianism are elegantly expressed in this ensemble of artist apron [sic]– a bargain at £75– charcoal silk scarf (£195) and artist smock [sic] for a mere £135. What do you mean you don’t have an artist smock? What kind of an artist are you? No kind of an artist is the answer, my friend, because all artists need a smock: END OF. Get thee to a gift shoppery.

More jolly violations of dead artists:

Miffy Rembrandt. Norwegian weltschmerz with Hello Kitty. Van Gogh Barbie (cut off earlobe sold separately)

… and further fashion choices for your high net worth art as lifestyle:

Silk trousers £575.

MORE MACHINE METONYMY MANAGEMENT

22 Jun

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAn interesting summary in MIT Technology Review of some recent research done on creativity in historical art, creativity here being taken to mean novelty in imagery or content that had an influence on other– by definition less creative and more derivative– works by the same artist or by others. A machine vision algorithm analysed “classemes”: visual concepts which “can be low-level features such as color, texture, and so on, simple objects such as a house, a church or a haystack and much higher-level features such as walking, a dead body, and so on.”

Intriguingly, the algorithm is not restricted to figurative art and it can cope with abstraction and pop art, although at this stage they seem to be looking at painting. The software critic also tends to broadly agree with human assessments of the most influential works and artists even though it was not primed or biased in any way; all it did was look at which artists were being creative and which were being derivative in their imagery. Possibly another point for the “yes, good and bad art is quantifiable” side.

By the way… I must point out that despite MIT supposedly having some of the best logical minds on the planet, nobody seems to have noticed that MIT stands for Massachusetts Institute of Technology, therefore this publication’s name is Massachusetts Institute of Technology Technology Review.

Read the original scientific paper here, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology Technology Review’s review here here.

(Previously: Google AI’s halluncinations)

“PRETENTIOUS”, “ABSURD”, “ASTONISHING SELF-IMPORTANCE”

21 Jun

… THE FIRST HONEST TINO SEHGAL REVIEW EVER

Two shocking outbreaks of critique against the art world’s elite this week. By “shocking”, of course, I mean shocking that they actually got published at all. Artists and art people talk a million tons of shit about each other every single day in private, but not much of it ever comes out publicly. Except on this blog, obviously [LEERING TROLL FACE].

Firstly– though admittedly from the No Shit Sherlock Department– Pretentious Tino Sehgal Delivers Absurd Talk With Tina Brown to Baffled Bankers at Art Basel.* Pretentious, pompous Emperor’s New Clothes Tino Sehgal is pretentious, pompous and wearing the Emperor’s New Clothes. The story has no byline, but Artnet News helpfully provides this page, complete with mugshots, where you could try to work out who was responsible for dissing the non-performing performance artist with Homer Simpson’s hair and Marvin the Paranoid Android’s sense of humour. Regardless of who wrote it, when even those people accustomed to buttoning their lip and saying nothing if they can’t say anything nice think you’re so pretentious and full of “astonishing self-importance” that nobody could be offended by them saying so… you’re definitely one of the art world’s arseholes de les arseholes.

* The alliteration of Baffled Bankers made me think of Waffled Wankers. That is all, carry on.

MartyInterpretiveDance

TINO SAYS:

“One of the biggest civilizational achievements of the West, apart from soap, is the convention of opening hours. There are two modalities on which you can organize people: appointments…and opening hours.”

Every single factual [sic] part of this paragraph is so far from being true or cogent that I would suspect he was trying to make some kind of provocative, trolling statement here, if I didn’t also suspect much more strongly that he genuinely thought this was a profound observation. “Civilizational” is not a word, nor should it be.

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OPEN YOUR THIRD EYE WITH NEW GOOGLE TRIPS™

18 Jun

What happens when you train an artificial neural network to recognise images, then turn the system around to start with random noise and evolve an image representing what it “sees” when you ask it about things that appear in pictures, which could be anything from a banana to a landscape? Apparently, you discover that the software is tripping its nonexistent tits off and hallucinating like mad.

knight

Yes, this is a multi-eyed knight with a Rottweiler saddle and llama hand puppet, under a swirling sky full of snails, eyes and leering Breugelesque cow-dogs.

LUCY IN THE SKY WITH DUMBBELLS

Google obviously have a lot of time and money invested in technologies for image searches and classification. The digital learning systems responsible for these images– some of which have been going viral recently, 99% of the time without any context whatsoever apart from LOL weirdness– analyse examples of what the programmers want them to learn. The whole process and concept is much more interesting and much more profound in its implications than its viral LOLness at first suggests. In the cases shown here, the ANNs were trained with a lot of animal images with the strange side effect that they see animals everywhere: in the clouds, in the trees, in a horse rider’s saddle. Like the classic bad tripper or paranoid schizophrenic they see watchful eyes everywhere. In humans it’s called pareidolia; false pattern recognition, seeing connections and structure where none actually exists. The classic example is seeing pictures in clouds. The networks sometimes harbour unexpected– but with hindsight strangely logical– misconceptions such as taking it as normal that dumbbells can’t exist without a beefy arm attached to them, because most photos of dumbbells also feature weightlifters. Horizons get pagodas and towers because that’s how people tend to picturesquely frame them in photographs. Trees are apparently hard to distinguish from buildings and therefore tend to get mixed up with them, and so on.

Edvard Munch’s Scream is even more disturbing with the addition of AI-paranoia sky-eyes, and the screamer himself gets a daft golden retriever-beagle makeover:

TheScream-mod3

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WINNING THE WAR, LOSING THE BATTLES

27 May

twisters

On Monday of this week I was thinking– with some satisfaction and serenity– that for some time I’d seen nothing but reasonable, factual press releases in plain English and artist statements that actually made sense. Perhaps the day would soon come when I would no longer have any material for Artbollocks Theatre? No. Come Wednesday morning, I see this:

There is no mediation that is lossless—an output is never the pure transmission of a source—but always as much the distance it has travelled, the things it has come in contact with or bounced with or off. She is interested in the consistency of distances that can be traced through an arbitrary sense of material precision: utilising water, viscosity, synthetic carpets, electricity, surface tension, stray socks and chewing gum. This consistency, at times imperceptible and at times palpable, is what the artist describes as “something that I find in my sculptural vocabulary—an extra-linguistic or non-verbal modulation of content—articulating the impurities of a medium or assemblage.” […]

Literally caught in between melting and being repurposed, several hundred meters of gutted sheaths are compressed into dense lumps of immaterial distance. Contextualized by both recent and earlier works, the exhibition will consider sculpture as a medium of storage, transmission and reception.

A translation of the last paragraph is that she’s melted a load of old plastic cables into lumps. This is not me editorialising, by the way. Here is a publicity image of the “art work” associated with the verbiage quoted above:

may27_arko_img

Have you tried unplugging it, leaving it for a few seconds, then plugging it back in?

Yes, it’s made of communication cables, but that doesn’t make it a consideration of “sculpture as a medium of storage, transmission and reception” any more than making an art work out of cake is considering birthdays, aging and parenthood. It can be that, but there’s a pathetic schoolgirl literalism in claiming an art work is about something just because it’s made from things associated with the subject. Even if it is a consideration of anything, perhaps as an artist you could actually have some courage and commit to saying something about the subject and instead of just limply, meekly considering it? It’s toxic, weird and also entirely fitting that so many contemporary artists claim to be considering things because considering things without coming any nearer to an answer is not at all profound and the majority of contemporary artists are neither capable of nor truly interested in profundity. They just like the idea of being thought of as profound, which is very different from being so and much harder. I consider what I’m having for lunch or whether it’s worth waiting for the next train after I just missed one, or if I should get the bus instead. Note that even in these extremely banal examples I actually come to a conclusion. Consideration without conclusion is noodling or daydreaming, at best.

And several hours previously– arriving unwelcome in the middle of the night like a drunk or a stalker– this double-decker of nonsense about two simultaneous solo exhibitions by another two artists:

Her work is located in the meeting of sculpture, video installation and performance and is characterized by an acute study of the relationship of the body to space, closely linked with her utilization of digital technologies (often including, for example: projectors, scanners, action cameras, and drones). The videos, which play a central role in her work, consist of filmed actions (mostly featuring Vogel herself), documentations of her own installations and collages from her archive of images. These videos then become part of her sculptural constructions where dimensional space, decor and the corporeal merge into an organically woven structure. She treats the projectors and the other technical equipment as active protagonists: for example, by removing their casings or by suspending them in unexpected ways, thus revealing their fragility and somatic character. Ultimately, she creates a hybrid form in which her relationship to space, object, technology and machine is displayed in a dynamic field of motion, from the process of its development to the self-reflective treatment of her own work.

In English: She films herself because herself is the most interesting subject she can think of, and she takes the cases off the projectors. In the interest of relative brevity I’ll just note in passing that this monolithic paragraph is riddled with bad writing and unexamined assumptions: Why and how is her study acute? Space is always dimensional. An active protagonist has to be active and a protagonist, and a protagonist is by definition active anyway; simply doing something unusual with a piece of equipment does not necessarily make it either active or a protagonist. And so on.

This body-studying (YAAAAAAWN) artist shares the gallery with an artist who is, yep, another one adopting the tiresome pretence that he is “undertaking an investigation”:

Of particular interest in Binet’s work is his perception of the painting as an “integrative object.” This process of integration—the inclusion into a larger whole—occurs during the work’s installation; Binet actively considers the walls and conditions of the surrounding exhibition space, initiating a working process based on its specifics. Everything taking place within the space shapes the exhibition. A canvas can bend and be embedded in a stair railing. A continuous line spray-painted over the surface of a wall and onto a canvas extends a painting into space. With this direct and equal treatment of both painting and place, the work becomes inseparable from its surroundings, existing only in this very moment and in its specific spatial arrangement.

English translation: He goes over the edges of his paintings, some of which are not rectangular. Oh, didn’t you know that paintings don’t have to be rectangular? Ha ha Stupid U, artist moar intelligectual than U.

Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit making Artbollocks Theatre.

lloyd_bridges_airplane_looks_like_i_picked_the_wrong_week_to_quit_sniffing_glue_mccroskey

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