ARTBOLLOCKS THEATRE S3E5: AURATIC

8 Apr

“HI K8, H8 UR WORK”

Dramatic readings of the worst artist statements, gallery press releases and art criticism. All real, all serious, all horribly written. I apologise in advance for any foreign or jargon words that I accidentally pronounced correctly. This time, at a gallery in Graz (Austria):

An artist “resists artisanal virtuosity” which I think may be someone being polite about the artist being quite crap at all the things she’s chosen to do as part of her art practice.

Another artist is a painter who apparently ignores colours and the canvas, which takes some doing when not ignoring colours and the canvas is pretty much your entire job description as a painter.

The third artist’s works in wood are impossible to distinguish from ordinary bits of wood that are not art, except they are art. All clear? Good.

You can play along with your Artbollocks Bingo card, and you can watch more Artbollocks Theatre here on the blog or on my Vimeo channel.

First thing’s first: I usually make a point of not looking at any work by the artists mentioned (negatively) here for two main reasons. Reason one is that the artists and galleries who write these kinds of nonsense texts need to either learn that 99% of people who read their statements will see little or nothing of the exhibition or the artist’s work, and therefore write in a way that makes sense in this context… or they need to stop deliberately relying upon the fact that 99% of people won’t see the work because it gives them carte blanche to make insupportable claims for the art and for the artist.

The second reason is that– despite how ugly it undoubtedly feels to be told that your carefully wrought artist statement is sheer bollocks– I usually try to kick the ball and not the player. In other words, to criticise the writing and bad impression it gives of the artist rather than directly attacking them as a person. This would usually be futile, presumptuous and a waste of good venom anyway since I don’t know them.

However, I’m really tempted to break this rule right now because the first artist is a grown woman who chooses to go by the name of “K8″, i.e. and presumably because Kate or Katherine seemed less cool and urban to her for some reason probably best dealt with in private, not in an art gallery. Artists who give themselves stupid names really fucking get up my nose. This was a tiresome and immediately recognisable cliché of the Shoreditch Twat, Marais Moron or Williamsburg Wanker when Charlie Brooker and Chris Morris lampooned it on their Channel 4 show Nathan Barley ten frigging years ago. See 15peter20, below. Guess what? It’s still unforgivably precious and irritating now. That means you too, Marvin Gaye Chesspiece or whatever you’re calling yourself this week. Grow up.

5056778205a6343295738l

15peter20

8nyw8y, K8, if U evr see me 0ut + 8b0ut, 1nstea6 of t8lk1ng 2 U, 1’11 c0mmun1c8te w1th U 1n 8n 8ppr0pr18 m8nner by sen61ng U th1s fr0m meye f0ne:

╭∩╮(-_-)╭∩╮

That’s two middle fingers, by the way, not a very contented man with his face between two small penises.

Her works of art garner performative energy from various fields and studies, frequently from the area of fashion, for example, and generally from current forms of representation and modi of self-presentation in digital-based social networks. In the process, she avoids committing herself to a single artistic medium, eludes artisanal virtuosity in photography, sculpture, and video, and produces as if drawing on a gigantic maelstrom of self-documentation and fashionable, queer-visionary transformation of identity.

In a video work designated as “Outfitumentary” by the artist, which is shown in the exhibition in condensed excerpts, she has been documenting her opulent and frenzied changes of clothing since 2001, along with the related signal change within a lesbian subculture and projections of yearning in general. This documentation of a quest for self-invention and the critical examination of identity-seeking and related mediatic breaches lead the fashion items being worn in front of the camera to lose significance. Also evident is the act of refocusing on the artist herself as immersed in perpetual change and the similarly shifting sites of self-documentation playing out here. This high-velocity switching of roles and the concurrent societal pressure to cultivate and express one’s image is one of the themes long explored by Hardy. This aims to challenge the role of the artist, along with the authentic embodiment of this role, within veritable capitalist systems of reproduction and the formatting of the self manifesting there. In her unconventional, artistic elaborations, which take the form of sculpture, light boxes, or photographs, Hardy is likewise concerned with lending visibility to emancipatory means and potentials.

So, she likes dressing up and showing off, which could be performance art but could also just be dressing up and showing off like several million other women and men who do “high velocity switching of roles”, “self documentation” and various takes on “societal pressure” on YouTube, but whose actions are deemed below the level of Fine Art. What is “performative energy” and how does one gather it? “Eludes artisanal virtuosity in photography, sculpture, and video” is probably a hilarious euphemism for “her work looks really bad, but, um… we’re gonna say it’s deliberate, OK?” I’ve seen this excuse a lot, right up to the Venice biennale. The artists are always resisting hegemonic ideas, questioning conventional modes of representation and whatnot. They’re never just presenting bad work because they can’t (or can’t be bothered to) do any better, or because they’ve never shaken the sneering undergraduate pose that being good at anything or serious about anything is uncool, nor indeed the sneering undergraduate notion that being thought of as cool matters at all in the long run. Not that most contemporary artists have a long run.

As for the lesbian signal change, I fear this is just a highfalutin way of saying K8 has changed her look over the years and she likes trying on new clothes. Which most of us do, but most of us aren’t claiming it’s art. One would hope that in the days of “check your privilege” we wouldn’t still be seeing any one curator (or lesbian) claiming to represent a whole “subculture”, even if they believe that they own it in some way, as is strongly implied by her “lending” it. To throw back at them a word that I’m sure the curator of this exhibition would like, saying anybody represents all lesbians and has the right to “lend” them emancipation is very “othering” (i.e. retrograde, sexist, offensive and putting up unhelpful barriers), not to mention being an example of exactly the kind of arrogant, belligerent intra- and extra-community “signal” policing that makes life more difficult for homosexual people who don’t fit with some other folks’ idea of how they should be “emancipated” and reifies homophobic prejudices that they “know” what a lesbian or a gay man looks and acts like.

Continue reading

“MAIN REASONS WHY THE ART WORLD NAUSEATES ME”

14 Apr

GugParty-704x1024Thanks to my colleague Dany Louise for pointing out this great article by Sola Agustsson at Alternet: Why the Contemporary Art World Is Insufferable, Corrupted by the Super-Rich. Spoilers:

  1. Art collectors treat art as an investment.
  2. Art is a spectacle.
  3. Conceptual art is a joke.
  4. Art factories steal souls.
  5. Art school is kind of a scam.
  6. Women artists and artists of colo(u)r are sidelined.
  7. Money for art in public schools is dwindling (the USA kind, i.e publicly funded, not private schools)

Agustsson is absolutely bang on with every one of these points and I know a lot of the Career Suicide Squad will agree too; read the article.

INTERPRETATION MATTERS

31 Mar

A BOOK THAT “CHALLENGES YOUR PRECONCEIVED NOTIONS” OR “INTERROGATES ACCEPTED NOTIONS” OF ART LANGUAGE

Front-cover-Media-1024x680

In addition to making fun of the atrocious, pretentious writing that artists and galleries sometimes issue in the name of art, I also work more constructively and (slightly) less cruelly with people and organisations to improve the quality of their writing and public communications. One such project is Dany Louise’s Interpretation Matters, funded by Arts Council England… so, in case anybody was wondering, ACE are at the very least tacitly concerned about bad gallery writing and gibberish artist statements too. I’ve been working with Dany on the Interpretation Matters project over the past year or so, conducting workshop sessions with venue staff and the public. I’ve contributed an essay to the accompanying book, which is out now.

It also features:

  • Artists Emily Speed, David Blandy and Richard Wilson.
  • Penelope Curtis, formerly of Tate Britain and soon to be director of the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum.
  • Curators Lewis Biggs, Omar Kholeif and Gerardo Mosquera
  • … and more!™

WHEN CRITICS ATTACK

30 Mar

800x450xchristian-bale-american-psycho-800x450.jpg.pagespeed.ic_.xsXn5zWG88

MOMA COMPLETELY BJÖRKS UP

I’ve often compared the art world to the mafia, with their mutual general secrecy, their deliberate cultivation of mystique, and their maintenance of respectable fronts for money laundering and worse. Then there’s the code of silence– certainly we don’t criticise our self-appointed superiors for fear of blackballing, but we should avoid offending our peers too, just in case they’re of use to us later. Whether somebody is of use, of course, being the psychopathic standard by which the most successful artists, curators and gallerists judge each other and everyone else. Most reviews of contemporary art are so bland and uncritical (in every sense of the word) that they could charitably be called reports rather than reviews, if we quite reasonably define a review as a critical assessment. Very often supposed art critics or arts writers seem to be following a prim “if you can’t say anything nice, say nothing at all” rule and so restrict themselves to inoffensively listing the pictures or objects they saw, like a seven year old asked to write an essay about their school holiday.

So it always comes as a shock when normally docile mainstream critics break ranks and genuinely critique or go on the offensive, doubly so when other people feel free to pile on as well. In recent weeks there have been two such instances. One is related to MoMA’s tragic starfucker curator Klaus Biesenbach, who basically worships anybody who is a celebrity but isn’t an important contemporary artist, e.g. Tilda Swinton, Lady Gaga and, unsurprisingly, Marina Abramović… although Maz is allegedly furious with him for messing up one of her performances by eclipsing even her own immense narcissism. The other incident is a telenovela-esque hissy fit melodrama starring Bartomeu Marí, the soon-to-be-former director of MACBA in Barcelona.

The eponymous New York Björk exhibition that Biesenbach curated has received gleefully ghastly reviews. Roberta Smith in the New York Times called it “tacky” and “little short of hostile”, while also for good measure describing Abramovic’s 2010 Biesenbach/MoMA wankfest The Artist is Present as “cheesy”. Jason Farago in The Guardian called it “weirdly unambitious” and a “Madame Tussaud’s parody”, although he does grudgingly recommend it anyway. Maybe he really likes waxwork shows. Jillian Mapes at Flavorwire dismissed it summarily as a technical disaster with only one exhibit worth seeing at all. Christian Viveros-Fauné at ArtNet wrote an extraordinarily lengthy monstering of the exhibition and the curator, reporting that the vast majority of MoMa’s trustees expressed their displeasure by not attending the opening event. C-VF furthermore officially declares that “MoMa-bashing is in”, calls for Biesenbach to be fired, and says the show is a “turkey” and “what many critics argue is the worst MoMA exhibition of all time”. The latter seems a bit of a tame qualification given that it comes at the end of a several thousand word blitzkrieg of everything Biesenbach has done recently and his evident prioritisation of his own vanity, ego and fandom over any question of artistic practice or merit. CV-F also mentions in turn great pull quotes from other critics, such as “a fiasco”, “an abomination”, “the Björk show at MoMA is really, really bad”, and “[it] turns MoMA into Planet Hollywood.”

In short, it seems there’s hardly any prominent person in the USA’s east coast art community who hasn’t taken the opportunity to put the boot in, publicly. Maybe surprisingly, maybe unsurprisingly given that it’s Biesenbach who has obviously been cruising for a bruising rather than Björk herself, the latter has come out of the whole debacle relatively unscathed. It speaks volumes, though, that she was first asked to do the exhibition in 2002 but only said yes about ten years later, 2002 being about the last time she did anything but spin her creative wheels in the mud. These days she must be a very grateful grapefruit when she receives any attention at all. If she saw a paparazzo now she’d hug him instead of savaging him.

DOGGY STYLE

Bestia

‘Not Dressed For Conquering’ by Ines Doujak.

Art world public clusterfuckup number two takes us to Barcelona. It involves MACBA director Bartomeu Marí and a sculpture by Ines Doujak called Not Dressed For Conquering; this artwork depicts former Spanish king Juan Carlos on his hands and knees, appearing to receive anal penetration from Bolivian feminist and activist Domitila Chúngara, who in turn is being humped by a dog, the amorous trio surrounded by rusty old Nazi SS helmets… because of course it does.

Marí cancelled the exhibition in which the artwork featured and then as a parting shot when he was compelled to resign, instigated the firing of the two MACBA curators responsible for it. Marí claimed not to have seen the work in question until the last minute, which to me seems incredibly remiss and incompetent for a museum director. If you’re the director and you don’t know about every significant thing that’s happening in or going into your art museum, you should be sacked because you’re incompetent. The “I didn’t see nothing, it wasn’t me” thing would seem to be a pretty transparent lie if it’s true that the artist and curators have written proof of him signing a loan form for the work about a month before.

The curators didn’t even put the show together, they were just in charge of its MACBA incarnation and refused– along with the artist– to quietly remove the piece from the exhibition without making a fuss. The MACBA board of trustees’ president of honour is Sofía, Juan Carlos’ wife, but Marí maintains nobody told him to do anything. Again, even if this is true, then it just proves he’s capable of being an arsehole all on his own.

After a massive shitstorm of criticism in Spain and elsewhere, Marí did at least backtrack and un-cancel the show before the board cancelled him. La bestia y el soberano (“The Beast and the Sovereign”) opened, complete with the regisexual sculpture. The full Streisand Effect occurred following the hamfisted censorship attempt, with visitor numbers up 48%.

ARTBOLLOCKS THEATRE S3E4: PREPOSTAPOCALYPTIC

27 Mar

OOO BONDAGE UP YOURS!

Dramatic readings of the worst artist statements, gallery press releases and art criticism. All real, all serious, all horribly written. I apologise in advance for any foreign or jargon words that I accidentally pronounced correctly. In this write up of an exhibition from France we’ve not only got OOOers [sic], but also “negative faith”, wax balls, and typos a go-go (underlined in red, as if I’m that paperclip fellow from MS Word.) Multiple typos and grammatical errors are always good in a press release or any other form of official communication, because they really convey professionalism.

You can play along with your Artbollocks Bingo card, and you can watch more Artbollocks Theatre here on the blog or on my Vimeo channel.

If you don’t know what Object Oriented Ontology is, then a quick look at Wikipedia is probably quite sufficient. If you do know what Object Oriented Ontology is and it’s (somehow) one of your influences alongside animism and “the theoretical reflections of the Nouveau Roman novelist, theorist and editor Alain Robbe-Grillet”, then I don’t know what to say except that you must be a riot at parties.

The Promise of Moving Things deals with the so-called life of objects in our current pre-post-apocalyptic paradigm.

“Pre-post-apocalyptic?” Does this guy know something the rest of us don’t?

Influenced in equal measure by animism, the much-discussed philosophical movement Object Oriented Ontology, the surrealism of Alberto Giacometti’s early masterpiece The Palace at 4 am (1932) and even the theoretical reflections of the Nouveau Roman novelist, theorist and editor Alain Robbe-Grillet (an OOOer, so to speak, well avant la lettre), The Promise of Moving Things seeks to address just that—the very idea that there exists some promise within objects in a world in which humans no longer roam the earth. Neither a critical rejection nor an endorsement of these ideas, the exhibition embraces the ambiguity at the very heart of the word promise. It questions to what extent this negative faith in the cultural and animistic legacy of objects is a genuine rupture with the anthropocentric tradition of humanism and to what extent it is merely a perpetuation of it.

“Just that”? Just what? There’s no obvious subject for this phrase, except for what somes afterwards, which is not a “that” yet because we don’t know what it is until we read on. The next sentence commits the same error; “these ideas”… which ideas? How does one have “negative faith”? “Lack of faith” makes sense and is easily understood. Negative faith suggests something akin to a bank overdraft or a balance sheet. Damn, my faith cheque bounced because I didn’t have enough faith in the bank.

Thus does the exhibition consist of works that features objects or processes which seem to possess some form of human subjectivity. For instance, the Austrian, Vienna-based artist Hans Schabus’s sprawling sculptural installation Konstruktion des Himmels (1994) could merely be a random collection of variously seized wax balls and an elaborate light fixture or the most human forms of celestial organization: a constellation (which it is: a recreation of Apparatus Sculptoris [Sculptor’s Studio], identified and named in the 18th century by Louis de Lacaille).

Please don’t seize my wax balls! The latter part of that sentence in particular is a grammatical car crash. There are, in fact only two sentences in the whole paragraph.

Almost, but not entirely by association, German, Berlin-based Mandla Reuter’s sculpture installation. The Agreement (Vienna) 2011, which has been paired with Schabus’s work and is comprised of an armoire hanging from the ceiling, assumes a quasi-, supernatural and animistic quality.

Quasi what? I think the intended meaning is probably quasi-supernatural– whatever the hell that means– but there’s a random comma in the way, and too many commas in the paragraph as a whole. Spelling and grammar checker: USE IT. “Almost, but not entirely by association, German” is just plain weird. Even if it were true, how is this cogent information?

Producers-Springtime-for-Hitler

The transference of so-called human subjectivity is unmistakable in Swedish, Malmö-based Alexander Gutke’s work Autoscope (2012). This 16mm film installation portrays the trajectory of a piece of film passing through the interior of a projector, exiting into a snowy, tree-dotted landscape, ascending upward into the sky before plunging back down to earth and looping back into the projector, and repeating the process, all as if in an allegory of reincarnation. The American, New Hampshire-based artist Michael E. Smith’s slight sculptural interventions, which often consist of recycled textiles, materials from the automotive industry, animal parts, and a variety of toxic plastics, are known to possess qualities hauntingly evocative of the human body, as if the spirit of one had entered the other. Drawing his formal vocabulary from machines and tools, French, Dijon-based artist Antoine Nessi creates sculpture, which can perhaps be best described as post-industrial, in which the inanimate seems to take on an organic quality, assuming a life of their own. Finally, the practice of the Swedish, Berlin-based artist Nina Canell is no stranger to the kinetic and to a certain, if specious, sense of animism. Something of a case in point, Treetops, Hillsides & Ditches (2011) is a multi-part sculpture comprised of four shafts of wood over the top of which a clump of Iranian pistachio gum has been spread and which slowly crawls down the sides of the wood, enveloping it, like living a skin.

Nothing and nobody can ascend downwards. Ascending is by definition movement in an upward direction. “No stranger to the kinetic and to a certain, if specious, sense of animism” is just cobblers. And people who stick their gum onto things should be prosecuted, fined and flogged like they are in Singapore.

Thus is the reception of each work complicated and vexed through issues of subjectivity, projection, necessity, and desire. Now to what extent the works are complicit in that reception both varies and is debatable. Whatever the case may be, it is virtually impossible to say, but this does not necessarily mean that it is impossible to conceive of a world without humanism, as argued by Robbe-Grillet, at its center.

Bloody humanism. Get the fuck out of here.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,320 other followers

%d bloggers like this: