26 Sep

“Con tanta pazienza e un po’ de vaselina, anche l’elefante se fa la formichina.”

[“With a lot of patience and a bit of Vaseline, even the elephant fucked the ant*.”]

A pseudonymous sock puppet account emailed me this afternoon, saying that attacking artists or galleries for their use of language was unfair, because “not every artist is intellectual or a good writer” and asking “what do you hope to achieve by being so mean? You could just ignore it.” I’m not sure if this was occasioned by what I posted today about Karla Black’s pathetic appeal to psychoanalysis and quantum physics in the service of stinky soap chunks; it could have been related to a number of other occasions when I’ve castigated the barely literate, preening gobbledygook that contemporary galleries spew out incessantly like a mental patient who thinks he’s Michel Foucault.

Note that this isn’t the first time somebody has lacked the guts or the good grace to leave a comment publicly and under their own name, where everyone can see it and my response to it. Be warned that in future I will make greater efforts to unmask the perpetrators and repost these cowardly communications in full. That’s assuming it isn’t blindingly obvious who they are already: it usually is. So leave a comment instead. I’d be a hypocritical shitbag if I didn’t approve comments that opposed or questioned me.

Firstly, pseudonymous sock puppet: Even though I think you did it inadvertently, thanks for acknowledging that I’m a better writer than you, and a better writer than any of the people I’ve savaged. Coming from you that means… well, almost nothing. I know that already. But thanks.

“Not every artist is intellectual or a good writer”: No shit. They don’t necessarily have to be. In fact some artists are morons (Tracey Emin) and profoundly ignorant (Tracey Emin), but they have a sly cunning and such an instinct for doing the “right” [sic] things that they still do incredibly well for themselves (Tracey Emin). People in this category should keep their mouths shut and not embarrass themselves by using words that might get you a very high score when you’re playing Scrabble but serve no constructive purpose in discussing a complex subject unless you genuinely know what those words mean. Otherwise you just come off like an imbecile, as Tracey does almost every time she flaps her gob in public. Even if you do have an unerring ability to win at Scrabble, writing for a general audience means you should write in plain English if it’s at all possible (and if you know how). Being a functional adult means knowing your own strengths and limitations, maximising the former and mitigating the latter. If you can’t write well and refuse to learn how, don’t do it.

“You could just ignore it.” I’m not sure what “it” is- Stupidity? Ego? Pretentiousness? Factual errors or blatant falsehoods that mislead people and misrepresent what really goes on behind the scenes in the art world?- but I despise this attitude. Oh hi, I’ve been vandalising your house this afternoon. If you don’t like it, just ignore it. I know some people seem to enjoy the world exactly the way it is because it generally works out OK for them. They only ever get really scared when other people threaten to puncture the cosy little fucked up bubble they live in. That’s not me. Minute and incremental change is what I hope to achieve by being such a mean old nasty man who upsets some people so much that they create an email account merely to write vague recriminations at me while (they think) denying me any comeback, like a petulant teenage girl who’s been told the new tattoo she was advised against has a spelling error and who thinks she’s won the argument because she shouted “IT’S NOT FAIR” until everyone got bored and walked away.

I’d like nothing more than to visit an exhibition like Karla Black’s at the Biennale with a heavy heart, only to step inside and find that she’s staged a magnificent show that makes me question all my assumptions and cynicism, instead of her and the gallery merely pulling the same lazy old bullshit out of their arses. Sadly, that almost never happens. So until the bar is set a little higher for what counts as worthwhile contemporary art, I’ll continue to be satisfied when people notice that I’ve destroyed them. It makes me feel as if I’m conquering the world, one idiot at a time.

* NOTE: Contact Matthew Barney for details of how this works.



  1. Alistair 26/09/2011 at 8:53 PM #

    I’m the elephant in this story, in case you’re wondering.

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