16 Apr

ArtBTheatreTitleMore dramatic readings of the worst artist statements, gallery press releases and art criticism every week, except when I don’t do them every week. Do you have a creepy hair fetish? If so, it sounds like you missed a good craic in Lisbon at the start of 2014, my friend. If, however, you like good art then you probably dodged a bullet by not seeing it. Actually I know nothing about the art or the artist outside of this text. The art itself may be great, just overexplained and ruined by the ghastly, awful stuff written about it. It’s not unusual for that to happen.

It’s also not unusual to have fun with anyone, but when I see you hanging about with anyone it’s not unusual to see me cry, I wanna die.

Play Artbollocks Bingo!

Surprised by a piece that can only fully be appreciated in proximity and whose immateriality is increased when it is bathed in sunlight, the viewer must decide whether or not penetrate it. Many do so without hesitation, so they can play and experience it. Some remain outside, as voyeurs.

Urgh. Ambience of an orgy room behind a Parisian sex shop? No thanks.

Again we have redundant, trite writing that the author clearly produced on automatic. All art can only be appreciated in proximity, especially in an art gallery because there’s usually a fairly low limit to how far away you can get. How else would you appreciate a normally or domestically scaled art work, or a digital work, or a moving image work? From thirty miles away? From orbit? I can’t see the Mona Lisa from here because it’s in the Louvre and I’m in my flat in England, and I can tell you categorically: that painting is doing nothing for me right now. Even huge works of art like the giant Buddhas of Asia or the Gormley’s Angel of the North can only be appreciated when you’re close enough to see what they are and judge their scale properly, even if “close” means half a mile away, i.e. when by definition you are in proximity to them. The only possible exceptions are earthworks, geoglyphs (e.g. the Nazca Lines) and other Land Art type interventions, but that isn’t what we’re talking about in this case. The alternative explanation is the author politely suggesting that the art work looks crap, or looks like nothing, unless you’re almost on top of it.

Inside, the artwork provokes a set of contradictory feelings. The fragility of the hair causes some apprehension, enhanced by the fact that it is a work of art. However, overriding this fear, the artwork offers itself up, welcoming, to be touched and caressed. This duality produces a phenomenon of attraction and repulsion, which is both physical – even on a level as subtle as static electricity – and psychological. All this translates into an experience, to some extent, dreamlike, surreal; as if the ‘forest of lianas’ could suddenly become a jungle of fine underwater algae.

I don’t know, either. I’ve got nothing. I think we should just back out of the room quietly and leave him alone with the hair.

The work can also be perceived as a drawing in space. As an orthogonal but organic structure, which contrasts with the severity of the architecture. Attached to a joyful and sensual rhythm, Square Disorder deadens the harshness of geometry. […] The characteristic ‘motion’ of the work, gently cradled by air currents in the room, is transmitted as an invisible vibration to viewers, who find themselves exploring ways forward, tenderly separating the ‘lianas’. It suggests to us the image of a mime gesturing with empty hands to pass between the hairs. The presence of other people certainly works as a reflection. It facilitates an intimate encounter that serves as a basis for the performance, divided into three stages (opening, interlude and closing), which Susana Mendes Silva and Miguel Pereira prepared for this new presentation at the Leal Rios Foundation.


A reflection of what, or upon what? Mimes? Nobody likes mimes. Nobody even likes to hear the word “mime” mentioned. Please don’t ever bring mimes into any discussion unless the conversation really is about mimes. Even in this last case it would probably be better to change the subject.

As for the “three stages”; well done, genius, you’ve discovered a theory of storytelling that was old when Aristotle codified it over two thousand years ago. Why is having a beginning, a middle and an end flagged as important? It’s not necessary or enlightening to mention it. If the artist has somehow divided herself into The Three Stooges, that’s possibly worth a nod.


Given a constellation of referents, ranging from popular culture to psychoanalysis, the work of Susana Mendes Silva can be viewed, taking into account its sophisticated combination of tactility, eroticism and intimacy, as a caress whose effect varies depending on the person who receives it: from tenderness to possibly some kind of farfetched sexual perversion, as those we sometimes hear about from Japan. Pursuing this thread, there would be another way to experience Square Disorder, in which its serenity and softness would suddenly be transformed into something obsessive, compulsive. The gentle loving gesture of these endless fingers would metamorphose into a jealous embrace that resists our departure […]

Oh joy, it’s another artist riding on the coat tails of psychoanalysis. As part of a “constellation of referents”, even. It’s a confusing image. The sky– or space– is full of random psychoanalysis and popular culture, and it’s possible to impose figurative patterns onto them to some degree? If popular culture and psychoanalysis represent the extremes of a range, then what lies in between them? The sentence about farfetched sexual perversions coming from Japan is priceless, and he’s not wrong. Accidentally he’s done some good writing here, because “farfetched” is a great word to describe the baffling inventiveness of some Japanese kinks. However, the author seems blind to the irony of tarring the Japanese with this brush after he’s just been wittering lengthily about the eroticism of fake hair.

I tell you what, there’s not much that could resist my departure from this exhibition.


  1. erickuns 17/04/2014 at 3:56 PM #

    Nice one. I like the “drawing in space” best. Though, I have to admit that I have a soft spot for any art that somehow incorporates algae, so, I’m guessing that despite it all, I might like the work in question, in a way that refuses to distance itself from attraction/repulsion or the conglomerate of signifiers implicit in its negation. Ah well, it’s all about the body, or rather the corpereality and incorpoerality of the presence. Yeah, I just read your article on how to do art bollocks.

    • Alistair 17/04/2014 at 4:00 PM #

      Pretty good, but unfortunately I could still understand some of what you wrote. Keep trying, someday you’ll be truly unintelligible.

      (I didn’t get the impression there was actual algae in the exhibition. That would be too interesting. I think it was just this guy sharing a bit too much of his inner life, i.e. that he somehow equates women’s hair with underwater sludge.)

  2. Alistair 23/04/2014 at 11:49 AM #

    Reblogged this on Alistair Gentry.

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