5 May

ArtBTheatreTitleMore dramatic readings of the worst artist statements, gallery press releases and art criticism. This is the last one for the time being, but I’ll be back soon with more highfalutin claptrap and a new dinner jacket. The art work being described (or not, as the case may be) was a “one nigth event” [sic] that took place in Lisbon this January. I suppose they could have further minimised the chances of anybody actually seeing whatever the hell it was they were showing by doing it in a boat 100km off the coast of Portugal or something, but theirs was certainly a brave step towards the high-end art world’s ideal of art not being visible to the general public at all.

Play along with Artbollocks Bingo!

The title ‘Aula de Ginástica’ [Gymnastics Class] evokes a notion of time, a unit, a moment, a class, an exercise or set of exercises and, in this particular case, a spatial construction based on mental exercises that correspond to a set of reflections on the possibility and fulfillment of a project. Its presence is absence circumscribed by a geography that radically affects the EMPTY CUBE project in terms of its display potential: in what it shows for a single, unrepeatable moment and in the rarefaction of its space as the symbolic place of the exhibitive project.

Its presence is absence? My approval of whoever wrote this is annoyance. I have to say that for me ‘Gymnastics Class’ doesn’t evoke a notion of time, a unit or whatnot. It mainly evokes my PE teacher at secondary school who loved watching boys in the shower under the pretences of “making sure they washed” and doted on them until they hit puberty, then switched to bullying them relentlessly for the apparent sin of growing up. Charming fellow. Looked like a male version of Margaret Thatcher.


Alongside this, designer Vieira Baptista combines a number of models and prototypes to reveal methodologies and processes that present the ephemeral as a transitory moment in the creative process itself, without losing sight of the viewer’s itinerary, which leads to a surprisingly deceptive plane. However, the geography and concomitant geometry imposed by his reflection on this project make it possible to visually construct the vectors of a now imaginary space that repeats itself in the memory of past EMPTY CUBE projects. EMPTY CUBE itself is suggested by the action of someone who intervenes in a space, be it the same space with which we are familiar or a different one, defined by Miguel Vieira Baptista’s design pieces on the walls of the host space.

I defy anybody to work out from this description what was actually being shown or done in the gallery or what it was really about. “Design pieces” doesn’t count either, because what is a “design piece”? There’s no obvious connection between these “design pieces” and the gibberish about methodologies anyway. I think this is one of the purest artbollocks texts I’ve done so far, at least in the sense that it’s all bollocks and no art. That’s why it’s hard to offer any kind of lengthy commentary on it. Some of the others gave the impression that there might conceivably be something worth seeing if you like that kind of thing and were able to ignore the nonsense that was being written about the work or the artist. Other horribly overwritten texts might have been edited down into something that had a factual core, if anybody on the premises was capable or inclined. This essay is an overinflated cream puff of a text, and that’s doing a disservice to cream puffs because at least they have cream inside them. There’s some half-cocked reference to the currently fashionable conceit that artists are a kind of researcher or technician of ideas, but when you crunch this one down there’s absolutely nothing potentially or actually informative in it whatsoever. Conceits– clever evasions, ingenious McGuffins, highbrow but hollow proclamations–  are what contemporary art all too frequently has at its core instead of ideas, emotion or the sharing of experiences.

For the “nigth” time: if an art work needs this much description in order for people to understand it or in order for the artist and their representatives to justify its existence, then it’s not really a work of art. Or if it is an art work, it’s an art work that needn’t exist and needn’t be seen because you just described everything worth knowing about it.


  1. erickuns 08/05/2014 at 1:12 PM #

    Dig the “surprisingly deceptive plane”, especially the tail. And I had to finally look up “methodology” because I’m used to people using it to just mean “method” when they are trying to sound Postmodern and sophisticated. Apparently it is the study of methods. Then I came back to the review to see if the word was used correctly, but context was no help.

    The way I read the statement in question is that there’s a project which uses different models in order to show which studies of methods are used to equate the ephemeral with the transitory in the making of art. The whole purpose appears to be to either show that “ephemeral” is the same thing as “transitory” or is NOT the same thing. Shit.

    • Alistair 11/05/2014 at 11:34 AM #

      You’re right that in many cases (and in this one) “methodology” is just used as a pretentious and incorrect synonym for “method” and/or for “stuff that a person does”… neither of which mean the same thing as methodology. Inflation like this is one of the basic artspeak tactics, what one might call the baroque approach to language. To some people, “method” and other plain English terms don’t feel grandiose or academic enough so they get unnecessary detailing, curls and fiddly bits to give a false impression of gravitas and erudition. A good writer, of course, makes every word work for its keep and never adds them or chooses them without good reason.

      Good point about this essay being able to potentially support two completely opposite conclusions. I’ve mentioned this before. A factual text should not be open to mutually contradictory interpretations, if it can be avoided. The clue is in the word “factual”. An ambiguous and open-ended novel or art work can be very enjoyable, because it credits us with an ability to make up our own minds and allows us to imagine ourselves as a part of the imaginary world it creates. An ambiguous essay is just annoying and frustrating because it has failed in its primary purpose, which is to inform the reader. The fact that art can be vague, evocative and difficult to define makes it even more important that writing about art is clear and concise.

  2. Alistair 12/05/2014 at 11:26 PM #

    Reblogged this on Alistair Gentry.



    […] the 24th September 2014, this image was uploaded to my blog. It originally featured in an episode of Artbollocks Theatre, in mockery of an artist who supposedly created “surprisingly deceptive […]

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