IT CAN BE DONE

26 Jan
VoH2

“I… I… can understand this wall text.”

“It” being to write about art without tediously reciting what the art is made of, what the art looks like and what we supposedly feel about the art, and using plain English without resorting to pretentious, empty language. Thank Karen Archey for this rare example of a non-bollocks art press release, related to an exhibition in Stockholm.

Curatron #5 release

All artworks in this exhibition deal with the body, its removals, artificiality, and ineffability. Lost limbs, artificial hormones, forgotten cultures, made-up people, dead celebrities. Since when is it so hard to get real in this world? I wake up and feel invisible. I work and feel invisible. I eat, shit, and sleep invisible. It’s 2015 and we’ve regressed so far that identity politics feel new again.

What will make our shadows stick?

I’ve noticed a lot of artists who grasp anything in sight and describe and smother it with words, as if blind. Like babies who mull over the world in their mouth because their sight is too abstract. This impulse to smother reminds me of Pompeii’s last afternoon. As Vesuvius erupted, the most boring shit was cast pristine in ash to pick, prod and hold for centuries to come. Everything also died. Ask your favorite archeologist: was it worth it?

What is an exhibition but a body—a sum totaling more than its parts? If I give you five fingers and a press release, will it make a hand? I want an exhibition that totals less than its parts that detracts from what we already know. I want to go deep, toward death; figure out why we all feel so fucking invisible and fuck phantom soulmates. No words.

In contrast to all the bad writing I cover here, there’s relatively little commentary required on this one. Regardless of whether this piece of writing’s tone or voice is to your taste, it’s personal and it undeniably has character. It is evocative and non-literal about its subject. Note especially that she’s talking about the theme of the exhibition without ever short-circuiting (or assuming) the reader’s need or desire to see the exhibition itself. If one can’t trust the art to communicate with the public then the art probably shouldn’t be shown. A critical or review text’s legitimate, productive roles do not include excusing or handwaving an artist’s failure to connect and communicate. It’s also not very much to ask of a writer that they too communicate in clear, honest and meaningful language instead of fridge magnet poetry or random jargon strings, but many don’t. Archey does. Good for her.

I like her observation about many artists grabbing everything in sight and smothering it with words. I agree, and I think in many cases they do it because they’re plain old charlatans whose artistic, imaginative or aesthetic abilities are so limited that they have no alternative. There are now several generations of artists and curators who’ve been indoctrinated with the idea that it doesn’t matter how hollow or slight your work might be if you can armour plate it (or better still, have it armour plated by a curator or art academic) in a solid wall of baffling International Art English.

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