“I’M SORRY, HE’S FROM BARCELONA”
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, an artist expresses his utter disdain for and rejection of the fetishised, unique art object and the mystique of the all-powerful curator by working with a curator to create and display unique, fetishised art objects at a gallery in Barcelona. Under some of the pretentious self-importance there’s actually quite a lot I agree with in the text that follows. However, I rarely go to the trouble of writing lengthy screeds against certain practices or attitudes only to immediately turn around and take part in them with gay abandon. At least not knowingly.
“Beneath the dark and pestilent surface of the current state of affairs sunken in corruption and despair, frivolousness and aesthetic vanity, there is an emergent narcotic period in which almost no one bothers to assess and understand the process behind a work of art.”
Why should they? If an artist’s process is the most interesting thing about their art, then their art is probably not very interesting and neither are they, as artists or as human beings.
“The frivolousness is not Manzoni and his Artist’s Shit (which it turns out was not even artist’s shit) but crosses the world in a network of interests, favoritism and opportunism that inform debates and openings. Gillo Dorfles predicted that the critic would end up substituting for the artist. Perhaps he only erred in the nomenclature, for the word that describes him has gradually been replaced by others, such as curator or cultural administrator. Emmanuel Lévinas, who is more self-effacing, tells us that not only the name, but also the figure, as seen in the previous century, has now disappeared.”
Unless the people to whom you refer genuinely are cultural touchstones that any educated person in the world could be expected to know, either (briefly) explain who they are, or at least provide a proper reference for the source of your quote or paraphrase. Otherwise you’re just name dropping.
“Nowadays, those who construct the discourse and dictate the meaning of art are no longer the artists (who are ever young, wild, naïve and expendable) or the critics (who have all but disappeared from the printed press and the digital scene) but these new cultural ‘coaches’. From the most ostentatious biennials to the humblest group shows at civic centres, there is always a curator willing to make the discovery of an artist. They are a species of secret agents who, from an extra-artistic (or, at most, para-artistic) position articulate the discourses and determine which of the centres are of interest. The artist (the contemporary artist to whom the title refers) becomes little more than a colonized victim, a simple actor in the drama (in the most Hitchcockian sense: ‘Artists are cattle’). The artist’s work will be prey to the fetishism of the market, reduced to a simple ‘souvenir’, an object that reveals the stark absence of any type of experience. His work will only be on display for the short time allotted to it before it is completely lost to oblivion in the surfing that shapes the new truth. The truth about these new demiurges works under the pretence of documentation when it is actually the notions of Pharaonic prima donnas. It is a reality ‘imbued with a homogeneous hypermodernity, which cyberspace takes it upon itself to blow over, like a diluvium of global dimensions’. (Fumaroli dixit).
Benxamín Álvarez has named his exhibition ‘Something Stinks… I Don’t Want to Be a Contemporary Artist!’ In it he offers his view of the artist’s role as half comedian, half explorer. He has therefore created a vocabulary through images and three-dimensional objects, which he manipulates and shows as independent sculptures. These works in wax, wood, paraffin, cloth and metal take on a dream-like nature with critical and ironic connotations. They represent a way of seeing and projecting, advocating art as a vocation, a way of telling and looking that is more about feeling than thinking, and conveys an ‘affection that speaks to us with more insight into the reality of things’. As the poet Leopoldo María Panero said (may this quote serve as a tribute), ‘Every man is afraid of the truth. The truth is awkward, beastly…it progresses by blows rather than in a straight line like sex’. Benxamín Álvarez, here and now, presents us his painstakingly meandering truth: intimate and familiar, physical and hypnogogic, subtle and wild, terrible and beautiful.”
Behind the hectoring, undergraduate-politics-student tone and pure artbollocks like:
- “… painstakingly meandering truth” (which semantically signifies a lie, surely?)
- “… the artist’s role as half comedian, half explorer” (no and no, and since when did either comedians or explorers make objects out of wax and paraffin as a direct result– “therefore”- of their practice as comedians or explorers? We couldn’t stop laughing at the comedy club, the guy just kept on producing these paraffin sculptures. Hilarious.
- “… created a vocabulary through images and three-dimensional objects” (all real, physical objects above the quantum scale are three dimensional, incidentally, and just making the same types of shapes or objects repeatedly is not a “vocabulary”.)
…there is actually some valid criticism of how contemporary art is severely deformed at the moment by star curators and the art market. However, as I mentioned at the top, it’s hard to see how the artist is helping matters by apparently doing the same as every other “souvenir” maker whose work is “on display for a short time” in collusion with one of the curator figures he’s dismissing as “pharoanic prima donnas”. Doing the thing you profess to hate while griping about it is hardly a constructive form of resistance and does nothing to suggest or create an alternative.