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ARTBOLLOCKS THEATRE S3E5: AURATIC

8 Apr

“HI K8, H8 UR WORK”

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, at a gallery in Graz (Austria):

An artist “resists artisanal virtuosity” which I think may be someone being polite about the artist being quite crap at all the things she’s chosen to do as part of her art practice.

Another artist is a painter who apparently ignores colours and the canvas, which takes some doing when not ignoring colours and the canvas is pretty much your entire job description as a painter.

The third artist’s works in wood are impossible to distinguish from ordinary bits of wood that are not art, except they are art. All clear? Good.

You can play along with your Artbollocks Bingo card, and you can watch more Artbollocks Theatre here on the blog or on my Vimeo channel.

First thing’s first: I usually make a point of not looking at any work by the artists mentioned (negatively) here for two main reasons. Reason one is that the artists and galleries who write these kinds of nonsense texts need to either learn that 99% of people who read their statements will see little or nothing of the exhibition or the artist’s work, and therefore write in a way that makes sense in this context… or they need to stop deliberately relying upon the fact that 99% of people won’t see the work because it gives them carte blanche to make insupportable claims for the art and for the artist.

The second reason is that– despite how ugly it undoubtedly feels to be told that your carefully wrought artist statement is sheer bollocks– I usually try to kick the ball and not the player. In other words, to criticise the writing and bad impression it gives of the artist rather than directly attacking them as a person. This would usually be futile, presumptuous and a waste of good venom anyway since I don’t know them.

However, I’m really tempted to break this rule right now because the first artist is a grown woman who chooses to go by the name of “K8”, i.e. and presumably because Kate or Katherine seemed less cool and urban to her for some reason probably best dealt with in private, not in an art gallery. Artists who give themselves stupid names really fucking get up my nose. This was a tiresome and immediately recognisable cliché of the Shoreditch Twat, Marais Moron or Williamsburg Wanker when Charlie Brooker and Chris Morris lampooned it on their Channel 4 show Nathan Barley ten frigging years ago. See 15peter20, below. Guess what? It’s still unforgivably precious and irritating now. That means you too, Marvin Gaye Chesspiece or whatever you’re calling yourself this week. Grow up.

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15peter20

8nyw8y, K8, if U evr see me 0ut + 8b0ut, 1nstea6 of t8lk1ng 2 U, 1’11 c0mmun1c8te w1th U 1n 8n 8ppr0pr18 m8nner by sen61ng U th1s fr0m meye f0ne:

╭∩╮(-_-)╭∩╮

That’s two middle fingers, by the way, not a very contented man with his face between two small penises.

Her works of art garner performative energy from various fields and studies, frequently from the area of fashion, for example, and generally from current forms of representation and modi of self-presentation in digital-based social networks. In the process, she avoids committing herself to a single artistic medium, eludes artisanal virtuosity in photography, sculpture, and video, and produces as if drawing on a gigantic maelstrom of self-documentation and fashionable, queer-visionary transformation of identity.

In a video work designated as “Outfitumentary” by the artist, which is shown in the exhibition in condensed excerpts, she has been documenting her opulent and frenzied changes of clothing since 2001, along with the related signal change within a lesbian subculture and projections of yearning in general. This documentation of a quest for self-invention and the critical examination of identity-seeking and related mediatic breaches lead the fashion items being worn in front of the camera to lose significance. Also evident is the act of refocusing on the artist herself as immersed in perpetual change and the similarly shifting sites of self-documentation playing out here. This high-velocity switching of roles and the concurrent societal pressure to cultivate and express one’s image is one of the themes long explored by Hardy. This aims to challenge the role of the artist, along with the authentic embodiment of this role, within veritable capitalist systems of reproduction and the formatting of the self manifesting there. In her unconventional, artistic elaborations, which take the form of sculpture, light boxes, or photographs, Hardy is likewise concerned with lending visibility to emancipatory means and potentials.

So, she likes dressing up and showing off, which could be performance art but could also just be dressing up and showing off like several million other women and men who do “high velocity switching of roles”, “self documentation” and various takes on “societal pressure” on YouTube, but whose actions are deemed below the level of Fine Art. What is “performative energy” and how does one gather it? “Eludes artisanal virtuosity in photography, sculpture, and video” is probably a hilarious euphemism for “her work looks really bad, but, um… we’re gonna say it’s deliberate, OK?” I’ve seen this excuse a lot, right up to the Venice biennale. The artists are always resisting hegemonic ideas, questioning conventional modes of representation and whatnot. They’re never just presenting bad work because they can’t (or can’t be bothered to) do any better, or because they’ve never shaken the sneering undergraduate pose that being good at anything or serious about anything is uncool, nor indeed the sneering undergraduate notion that being thought of as cool matters at all in the long run. Not that most contemporary artists have a long run.

As for the lesbian signal change, I fear this is just a highfalutin way of saying K8 has changed her look over the years and she likes trying on new clothes. Which most of us do, but most of us aren’t claiming it’s art. One would hope that in the days of “check your privilege” we wouldn’t still be seeing any one curator (or lesbian) claiming to represent a whole “subculture”, even if they believe that they own it in some way, as is strongly implied by her “lending” it. To throw back at them a word that I’m sure the curator of this exhibition would like, saying anybody represents all lesbians and has the right to “lend” them emancipation is very “othering” (i.e. retrograde, sexist, offensive and putting up unhelpful barriers), not to mention being an example of exactly the kind of arrogant, belligerent intra- and extra-community “signal” policing that makes life more difficult for homosexual people who don’t fit with some other folks’ idea of how they should be “emancipated” and reifies homophobic prejudices that they “know” what a lesbian or a gay man looks and acts like.

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ARTBOLLOCKS THEATRE S3E4: PREPOSTAPOCALYPTIC

27 Mar

OOO BONDAGE UP YOURS!

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. In this write up of an exhibition from France we’ve not only got OOOers [sic], but also “negative faith”, wax balls, and typos a go-go (underlined in red, as if I’m that paperclip fellow from MS Word.) Multiple typos and grammatical errors are always good in a press release or any other form of official communication, because they really convey professionalism.

You can play along with your Artbollocks Bingo card, and you can watch more Artbollocks Theatre here on the blog or on my Vimeo channel.

If you don’t know what Object Oriented Ontology is, then a quick look at Wikipedia is probably quite sufficient. If you do know what Object Oriented Ontology is and it’s (somehow) one of your influences alongside animism and “the theoretical reflections of the Nouveau Roman novelist, theorist and editor Alain Robbe-Grillet”, then I don’t know what to say except that you must be a riot at parties.

The Promise of Moving Things deals with the so-called life of objects in our current pre-post-apocalyptic paradigm.

“Pre-post-apocalyptic?” Does this guy know something the rest of us don’t?

Influenced in equal measure by animism, the much-discussed philosophical movement Object Oriented Ontology, the surrealism of Alberto Giacometti’s early masterpiece The Palace at 4 am (1932) and even the theoretical reflections of the Nouveau Roman novelist, theorist and editor Alain Robbe-Grillet (an OOOer, so to speak, well avant la lettre), The Promise of Moving Things seeks to address just that—the very idea that there exists some promise within objects in a world in which humans no longer roam the earth. Neither a critical rejection nor an endorsement of these ideas, the exhibition embraces the ambiguity at the very heart of the word promise. It questions to what extent this negative faith in the cultural and animistic legacy of objects is a genuine rupture with the anthropocentric tradition of humanism and to what extent it is merely a perpetuation of it.

“Just that”? Just what? There’s no obvious subject for this phrase, except for what somes afterwards, which is not a “that” yet because we don’t know what it is until we read on. The next sentence commits the same error; “these ideas”… which ideas? How does one have “negative faith”? “Lack of faith” makes sense and is easily understood. Negative faith suggests something akin to a bank overdraft or a balance sheet. Damn, my faith cheque bounced because I didn’t have enough faith in the bank.

Thus does the exhibition consist of works that features objects or processes which seem to possess some form of human subjectivity. For instance, the Austrian, Vienna-based artist Hans Schabus’s sprawling sculptural installation Konstruktion des Himmels (1994) could merely be a random collection of variously seized wax balls and an elaborate light fixture or the most human forms of celestial organization: a constellation (which it is: a recreation of Apparatus Sculptoris [Sculptor’s Studio], identified and named in the 18th century by Louis de Lacaille).

Please don’t seize my wax balls! The latter part of that sentence in particular is a grammatical car crash. There are, in fact only two sentences in the whole paragraph.

Almost, but not entirely by association, German, Berlin-based Mandla Reuter’s sculpture installation. The Agreement (Vienna) 2011, which has been paired with Schabus’s work and is comprised of an armoire hanging from the ceiling, assumes a quasi-, supernatural and animistic quality.

Quasi what? I think the intended meaning is probably quasi-supernatural– whatever the hell that means– but there’s a random comma in the way, and too many commas in the paragraph as a whole. Spelling and grammar checker: USE IT. “Almost, but not entirely by association, German” is just plain weird. Even if it were true, how is this cogent information?

Producers-Springtime-for-Hitler

The transference of so-called human subjectivity is unmistakable in Swedish, Malmö-based Alexander Gutke’s work Autoscope (2012). This 16mm film installation portrays the trajectory of a piece of film passing through the interior of a projector, exiting into a snowy, tree-dotted landscape, ascending upward into the sky before plunging back down to earth and looping back into the projector, and repeating the process, all as if in an allegory of reincarnation. The American, New Hampshire-based artist Michael E. Smith’s slight sculptural interventions, which often consist of recycled textiles, materials from the automotive industry, animal parts, and a variety of toxic plastics, are known to possess qualities hauntingly evocative of the human body, as if the spirit of one had entered the other. Drawing his formal vocabulary from machines and tools, French, Dijon-based artist Antoine Nessi creates sculpture, which can perhaps be best described as post-industrial, in which the inanimate seems to take on an organic quality, assuming a life of their own. Finally, the practice of the Swedish, Berlin-based artist Nina Canell is no stranger to the kinetic and to a certain, if specious, sense of animism. Something of a case in point, Treetops, Hillsides & Ditches (2011) is a multi-part sculpture comprised of four shafts of wood over the top of which a clump of Iranian pistachio gum has been spread and which slowly crawls down the sides of the wood, enveloping it, like living a skin.

Nothing and nobody can ascend downwards. Ascending is by definition movement in an upward direction. “No stranger to the kinetic and to a certain, if specious, sense of animism” is just cobblers. And people who stick their gum onto things should be prosecuted, fined and flogged like they are in Singapore.

Thus is the reception of each work complicated and vexed through issues of subjectivity, projection, necessity, and desire. Now to what extent the works are complicit in that reception both varies and is debatable. Whatever the case may be, it is virtually impossible to say, but this does not necessarily mean that it is impossible to conceive of a world without humanism, as argued by Robbe-Grillet, at its center.

Bloody humanism. Get the fuck out of here.

“A TEXTUAL PALIMPSEST”

21 Jan

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A recent press release (from repeat offenders Empty Cube in Lisbon) is too short to be worth bothering with for an Artbollocks Theatre reading but rest assured that is, nonetheless, total bollocks. Doing it would also make them the first art gallery featured twice. I guarantee that the long-promised third series of Artbollocks Theatre is coming very soon, by the way. I haven’t done it yet because either:

a) A powerful conspiracy of evil art world figures is doing everything they can to fight my message.

b) I’ve been too lazy and haven’t made the time to do it.

Decide for yourself which seems more likely, but if you’ll permit me to give you a clue I would tend towards a). Search your heart.

“The work consists of a mass of archive materials, specifically gathered by the artist himself for this ephemeral project…”

By the artist himself? Fuck me sideways with a plinth, what dedication. Nobody ever gathered their own materials before. The accompanying image (below) seems to confirm that, yeah… it’s just a bunch of papers in box files. Cross off (NORMAL THING) IS AMAZING BECAUSE ARTIST DID IT on your Artbollocks Bingo card! What a pity all the millions of office workers who’ve had to drudge away typing, printing or photocopying things, putting pieces of paper in folders and then taking them out again and then putting them in an envelope or back into another folder, ad nauseum, never realised they were actually making an ephemeral art project.

NNF_e-artnow

What most of us call “putting some papers in box files” is what they call

“…collecting and archiving a variety of elements that highlight and reconnect histories and stories, as well as the apparent affinities and relations of various references; in his work, the archive acts as a conceptual sub-structure that confronts us with our perennial and irreversible condition, in which memory is made to reconcile with the precise reconstruction of its fragmented legacy.”

Entendeu? Bom.

Nuno Nunes Ferreira explores this model exponentially by amassing a bibliographic archive that covers a whole year and is continuously dissected until the last second of that same year, whose reference in time is the exact day of the project’s presentation at EMPTY CUBE: January 23, 2015. The work’s metrics condenses temporality, juxtaposing it to a textual palimpsest that possesses a clockwork-like quality. Indeed, it is as if these texts were the face of a clock, on which we can constantly pinpoint time via the tangible possibility of recognizing the referential moment of a particular second in the sequence of the next movement.

There are so many questionable phrases in this paragraph that instead of repeating them I’ve just underlined them all with increasing despair, like a teacher or the Paperclip Man in old versions of MS Word.

1) Unless you mean that the paperwork is increasing proportionally to its current dimensions or extent, then you don’t mean exponentially. An example of an archive growing exponentially would be if every item of paperwork gave rise to two or more items of paperwork, each of which in turn gave rise to two or more items of paperwork, and so forth. I doubt this is happening. One also cannot amass something while simultaneously dissecting it, i.e. taking it apart to determine its internal structure. What amassed would be scattered and disassociated fragments of your archive, not necessarily the archive itself.

2) What are the work’s metrics? How does one condense temporality? Is it like condensed milk, sort of not really milk and not very nice? How does one juxtapose condensed temporality with a clockwork textual palimpsest? A palimpsest is something written or drawn over visible traces of previous material, so specifying that it’s textual is fine if we can stomach use of a word like palimpsest outside its sensible original context of medieval illuminated manuscripts. But how is it like clockwork? Is this all just a fancy way of saying that the artist is writing or doodling on old files?

3) As for “pinpointing”, “referential moment” and all that jazz… I genuinely don’t know how to process this as a meaningful sentence. It’s just aphasia or word salad; syntactically correct English but completely devoid of sense.

CareerSuicideBlogArtbollocksBingoCard

“LUDICROUS ANALOGUE NOSTALGIA”

21 Oct

Fumeo9250

I’ve been saying for years that old projectors and other modernist paraphernalia in art galleries are tropes, affectations, bourgeois set dressing rather than meaningful vehicles for a 21st century artist to express themselves. Here is artist Hito Steyerl’s splendid volley against the practice. She nailed it.

Next time I see another 16mm film projector rattling away in a gallery I will personally kidnap it and take the poor thing to a pensioners home. There is usually no intrinsic reason whatsoever for the use of 16mm film nowadays except for making moving images look pretentious, expensive and vaguely modernist, all prepackaged with a whiff of WASPish art history. It made sense to use Bolexes in 1968, and indeed people used them to brilliant end. But today people use cellphones, Kinnect sensors and After Effects to deal with the present and shape it. And if artists do not expose themselves to the workflow and economies that come with contemporary means of production, they become souvenir peddlers. Or worse trying to conveniently package a bygone radical moment as a collectors item.

On this blog, see also TACITA DEAN (congratulations, you’ve made a screensaver twenty meters high) and ARSENALE VI: FILM PROJECTOR MORATORIUM, PLEASE

ARTBOLLOCKS THEATRE: TACTILITY

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. Continue reading

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