Search results for 'biennale'


15 Dec

Career Suicide is my non-fiction book about the realities of working in the contemporary art world for most professional artists; the thousands of unfashionable, little-known and underpaid ones who have to do all manner of unfashionable, little-known and underpaid things to survive.

It also answers some of the questions that outsiders often ask about contemporary art, and some that they don’t: Why do some artists spend their whole careers doing stupid stuff like mutilating mannequins or painting old bits of wood with baffling phrases? Why does everyone in the art world get paid, apart from the artists? Why do most art students spend years doing their MA, closely followed by them doing sweet FA? Who are the HoWiAs, and what the hell do they think they’re doing? How and why did a bunch of paintings that looked like vandalised portraits of SpongeBob get taken so seriously at an international art fair?

It’s available in paperback and hardback editions. These barbarically archaic and decadent printed versions are available from Lulu, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Ingram. The ePub versions are all DRM-less, reasonably priced and available directly from Lulu, or from Amazon, or from the Apple, Kindle, NOOK and Kobo stores on your device.

To buy it, visit my book shop or the Apple store, Amazon, or your ebook store.


Yojimbo1. FREE RANGE

In which I compare being an artist to being a chicken on a farm, a butterfly, and Toshiro Mifune, and I invoke both Sturgeon’s Law and Godwin’s Law of Nazi Analogies within the first twenty pages.

I explain that the book is one result of my ridiculously retentive memory, and furthermore that this may cause less memorious people a certain amount of discomfort.


location_shop_2702. THE NEW FOREST: LOCAL PEOPLE

In which I castigate (among others) dabblers, plagiarists, the makers of blog-art, the many galleries who rip artists off by asking them to pay for the privilege of even having their work considered, and the stupidity of the artists who actually pay.

An exhibition is successful and the people of Hampshire discover that some women are not ladies.



In which my house burns down, I voluntarily and of my own free will move to Berwick-upon-Tweed, an artist outstays his welcome and proves that no good deed goes unpunished, Health and Safety regulations are violated repeatedly, and my German flatmate and I contemplate the contagious misery of the British people, AKA inselaffe (“island apes”).


In which I am flown to Japan by people who apparently have no wish to speak with me or employ me, I discover that even in Japan strangers either think that they know me and/or that I know everything about everything everywhere, I subsist almost entirely upon ramen and nutritious jelly packs, and I discuss the sad fact that Japan is the only country in the world where artists and writers are officially considered priceless and irreplaceable national treasures.



In which I exhibit some films at La Biennale di Venezia despite the best efforts of Frieze Magazine and an artist who has a fax from his gallery that says he mustn’t ever do any work, I am forcibly entertained at the Welsh Pavilion (whose artists are mostly not Welsh), and a party for the art world’s elite ends in destruction, a horde of nasty drunks, and visits from the local police and the local priest simultaneously.



In which I travel to China, find myself dumped by the side of a Beijing orbital road, I ride in cars with total strangers who look like gangsters from a John Woo movie, become a lifestyle accessory for the new Chinese middle classes and receive the adoration of Little Emperors.

Dolly-the-sheep-0067. EDINBURGH: HELLO DOLLY

In which I explain that Dolly the sheep is not entirely real, that Enlightenment is hard, and why even the world’s leading geneticists are not above a puerile tit joke.



In which I masochistically return to China and face the consequences, including censorship and surveillance, smog, equipment that’s broken before you even buy it, a gallery that hasn’t been built yet, backhanded compliments about how fat I am, a party thrown by the British Council that’s like something from the colonial era, an eight hour car journey listening to the same three CDs of horrendous Cantonese AOR, and gallery staff who don’t bother turning up for their own jobs.

Read an extract from chapter 8 here and more about Shenzhen here.


In which I visit Frieze Art Fair and discover some very bad art offered by very bad galleries for sale to some very bad people, I reflect upon the time an artist spends “resting”, and I contemplate the idea that many of an artist’s victories are Pyrrhic ones.


Paperback, 275 pages, ISBN 978-1-4461-5292-8

Hardcover, 225 pages, ISBN 978-1-4710-0773-6

Ebook, no pages, ISBN 978-1-4478-1027-8


28 Oct

Hayward Gallery, London, 28th September 2011-8th January 2012

Pipilotti Rist (whose work appealed to me at this year’s Venice Biennale) is now the subject of a retrospective at the South Bank including dozens of video and performance works going back to the late Eighties. Personally I’d find such a prospect horrifying if it was my work: who wants everyone to see the dodgy things they were doing as a kid twenty or thirty years ago? Unless it’s all been downhill from there, obviously, in which case you probably should rest on those early laurels and hope that nobody notices you’ve made anything new because your new stuff is nowhere near as good. Unfortunately this happens, too. I’m not saying that Rist’s new work is crap, I think it’s quite the reverse in fact: I just mean that if she’d died or her video making arm had been amputated in a freak museum of modern art accident or something so she’ll never make a film again, then there might be some justification for the context provided by showing some of her juvenilia. Her old stuff has not aged well at all, though. Some of it made me cringe on her behalf but presumably she doesn’t care or she’d have omitted it, so good for her I suppose if she’s been brave and decided that we must see her entire career, warts and all.

Her appearances in her own works suggest that she’s an absolute nutter who seems to have more than a passing acquaintance with psychedelic drugs, which locates her a very long way from the pomposity and arid conceptualism that’s the boring norm in video art. In fact she seems to do exactly what she wants without much regard for looking cool, for art world orthodoxy or for standing apart from her own ideas. She seems very willing to embrace her own ridiculousness and narcissism. That’s both admirable and much too unusual in performance and video art. Continue reading


28 Sep

Taiwan’s pavilion is in a grim upstairs dungeon attached to the Doge’s palace via the Bridge of Sighs, so called because prisoners passed over it from the palace to meet their usually horrible fates. In Venice, even the torture chambers are on the primo piano in case of floods. Torturers hate getting their feet wet. It may or may not be deliberate that the formerly dictatorial Taiwan’s pavilion is situated where the Doges would have their political or personal opponents browbeaten and tortured. Probably not. Plaques on the wall say “[famous person] was imprisoned here, [year] to [year]”.

Most of the presentation is more enthusiastic than good or exciting, like a commendable effort by enthusiastic A Level students. There’s a wobbly video of sugar mill workers making a sound work that initially doesn’t seem related to anything else. Most of the remaining periphery is occupied by what they call ‘Soundscape Taiwan’ or the ‘Sound Library/Bar’, which is essentially an adolescent audiovisual mix tape of Taiwanese indie bands, performance artists, DJs and so forth, with iPads running a slick interface.

Presumably this is all supposed to be very cool and maybe it is by Taiwanese standards, but it all seems rather naïve, a bit shoddy, blithely amateurish and embarrassing… overall not the worst thing you’ll encounter at the Biennale by an extremely long chalk but not very good either.

I suppose Taiwan can at least be praised for trying to be overtly youthful in a superannuated Biennale where any artist under 35 is considered “young” and “emerging” even if they’ve been in exhibitions for ten years, leaving us without a sensible definition for somebody who’s 22, talented and recently graduated. Some of the Biennale’s PR puffs and written material even crow about the fact that there are several people under 35 in the exhibition, as if it’s the curator’s achievement rather than than a triumph for the artists. Taiwan’s pavilion is also admirably upfront about the fact that the Biennale is (and always has been)  primarily a kind of advertising market for national identity, even if in practice the Taiwan team’s chosen manner of branding themselves seems a bit ill-judged.

One thing that is truly worth the effort of visiting is Hong-Kai Wang’s video installation ‘Music While We Work’; it’s related to the aforementioned sound recording video but is in an entirely different league to it. The installation is compelling and almost painterly, particularly as projected here onto somewhat light-absorbing stone walls that mute and smear out the HD harshness of digital video. The double screen projection features workers at a sugar processing factory in Wang’s home town, and their erstwhile colleagues occasionally lurking around with recording equipment. It’s not quite a documentary, just poetic, languid, nicely shot and well-edited images of factory workers with no commentary, romanticism or condescension. Wang’s work is the only grown up thing in the whole pavilion.


27 Sep

The Singapore Pavilion’s ‘Cloud of Unknowing’ will probably remain “unknown” forever because the woman was refusing everybody entry on the grounds that there was too much of a cloud in there. Seriously, she said the smoke machine was making excessive smoke. This seems a bit like saying the sun makes excessive heat: true sometimes, but there are ways around such a problem if one applies a little bit of lateral thinking and common sense. All I can conclude based upon the available information is that the cloud, at least, is an actual physical one. I don’t think nobody being allowed in to “know” it was a conceptual act, though. I may be wrong.

I was sitting outside and gathering my hate I mean thoughts for a few minutes; she refused a steady stream of people who had stupidly made the effort to find the place and dared to assume they could actually visit the art work. I wonder if she ever let anybody in at all.

In short, Singapore Pavilion people, you might want to think about capitalising on being at the Biennale in Venice and hundreds or thousands of people being interested in your artist’s work instead of actively wasting their time and throwing it back in their faces. Five minutes more and she closed up entirely, then went flouncing off.

Basically she didn’t want to do any work that day and having visitors come in was annoying her. Gallery people, you’re not doing visitors a favour by deigning to let them see art. They’re supporting you.


26 Sep

“Con tanta pazienza e un po’ de vaselina, anche l’elefante se fa la formichina.”

[“With a lot of patience and a bit of Vaseline, even the elephant fucked the ant*.”]

A pseudonymous sock puppet account emailed me this afternoon, saying that attacking artists or galleries for their use of language was unfair, because “not every artist is intellectual or a good writer” and asking “what do you hope to achieve by being so mean? You could just ignore it.” I’m not sure if this was occasioned by what I posted today about Karla Black’s pathetic appeal to psychoanalysis and quantum physics in the service of stinky soap chunks; it could have been related to a number of other occasions when I’ve castigated the barely literate, preening gobbledygook that contemporary galleries spew out incessantly like a mental patient who thinks he’s Michel Foucault.

Note that this isn’t the first time somebody has lacked the guts or the good grace to leave a comment publicly and under their own name, where everyone can see it and my response to it. Be warned that in future I will make greater efforts to unmask the perpetrators and repost these cowardly communications in full. That’s assuming it isn’t blindingly obvious who they are already: it usually is. So leave a comment instead. I’d be a hypocritical shitbag if I didn’t approve comments that opposed or questioned me. Continue reading

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