Tag Archives: academia


19 Feb

CareerSuicideBlogArtbollocksBingoCardI don’t only do Artbollocks Theatre because I’m a horrible person who likes mocking idiots mercilessly. Although as it happens I am also a horrible person who likes mocking idiots mercilessly, over the six months or so I’ve been doing it live and as videos online I’ve had lots of really interesting and thought provoking conversations with artists and art people because of it. While I was in the shower yesterday morning and not particularly thinking about anything else (no, don’t bother thanking me for that image, you’re welcome) a related question percolated through: why do some people feel they need to do so much special pleading on behalf of contemporary art and artists? Why is an artist whose paintings all look more or less the same “exploring the poetics of seriality” and not just repeating himself? Why is an artist who copies old science fiction paperback covers a fine artist and not a plagiarist… and how is what he does substantively different from a hack doing the same thing in a factory in Guangdong? Why is an artist who misunderstands basic scientific concepts “questioning established hierarchies of knowledge” and not just a lazy woman who likes the sound of words like “research” but doesn’t know what any of them mean? And so forth, ad nauseum.

The obvious answer is that a lot of people’s jobs depend upon these kinds of excuses. If you’re a certain type of academic, a curator who thinks you’re more important than artists, or a gallerist who found a way to sell the unsaleable, or an artist whose work doesn’t have any obviously accessible or meaningful content, then of course you’d be mighty pissed off and probably out of a job if International Art English and all the flimsy art world edifices built upon it were to disappear. But in a more general and less obvious sense there’s still a strange disconnect between the positively baroque excuses made for contemporary visual art (or artists) and the pragmatic approach most of us have to other art forms, no matter how invested in them we may be. Continue reading


26 Mar

“Hierarchies of participation are being reconfigured and traditional authorial claims are under stress, new articulations of spectator/performer reciprocity can no longer be disregarded.”

The venerable ART-ALL academic mailing list is nowadays mostly a silent void. And Darkness and Decay and fifty thousand pointless conference papers about art hold illimitable dominion over all. Very rarely a small, absurd item still scuttles across ART-ALL’s dead face, like this recent call for participation associated with the University of Glasgow and The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, specifically two entities that in all seriousness call themselves respectively the “Performance and the Body Working Group” and the “Performance and New Technologies Working Group”. “Working groups”, as if they’re engaged in vital research or something, as if the fate of the world hangs upon their deliberations.

Behold the sheer bollocks that these people write:

Title: Embodied Engagement: Participatory And Immersive Performance
The Performance and the Body and Performance and New Technologies Working Groups are joining forces this year to explore different bodily, aesthetic, political, ethical and economical aspects of participation in the current performance milieu. In a performance context where hierarchies of participation are being reconfigured and traditional authorial claims are under stress, new articulations of spectator/performer reciprocity can no longer be disregarded. Focusing on audience experience, we intend to examine possibilities of participant (spectators and performers) agency and empowerment within different modes of performance transaction.

HEY, STOP DISREGARDING THE NEW ARTICULATIONS OF SPECTATOR/PERFORMER RECIPROCITY, OK? Does this Scrabble board of a paragraph really mean to suggest that it’s in any way a new thing for live art and performances to involve or incorporate the audience as something other than passive spectators? If so, they’re talking absolute crap. And if they don’t mean to suggest this, then I’m still pretty sure they’re talking absolute crap. If you’re focusing on audience experience, don’t you think you should be able to express yourself to that audience in plain English?

According to Adrian Heathfield, contemporary performance has shifted aesthetically from ‘the optic to the haptic, from the distant to the immersive, from the static relation to the interactive’. The dialogue between the two Working Groups aims to explore the productive tensions between bodies and technologies in the development of this shift. The contested term ‘immersive’ is a rich, under-theorized concept which pulls in and works across distinct constituencies of performance. It calls upon diverse technologies to create its performance environments and promote active bodily engagement. Immersion both as an artistic intention and a perceived process is identified with concepts of viscerality, authenticity and immediacy. Yet the question remains as to how effective immersion can be in engaging audiences mentally, emotionally and corporeally.

You know Adrian Heathfield. Of course you do. He’s, er… the man who said contemporary performance has shifted from the optic to the haptic. Which is a shame, really, because I’d much rather see a performance than have to wait in a long queue to feel the performer. I’d like somebody to explain to me how one engages an audience corporeally; does this just mean grabbing or groping them? Having a fight with them? Because I’m also available to perform in shows like this.

What utter balls.

Anyway, let’s wish both of these working groups the best of luck in their research. Millions of lives depend upon it.

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