Tag Archives: art speak

ARTBOLLOCKS THEATRE: DOG LOVERS SPECIAL

4 May

doge

Dramatic readings of the worst artist statements, gallery press releases and art criticism. All real! Oh how I wish they weren’t. In this super special edition with added PERFORMANCE ART that will make Marina admit defeat, pack her money bags and retire at last:

Q: Does your promotional material and critical text need to have any relation to or mention of what is actually in the exhibition?

A: Apparently not. Just write about looking at a dog in a sort of vaguely prose poem that reads like some stoned high school kid’s notebook scribbles. Apart from listing the names of the artists and mentioning that it’s an MA degree show, there is no mention whatsoever of what we might see, what’s interesting about it, what media the artists are working in, or why we might want to go. So it’s not just a horrible, pretentious piece of writing, it’s also a complete failure in terms of promotion and as a way of documenting or describing the exhibition for those of us (i.e. 99% of us) who will never see it.

In keeping with the bogus stoner profundity of the text, I made some impromptu, dog-related interpretive performance art that you can also “enjoy” in this video.

They face off in the room. He looks into her eyes and she looks into his. She sees him looking at her looking at him looking at her looking at him looking at her and she feels self-conscious so focuses on the detail. The brown that pretends to be black and the nostril that pretends to be still. She tries not to blink, but it’s hard work. She blinks.

She tries to maintain the kind of eye contact you might have when your eyeballs don’t actually touch. But with or without contact, the in-between-ness remains, even if it is only as membranous liquid or coagulated tears or the crust that separates wet from dry. The space between prevails with an unknown exchange rate. She wonders how long they would have to touch before they would conglomerate…or was the still, stale air of judgment and opinion already mattering between them.

She looks again, imagining a bird’s eye view and a hind sight too. She tries to allow the image to surprise her: tiny hairs and the space behind the ears and the eyelid twitch and the nervous tick.

Is this what an encounter feels like? I try to find words to say but this moment escapes language. Are you, too, intoxicated with life? It all rises viscously around us, like an ocean storm and meaty tiptoes and a packet of midnight howls.

Are we feeling something together? Are we becoming something and then meaning something and then all the magic sensations in our bodily pits…We dance on the threshold of a primal immediacy, and weigh each other against the wild and untamed. A half sunken waltz to an ensemble of smells, crystallizing endlessly between offering and protecting ourselves.

Still I wonder if my vision is stubbornly dogged, or worse, dogmatic. Tell me if I am seeing you or just an actor performing the real you.

What does he stand for? What have I made him stand for? He sits but his size is not reduced…broad shoulders and square jaw.

I want to sing to him but he stands. And lifts a leg. In lieu of mine, he is suddenly estranged from this romantic fiction. He flees with his fleas and his nervous tick too. A diagonal escape into his own self-referential future, going blind, making me invisible as he madly gnaws at his own tale.

His trace is brutal, and yet the space has shifted. And in the end, making art and meeting a dog can be much the same thing.

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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INTERPRETATION MATTERS

31 Mar

A BOOK THAT “CHALLENGES YOUR PRECONCEIVED NOTIONS” OR “INTERROGATES ACCEPTED NOTIONS” OF ART LANGUAGE

Front-cover-Media-1024x680

In addition to making fun of the atrocious, pretentious writing that artists and galleries sometimes issue in the name of art, I also work more constructively and (slightly) less cruelly with people and organisations to improve the quality of their writing and public communications. One such project is Dany Louise’s Interpretation Matters, funded by Arts Council England… so, in case anybody was wondering, ACE are at the very least tacitly concerned about bad gallery writing and gibberish artist statements too. I’ve been working with Dany on the Interpretation Matters project over the past year or so, conducting workshop sessions with venue staff and the public. I’ve contributed an essay to the accompanying book, which is out now.

It also features:

  • Artists Emily Speed, David Blandy and Richard Wilson.
  • Penelope Curtis, formerly of Tate Britain and soon to be director of the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum.
  • Curators Lewis Biggs, Omar Kholeif and Gerardo Mosquera
  • … and more!™

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.

ARTBOLLOCKS THEATRE S3E3: VOCABULARY

13 Mar

“I’M SORRY, HE’S FROM BARCELONA”

fawlty-towers-hd-images-7

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.

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.

“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.

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