Tag Archives: artbollocks


28 Jun



A 26 minute barrage of bollocks, compiled from series two of Artbollocks Theatre with a new disturbing laugh track and inappropriate library music. I know, just what you always wanted. The writing of many artists, gallerists and curators is a tragedy, so I’m repeating it as comedy.

You can also check out my new Artbollocks Theatre channel on Vimeo. There’s now a facility there for you to leave me a small tip with PayPal or your magic pretend money kurejittokādo if you like Artbollocks Theatre WHICH I KNOW YOU DO BABY. It’s like Kickstarter, but I’ve already done it so that’s better, surely? You could even regard tipping as if you’re in the USA, and you have to leave a tip or your “ass” will be shot by the waitress and you will probably die. Or something like that.

I’ll leave it up to you, though. If you want to die, obviously it’s your decision.


“I could go on, but I’m probably boring you.”


15 May



My colleague Dany Louise– who will most likely be writing something more nuanced, more diplomatic and less apoplectic about it anon– alerted me to Eleven Statements Around Art Writing, which was published by Frieze a few years ago and perpetrated by the teaching team on the Goldsmiths MFA course in art writing. They should be bloody ashamed of themselves but almost certainly aren’t. I think these people having responsibility for the intellectual and professional development of students is a mild form of institutionalised abuse, since they’re clearly filling their students’ heads with absolute crap, wrongheaded objectives and bad habits in writing. Not to mention the fact that they are patently atrocious writers themselves. Especially where artists or writers are concerned it’s rarely true that those who can do and those who can’t, teach… but this is the exception. These are the ones who really can’t.

The comments are genuinely worth reading, unlike the article. Even Frieze’s co-editor Dan Fox seems increasingly unable to believe the endless rabbit hole of bullshit he’s tumbled into and he vainly makes some attempt to extract sense from these gibberish statements, although the best comment is not by Fox and says simply:


I know exactly how this gentleman feels. For a start, how can a statement be “around” anything? Before anybody gets to the text they’re assailed by a title that’s the worst kind of pretentious bollocks. It’s also inadvertently revealing of the inability of Fusco and co. to actually make assertions that express any courage of conviction. No, they dither “around” statements instead because that’s easier than commiting to the act of saying something and standing by it. I’m sure Nietzsche is not considered cool on the Goldsmiths Art Writing MFA, but as the great syphilitic loon with the soup strainer ‘tache once wrote: “There are terrible people who, instead of solving a problem, bungle it and make it more difficult for all who come after. Whoever can’t hit the nail on the head should, please, not hit it at all.”

‘Eleven Statements Around Art Writing’ is co-authored by the teaching team –Maria Fusco, Michael Newman, Adrian Rifkin and Yve Lomax – of MFA Art Writing at Goldsmiths, University of London. It proposes a moment in contemporary production: writing as art practice.

One cannot propose a moment, because a moment is a conceptual, arbitrary, subjective unit of the indefinite continued progress of existence and events in the past, present, and future. A moment, by definition, happens and passes outside the influence or choice of any being. Secondly, a large subset of writing has been a form of art (or artistic) practice– or related to or influenced by artistic impulses and imperatives– since the advent of literacy on Earth. To mention only one example, China has a tradition of calligraphic text that goes back thousands of years, in which the act of marking the characters themselves had an ideological or religious dimension, i.e. writing as art practice.

Thirdly, I reject your proposal because you are all twats.

Art Writing emerges as a practice.

This is a great example of the type of artbollocks sentence that is lexically correct English but can’t be parsed into anything that makes any real sense or conveys any useful information. Don’t worry, plenty more of these to come.

Art Writing is a possible form of the liberty of the image.

Art Writing names an approach within contemporary culture that, in wanting new potentials, embraces writing as a problematization of the object of art, its dissemination and forms of exhibition.

I don’t even know what all this could conceivably mean. How do you problematize an object? What for? I also doubt any of the four authors could adequately explain why it’s necessary to problematize objects or what is gained by doing so. Or are they referring to “object” as in purpose? Not that this would make sense either.

Art Writing does not take modalities of writing as given, rather it tends to, and experiments with, non-division between practice and theory, criticism and creativity.

I think this means “art writing does what it wants”, although Art Writing doesn’t actually do anything because it’s a literary genre and not an autonomous entity with desires, volition or an agenda. Writers in every genre and culture have always experimented with the “non-division” (i.e. “putting together” in plain English) of practice, theory, criticism and creativity. Anybody who doesn’t know this– or affects not to know this so as to aggrandise themselves and flatter their own egos– should never be allowed to teach or to hold any kind of academic post.

Art Writing sustains all forms of art criticism, including the experimental and the hybrid. The art work may be intensely engaged with, or it may be the starting point for fictional and poetic developments.

Art Writing is in the situation of a fulcrum.

If Art Writing is in the situation of a fulcrum, then what is being leveraged against it? Of what physical material is Art Writing made? Why are the words “in the situation of” in this sentence when “Art Writing is a fulcrum”, although equally vapid and hollow as a statement, says the same thing in half the space? This is what’s known in my house as a really fucking stupid metaphor. Furthermore it’s an example of art writers using technical and scientific terms with total disregard for what they really mean. The point of any given language having a collectively recognised lexis is that all speakers of that language are, for the most part, able to communicate relatively clearly and efficiently because they all agree that “fulcrum” means “the point against which a lever is placed to get a purchase, or on which it turns or is supported.” In other words, if you start just kidnapping words and unilaterally making meanings up for them without explanation, the result is Babel; linguistic and semiotic chaos. I can start acting as if “fulcrum” means “supermarket”, “my uncle”, “happy” or anything else, but the resulting pronouncements will not be comprehensible to anybody but me. Fulcrum was fulcrum that he was fulcrum to fulcrum fulcrum at the fulcrum.

Art Writing is an anthology of examples.

Art Writing is re-invented in each instance of Art Writing, determining its own criteria.

Art Writing addresses material literary forms, which draw attention to the spatiality of writing and the physicality of its support, but the interests of Art Writing diverge from those of literature.

Is this because literature is actually readable, enjoyable, relevant and the product of craft and creativity?

Art Writing involves relations between people, as discursive. In so far as it is art, Art Writing can engage public space no longer sustained by ground, including that of truth.

“Public space no longer sustained by ground”? Like a playground that fell into a sinkhole? What else could this possibly mean? Truth isn’t a public space either, because truth is another abstract, subjective noun and not a thing that has any objective physical existence you could walk around in or on. That’s why you’ve never heard anybody saying they just bought a lovely sturdy pedestal for their truth, or that all their truth fell off the shelves when their upstairs neighbour slammed the door.

Art Writing institutes such public space without truth, and sometimes disappears into it.

What is Art Writing disappearing into, public space or truth? Apparently there’s lots of stuff around Art Writing, but nobody resembling a copy editor or even a person who speaks English. In any of the possible permutations, none of these three abstract terms can possibly disappear either into each other, or into something that doesn’t exist.

“I can’t find my Art Writing, have you seen it?”

“I think it disappeared into that truth over there a few minutes ago.”

Here is an example of Art Writing disappearing into its own arse. I’ve seen a lot of blithering shit written by people who claim to be professional writers about– sorry, around– art, but for the most part relatively little harm is done except for the writers making themselves sound like fools. They deserve to be thought of as fools anyway because that’s what they are, so who cares? These people are supposed to be educators, though, and that makes me really angry. Talk about art school damage. While I read these statements I felt as I might if I’d experienced a massive embolism in the area of the brain responsible for language processing. This is not the effect any writer or educator should ever cultivate in their readers.


5 May

ArtBTheatreTitleMore dramatic readings of the worst artist statements, gallery press releases and art criticism. This is the last one for the time being, but I’ll be back soon with more highfalutin claptrap and a new dinner jacket. The art work being described (or not, as the case may be) was a “one nigth event” [sic] that took place in Lisbon this January. I suppose they could have further minimised the chances of anybody actually seeing whatever the hell it was they were showing by doing it in a boat 100km off the coast of Portugal or something, but theirs was certainly a brave step towards the high-end art world’s ideal of art not being visible to the general public at all.

Play along with Artbollocks Bingo!

The title ‘Aula de Ginástica’ [Gymnastics Class] evokes a notion of time, a unit, a moment, a class, an exercise or set of exercises and, in this particular case, a spatial construction based on mental exercises that correspond to a set of reflections on the possibility and fulfillment of a project. Its presence is absence circumscribed by a geography that radically affects the EMPTY CUBE project in terms of its display potential: in what it shows for a single, unrepeatable moment and in the rarefaction of its space as the symbolic place of the exhibitive project.

Its presence is absence? My approval of whoever wrote this is annoyance. I have to say that for me ‘Gymnastics Class’ doesn’t evoke a notion of time, a unit or whatnot. It mainly evokes my PE teacher at secondary school who loved watching boys in the shower under the pretences of “making sure they washed” and doted on them until they hit puberty, then switched to bullying them relentlessly for the apparent sin of growing up. Charming fellow. Looked like a male version of Margaret Thatcher.


Alongside this, designer Vieira Baptista combines a number of models and prototypes to reveal methodologies and processes that present the ephemeral as a transitory moment in the creative process itself, without losing sight of the viewer’s itinerary, which leads to a surprisingly deceptive plane. However, the geography and concomitant geometry imposed by his reflection on this project make it possible to visually construct the vectors of a now imaginary space that repeats itself in the memory of past EMPTY CUBE projects. EMPTY CUBE itself is suggested by the action of someone who intervenes in a space, be it the same space with which we are familiar or a different one, defined by Miguel Vieira Baptista’s design pieces on the walls of the host space.

I defy anybody to work out from this description what was actually being shown or done in the gallery or what it was really about. “Design pieces” doesn’t count either, because what is a “design piece”? There’s no obvious connection between these “design pieces” and the gibberish about methodologies anyway. I think this is one of the purest artbollocks texts I’ve done so far, at least in the sense that it’s all bollocks and no art. That’s why it’s hard to offer any kind of lengthy commentary on it. Some of the others gave the impression that there might conceivably be something worth seeing if you like that kind of thing and were able to ignore the nonsense that was being written about the work or the artist. Other horribly overwritten texts might have been edited down into something that had a factual core, if anybody on the premises was capable or inclined. This essay is an overinflated cream puff of a text, and that’s doing a disservice to cream puffs because at least they have cream inside them. There’s some half-cocked reference to the currently fashionable conceit that artists are a kind of researcher or technician of ideas, but when you crunch this one down there’s absolutely nothing potentially or actually informative in it whatsoever. Conceits– clever evasions, ingenious McGuffins, highbrow but hollow proclamations–  are what contemporary art all too frequently has at its core instead of ideas, emotion or the sharing of experiences.

For the “nigth” time: if an art work needs this much description in order for people to understand it or in order for the artist and their representatives to justify its existence, then it’s not really a work of art. Or if it is an art work, it’s an art work that needn’t exist and needn’t be seen because you just described everything worth knowing about it.


24 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. This time: a flurry of neologisms that aren’t helping, and a lengthy explanation of the internal layout in a building over 99% of us will never see. Art criticism in a nutshell, basically. The exhibition was in Milan.

Play along with Artbollocks Bingo!

The traits of manifold colours which the artist creates by spreading acrylic colour with a brush, no longer using aerosol sprays as he did with the works produced in previous years, emerge from their grounds following vertical and horizontal directrixes and extend beyond their own physical limit in order to break the closed and defined limit of the canvas.

Artist is so magic! He creates “manifold colours” (there are lots of colours) and he spreads “acrylic colour with a brush” (a miracle never before conceived of or enacted by human mind or hand). These colours “emerge from their grounds” (we can see them… I don’t think it means they’ve been hiding in the garden of their mansion), they follow “vertical and horizontal directrixes” (they go in different directions) and they “break the closed and defined limit of the canvas” (he colours over the edges). Oh, and look out everyone! We’re in the presence of yet another artist who is breaking the physical laws of matter and the universe because his art is so powerful. Contemporary art is getting to be a serious international safety concern. The UN needs to immediately send some inspectors and get a grip on the growing threat of artistic attacks on basic physical principles, otherwise sooner or later one of these reality-shattering quantum-artist-gods is going to rip a catastrophic hole in the spacetime continuum just by doing a painting of some lines or meaningfully piling up a bunch of old crap they got from a charity shop.

2013-10-04-BathroomImageI must now address the elephant in the room: “directrixes”. The text is written in reasonably good English, at least grammatically speaking. The content is utterly redundant, pretentious and stupid, but one’s sense that the writer has an understanding of the language in which they are writing is relatively OK. “Directrixes” is not OK unless you’re talking about mathematics. A directrix is a line, perpendicular to the axis of symmetry, used in the definition of a parabola. A parabola is the locus of points such that the distance to the focus equals the distance to the directrix (i.e. a line not through the focus.) You may well find this explanation as baffling as any art text, in which case the following will suffice: writing “directrixes” when you mean “lines on a painting” is total bullshit. Continue reading


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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