Tag Archives: Curator Error

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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WHEN CRITICS ATTACK

30 Mar

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MOMA COMPLETELY BJÖRKS UP

I’ve often compared the art world to the mafia, with their mutual general secrecy, their deliberate cultivation of mystique, and their maintenance of respectable fronts for money laundering and worse. Then there’s the code of silence– certainly we don’t criticise our self-appointed superiors for fear of blackballing, but we should avoid offending our peers too, just in case they’re of use to us later. Whether somebody is of use, of course, being the psychopathic standard by which the most successful artists, curators and gallerists judge each other and everyone else. Most reviews of contemporary art are so bland and uncritical (in every sense of the word) that they could charitably be called reports rather than reviews, if we quite reasonably define a review as a critical assessment. Very often supposed art critics or arts writers seem to be following a prim “if you can’t say anything nice, say nothing at all” rule and so restrict themselves to inoffensively listing the pictures or objects they saw, like a seven year old asked to write an essay about their school holiday.

So it always comes as a shock when normally docile mainstream critics break ranks and genuinely critique or go on the offensive, doubly so when other people feel free to pile on as well. In recent weeks there have been two such instances. One is related to MoMA’s tragic starfucker curator Klaus Biesenbach, who basically worships anybody who is a celebrity but isn’t an important contemporary artist, e.g. Tilda Swinton, Lady Gaga and, unsurprisingly, Marina Abramović… although Maz is allegedly furious with him for messing up one of her performances by eclipsing even her own immense narcissism. The other incident is a telenovela-esque hissy fit melodrama starring Bartomeu Marí, the soon-to-be-former director of MACBA in Barcelona.

The eponymous New York Björk exhibition that Biesenbach curated has received gleefully ghastly reviews. Roberta Smith in the New York Times called it “tacky” and “little short of hostile”, while also for good measure describing Abramovic’s 2010 Biesenbach/MoMA wankfest The Artist is Present as “cheesy”. Jason Farago in The Guardian called it “weirdly unambitious” and a “Madame Tussaud’s parody”, although he does grudgingly recommend it anyway. Maybe he really likes waxwork shows. Jillian Mapes at Flavorwire dismissed it summarily as a technical disaster with only one exhibit worth seeing at all. Christian Viveros-Fauné at ArtNet wrote an extraordinarily lengthy monstering of the exhibition and the curator, reporting that the vast majority of MoMa’s trustees expressed their displeasure by not attending the opening event. C-VF furthermore officially declares that “MoMa-bashing is in”, calls for Biesenbach to be fired, and says the show is a “turkey” and “what many critics argue is the worst MoMA exhibition of all time”. The latter seems a bit of a tame qualification given that it comes at the end of a several thousand word blitzkrieg of everything Biesenbach has done recently and his evident prioritisation of his own vanity, ego and fandom over any question of artistic practice or merit. CV-F also mentions in turn great pull quotes from other critics, such as “a fiasco”, “an abomination”, “the Björk show at MoMA is really, really bad”, and “[it] turns MoMA into Planet Hollywood.”

In short, it seems there’s hardly any prominent person in the USA’s east coast art community who hasn’t taken the opportunity to put the boot in, publicly. Maybe surprisingly, maybe unsurprisingly given that it’s Biesenbach who has obviously been cruising for a bruising rather than Björk herself, the latter has come out of the whole debacle relatively unscathed. It speaks volumes, though, that she was first asked to do the exhibition in 2002 but only said yes about ten years later, 2002 being about the last time she did anything but spin her creative wheels in the mud. These days she must be a very grateful grapefruit when she receives any attention at all. If she saw a paparazzo now she’d hug him instead of savaging him.

DOGGY STYLE

Bestia

‘Not Dressed For Conquering’ by Ines Doujak.

Art world public clusterfuckup number two takes us to Barcelona. It involves MACBA director Bartomeu Marí and a sculpture by Ines Doujak called Not Dressed For Conquering; this artwork depicts former Spanish king Juan Carlos on his hands and knees, appearing to receive anal penetration from Bolivian feminist and activist Domitila Chúngara, who in turn is being humped by a dog, the amorous trio surrounded by rusty old Nazi SS helmets… because of course it does.

Marí cancelled the exhibition in which the artwork featured and then as a parting shot when he was compelled to resign, instigated the firing of the two MACBA curators responsible for it. Marí claimed not to have seen the work in question until the last minute, which to me seems incredibly remiss and incompetent for a museum director. If you’re the director and you don’t know about every significant thing that’s happening in or going into your art museum, you should be sacked because you’re incompetent. The “I didn’t see nothing, it wasn’t me” thing would seem to be a pretty transparent lie if it’s true that the artist and curators have written proof of him signing a loan form for the work about a month before.

The curators didn’t even put the show together, they were just in charge of its MACBA incarnation and refused– along with the artist– to quietly remove the piece from the exhibition without making a fuss. The MACBA board of trustees’ president of honour is Sofía, Juan Carlos’ wife, but Marí maintains nobody told him to do anything. Again, even if this is true, then it just proves he’s capable of being an arsehole all on his own.

After a massive shitstorm of criticism in Spain and elsewhere, Marí did at least backtrack and un-cancel the show before the board cancelled him. La bestia y el soberano (“The Beast and the Sovereign”) opened, complete with the regisexual sculpture. The full Streisand Effect occurred following the hamfisted censorship attempt, with visitor numbers up 48%.

ARTBOLLOCKS THEATRE 3: SUPER COP

2 Feb

ABT3_Copper

S3E1: CONTEMPLATIVE

Yes, it’s back. Even more dramatic readings of the worst artist statements, gallery press releases and art criticism, this time with a police show-on-VHS-tape twist. Watch new arty farty perps and syntax villains brought to justice every two weeks or so. In this episode, we learn how it’s possible to write four paragraphs and nearly four hundred words about a man who built some walls. But wait… he built some walls in an art gallery that already had walls. Is your mind completely blown?

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. I tried really hard to mispronounce all the foreign words and jargon, but I think I still accidentally said some of them correctly. Sorry about that.

Presented at ISE Cultural Foundation, the site-specific installation Time Would Not Diminish Their Strength But Add Wisdom To It explores the sculptural potential of space by diverting one of its main components.

Are you going to tell us what the main components of space are, then? Or which particular component is being diverted? No? Probably because you can’t, given that space is an abstract mass or count noun. Space doesn’t have components because space is defined by what it’s not and what is not in it rather than being a thing in itself. I know it’s complicated, but if you’re a curator in the business of justifying the unjustifiable, or a po-faced conceptual artist, don’t you think it’s particularly important that you bring all of your intellect (such as it is) to bear during any discussion of complex concepts, instead of just leaving the frayed edges of half-finished thoughts to dangle?

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“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.

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“CRAPPY FINE ART”

11 Jan

A thought-provoking and informative article inspired by the recent $5.7 million sale of a most definitely crappy act of plagiarism by a technically capable but unimaginative hack (with plagiaristic form) of an original Chris Foss painting for a book cover. Although obviously the utter shithead who bought it for $5.7 million has to take a lot of the blame, too, along with all of his or her kind. Ultimately the artist is just servicing this plutocratic market and churning out high-end widgets that just happen to take the shape of art works, like a glorified McJob work experience boy. If he wasn’t doing it, somebody else would. See also The super-rich are never embarrassed.

“So what do *I* think of Glenn Brown’s appropriated art, referencing great SF illustrators? I could use the big put-downs from fine art school and call it commercially technical, overly kitsch and academic in its attempt at realism. I think it’s crappy fine art. But it’s crappy fine art borne aloft on millions of viral cat pictures and an internet culture of ripping and running with images without regard for the original creators. It’s the fine art we culturally deserve,  just as much as Warhol’s soup cans were fitting for the commercial-goods industrial era. Would I pay millions of dollars for it? Hellz no. But the momentum of post-modernism’s love of referencing, appropriating and remixing is what led it to be worth that much.”

Read the rest here, in Scientific American for no discernible reason:

http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/symbiartic/2014/01/09/how-plagiarized-art-sells-for-millions

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